Business Mortgage Loan: How to Find the Best Real Estate Financing

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What Is a Business Mortgage Loan?

Every business needs a place to do business.

For some entrepreneurs, that place of business ends up being their homes. But the majority of small business owners need an office, warehouse, or storefront to conduct their business in.

And that real estate can be expensive. When you need to purchase some type of commercial real estate for your business, you can make the price tag easier to manage with a business mortgage loan, rather than a residential one.

A business mortgage loan is a loan for financing the purchase of commercial real estate property, instead of residential property.

In this guide, we’ll walk through everything there is to know about these types of small business loans.

Here are the top business mortgage loans:

  1. SBA 7(a) loan
  2. SBA CDC/504 Loan
  3. Hard Money Loan
  4. Traditional Mortgage Loan
See Your Business Loan Options

The Different Types of Business Mortgage Loans

Now that you know what a business mortgage loan is, you’re going to want to know the best mortgage loans available.

Well, there are four main types of business real estate loans on the market, with variations within each type.

Here’s a top-level view of how each works and what it takes to qualify for them.

SBA 7(a) Loans

An SBA 7(a) loan is the SBA’s most common and popular type of financing program.

You can use a 7(a) loan for a wide variety of business purposes, including the acquisition and renovation of commercial real estate.

When used for real estate purposes, an SBA 7(a) loan is a mortgage backed by the SBA.

The SBA offers loans of up to 85% to 90% of the property value, setting a maximum mortgage amount at $5 million. This means that your down payment would end up being around 10% to 15% of the purchase price.

However, if you’re a qualified borrower, you might have the down payment waived for this business mortgage loan product.

The commercial real estate loan terms on a SBA 7(a) loan can last as long as 25 years, making this type of business mortgage a good option for established businesses looking for long-term, cost-effective financing, but that might not qualify for a bank loan.

    How to Qualify

    What does it take to qualify for this kind of commercial real estate loan?

    Well, the SBA and its bank partners set their minimum requirements to the following:

    • Personal FICO Score: 680+
    • Cash Liquidity: 10% to 15% of purchase price
    • Cash Flow: Two years of stable cash flow
    • Time in Business: Two years

SBA CDC/504 Loans

Another type of SBA loan in the real estate financing space is the CDC/504 loan.

In fact, the CDC/504 loan program is specifically tailored to providing financing for commercial real estate purchases.

Along with all SBA loans, a CDC/504 loan is backed by the government, but also by a certified development company (CDC). In fact, a CDC/504 loan is really two loans. The SBA finances 50% of the property’s purchase price, while a CDC finances 40% of the purchase price. This means that a 10% down payment comes from you, the borrower.

While the CDC/504 loan program is a much more complicated financing option and is much less common than the 7(a) loan program, it is tailored specifically to real estate financing.

As such, there’s no maximum loan amount (giving you flexibility in the value of your business property), and interest rates on CDC/504 loans are lower: 3.5% to 5%.

    How to Qualify

    What does it take to qualify for a CDC/504 loan? The SBA sets the following minimum qualifications:

    • Personal FICO Score: 680+
    • Time in Business: Three years or more
    • Debt Service Coverage Ratio: 1.25 or more
    • Owner-Occupied Property: 51% or more
    • Personal Guarantee: Ability to give 20% or more in a personal guarantee

Traditional Hard Money Loans

hard money loan is like a short-term loan used to purchase and renovate a commercial property before refinancing to a long-term, more traditional mortgage.

This makes them very similar to commercial bridge loans as they’re easier to qualify for, faster to receive, shorter in term, and much smaller. You can use a hard money loan to finance the first portion of your business real estate purchase and then graduate to a longer-term business mortgage loan.

A commercial hard money loan typically offers 80% to 90% LTV, meaning you’ll have to make a 10% to 20% down payment.

Because they have high LTVs and typically are faster to close, hard money commercial loans typically come with higher interest rates, ranging from 8% to 13%. They’ll also likely come with lender fees, closing costs, and an appraisal fee.

    How to Qualify

    Again, commercial hard money loans are typically easier to qualify for. You’ll need:

    • Personal FICO Score: 600+
    • One to three prior commercial projects

Traditional Mortgages

Finally, the most common type of commercial real estate loans on the market would be traditional business mortgage loans, offered by banks and traditional lending institutions.

Traditional business mortgages don’t come backed with a government guarantee, so you might find that you’ll get less loan for the value of the property you’re purchasing or renovating.

Typically, the maximum loan amount will be 65% to 85% of the property value, meaning your down payment could be only 15%, but it could be as high as 35%. The typical loan term is five to 20 years, and the interest rates tend to be low, ranging from 4.75% to 6.75%. Most traditional business mortgage loans are fully amortizing loans.

Business mortgage loans from traditional lenders are the best options for borrowers who need long-term financing with no amount limit. Plus, if you qualify, you’ll score interest rates no higher than 7%.

    How to Qualify

    What does it take to qualify? Here are the minimum requirements:

    • Credit Score: 700+
    • Time in Business: One year or more
    • Debt Service Coverage Ratio: 1.25 or more

Why Take out a Business Mortgage Loan?

Why would a business owner pursue a business mortgage loan?

Well, just like any type of property, commercial real estate can be purchased, developed, and renovated.

In the best case—when your business is growing—you need to invest in more property, or reinvest in current property. And in a not-as-good-case, you might need to renovate existing property if you incur any damages to it.

And accomplishing these tasks can be expensive—especially as a small business owner who’s covering many other expenses and trying to conserve cash flow.

If you can’t afford to finance the purchase, construction, or renovation of commercial real estate yourself, that’s where business mortgage loans or business construction loans come in.

Mortgages vs. Loans: What’s the Difference?

A mortgage is generally thought of and referred to as a loan.

However, a mortgage isn’t technically a loan.

A loan is something that a lender gives you, typically a sum of money.

A mortgage, on the other hand, is actually just a security instrument that you give the lender.

Very technically speaking, a mortgage is a document that protects the lender’s investment and interest in their lending to finance your property.

In a mortgage agreement, you, the borrower, are the mortgagor, and the lender is the mortgagee. A mortgage document is what creates a lien on the property in question. The lien functions as security for the lender—if you can’t pay them back, they have the right to seize the property and recoup their losses (called a foreclosure).

So, all in, a mortgage is simply a document that secures the lender’s interest in a loan to finance the purchase of a property.

Commercial vs. Residential: What’s the Difference?

A distinction worth clarifying when it comes to business mortgage loans is what constitutes commercial property versus residential property.

In order to qualify for a business mortgage loan, you need to be purchasing commercial real estate.

By definition, commercial real estate must be income-earning property. Any piece of real estate with which you earn income for your business is commercial real estate.

So if you’re a retail business, a shop would be your commercial real estate. If you run an online business, the office space in which you and your employees operate is a piece of commercial real estate. Or if you run a hospitality business, the hotels you own are pieces of commercial real estate.

Just like any type of property, commercial real estate can be purchased, developed, and renovated. And accomplishing these tasks can be expensive—especially as a small business owner who’s covering many other expenses and trying to conserve cash flow.

If you can’t afford to finance the purchase, construction, or renovation of commercial real estate yourself, that’s where commercial real estate loans come in.

Commercial real estate loans are essentially mortgage loans secured by liens on commercial—rather than residential—property.

How They Work

You know what business mortgage loans are and what makes them unique. But how do they really work?

Well, you already know that a business mortgage loan requires a lien—or a legal right that an owner of a property gives to a lender, serving as a guarantee for the repayment of a business mortgage loan. If the owner can’t pay the loan back fully, the creditor might be able to seize the asset secured by a lien. This gives the creditor some protection against the inevitable risk of default.

So when you take out a business mortgage loan, expect to have a lien placed on your business’s property.

You should also expect to have a down payment, typically ranging from 20% to 30% of the loan’s value.

Now, for the specifics of business mortgage financing.

Repayment

Whereas residential real estate loans are typically amortizing, where you repay the financing in regular installments over a fixed period of time, business mortgage loans can come with two types of repayment schedules:

Immediate-term loans (of two years or less) and long-term loans (of five to 20 years).

The structure of the repayment could be in the form of an amortized loan, or a balloon loan. You’re familiar with an amortizing loan—a loan that you pay back with fixed installments plus interest, until you’ve paid back the loan in full.

A balloon loan, on the other hand, is where you pay off the interest first with consistent payments, and then once the interest is fully paid off, you make one final, large payment of the loan principal.

It’s important to know what kind of payment structure you’ll be working with before you commit to a certain business mortgage loan. The way you pay back the loan can really affect your cash flow. For instance, a balloon payment can strain your cash reserves if you weren’t prepared to make such a large payment.

Rates

When you apply for a commercial mortgage loan, don’t be surprised if you see loan rates that are higher than what you’d get with a residential mortgage loan.

Why? Well, small businesses are riskier to lend to, especially if you’re just starting up. Plus, most businesses have less established credit histories than individuals.

Also, your loan rate will vary based on the type of commercial mortgage lender you’re applying to. Credit unions and bank loans have rates ranging from 3.35% to 6%, whereas alternative lenders have higher rates.

Fees

As with other regular small business loans, business mortgage loans come with upfront fees that you should be prepared for.

Upfront fees are typically bundled into the overall cost of the commercial mortgage loan—covering the appraisal of the property, legal costs, loan application, loan origination, and survey fees. Some commercial mortgage lenders will want borrowers to pay upfront fees before the loan is approved. Other lenders will just apply the fees annually.

You should also be aware that a commercial mortgage loan might come with a prepayment penalty if you’re able to pay early. A lender wants to preserve the monetary gain they predicted on a loan, so they might charge you for avoiding interest by paying early.

All in, make sure you fully read your business loan agreement and get a sense of what rates and fees you’ll be charged throughout the life of the loan before you sign on the dotted line.

The Application Process

If you’ve ever applied to a residential mortgage loan, then you may assume that the process of applying to a business mortgage loan is similar.

Well, it’s really not.

Most commercial mortgage loans (unless you pursue the SBA), are not backed by a government entity.

Residential mortgage loans are often backed by the Federal National Mortgage Association (commonly known as Fannie Mae). This makes qualifying for residential loans easier.

When you do qualify, you’ll also get lower rates than you’d see with commercial real estate loan rates. That’s because, without the government backing their loans, commercial mortgage lenders will be taking on all of the risk of lending to your business. They’ll compensate for this risk by charging higher interest rates.

Also, business mortgage lenders will look at more than just the property you’re purchasing when determining if you qualify. They will also likely look at the details of your business. That’s because lending to businesses is generally riskier than lending to individuals. The business is on the hook for paying the loan off, and small businesses have poor survival rates. There’s just less assurance that the company will be around to pay off its debts.

As you saw when we listed our top business mortgage loan options, the criteria a lender will look at include LTV ratio, collateral and property information, your credit score, your business’s liquidity, and your previous ownership experiences.

The Bottom Line

Taking out a business mortgage for new property is a big investment—not only in your business but also in your time. Applying and qualifying for a commercial real estate loan can take as long as three months.

Before you’re thick in the search for a business mortgage, it’s important to fully consider your needs, your capacity to pay the loan, and all your options. Fully compare what’s available to you so that you can be confident that you’re getting the absolute lowest rates and best terms for your business.

See Your Business Mortgage Loan Options
Vice President and Founding Editor at Fundera

Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the founding editor of the Fundera Ledger and a vice president at Fundera. She launched the Fundera Ledger in 2014 and has specialized in financial advice for small business owners for almost a decade. Meredith is frequently sought out for her expertise in small business lending. She is a monthly columnist for AllBusiness, and her advice has appeared in the SBA, SCORE, Yahoo, Amex OPEN Forum, Fox Business, American Banker, Small Business Trends, MyCorporation, Small Biz Daily, StartupNation, and more. Email: meredith@fundera.com.
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