Commercial Construction Loans: The Ultimate Guide

No Upfront Fee Commercial Construction Loans

Winston Rowe & Associates

You’ve reached the point in your business when it’s time to expand. Maybe you’re renting your office space and you’ve decided that it’s time to build your own office building.

Perhaps you’ve outgrown your property and you want to add on to your existing space. Your scenario could be completely different: you’re a new business just getting off the ground and you want to build your property from the ground up.

No matter what the circumstances, many businesses face a situation where real estate construction or improvements are the next steps for business expansion. Of course, this expansion comes at a very high cost – a cost that many businesses can’t afford to pay up front. This is when it’s time to consider taking out a commercial construction loan.

As with any other type of financing, it’s important to understand the mechanics behind a commercial construction loan.

Read on to learn more about commercial loans, when you should consider applying, and what to expect throughout the application process.

What Is A Commercial Construction Loan?

A commercial construction loan is a type of loan that is used to finance the costs associated with the construction or renovation of a commercial building. The funds from a construction loan can be used to pay for labor and materials for the construction of a new property, the purchase and development of land for a new commercial property, or the renovations of existing properties.

Why Take Out A Commercial Construction Loan?

Business owners who plan to purchase existing commercial properties can get a loan known as a commercial mortgage. However, if you plan to renovate your existing space or construct a new building from the ground up, you’ll need to apply for a commercial construction loan.

New construction and renovations can be expensive — think hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Most growing businesses don’t have this type of cash on hand, so instead, they turn to a commercial construction loan. With commercial construction loans, lenders provide funds throughout the construction process to pay for labor, materials, and land development so you don’t have to cover the costs yourself.

How do you finance a large construction project?

Commercial construction loans are different from other loans. Most loans are structured so that the borrower receives the full amount of the loan as one lump sum. Once the loan is received, the borrower begins to pay back the loan through scheduled payments over a set period of time. Commercial mortgages, for example, often have a monthly repayment schedule over 10 years or longer.

With commercial construction loans, the full amount of the loan is not received up front. Instead, the borrower will work with the lender to create a draw schedule. This means that partial amounts of the loan will be released as the project hits new milestones. For example, the first draw will be for the clearing and development of land. The next draw may then occur when the foundation is poured. Another draw will be released when the building has been framed, and so on.

As each milestone is completed, a lender will typically require an inspector to confirm that the work is completed before releasing the next draw. This will continue until all milestones have been completed and the full amount of the loan has been distributed.

With a commercial construction loan, you will only pay interest on the portion of the loan proceeds that have been received. If the total cost of your new construction is $500,000 but the lender has released just $100,000, you will pay interest on $100,000.

Typically, a commercial construction loan is structured so that the borrower pays only the interest until the loan has been fully disbursed. Borrowers can then pay off the principle in one lump sum at the end of the construction project.

But once the project is done and the full amount of the loan is due, what does a borrower do next? Instead of having to make one large payment, the borrower now can receive a commercial mortgage. The property will serve as collateral, and the borrower will use the funds from the commercial mortgage to pay back the commercial construction loan. With the new mortgage, the lender will now be locked into more affordable monthly payments over a longer period of time.

Other commercial construction loans like the Small Business Administration CDC/504 loan provides more long-term options so an additional loan following the completion of the project will not be needed.

What is the current rate for commercial construction loans?

For commercial construction loans, borrowers should expect to pay interest rates between 4% and 12%. Borrowers with the best credit scores will receive the lowest interest rates. The type of lender you work with is also a factor. A commercial construction loan from a bank will typically have the lowest interest rate, while hard money lenders charge more interest for their loans.

Fees

There are several fees that may be associated with taking out a commercial construction loan. The fee types and amounts vary by lender. Some fees you may have to pay for this type of loan include:

Guarantee Fees

Processing Fees

Documentation Fees

Project review Fees

Fund control Fees

Down Payment

Because a commercial construction loan is a high-risk loan, a down payment is required. By paying a down payment, the borrower takes some of the risk off of the lender. Typically, down payment requirements are 10% to 30% of the total project cost. Rarely will a lender fund 100% of the costs of a commercial construction project.

Conventional lenders use a calculation known as loan-to-cost for commercial construction loans. The loan-to-cost ratio is calculated by dividing the total amount of the loan requested by the total project cost. Let’s say, for example, a business is requesting a loan of $190,000 for a project with a total cost of $200,000. The loan-to-cost in this example would be 95%.

Though requirements vary by lender, most require a loan-to-cost of 80% to 85%. For the example above, the lender would loan $160,000 at 80% and $170,000 at 85%.

If this occurs, what does the borrower do? While they may be forced to come up with the remaining costs out-of-pocket, there is another option — mezzanine loans — which we’ll discuss a little later.

Borrower Requirements: How Commercial Lenders Evaluate Eligibility

Not all construction projects are eligible for a commercial construction loan. There are several factors that a lender will consider in order to determine eligibility.

One of the first things that a lender will look at is your credit score. Because these are high-risk loans, lenders want to work with low-risk borrowers with high credit scores. Though credit requirements vary by lender, you should have a credit score at least in the high 600s before applying to qualify for loans such as the SBA CDC/504 loan. Other lenders may require a minimum score in the 700s. Business credit scores will also be evaluated.

The lender will also consider your debt-to-income ratio, also known as DTI. This ratio shows the relationship between the income and the debt of your business on a monthly basis. Typically, lenders look for a debt to income ratio of 43% or less, although some lenders may have stricter requirements. The lower your DTI, the higher your chances for approval. To calculate your DTI, use the following formula:

Total Monthly Debt Payments / Gross Monthly Income = DTI

Lenders will also consider your debt service coverage ratio, or DSCR. This shows the relationship between the income and debt of your business on an annual basis. To calculate for yourself, use the following formula:

Net Operating Income / Current Annual Debt Obligations = DSCR

The DSCR is a bit different from DTI because you want this number to be higher. This shows that your business is bringing in enough income to cover new debts. Most lenders look for a DSCR of 1.25 or higher, but again, requirements vary by lender. Learn more about calculating your DSCR.

The lender will also look at your industry experience and your current business financials to determine if you qualify for a loan. You’ll need to submit detailed construction plans for approval before a loan can be issued. In some cases, the plans may need to be altered based on any risks spotted by the lender, so your ability to be flexible in your plans is key.

Types Of Commercial Construction Loans

Now that you know more about the commercial construction loan process, it’s time to explore the different types of loans available.

SBA CDC/504 Loan Program

The Small Business Administration (SBA) CDC/504 loan is one of the most popular commercial construction loans. This is because these loans come with low down payments, competitive interest rates, and credit score requirements in the high 600s.

Borrowing Amount

No maximum, but the SBA will only fund up to $5 million

Term Lengths

10 or 20 years

Interest Rates

Fixed rate based on US Treasury rates

Borrowing Fees

CDC servicing fee, CSA fee, guarantee fee, third party fees (however, most of these fees are rolled into the interest rate or cost of the loan)

Possible prepayment penalty

Personal Guarantee

Guarantee required from anybody who owns at least 20% of the business

Collateral

Collateral required; usually the real estate/equipment financed

Down Payment

10% – 30%

With this loan, an SBA-approved Certified Development Company will fund 40% of the costs to renovate existing facilities, build new facilities, or purchase/improve land. Up to $5 million is available for borrowers.

Another lender will need to provide 50% of the project costs, while the borrower will be responsible for the remaining 10%. In some cases, borrowers may be required to pay 20%. Repayment terms are available up to 20 years, and interest rates are based on the market rates of U.S. Treasury issues.

SBA 7(a) Loan Program

The SBA also has the 7(a) program, which can be used for the purchase or construction of commercial real estate.

Through this program, borrowers can receive up to $5 million with repayment terms up to 25 years. Interest rates are based on the prime rate plus a maximum of 2.75%. To qualify, borrowers should have a credit score in the high 600s and a down payment of 10% to 20%.

Here are the base rates and markups for a 7(a) loan from the SBA:

Loan Amount      Less Than Seven Years    More Than 7 Years

Up to $25,000

Base rate + 4.25%

Base rate + 4.75%

$25,000-$50,000

Base rate + 3.25%

Base rate + 3.75%

$50,000 or More

Base rate + 2.25%

Base rate + 2.75%

Bank Loans

A traditional commercial construction loan from a bank is another option for business owners. Rates, repayment terms, and down payment requirements vary. Generally, a minimum down payment of 10% is required, maximum repayment terms of 25 years are standard, and fixed and variable rates are available.

You can start your lender search by talking to your current financial institution about your financing needs. See our post on the best bank loans for small business if you’re interested in specific recommendations.

Mezzanine Loans

Earlier in this post, we discussed loan-to-cost ratios. When a loan-to-cost ratio is lower and the borrower needs to come up with additional money, a mezzanine loan may be an option. This type of loan is secured with stock. If the borrower defaults, the lender can convert to an equity stake. With a mezzanine loan, the borrower has more leverage and can achieve a loan-to-cost ratio of up to 95%.

Where To Find Commercial Construction Loans

You know about the types of loans available to you, so where do you find a lender? This all depends on the type of loan you’re seeking.

An SBA-approved intermediary lender (which includes banks, credit unions, and private lenders) distributes 7(a) loans. For CDC/504 loans, an SBA-approved non-profit CDC provides this funding, although you’ll also have to find another lender to finance 50% of your project costs.

Banks and credit unions provide many commercial construction loan options, including SBA loans, traditional loans, and mezzanine loans.

Finally, commercial construction loans can be obtained through hard money lenders. These are private money lenders that provide short-term funding options for commercial construction projects. While there are a few benefits to working with these lenders, including minimal upfront costs and faster funding, these loans typically come with higher interest rates and fees than options from other lenders.

What is the best place for a commercial construction loan?

Winston Rowe and Associates can find you a lender for your commercial construction loan, the next step is to begin the application process.

Contact them at processing@winstonrowe.com or call 248-246-2243.

During this process, the lender will evaluate your personal and business financials, your credit score, and other factors that will determine both whether you’re approved and what your interest rates and terms will be.

Because construction loans are considered high-risk, you will need to provide the lender with a detailed business plan. This should include an overview of what your business does, its financials to date, details about your current operations, and future projections.

You will also need to provide your lender with details about the project. This includes a complete plan with specs and designs. An expected project cost, including estimates for contractors, materials, and other expenses, must be provided with your application.

Personal and business financial documents will also need to be submitted during the application process. These include, but are not limited to, personal and business tax returns, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, bank statements, income statements, and debt schedules showing current debt obligations. Documentation requirements will vary by lender.

The lender will pull your credit score during the process. Remember, lenders are looking for scores in the high 600s. With some lenders, negative items such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, and past defaults on loans may automatically disqualify you from receiving a loan. For negative items on your credit report, an explanation to the lender may be required.

Because this is such a high-risk loan product, lenders will typically take at least a minimum of several weeks to go over your information. During this time, more documentation may be required or your lender may have questions, so make sure to make yourself available to expedite the process.

Once the lender underwrites and approves your loan, you’ll move into the closing process. This entails going over the loan agreement, which will include all dates and milestones throughout the process. Once all paperwork has been signed and the closing process is complete, you’ll be ready to begin the expansion of your business.

Final Thoughts

It’s always exciting to reach a point in your business when it’s time to expand, but getting the financing you need can be a challenge. If your future plans include constructing new facilities or upgrading your current building, getting a commercial construction loan doesn’t have to be stressful.

If you understand the types of loans and requirements and do some prep work ahead of time, you’ll be able to approach your lender with confidence and get through the lending process with ease.

What to Expect when Applying for a Commercial Mortgage Loan From Winston Rowe & Associates

APPLY ONLINE FOR A NO UPFRONT FEE COMMERCIAL LOAN

If you have never borrowed money for your business before, you may be in for a surprise.

Whether you want to borrow working capital to expand your business or leverage equity in a commercial real estate venture, you will soon find out the commercial loan process is very different from the more common home mortgage process.

Commercial loans, unlike the vast majority of residential mortgages, are not ultimately backed by a governmental entity such as Fannie Mae. Consequently, most commercial lenders are risk-averse; they charge higher interests rate than on a comparable home loan. Some lenders go a step further, scrutinizing the borrower’s business as well as the commercial property that will serve as collateral for the loan.

This means that the business borrower should have different expectations when applying for a loan against his commercial property than he would have for a loan secured by his or her primary residence.

Following is a list of questions the borrower should ask himself and the lender before applying for a commercial loan.

1. How am I going to meet the loan repayment terms?

Typically, bank loans require the borrower to repay his or her entire business loan much earlier than its stated due date. Banks do this by requiring most of their loans to include a balloon repayment.

This means the borrower will pay interest and principal on his 30-year mortgage at the stated interest rate for the first few years (generally 3, 5 or 10 years) and then repay the entire balance in one balloon payment.

Many borrowers do not save enough in such a short time frame, so they must either re-qualify for their loan or refinance the loan at the end of the balloon term.

If the business happens to have any cash-flow problems in the years immediately preceding the balloon term, the lender may require a higher interest rate, or the borrower may not qualify for a loan at all. If this happens, the borrower runs the risk of being turned down for financing altogether and the property may be in jeopardy of foreclosure.

A balloon loan has other risks as well. If the borrower’s business is in a “risky” industry at the time the balloon is due (think of the oil and gas bust in the 1980s or the telecom implosion of the 2000s), the lender may back out of all refinancing for the enterprise.

Alternatively, a lender simply may decide its loan portfolio has too many loans in a given industry, so he will deny future refinancing within that trade.

Non-bank lenders generally offer less stringent credit requirements for commercial loans. Some non-bank lenders will make long-term commercial loans without requiring the early balloon repayment.

These loans, which may carry a slightly higher interest rate, work like a typical home loan. They allow a steady repayment over twenty or thirty years. It is often worth paying a one- or two-point higher interest rate for a fixed-term loan in order to ensure the security of a long-term loan commitment.

2. How much can or should I borrow?

Most bank loans prohibit second mortgages, so the borrower should go into the loan process intending to borrow enough to meet current business needs, or enough to sufficiently leverage real estate investments.

For a traditional acquisition loan in which the borrower is buying a new property, banks usually require a down payment of 20-25%. So for a $600,000 acquisition, the borrower will need to come up with $120,000-$150,000 for the down payment.

Some non-traditional loans will allow the borrower to make a smaller down payment, maximizing the loan-to-value (LTV) at 85-90%. Such loans are generally not bank loans, but are offered by direct commercial lenders or pools of commercial investors. If the customer wants to borrow the maximum amount possible, the interest rate on such loans may be a point or two higher than typical bank loans. Before deciding how much to borrow, potential borrowers should:

Evaluate how much cash they are likely to need
Analyze their ability to repay the loan as it is structured

Research has consistently shown that the number one reason behind the failures of most small businesses is the lack of adequate capital to meet cash-flow needs. Because of this it may actually be safer for a small business to leave a larger cushion against unforeseen events by borrowing more money at the slightly higher rate.

The amount of the loan requested has an effect on which commercial lenders will fund the loan. Small businesses borrowing less than $2,000,000 will visit a different pool of potential lenders than those seeking loans of over $5 million.

Small business loans are generally made by direct commercial lenders (easily located by internet searches) or by small local banks. Larger loans are generally made by regional banks, and very large loans are made by mega-banks or Wall Street lenders.

3. How long will it take to get a commercial loan?

Borrowers generally start the loan process by contacting their bank. Unfortunately, it is difficult to secure business loans from most banks. Besides, bank loans:

Contain the most stringent requirements
Impose the most loan covenants
Take the longest time to secure the loan.

Bank loans go through several phases of review. First, they will look at your historical income statements, balance sheets and statements of cash flow. Then they will review 5 years of tax returns on the borrower and all owners who will guarantee the loan.

Generally it takes several weeks before the borrower can get a verbal or written commitment letter from a bank. Even after the loan commitment, the bank’s credit committee may veto the loan. The business will then have to start the process over with a new lender.

If a firm has very good credit rating, a good relationship with its bank, a solid and confirmable history of earnings and profits, and is not in a hurry, a local bank will probably give them the lowest stated interest rate on the loan.

If you need to be pre-qualified quickly, you should shop for credit over the Internet or look at non-bank sources of funds first. Once you secure a commitment from a direct lender, then you may start a parallel process with your bank.

Some direct non-bank lenders can give you a verbal commitment in a few days, but keep in mind that you are only searching for “commercial” loans-offers from Internet companies may often be for residential property, so you will need to screen your searches.

Keep in mind the parameters of the terms you will accept: Will you take a balloon loan? What about a covenant or condition on the loan?

If you know that your profit and loss statements are not provable and solid, or you do not have a high credit score, applying at banks is generally a waste of time. Instead, go directly to non-bank commercial lenders.

4. What kind of covenants and conditions are required?

Many borrowers are not aware that much more may be required than simply making regular monthly payments on time. Many loans ask you to provide quarterly or annual income statements, balance sheets and tax returns. Some loans will require covenants-promises that your business will meet certain tests in the future.

They may require a certain positive cash flow, or a certain debt-to-cash-flow ratio, or other financial criteria. During a downturn in your industry or the economy, your business may face temporary cash flow or profit shortages.

If your business falls short of the terms and conditions contained in the loan covenants, your bank may deem that your loan has entered into default. Default triggers numerous penalties. It may require that you pay back the loan immediately.

This can cause you to have to find another lender very quickly, or face foreclosure on the property.

Different lenders require different conditions, so ask the lender up front what conditions or covenants apply. Some non-bank loans charge a slightly higher interest rate but will waive all covenants and conditions except for timely repayment of the loan.

If you feel that your business cash flow is uncertain, you might want to consider these non-bank loans first.

If your business does not have its financial statements certified regularly by one of the larger CPA firms, you may opt for a slightly higher interest rate loan.

This may relax the reporting process or not require future covenants. Likewise, if losing your business or property to the bank is likely because of the financial test requirements, then find another lender.

Ask any real estate developer who has managed to stay in the business for 20-30 years about the risks inherent with traditional bank commercial property loans; he will name many other developers who lost all their assets during lean times in the industry.

5. What kind of documentation will be required?

Traditional lenders require 3-5 years of financial statements, income tax returns, and other documentation. This may include:

Leases
Asset statements
Original corporate documents
Personal financial records of the business owners

Keep in mind that many small businesses do not have the level of income documentation some lenders require.

If you ask ahead of time, it will save you numerous headaches from delays or rejected loan applications.

The documentation required and the timelines for approval are related-the more information required, the slower the loan approval and funding process.

6. What if I want to sell the property?

If your business booms, you may want to repay the loan early or sell the property and move to a larger space. Commercial mortgages, unlike residential loans, usually have pre-payment penalties.

However, some lenders will allow the purchaser of the property to assume the mortgage by taking over the seller’s payments.

An assumable loan is an excellent selling point, because it provides built-in financing for the buyer.

7. What are the “hidden” or total costs of the loan?

The stated interest rate is often artificially low when one considers all the costs of a loan. Points, for example, are direct percentages of the loan that the lender deducts from your loan.

If your interest rate is 9% with two points that means your real cost of the loan is 11%. The extra 2% comes right off the top into the lender’s pockets. Other costs may include:

Legal fees,
Survey charges,
Loan application fees,
Appraisal charges
Every item that will be charged against your loan or that must be pre-paid.

For some loans, these charges can be tens of thousands of dollars. They often must be pre-paid before the loan will be approved or rejected. You will need to know whether you are likely to be approved before spending money just to qualify for a commercial loan.

Other questions to ask

Will my interest rate go up if U.S. interest rates go up in general?
Is a fixed-rate alternative available?

Can I get a discount for paying your mortgage faithfully and consistently over a period of time?

Some lenders allow for decreases in the interest rates over time if you pay the mortgage on time. But if you want to refinance and repay your mortgage early, the lender may penalize you and charge extra interest. All of these details are important, and they can seem overwhelming.

Keep in mind how you expect your business to perform in the future and how you plan to repay the loan. Do not ignore worst-case scenarios.

You do not want to be so optimistic about the possibilities that you lose sight of the fact that the lender may take away your business or livelihood if you do not meet all the terms. Sometimes the lowest interest rates represent the riskiest loans.

The Best Lender

When considering a commercial mortgage, borrowers should seek out lenders who are willing to fund the loan under acceptable time constraints, keeping in mind their general creditworthiness.

Borrowers should look at both bank and non-bank funding in order to get their needs met in a timely manner.

Asking questions and obtaining unbiased evaluations will reduce delay and frustration. Fortunately, new lenders have emerged to challenge banks on their traditional terms, so borrowers have more leverage now than ever before when seeking commercial loans.

7. What are the “hidden” or total costs of the loan?

The stated interest rate is often artificially low when one considers all the costs of a loan. Points, for example, are direct percentages of the loan that the lender deducts from your loan.

If your interest rate is 9% with two points that means your real cost of the loan is 11%. The extra 2% comes right off the top into the lender’s pockets. Other costs may include:

Legal fees, Survey charges,
Loan application fees,
Appraisal charges
Every item that will be charged against your loan or that must be pre-paid.

For some loans, these charges can be tens of thousands of dollars. They often must be pre-paid before the loan will be approved or rejected. You will need to know whether you are likely to be approved before spending money just to qualify for a commercial loan.

Other questions to ask

Will my interest rate go up if U.S. interest rates go up in general?
Is a fixed-rate alternative available?

Can I get a discount for paying your mortgage faithfully and consistently over a period of time?

Some lenders allow for decreases in the interest rates over time if you pay the mortgage on time. But if you want to refinance and repay your mortgage early, the lender may penalize you and charge extra interest.

All of these details are important, and they can seem overwhelming.

Keep in mind how you expect your business to perform in the future and how you plan to repay the loan. Do not ignore worst-case scenarios.

You do not want to be so optimistic about the possibilities that you lose sight of the fact that the lender may take away your business or livelihood if you do not meet all the terms. Sometimes the lowest interest rates represent the riskiest loans.

The Best Lender

When considering a commercial mortgage, borrowers should seek out lenders who are willing to fund the loan under acceptable time constraints, keeping in mind their general creditworthiness.

Borrowers should look at both bank and non-bank funding in order to get their needs met in a timely manner.

Asking questions and obtaining unbiased evaluations will reduce delay and frustration. Fortunately, new lenders have emerged to challenge banks on their traditional terms, so borrowers have more leverage now than ever before when seeking commercial loans.

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Apply online or call us directly, we can have a response to your loan request within 24 hours and can close in 4 to 6 weeks.

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