What are Commercial Real Estate Loans?

September 4, 2023

Commercial real estate loans are used by businesses to purchase, develop, or refinance commercial properties. These properties can include offices, retail spaces, warehouses, multifamily residences, and other commercial buildings. Understanding the basics of commercial real estate loans can be essential for entrepreneurs and business owners.

Types of Commercial Real Estate Loans

Traditional Commercial Mortgages

Traditional commercial mortgages are similar to residential ones but specifically designed for commercial properties. Banks or credit unions typically give these loans.

  • Features and Benefits:
    • Often have lower interest rates.
    • Loan terms can vary, but 20 – 25 years is standard.
    • They require a down payment, usually around 20-30% of the property’s purchase price.
  • Best For Businesses looking for a long-term solution and those who can afford a sizable down payment.

SBA 7(a) Loans

Sponsored by the Small Business Administration (SBA), these loans are popular among small businesses.

  • Features and Benefits:
    • SBA-approved lenders offer it, but the federal agency guarantees a portion.
    • Flexible terms and conditions.
    • It can be used for various purposes, including property purchase or renovation.
  • Best For: Small businesses that may need help in securing traditional financing.

SBA 504 Loans

Another loan option the SBA offers, the 504 loan, is explicitly designed for property purchase and improvement.

  • Features and Benefits:
    • Typically involves three parties: the borrower, a bank, and a Certified Development Company.
    • Can finance up to 90% of the property’s cost.
    • Has fixed interest rates.
  • Best For Businesses aiming to buy or renovate significant fixed assets, like land or buildings.

Bridge Loans

Also known as interim financing or gap financing, bridge loans are a bridge to longer-term financing options.

  • Features and Benefits:
    • Short-term loan, usually up to a year.
    • Higher interest rates.
    • Quick to secure.
  • Best For Investors looking for immediate cash flow before securing permanent commercial real estate financing.

Hard Money Loans

These are short-term loans provided by private investors or companies.

  • Features and Benefits:
    • Based on the property’s value rather than the borrower’s creditworthiness.
    • Higher interest rates.
    • Fast approval.
  • Best For Investors who need quick financing or have a lower credit score.

Construction Loans

Construction loans are the way to go for businesses looking to develop a property from the ground up.

  • Features and Benefits:
    • Short-term loan.
    • Funds are disbursed in installments based on construction milestones.
    • Converts to a permanent mortgage once construction is completed.
  • Best For Businesses constructing a new building or property.

Joint Venture Loans

When a single party can’t finance a real estate project, two or more parties can pool resources.

  • Features and Benefits:
    • Shared risk.
    • Profits (or losses) are distributed based on the agreement.
    • More resources and expertise.
  • Best For Investors who want to collaborate on more significant projects or share risks.

Advantages of Commercial Real Estate Loans

Growing Your Business
One of the most compelling reasons businesses seek commercial real estate loans is growth. Whether it’s expanding an existing office, establishing a new branch, or creating a manufacturing space, having the right property can propel a business to new heights. A strategically located property can not only boost a company’s image but also increase its operational efficiency.

Real Estate Appreciation
Investing in real estate can be a smart move. Over time, the value of property tends to increase, meaning the piece of land or building you purchase today could be worth significantly more a decade from now. This appreciation can result in substantial returns, especially in growing urban areas.

Asset Ownership and Control
Renting a space might seem like a convenient solution, but it doesn’t give businesses the same control as owning a property. Owners can make modifications, expansions, or upgrades without seeking landlord permission. Furthermore, ownership means businesses aren’t subjected to annual rent increases, providing more financial stability.

Factors to Consider Before Applying

Property Value
The value of the property you’re considering is a significant factor in the loan process. Lenders will often finance a percentage of the property’s value, known as the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. A higher property value can often lead to more favorable loan terms.

Loan Duration
How long do you need the loan for? Commercial loans can have durations ranging from as short as a year to as long as 20 years or more. It’s essential to match the loan’s length with your business plan and financial projections.

Interest Rates: Fixed vs. Variable
Interest rates play a crucial role in determining your monthly repayments. While fixed rates remain constant throughout the loan duration, variable rates can fluctuate based on market conditions. Each has its pros and cons, so it’s vital to understand which is more suited to your financial situation.

Prepayment Penalties
Some loans come with penalties if you decide to pay them off early. It’s always a good idea to know if such penalties exist and how they’re calculated. This knowledge will allow for better financial planning and decision-making.

The Application Process

Preparing Necessary Documents
The loan application process requires thorough documentation. From business plans and financial statements to property valuations and credit histories, businesses must ensure they have all necessary papers in order. Being well-prepared can expedite the loan approval process.

Selecting the Right Lender
Not all lenders are created equal. Some might offer favorable rates but have hidden fees. Others might have excellent customer service but stricter qualification criteria. Researching various lenders, reading reviews, and consulting with financial advisors can help you make an informed decision.

Navigating Loan Terms and Agreements
Loan agreements can be dense and filled with jargon. However, understanding every clause and term is essential. Before signing on the dotted line, make sure you know what you’re committing to. If something isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to ask the lender or consult a legal expert.

Risks Associated with Commercial Real Estate Loans

Economic Fluctuations
The economy plays a significant role in the real estate market. A booming economy can lead to rising property values, while a recession might cause values to plummet. Businesses should be aware of these fluctuations when considering a loan.

Changing Interest Rates
For loans with variable interest rates, changing economic conditions can affect monthly repayments. A sudden spike in interest rates can lead to higher monthly costs, potentially straining a business’s finances.

Loan Defaults and Consequences
Failing to repay a loan can have severe consequences. Not only can businesses lose the property they’ve invested in, but they might also face legal action. Ensuring consistent cash flow and setting aside funds for repayments is vital.


What is the most popular type of commercial real estate loan? 

The Traditional Commercial Mortgage is among the most popular due to its stability and familiar structure, similar to residential mortgages.

How do SBA 7(a) and SBA 504 loans differ? 

While both are backed by the SBA, 7(a) loans offer more flexibility, while 504 loans focus on property purchase and improvement.

Are hard money loans risky? 

They can be due to their higher interest rates and reliance on the property’s value. It’s essential to have a clear exit strategy when using a hard money loan.

Do all commercial real estate loans require a down payment? 

Most do, but the loan amount varies. Traditional commercial mortgages often require around 20-30%, while some SBA loans can finance up to 90% of the property’s cost.

How long are typical loan terms for commercial property loans?

Loan terms vary widely, from short-term options like bridge loans (up to a year) to longer-term traditional mortgages (up to 20 years or more).

Can I get a commercial real estate loan with bad credit? 

Yes, options like hard money loans focus more on the property’s value than the borrower’s creditworthiness.


Navigating the world of commercial real estate loans might seem daunting, but with the right information and guidance, businesses can make informed decisions. Investing in commercial real estate can be a pivotal step in a business’s growth, providing opportunities for expansion, increased revenue, and stronger market presence. By understanding the intricacies of various loan types, interest rates, and the application process, businesses can confidently move forward in their real estate endeavors.

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