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US Commercial Mortgage Basics - Finance

US Commercial Mortgage Basics   by Commercial Lifeline

in Finance    (submitted 2005-01-14)

Commercial mortgage loans are used when purchasing structures such as office buildings, apartment complexes, health care facilities and retail outlets. Whether it's a hi-rise tower or a family-owned restaurant, buyers typically need additional funding to complete the transaction. Commercial mortgages are what they pursue.

Similar in many ways to residential loans, commercial mortgages require far more paperwork. Both types of loan require that the properties being purchased undergo a thorough appraisal. Both require collateral to secure the loan and protect the lender against default.

Like residential mortgages, commercial mortgages can be refinanced to take advantage of more favorable terms, or they can be re-mortgaged to establish a line of credit to use for running the business. And like residential mortgages, the lender will hold the deed to the property until such time that the loan is repaid in full.

During that time, the lender makes money off the interest on the loan. If the borrower fails to make payments on the commercial loan, the lender has the right to initiate foreclosure proceedings and take the property. Remember, the property likely is what will be used as collateral. The interest paid on the commercial mortgage usually is tax deductible; just be sure to consult with a professional first.

When you apply for a commercial mortgage, you will typically be offered two different types of loans: fixed rate loans and variable rate loans. These work the same as they do for residential mortgages.

On a fixed rate commercial mortgage, the interest rate that is negotiated and agreed to remains in effect until the loan is fully amortized. If you're obtaining a commercial mortgage and interest rates are heading higher, a fixed rate likely is a better option. You can always refinance your mortgage should interest rates go lower than your fixed rate.

With a variable rate commercial mortgage, the interest rate will fluctuate during the payback period. Interest rates are determined by the US Federal government. Make sure you understand how variable rates are determined. Also, find out from the lender how often the rate on a variable rate mortgage will change. It's fine as long as the interest rate is decreasing; it's the increases that you need to worry about. Make sure, too, that should the interest rates increase, you can still afford the monthly payments. With some variable rate loans, the rate is fixed for the first few years, and then converts to a variable rate loan.

When applying for a commercial mortgage, also ask about the Early Redemption Charge (ERC). Remember, lenders make money off the interest on the loan. When the loan is repaid in full sooner than anticipated, the lender loses money. To avoid losing money, lenders often include an ERC which can amount to a substantial, one-time sum. If you discover an ERC in the fine print, try to negotiate it away. If you're not successful, take your business elsewhere.