Are CMBS Loans Fixed-Rate?
The vast majority of CMBS loans are fixed-rate, however, floating-rate CMBS loans do exist. Despite that, variable-rate CMBS loans are considerably less popular than their fixed-rate counterparts, due to the fact that these loans have historically had particularly high default rates.Start Your Application and Unlock the Power of Choice$5.6M offered by a Bank$1.2M offered by a Bank$2M offered by an Agency$1.4M offered by a Credit UnionClick Here to Get Quotes!
Fixed vs. Variable-Rate CMBS Loans
The vast majority of CMBS loans are fixed-rate, however, floating-rate CMBS loans do exist. Despite that, variable-rate CMBS loans are considerably less popular than their fixed-rate counterparts, due to the fact that these loans have historically had particularly high default rates. In general, fixed-rate CMBS loans are a safer bet for both investors and borrowers; borrowers know that their rates won’t suddenly rise with a fluctuation in the markets, and CMBS investors can rest assured that the borrower is significantly less likely to default.
What are the benefits of a CMBS loan?
CMBS loans have several incredible upsides. First, these loans are available to a wide swath of borrowers, including those that might be excluded from traditional lenders due to poor credit, previous bankruptcies, or strict collateral/net worth requirements. Plus, CMBS loans are non-recourse, which means that even if a borrower defaults on their loan, the lender can’t go after their personal property in order to repay the debt. In addition, CMBS loans offer relatively high leverage, at up to 75% for most property types (and even 80% in some scenarios).
Perhaps most importantly, CMBS loan rates are incredibly competitive, and can often beat out comparable bank loan rates for similar borrowers. CMBS loans are also assumable, making it somewhat easier for a borrower to exit the property before the end of their loan term. Finally, it should definitely be mentioned that CMBS loans permit cash-out refinancing, which is a fantastic benefit for businesses that want to extract equity out of their commercial properties in order to renovate them, or to get the funds to expand their core business.
What are the risks associated with CMBS loans?
The major downside of CMBS loans is the difficulty of getting out the loan early. Most, if not all CMBS loans have prepayment penalties, and while some permit yield maintenance (paying a percentage based fee to exit the loan), other CMBS loans require defeasance, which involves a borrower purchasing bonds in order to both repay their loan and provide the lender/investors with a suitable source of income to replace it. Defeasance can get expensive, especially if the lender/investors require that the borrower replace their loan with U.S. Treasury bonds, instead of less expensive agency bonds, like those from Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
In addition, CMBS loans typically do not permit secondary/supplemental financing, as this is seen to increase the risk for CMBS investors. Finally, it should be noted that most CMBS loans require borrowers to have reserves, including replacement reserves, and money set aside for insurance, taxes, and other essential purposes. However, this is not necessarily a con, since many other commercial real estate loans require similar impounds/escrows.
What is the difference between a CMBS loan and a traditional loan?
CMBS loans, also known as conduit loans, are typically much easier to apply for and get approved for than traditional loans. Banks generally keep loans on their balance sheets and will usually put a lot of emphasis on a borrower’s credit score, net worth, and commercial real estate experience. This is not the case for CMBS financing, where the property itself is the most important factor in the loan approval process. CMBS lenders pool their loans together, creating commercial mortgage backed securities, and selling them to investors on the secondary market. In contrast, traditional loans are kept on the lender's balance sheet and the borrower's credit score, net worth, and commercial real estate experience are taken into account.
What are the requirements for obtaining a CMBS loan?
In general, lenders look at two major metrics when deciding whether to approve a CMBS loan; DSCR and LTV. However, they also look at debt yield, a metric which is determined by taking the net operating income of a property and dividing it by the total loan amount. This helps determine how long it would take a lender to recoup their losses if they had to foreclose on the property. And, while it’s true that CMBS loans are mostly income based, lenders still typically require a borrower to have a net worth of at least 25% of the entire loan amount, and a liquidity of at least 5% of the loan amount.
Unlike borrowers for commercial bank loans, CMBS borrowers will not continue to deal with the same lender that originated their loan during the remainder of its life; instead, they will have to work with a loan servicer, referred to as a master servicer. If a borrower defaults on their loan, they will have to work with another type of servicer, known as a special servicer. This is not always ideal, as a special servicer will generally put the investor’s needs (and their interests) above the needs of the borrower.
By and large, the most time consuming part of CMBS origination is the underwriting process, which is intended to determine whether a borrower presents a reasonable credit risk to a lender. A lender will require third-party reports, such as a full appraisal and Phase I Environmental Assessment, and will check into a borrower’s credit history, net worth, and commercial real estate experience. While borrower credit, net worth, and experience requirements are significantly less strict for conduit loans than for bank or agency loans (i.e. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), having good credit and some commercial real estate ownership/management experience certainly helps.
To summarize, the requirements for obtaining a CMBS loan are:
- DSCR and LTV
- Debt yield
- Net worth of at least 25% of the entire loan amount
- Liquidity of at least 5% of the loan amount
- Third-party reports, such as a full appraisal and Phase I Environmental Assessment
- Check into a borrower’s credit history, net worth, and commercial real estate experience
What are the advantages of a fixed-rate CMBS loan?
The advantages of a fixed-rate CMBS loan include:
- Borrowers know that their rates won’t suddenly rise with a fluctuation in the markets
- CMBS investors can rest assured that the borrower is significantly less likely to default
- Flexible underwriting guidelines
- Fully assumable
- Lenders and bondholders can potentially achieve a higher yield on investments
- Investors can choose which tranche to purchase, allowing them to work within their own risk profiles
- The actual interest rate on your loan will generally be based on current U.S. Treasury swap rates, which often is lower for CMBS loans than for traditional commercial property mortgages