Generally, a property is deemed “commercial” if it is either non-residential or residential with five or more units; and for our purposes commercial mortgage lenders include any entity that originates mortgages on commercial properties. Commercial mortgage lenders range in type from large commercial banks to private individuals who invest in trust deeds. The distinctions between these different types of commercial mortgage lenders are less than clear at times, but we can generally split commercial lenders into the following categories:
So-called “portfolio” lenders make commercial mortgages with the intention of retaining the generated asset as part of the company’s portfolio. The two most common types of portfolio lenders are commercial banks and life insurance companies; but this category also includes such entities as pension funds, REITs, and savings and investment funds.
CMBS Conduit Lenders
Commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) arose in the late ’80s following the savings and loans crash as a way of enabling investors to participate in commercial mortgage lending within a managed context. Commercial mortgage loans that the conduit originates become part of a standardized pool of such assets, shares of which are then sold to investors. As such, the conduit lender may service the loan, but the interest payments are collected on behalf of the investors. Also see the article CMBS Conduit Lenders
Sub Prime Lenders
Sub prime Lenders may be owned by banks, and the notes they generate may sometimes also be securitized; so the distinction between this type of lender and those above is not due to the source funds or the use of the lender’s asset, but simply the circumstances under which the lender will make a loan: sub prime lenders specialize in making loans to people whose low credit scores prevent them from obtaining financing through conventional commercial mortgage lenders.
Private Investors and Funds
A more diverse and fluid category of commercial mortgage lenders includes so-called “Private” or “Hard Money” lenders. The main distinctions between these types of lenders and the above “institutional” lenders are: (i) that the loaned funds generally come from a private individual or a group of private individuals, rather than from a company’s assets, and (ii) that private lenders are willing to take on loans with higher levels of risk and even profound irregularities in return for a higher return on the investment. Private investors are generally even more flexible than sub prime lenders when it comes to property condition and borrower qualifications.
Conduit loans often have fairly strict property condition and term requirements due to the fact that the asset must be homologized for purposes of securitization. For example, the defeasance clause type of pre-pay penalty is particularly popular with conduit lenders: according to this type of penalty, the borrower must replace the value of the lender’s return with other appropriate securities if he wishes to pay the loan off before the term expires.
Nevertheless, banks and life insurance companies are not particularly competitive for term loans currently. Many banks have either developed a conduit section, through which they can originate conduit loans for term purposes; or they actually refer term loan requests to an associated conduit lender. Banks generally do remain competitive for short- to mid-term construction loans, mini-perm loans, smaller term loans (under $2 million), and are still the exclusive source for SBA loans.
Sub-prime lenders and private money lenders offer loans for projects that do not fit into the strict guidelines of the conventional programs, including bridge loans, loans on unconventional properties, and low credit loans.