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5 Way to Finance a Commercial Real Estate Purchase

Allen C. Buchanan

I have written extensively recently about the HUGE increase in selling prices for commercial real estate in Orange County, California. Since the beginning of 2013 we have seen sales prices increase by a whopping Fifty Percent! It dawned on me that my readers might want to learn about the various ways to finance commercial real estate…which is the subject of this post.

As a buyer of commercial real estate you fall into one of three categories…an owner/occupant (your company will operate out of the building that you purchase), an investor (you don’t occupy the building but purchase the building for the tenant’s rent), or an owner/investor (you buy the building and partially occupy the building and have the balance as rental income). I will focus today on the financing options of the owner/occupant and the owner/investor.

1. Small Business Association Loans:

Also known as SBA loans, real property (not equipment or cash flow loans) loans through the SBA are generally one of two flavors…a 504 or 7A loan. The 504 loan is a fifty percent first loan from a bank and a forty percent second loan from the government (also known as a debenture). The 7A loan is a ninety percent government guaranteed bank loan. Each type of SBA loan (504 and 7A) has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include, small down payments (10%), fixed interest rates, ability to finance building improvements, and wide availability from a number of lending sources. The disadvantages are the origination fees, the prepayment penalties, the collateral and personal guarantees, and the cash flow and years in business requirements.

2. Conventional Financing:

Once upon a time, before the preponderance of SBA financing, if you wanted to buy a building, you showed up at your local bank or savings and loan office and applied. What resulted was a loan of seventy five to eighty percent of the purchase price. Boom. Done. Not much as changed over the years…except of course, the savings and loans are extinct, there are fewer commercial banks, and the banks would prefer for you to originate an SBA loan because the bank’s risk is less since the government is guaranteeing a portion of the loan. Hmmm, I guess a lot has changed.

3. Seller Financing:

We saw a lot more seller financing when the market interest rates bubbled above four to five percent and a borrower could not seek ninety percent financing through the SBA. There are few advantages for a buyer to seek seller financing, but if a seller of commercial real estate owns the property free and clear and is willing to finance the purchase, the buyer generally avoids the need for an appraisal and may also skirt certain origination fees.

4. Third Party Financing:

Does your Aunt Barbara or Uncle Frank have a substantial nest egg earning close to zero percent in a certificate of deposit? Maybe they would like to loan you the money to buy a building for your company. They get a great return on their money and have the security of the building as collateral. Plus, you’ll have something to talk about at Thanksgiving!

5. Purchase the Building for Cash:

I’ve only seen this occur a couple of times in a career that commenced when Reagan was President, but it happens. The cool structure is to buy the building personally (or as an LLC), with personal cash, and lease the building to your company. Your company then pays you rent…Bingo!