Construction Financing and Commercial Loans

There are many new challenges which are increasingly evident with commercial mortgages, particularly those involving commercial construction loans. Many commercial financing experts currently project that the changing environment for working capital loans and most other business financing will produce several new but avoidable problems for small business owners.

There have always been complex problems for business owners to avoid when seeking commercial loans. By most accounts, these difficulties are now expected to multiply because we appear to be entering a period which will be characterized by even more uncertainties in the economy. Prior standards for commercial mortgages are likely to change suddenly and with little advance notice by lenders if the current financial turmoil continues.

This article will evaluate why commercial construction loans have become harder to obtain and will discuss possible commercial finance funding solutions. The current economic uncertainties combined with less capital availability for commercial mortgages in general and construction financing in particular means that it is much more likely that borrowers will need to look beyond their regional market area for business financing help. In many areas of the United States, virtually all business construction funding sources are effectively inactive at this time in addressing new loan requests.

Even before business finance funding options became more limited recently, construction loans were generally considered to be riskier than other commercial financing by most lenders. For a commercial lender, the most significant risk factors for commercial construction financing usually include the following: (1) until the new building is completed, a commercial property cannot produce income to repay a loan; (2) a substantial risk factor is the possibility for contractor liens; and (3) many commercial construction projects take more time to complete than originally projected and/or exceed initial cost estimates. Of these factors, the risk of potential contractor liens appears to be a particular concern for commercial lenders because of the deteriorating health of the construction industry. In any event, current delinquencies in loan payments for commercial construction financing are running well above normal.

Construction financing for homebuilders has always been viewed separately by lenders because the eventual owners of single-family homes are individuals rather than businesses. From a commercial lending perspective, it is likely that the current difficulties seen in residential construction are indirectly impacting the availability of construction funding for commercial properties because the potential for contractor liens incurred during residential projects can quickly reduce the financial stability of contractors involved in both residential and commercial construction projects. This is a further reason why lenders are increasingly focusing on the risk of contractor liens as a rationale for providing less construction financing.

The feasibility of real estate investments has traditionally included an enduring theme of “location, location and location” which reflects the importance of a specific locale for investing. This is still an important factor when lenders evaluate the prospects for commercial real estate loans involving both existing commercial properties and new construction. A lender is likely to be most comfortable with a stable to growing revenue stream for a business which will in turn result in a stable to growing property valuation, thus preserving collateral for the commercial mortgage loan.

For the first time in several years, however, we are generally seeing widespread reductions in both residential and commercial property values throughout much of the United States, with some areas of the country exhibiting more volatility than others. A severe recession will result in decreasing income for many businesses over an extended period of time, and it is very difficult for either lenders or borrowers to project when this downward trend will reverse.

Given the difficulty of arranging financing based on location, using non-local lenders can be a practical solution for commercial financing involving both existing commercial properties and new construction. Small business owners should seek straightforward advice from a commercial loans expert who can provide effective strategies for changing and difficult business finance funding situations, especially in light of the challenging commercial borrowing climate prevailing currently.