When fast and reliable short-term financing is required, one of the valuable options for commercial real estate owners and developers to consider is the bridge loan. A bridge loan is similar to and overlaps with a hard money loan. Both are non-standard loans obtained due to short-term, or unusual, circumstances. The difference is that hard money refers to the lending source, usually an individual, investment pool, or private company that is not a bank in the business of making high risk, high interest loans, whereas a bridge loan refers to the duration of the loan.
Hard money loans and bridge loans are similar in that both can be quick to close. Both may be needed for a short period of time. In addition both undergo limited or less severe underwriting processes. However, while the bridge loan investor requires a definite exit strategy, the hard money source may not. Moreover, bridge loans frequently have a loan to value ratio of 70-95%, whereas hard money loans will not exceed 50% LTV.
The bridge loan is a form of financing that “bridges” the gap between funds needed now and when longer-term financing becomes available. It can be a key component in an owner’s long-term financing strategy, particularly for those faced with a here-and-now opportunity or other shorter-term situation such as improving or selling a property.
Real estate owners often use a bridge loan to purchase a second property before the sale of the first property closes. Then the proceeds from the sale are used to pay off the bridge loan. This illustrates the important “exit strategy” borrowers must have before an investor makes a bridge loan. In this example, the investor would need to see a signed sales agreement spelling out where, when, and how the bridge loan will be repaid.
Bridge financing almost always needs to be arranged and closed quickly. Such loans tend to be for 6 to 12 months with a possible 12-month extension. They are usually structured as simple interest only loans with no pre-payment penalty and all principal due in full at maturity. Risk to the investor is minimal since the loans are underwritten based on existing equity in the property and the exit strategy is defined.
Hard money loans also are generally more expensive. Unlike bridge loans, which focus on exit strategy, hard money investors emphasize collateral, making certain enough exists to collect the debt in the event of default.
Because these two types of loans have similarities, borrowers frequently misjudge which is best for them. More than three-fourths of those who say they want a bridge loan qualify only for a hard money loan because, for example, the borrower has less-than-average credit, a modest financial statement, too little experience in commercial real estate, or no defined exit strategy.
Because of the owner’s need for timeliness, banks and other institutional lenders are not usually effective when it comes to bridge loans. Speaking to a qualified consultant can quickly sort out your situation and quickly align you with the appropriate type of financing and related investor. Included among them are hedge funds, private equity groups, mortgage pools and other sources of private capital.
Andy Bogdanoff is the Founder and Chairman of Remington Financial Group. Mr. Bogdanoff is an expert in commercial real estate and bridge loan financing with over 35 years experience.