What is a Commercial Mortgage Backed Security (CMBS) and what type of property should this loan finance?

October 18, 2023

By Patrick Mohney

Broker at Blue Rock Commercial Real Estate. RockCRE.com


Commercial Mortgage Backed Security (CMBS)

A Commercial Mortgage-Backed Security (CMBS) loan, also know as a conduit loan, is a type of commercial real estate loan that is packaged and sold to investors as a security. It is a financial instrument that allows real estate lenders to bundle multiple commercial real estate loans, such as those for office buildings, shopping centers, or apartment complexes, and sell them to investors as bonds. CMBS loans are typically used to finance the purchase or refinancing of commercial properties.

Here’s how a real estate investor can use a CMBS loan to finance the purchase of commercial real estate:

  1. Identify the Property: The first step is to find a suitable commercial property that you want to purchase. This could be an office building, retail space, apartment complex, or another type of commercial real estate.
  2. Loan Application: You would then approach a lender, typically a bank or a financial institution, that originates CMBS loans. The lender will assess your financial qualifications and the property’s potential to determine if you qualify for the loan.
  3. Due Diligence: Conduct thorough due diligence on the property, including inspections, appraisals, and a review of its financial performance. CMBS lenders have stringent underwriting standards, so be prepared for a detailed examination of the property.
  4. Loan Origination: Once your loan application is approved, the lender will originate the CMBS loan. This involves creating a pool of loans, including yours, to be bundled into a security.
  5. Securitization: The lender packages your loan with other commercial real estate loans into a pool. This pool is then securitized, meaning it is turned into bonds (CMBS). These bonds are typically divided into different tranches, each with varying risk and return profiles.
  6. Investor Purchase: The CMBS bonds are sold to investors on the secondary market. Investors purchase these bonds, providing the lender with funds to make more loans. This process enables the lender to recycle capital and continue originating new loans.
  7. Loan Servicing: After the loan is securitized, the servicing of the loan (collecting payments, managing escrow accounts, etc.) is typically transferred to a loan servicer, who acts as an intermediary between the borrower and the bondholders.
  8. Borrower Responsibility: As the borrower, you are responsible for making regular payments on your CMBS loan. The loan terms, including interest rates and repayment schedules, are often fixed, and the loan may have a balloon payment at the end.

CMBS loans can be attractive for real estate investors because they often offer competitive interest rates and terms. However, it’s essential to understand that they can be more complex than traditional commercial real estate loans, and the loan terms may be less flexible. Additionally, the CMBS market can be influenced by broader economic factors, which can affect the terms and availability of these loans. It’s advisable to work with experienced professionals and conduct thorough due diligence when considering a CMBS loan for financing commercial real estate.

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