There comes a time in every business owners life when it makes sense to purchase a building to operate out of. Most of the time its when they have outgrown a leased facility and realize that a building might be a wise investment for the company. As much of a milestone as this is, it can also be a stressful time for a company as there are so many options available and so many different things to learn in a short period of time. In many cases, this is the biggest foray into small business financing that the company will undertake, so it's not unusual that there would be some jitters.
Unless your company has stockpiled a lot of cash, with today's real estate prices, you will most likely need a loan to make this purchase possible. If you are going to occupy more than 50% of the building, banks consider this owner occupied and want you to put in 20% of the purchase price. There are always ways to ge around putting less down, such as offering other collateral to increase the total. The most common ways of doing this are to offer up business assets or a 2nd mortgage on the owners residence. Another good route is an SBA 504 loan program which allows you to put down 10% as opposed to 20%. This is a good option and there are other advantages, but as with any government entity, you are going to have more fees and more paperwork.
The good thing about real estate loans, you can generally qualify for a lower rate than your run of the mill business startup loan. Since the note will be secured by a piece of physical real estate, banks tend to be more aggressive with rates. Commercial loans differ from residential in that the rates are not locked for as long as residential loans. With a residential mortgage, banks sell those to secondary financing companies immediately after funding. With a commercial loan, they stay on the books so they are not as willing to offer a long term rate. The most common terms are 5 year fixed rate balloon with a 20 year amortization. In recent years as competition has stiffened, its not uncommon to see up to 10 year fixed rates and up to 25 year amortization. This is good news for the borrower. Now, the way loans are priced is off the treasury rate. Typically, banks will offer between 2%-3% above the appropriate treasury rate. For example, lets say you are seeking a 5 year loan/20 year amortization for your commercial building purchase. Most banks will price that off of the 5 year treasury, so if that rate is 5% then you could expect a rate from 6.75%-8.00%.
After you've had initial talks with the bank, you'll need to get prepared for loan approval. Most banks will seek 2-3 years of financial statements or tax returns on the company so they can get a history of whether the business can support the new debt payments. Also, they will likely require a personal guarantee and ask for personal tax returns and a personal financial statement from the owners of the company. As they are reviewing your financial statements, expect to be cross-sold on some of the bank's value-added services like payroll services, brokerage accounts, merchant accounts, or bank programs for the employees.
While the entire procedure may seem a little daunting, it is generally easy to do if you have your finances in order. Obtaining a commercial mortgage, while time consuming, can also be the easiest to get. You have strong collateral in the building and you can also can justify the cost because you are eliminating an expense (rent) and just replacing it with the mortgage payment. If you ask the right questions and come prepared, then it can be a very easy process for your company and you can be in your new building in no time.