In todays crumbling, commercial real estate market, both borrowers and lenders find themselves in quite a precarious predicament. Borrowers struggle to make their commercial mortgage payments, while lenders are crippled by the increasing number of defaults on commercial property. Right now the best solution to this problem is commercial mortgage modification.
Commercial mortgage modification is the process of renegotiating the terms of a commercial loan. This is done typically by reducing the interest rate or monthly payment on the loan. Other benefits to the borrower may include an extension of the loan term, a forbearance or moratorium on payments, and of course an alternative to foreclosure.
A commercial mortgage modification is about risk to the lender. A lender will only consider a modification if a borrower is in default or at risk of defaulting. The most important thing the lender will look at in determining whether or not to modify a commercial note is cash flow. One very important calculation used in determining cash flow is called the DCR or Debt Coverage Ratio. This ratio is used by the underwriters to determine if a modification can be approved. If a property is breaking even, meaning the income generated is equal to the operating expenses, the DCR would be equal to 1. If commercial property has a positive cash flow, meaning the income the property generates is more than sufficient to cover the mortgage payment and all of the operating expenses, the DCR is greater than 1. If the property is losing money, the DCR would be less than 1. A lender will most likely not modify the commercial note, if the property already has a DCR greater than 1. Commercial lenders writing new commercial loans will most likely require a DCR of 1.25 or greater.
The most common form of payment reduction seen in a commercial mortgage modification is when the lender converts a principal and interest payment to an interest only payment. A lender may consider this form of commercial loan modification to help the borrower improve their cash flow. By only paying the interest on the loan, as opposed to principal and interest, the payment becomes more affordable for the borrower.
However, in extreme circumstances, reducing the mortgage payment to interest only is just not enough for a commercial property owner. If a lender sees that the borrower will still have negative cash flow even after reducing the payment to interest only, they may consider a reduction in the interest rate. Although the interest rate reduction may be temporary, it will help the borrower free up capital and maintain the mortgage payment on time. Although uncommon, lenders have lowered interest rates to as low as 1% even, to avoid an even more costly foreclosure.