10 Essential Commercial Mortgage Terms Every Borrower Should Know

Apr 20, 2024

When it comes to commercial mortgages, understanding the key terms is crucial for borrowers. Whether you're a seasoned real estate investor or a first-time commercial property buyer, having a firm grasp of these essential terms will help you navigate the borrowing process with confidence.

Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio

The LTV ratio is a critical term in commercial mortgage lending. It represents the ratio of the loan amount to the appraised value of the property. Lenders use this ratio to assess the risk of the loan, with lower LTV ratios typically indicating lower risk.

Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR)

The DSCR is a measure of a property's ability to generate enough income to cover its debt obligations. It is calculated by dividing the property's net operating income by its annual debt service. Lenders often require a minimum DSCR to ensure the property can support the mortgage payments.


Amortization refers to the process of paying off a loan over time through regular payments. Understanding the amortization schedule is crucial, as it determines how much of each payment goes towards the principal and how much goes towards interest.

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Prepayment Penalty

A prepayment penalty is a fee charged by the lender if the borrower pays off the loan before the scheduled term. It's important to be aware of the prepayment terms, as they can significantly impact the overall cost of the loan.

Interest Rate Types

Commercial mortgages may have different interest rate structures, including fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, and hybrid options. Each type has its own benefits and risks, so it's essential to understand how the interest rate will impact your loan payments over time.

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Recourse vs. Non-Recourse Loans

Recourse loans hold the borrower personally liable for the debt, while non-recourse loans limit the lender's recourse to the collateral. Understanding the implications of each type of loan is crucial for managing risk and protecting personal assets.

Balloon Payment

A balloon payment is a large, lump-sum payment due at the end of the loan term. It's important to be aware of the presence of a balloon payment and have a plan in place to address it, whether through refinancing, selling the property, or other means.

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Loan Origination Fees

Origination fees are charges imposed by the lender for processing a new loan. These fees can vary widely and significantly impact the overall cost of borrowing, so it's essential to understand them and negotiate when possible.

Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)

Before obtaining a commercial mortgage, lenders often require an ESA to assess the environmental risk associated with the property. Understanding the implications of the ESA and any potential remediation costs is crucial for managing risk and securing financing.

By familiarizing yourself with these essential commercial mortgage terms, you'll be better equipped to make informed decisions and navigate the borrowing process with confidence.