A Credit Tenant Lease (CTL) or Conventional (Bank) Loan – Which Is Best for My NNN Deal?

Many good quality, single tenant, net leased properties qualify for both credit tenant lease (CTL) financing and conventional commercial mortgage lending. Net lease property investors should consider the pros and cons of each before deciding which type of loan to commit to.

CTL lending is generally best for the long term income investor who wants permanent, high leverage, fixed rate, fully amortized financing and desires speed and certainty of execution. Bank lending has a lower initial (but not overall) cost and can offer a larger variety of terms and conditions. Banks are best for investors who need options, don’t need maximum leverage (have large down-payment available), and who are not sure if they will hold a property for the long run.

The Difference

CTL lending combines aspects of commercial mortgage lending with specialized investment banking in-order-to close deals. A CTL banker issues and sells private placement corporate bonds that are secured by the lease on the real estate. The proceeds of the bond sales are used to fund a commercial mortgage loan for the borrower. The loan is administered by a third party Trustee throughout the life of the deal.

Traditional commercial mortgages are standard loans secured by mortgage liens against the real estate, the income the property produces and the credit of the borrower. Banking institutions originate a loan and fund the deal either by selling the loan to an investor (private or Government) or by lending its own funds and holding the loan in its portfolio.

Leverage

The ongoing credit crunch has forced banks to tighten up their lending criteria. It is highly unlikely that a commercial bank will offer any more than 75% loan-to-value (LTV) on any deal today. Banks have no incentive to take unnecessary risk; they can borrow money from the Fed (Federal Reserve Bank) at 0% percent and buy 10 year Treasury Bonds at 2% earning 2 points risk free. They will pass on high leverage loans and only lend where they have large amounts of protective equity.

CTL lenders will lend up to 100% LTV (lease fee valuation) on a non-recourse basis. They are in the business of loaning the full, current cash value of a lease (against the guaranteed future income). CTL bankers, without question, make the highest loan offers in the commercial real estate finance industry.

Speed and Certainty of Execution

CTL loans can close in about 1/3rd of the time it takes to close a conventional commercial mortgage. CTL deals have been known to be completed, from-start-to-finish, in as-little-as 45 days (unheard of in the world of commercial banking) but generally take 60.

Bank loans take at least 60 days, sometimes 180 or more. Also, because CTL deals either qualify or doesn’t, a banker can give a borrower a solid yes or no very quickly. There are a thousand ways a bank loan can fall through but, once a CTL banker commits to a deal and a borrower signs off, there is a near 100% certainty of execution.

Recourse

CTL loans are all non-recourse loans secured by the income that the lease produces.

Bank loans are usually, though not always, standard, credit driven, full recourse loans with liens against the borrower as well as the real estate.

Cost

A CTL loan will have higher initial costs because of the investment banking aspect to the deal and the fact that a third party Trustee must be involved. However, over the life cycle of a property, CTL tends to be less expensive because you never have to refinance. At the end of a CTL loan the borrower owns the property free and clear.

Bank loans must be recapitalized or paid off at the end of each term, usually 3, 5, 7 or 10 years. Having to refinance so often results in higher overall cost of capital.

Flexibility

CTL lending is somewhat less flexible than standard bank lending. The bonds sold by CTL bankers are regulated by the securities industries and the insurance industries. CTL lenders must adhere to very strict criteria and are not allowed to deviate from the standards. A deal qualifies for CTL or it does not; there is no leeway.

Banks generally have many lending platforms available to them; they are able to tailor a loan to a particular situation or a particular property.

Terms

Banks can offer self amortizing loans but generally issue mortgages with 3,5,7 or 10 year maturities amortized over 10-25 years with balloon payments due at the end of each term. Banks can also offer either fixed or adjustable rates.

CTL loans are all fully amortized, fixed rate, long term loans with terms coterminous with the lease.

In Summary

Banks offer a larger variety of loan products and can loan against more types of properties and tenants. Bank lending also tends to be less expensive in the short-run.

Student Loans – Getting to “Paid in Full”

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief in her book “On Death and Dying”: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. If you have a large student loan balance, then you’ve probably experienced some “grief” and are no stranger to the five stages. If you are in the “Acceptance” stage, this article is for you!

Being in the Acceptance stage is a good place to be. It means that: you have discovered that deferrals and forbearances are not forever (Denial stage), you have stopped blaming others for getting what you assumed to be a “free ride” (Anger stage), you have learned that you can not discharge your loan through bankruptcy (Bargaining stage), you have stopped drinking heavily and watching re-runs of the Gilmore Girls (Depression stage), and you now accept your financial responsibility and are prepared to do something about it. You are not going to find any “magic bullets” in this article, but you will find an effective strategy for paying off your loan in the shortest amount of time.

Step 1 – Organize Loan in a Spreadsheet

To better manage your student loan, you must completely understand what you are up against. Creating a spreadsheet will give you insight into how your loan works and show you the positive results of making extra principal payments. To create a functional spreadsheet, you must understand the terms of your loan and know how to organize this information into a spreadsheet. If you are not a spreadsheet user, you will find that learning the basics is easy.

To begin building your spreadsheet, you will need the following information about your loan: current balance, interest rate, payment amount, and how the interest is calculated. This will allow you to create an interactive spreadsheet that will calculate how much interest accrues daily and provide you with a daily balance.

How the interest is calculated may require some digging. You will find this information by reviewing your loan documents, going to the lender’s website, or calling your lender’s customer service number. The number of days used to calculate interest on a loan is known as basis. For example, a mortgage is typically calculated using “30/360”, which means a year is assumed to have 360 days and a month is assumed to have 30 days. Thus, when you make a mortgage payment, your interest will be based on 30 days. Student loans typically use the actual number of days in the month and a year with 365 days (actual/365). Some loans may use an actual/365.25 convention; each loan is different. On a loan with an actual/365 basis, you will pay less interest in a short month (one that has less than 31 days) than in a month with 31 days.

Feeling lost yet? Don’t worry, because once we put it all together it will make sense. I’ll also explain how to test your spreadsheet to make sure it’s functioning properly. The initial setup of a spreadsheet is the most challenging step.

On the top of your spreadsheet, insert the key pieces of information regarding your loan, such as: beginning balance, interest rate, monthly payment, payment due date, and the interest rate factor. The interest rate factor is the interest rate divided by the number of days in the year. Again, every lender and type of loan is different in terms of how many days in the year are used. The informational part of the spreadsheet is important because you want to clearly see the variables that impact your loan.

After you input the key pieces of information, you can begin the construction of your interactive spreadsheet. Your goal is to create a spreadsheet that shows when each payment is posted, how much of each payment is applied to principal and interest, and what the ending (or current) balance is. The column names that you will create are (from left to right): Payment Date, Principal, Interest, and New Balance. Below is a more detailed explanation of these columns:

• Payment Date – This is the date that your payment is actually posted to your account. This is critical since the interest on your student loan is likely based on the actual number of days between payments.

• Principal – This will be a formula that equals your payment amount less the interest portion of your monthly payment. It’s the part of your payment that will be applied to reduce your balance.

• Interest – You need to know how your lender calculates interest on your loan. Typically, it is based on the actual number of days multiplied by the previous month’s balance multiplied by the interest rate factor. Your Excel formula will be: (current payment date minus previous payment date) x previous month’s balance x the interest rate factor.

• New Balance – This is equal to your previous month’s balance less the principal portion of your current payment.

If your lender has a website that allows you to see information about your loan and/or make payments, establish online access immediately. Print the balance history of your loan and begin building your spreadsheet using your first payment as the starting point. The balance history should show how much of each payment was applied to principal and interest. This is how you can test your spreadsheet to make sure it is working properly. Check to see if your formula results match the history on the website. If they do not match you will need to troubleshoot to figure out why. It could be that the lender made an error, but more than likely the error is on your spreadsheet. If you have a friend or family member who is an Excel user, see if they can give you some assistance. The web is a great resource as well.

The real power of a spreadsheet is that you can simulate what-if scenarios easily. For example, let’s say that you receive a large cash windfall. You can input this figure into your spreadsheet and easily see what the results of such a big pay-down would be. You might learn that if you made this extra principal reduction payment your loan would be paid off in ten years instead of 15. You may find this very motivating. However, if you don’t have a tool such as a spreadsheet to generate this type of information, then you might choose do something else with your money.

Step 2) – Strategies to Accelerate Payoff

Congratulations on building a spreadsheet where you can track your student loan balances and payments. Tracking a loan in this manner gives you control over the loan. Getting a statement in the mail every month and not really understanding why your balance moved so little is not motivating and adds to a sense of hopelessness (and you really don’t want to go back to the cheap beer and Gilmore Girls re-runs). Here are some specific strategies to help you pay off your loan quickly:

Pay a little extra each month – We’ve all heard this before, especially when talking about mortgages. Well, the same holds true for student loans. When you make a monthly payment, part of that payment is applied to interest, and the rest to principal. My suggestion: Pay the amount of extra principal that will result in your loan balance having two zeros at the end of it. For example, if your balance will be $37,845.21 after you make your next payment, pay an extra $45.21 to make you principal balance $37,800. Getting your loan to an even hundred dollar figure is a strategy to encourage you to pay extra each month.

To facilitate this strategy, I suggest you pay your loan electronically. You have no control over when your payment is posted when you mail it. When you make an online payment, you typically select the payment post date. In addition, there will likely be a section to input the extra amount of principal you wish to pay.

The benefit of paying more than your minimum payment is that when you make your next loan payment, a bigger portion will be applied towards the principal and less towards the interest (compared to if you did not pay extra the prior month). If you continue to pay more than the minimum due, this effect will be compounded each month. The result is that you will pay off your loan significantly faster than if you only made the minimum payment. That is because as your balance decreases, the amount of interest you pay decreases. More of each payment will be applied to reducing the principal. This effect is easy to see when you track it on a spreadsheet, which is why doing so is an effective strategy.

Make a plan to pay “a lot extra” on a regular basis – If you get a tax refund each year, apply it to your student loan balance. This will have a tremendous impact on how quickly your loan is repaid. If you get a bonus each year, apply that as well. Any windfall, or instance of “found money”, should be used to reduce your balance. It is not uncommon for people to treat “found money” differently. “Found money” is often wasted on “splurge” items. Resist this urge! Use any extra money, no matter where or how you got it, to pay down your student loan balance!

In summary, the steps needed to help you pay off your loan quicker are:

1) Utilize a spreadsheet to track your loan so that you can see how much of each payment goes to principal and interest. Perform what-if scenarios so that you can see the impact of paying down your loan and formulate a strategy for doing so.

2) Pay a little extra each month. One strategy is to pay an extra amount such that your balance is an even increment of $100.

3) Commit to making large payments when you have a cash windfall, such as an income tax refund or bonus. While this may not provide an immediate reward, the long-term consequences will be sizeable. Time truly does fly, and what may seem like a huge balance now can be reduced to zero in a lot less time than you think, but only if you make it a priority and a goal.