A bridge loan (also known in some applications as a swing loan) is a type of short-term loan, typically taken out for a period of 2 weeks to 3 years pending the arrangement of larger or longer-term financing.
A bridge loan is interim financing for an individual or business until permanent or the next stage of financing can be obtained. Money from the new financing is generally used to "take out" (i.e. to pay back) the bridge loan, as well as other capitalization needs.
Bridge loans are typically more expensive than conventional financing to compensate for the additional risk of the loan. Bridge loans typically have a higher interest rate, points and other costs that are amortized over a shorter period, and various fees and other "sweeteners" (such as equity participation by the lender in some loans). The lender also may require cross-collateralization and a lower loan-to-value ratio. On the other hand they are typically arranged quickly with relatively little documentation.
In real estate
Bridge loans are often used for commercial real estate purchases to quickly close on a property, retrieve real estate from foreclosure, or take advantage of a short-term opportunity in order to secure long term financing. Bridge loans on a property are typically paid back when the property is sold, refinanced with a traditional lender, the borrower's creditworthiness improves, the property is improved or completed, or there is a specific improvement or change that allows a permanent or subsequent round of mortgage financing to occur. The timing issue may arise from project phases with different cash needs and risk profiles as much as ability to secure funding.
A bridge loan is similar to and overlaps with a hard money loan. Both are non-standard loans obtained due to short-term, or unusual, circumstances. The difference is that hard money refers to the lending source, usually an individual, investment pool, or private company that is not a bank in the business of making high risk, high interest loans, whereas a bridge loan refers to the duration of the loan.
Bridge loan interest rates are usually 12-15%, with typical terms of up to 3 years. 2-4 points may be charged. Loan-to-value ratios generally do not exceed 65% for commercial properties, or 80% for residential properties, based on appraised value.
A bridge loan may be closed, meaning it is available for a predetermined timeframe, or open in that there is no fixed payoff date (although there may be a required payoff after a certain time).
Most banks do not offer real estate bridge loans because the speculative nature, risk, lack of full documentation, and other factors, do not fit the bank's lending criteria. A bank that issued bridge loans might have difficulty justifying its lending practice to its investors and government regulators. Bridge loans are therefore more likely to come from individuals, investment pools, and businesses that make a practice of the higher-interest loans.
- A bridge loan is often obtained by developers to carry a project while permit approval is sought. Because there is no guarantee the project will happen, the loan might be at a high interest rate and from a specialized lending source that will accept the risk. Once the project is fully entitled, it becomes eligible for loans from more conventional sources that are at lower-interest, for a longer term, and in a greater amount. A construction loan would then be obtained to take out the bridge loan and fund completion of the project.
- A consumer is purchasing a new residence and plans to make a down payment with the proceeds from the sale of a currently owned home. The currently owned home will not close until after the close of the new residence. A bridge loan allows the buyer to take equity out of the current home and use it as down payment on the new residence, with the expectation that the current home will close within a short time frame and the bridge loan will be repaid.
- A bridging loan can be used by a business to ensure continued smooth operation during a time when for example one senior partner wishes to leave whilst another wishes to continue the business. The bridging loan could be made based on the value of the company premises allowing funds to be raised via other sources for example a management buy in.
- A property may be offered at a discount if the purchaser can complete quickly with the discount off setting the costs of the short term bridging loan used to complete. In auction property purchases where the purchaser has only 14-28 days to complete long term lending such as a buy to let mortgage may not be viable in that time frame where as a bridging loan would be.
In venture finance
Bridge loans are used in venture capital
and other corporate finance
for several purposes:
- To inject small amounts of cash to carry a company so that it does not run out of cash between successive major private equity financings
- To carry distressed companies while searching for an acquirer or larger investor (in which case the lender often obtains a substantial equity position in connection with the loan)
- As a final debt financing to carry the company through the immediate period before an initial public offering