What is a CMBS Loan

January 10, 2022

What is a CMBS (Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities) Loan?

A type of fixed-income security, commercial mortgage-backed security (CMBS). It is backed with real estate loans.

These loans can be used for commercial properties. For example, they can be used for office buildings, hotels, malls, apartment buildings, and factories.

What is a CMBS, and what does it do?

Banks make commercial mortgage-backed securities. They take many commercial real-estate loans and combine them into a bundle to sell as a series.

These bundles are often broken into segments or tranches.

The bond ratings are determined based on the risk of each bond.

The higher rating ones have the lowest risk. They are also known as senior issue. Conversely, the highest risk ones have the lowest ratings. They are also known as junior issue.

Due to the reduced risk, senior issue CMBSs are more expensive than junior issued CMBSs. Therefore, these CMBSs are safer and more stable places to invest money.

The senior issue first receives the principal and interest payments. Therefore, the junior's issues will suffer the most significant losses if a borrower defaults.

You can choose which issue you wish to invest in, depending on how high you desire a yield and the risk you are willing or unable to bear.

How do CMBSs work?

An investor in real estate or a business owner purchases a commercial property. Then, they apply to a bank for a mortgage to buy the property.

The bank will pool that mortgage with other mortgages. The bank then turns the pooled loans into bonds. These bonds are then rated by the bank and then sold to investors.

The bank receives the proceeds from bond sales. A servicing manager then takes over the bonds.

Once the bonds are sold, they yield fixed yields for their holders because the bank has sold the bonds. As a result, they can now lend money to others.

Lock-out periods are a common feature of commercial mortgage-backed securities. These locks prevent the underlying loans from being repaid too early.

The ability to securitize loans allows banks to make more loans. In addition, it offers institutional investors an alternative to government bond yields.

This structure allows commercial borrowers to get mortgages and funds more quickly.

What it means to individual investors

You can only invest in one commercial mortgage-backed security. However, these securities are typically owned by wealthy investors or investment entities and the managers of exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Some ETFs specialize in mortgage-backed securities. These securities are made from residential mortgages and not commercial. These ETFs could also invest in commercially-backed securities.

These ETFs are a great way for retail investors to invest in these debt securities. They allow for diversification of risk and a small investment.

CMBs offer an alternative to real-estate investment trusts (REITs). They provide an easy way to invest in U.S. realty markets.

There are many differences between the two types. REITs are equities. CMBS is a type of debt security, investments created from debt instruments.

Pros and cons of CMBSs


  • Careful underwriting standards
  • Higher returns
  • Fixed-term loans


  • High chance of default
  • Respond to the real estate market
  • The bank influences ratings

Pros Explained

Careful underwriting standards are required: CMBSs created after the 2008 financial crisis tend to be larger. As a result, they adhere to more stringent underwriting standards than MBSs.

Higher returns: CMBSs are often more profitable than government or corporate bonds. They can be a good investment as you can make a lot of money.

Fixed-term loans: CMBS loans have a fixed term. They cannot be repaid before the due date without penalty. CMBs are therefore less likely to default than residential mortgage-backed securities.

Prepayment risk is when borrowers are more likely to refinance due to falling interest rates. This means that they will repay their old mortgages faster than expected. As a result, the prepayment of mortgages can cause real estate investors to get a lower yield than expected.

Cons Explained

High risk of default. Commercial mortgage-backed securities have the same risk as corporate bonds. CMBS investors could lose their investment if borrowers default on principal and interest payments.

There are many ways to determine the probability of default. This is usually based on the strength or weakness of the local economy. However, it could also depend on when the loan was issued.

Response to the real estate markets: Commercial mortgage-backed security issued during a market peak, or when underwriting standards for commercial mortgage-backed securities are low, are more likely to be at higher risk. Weakness in the real estate market can also affect CMBSs.

This occurred in 2008 and 2009. The 2008 financial crisis caused CMBS lending to cease. As market conditions improved, it gradually returned.

Ratings are dependent upon the bank: The ratings that CMBSs obtain depend on the honesty, integrity, and creditworthiness of the bank that initially made the loan. Investors won't tell what they are buying if they aren't well-rated or disreputably represented. This can pose the same risks that the Great Recession's subprime mortgage crisis.


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