Commercial Real Estate Underwriting

Understanding the detailed aspects of commercial real estate underwriting is essential to access profitable deals and safeguard their interests.

With a massive $20.7 trillion invested in commercial real estate, the significance of underwriting in today’s market cannot be emphasized enough. But what does it involve exactly?

What Is Commercial Real Estate Underwriting?

Underwriting commercial real estate is a crucial process. It evaluates the risk of a loan for purchasing commercial properties such as self-storage and multifamily buildings. It also evaluates a property’s future cash flow potential and capacity to generate income.

The underwriting process includes:

  • Assessing the commercial property’s location, rental income potential, and market value.
  • Analyzing market conditions and economic trends that could impact the property’s value or the ability to repay the loan.

What Does a Commercial Real Estate Underwriter Do?

A real estate underwriter has an important job evaluating the risk of approving or denying real estate loans. They review the financial documents and assess the possible risk factors of the investment. They also organize property appraisals and credit reports to evaluate creditworthiness and the property’s net value.

Important factors they look at include property type, value, vacancy rate, borrower’s credit score, credit history, net worth, bank statements, and cash flow statements.

How Does Commercial Real Estate Underwriting Work?

In real estate underwriting, underwriters evaluate current market conditions to assess the viability of a real estate investment. They examine the local economy, job growth, population trends, and housing supply and demand.

Underwriters also take into account financial aspects of the project or property, including cash flow projections, sale price, proforma data, closing costs, occupancy rate assumptions, construction costs, timelines, and capital requirements.

Underwriting for existing buildings differs from developments in various ways. When assessing an existing building, its current performance is analyzed to predict its operation under new ownership. This involves looking at lease expirations, renewal probabilities, market rents, tenant improvements, leasing commissions, and downtime related to renewing or releasing tenants.

Development projects involve additional considerations due to the construction period. Pre-leasing costs, efforts, and budgeting for potential delays during the build-out phase are crucial.

Developments require more initial capital for land acquisition and construction before generating tenant income. There may be uncertainty about the time needed to lease all available spaces despite pre-leasing activities.

These factors complicate the underwriting of developments, making them a bigger challenge than existing buildings.

Key Factors Used in Commercial Real Estate Underwriting

When assessing the feasibility of a commercial real estate investment, underwriters closely analyze several key factors:

  • Net Operating Income (NOI): This is crucial in evaluating commercial real estate investments, representing the annual income a property will generate after subtracting operating costs like maintenance fees, property tax, utilities, and CAM fees. Adjustments, such as vacancy allowances or bad debt expenses, may be included to provide a more accurate picture of NOI.
  • Cap Rate: Expressed as a percentage, this figure is vital for determining the property’s return. It is calculated by dividing the annual NOI by the property’s purchase price. Lower cap rates of 3 to 6% indicate a more expensive purchase for the investor, while cap rates of 7 to 10% suggest a relatively more affordable investment.
  • Debt Yield: This metric assesses how well cash flow will cover all loan payments after subtracting a proposed mortgage amount from NOI. Lenders use this ratio to evaluate borrowers’ ability to repay loans and meet loan terms. Typically, most banks look for debt yields of at least 1.15x, although some lenders may require higher ratios like 1.30x or more.
  • Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR): An important measure used to evaluate borrowers’ creditworthiness and repayment capability, DSCR compares NOI to total debt service. Ideally, DSCR should be above 1.2x, but some lenders may have stricter requirements based on loan terms.


Investors can find profitable deals in commercial real estate by learning about its underwriting process and minimizing risks. So, underwriters analyze property value, financial performance, and market trends to ensure a secure investment for everyone involved.

For faster, more accurate underwriting and analysis of commercial real estate deals, explore DealWorthit. Our AI-powered real estate software streamlines the process, saving you valuable time and resources.

Ready to elevate your next commercial real estate investment?

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