Navigating the Business Construction Loan Landscape

Navigating the Business Construction Loan Landscape

Construction loans provide financing to business for building or renovating commercial properties. These loans allow companies to access the capital they need upfront to get construction projects off the ground, according to DRP Management Group.

Businesses use construction loans to build a new facility, expand an existing building, upgrade a property, or conduct major renovations. The loan provides funds incrementally throughout the various phases of the construction process.

Construction loans have unique requirements and a process that differs from typical commercial financing. The lender will assess the viability of the construction project and property value to determine approved loan amounts. Borrowers will need to pledge collateral and make interest-only payments during the construction period. After passing inspections at each project milestone, funds are provided based on a predetermined draw schedule.

Construction loans give businesses the ability to bring significant building plans to fruition. Companies can obtain the temporary financing necessary for their commercial construction endeavors with proper planning and preparation.

This process underscores the importance of partnering with a reputable loan company, such as, well-versed in the intricacies of construction financing, ensuring smooth navigation through the complexities of funding commercial construction endeavors.

Types of Construction Loans

There are three main types of construction loans: SBA loans, conventional loans, and onerous loans.

SBA Loans

Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are partially guaranteed by the federal government and issued by approved lenders to eligible small business owners. SBA construction loans typically have lower down payments, more flexible collateral requirements, and longer repayment terms than conventional loans. The maximum SBA loan amount for construction is $5 million.

Conventional Loans

Banks and credit unions offer conventional construction loans without government backing. They typically require a 20-25% down payment and have stricter approval criteria based on the applicant’s credit score, income, assets, and existing debt. Conventional loans may offer lower interest rates than SBA loans for applicants with excellent credit.

Onerous Loans

Onerous construction loans allow the borrower to pay only interest during the loan term, with the full principal due as a balloon payment at maturity. This arrangement gives the borrower flexibility during construction but requires refinancing or a large payment when the loan comes due. Onerous loans involve higher interest rates and fees compared to amortized loans.

Uses for Construction Loans

Construction loans can be used for a variety of business construction projects, including:

New building construction

One of the most common uses for business construction loan is to finance the ground-up construction of a new commercial building. This includes the costs for land acquisition, permits, materials, labor, and all other expenses involved in building a new facility from scratch. Construction loans provide the capital needed upfront before the building can start generating revenue.


Construction loans are often used to fund significant renovations of existing business facilities. This may involve modernizing, expanding, or repurposing the building to support the company’s evolving needs. Significant renovations that require demolition or overhaul of structural elements tend to require construction financing.

Equipment purchases

Heavy equipment purchases can sometimes be bundled into a construction loan. Examples include industrial equipment, medical equipment like MRI machines, and commercial kitchen appliances. The equipment becomes part of the collateral used to secure the loan.

Tenant improvements

Landlords often require tenants to pay for their tenant improvements (TIs) for leased business properties. From build-outs to customized interiors, construction loans effectively finance costly TIs upfront rather than tapping into operating capital.

Construction loans give businesses the capital to transform vacant spaces or aging facilities into modern, functional buildings matching their operational needs. The flexible financing can support new construction, renovations, equipment purchases, or tenant improvements. With careful planning and execution, construction loans provide the funding to turn ambitious commercial real estate projects into reality.

Loan Amounts and Terms

Commercial construction loans typically range from $500,000 to over $100 million. The amount will depend on the size and scope of the project. Lenders will want to see that you have enough financing to complete the project.

The term or length of the loan is usually based on the construction timeline. Most construction loans are for 1-2 years. Expect longer terms for larger, more complex projects. You’ll need to show a reasonable schedule for completing each construction phase.

Interest rates are usually variable and tied to a benchmark like the Prime Rate or LIBOR. Rates are generally higher for construction loans than permanent mortgages to account for the increased risk. Interest rates can range from 5% to over 10% for commercial construction loans. Better credit, more equity, and lower loan-to-value ratios may qualify you for a lower rate.

The lender will want to see that the project can generate enough revenue to cover the loan payments once construction is finished. Be ready to provide detailed cost projections and expected rental income or sales prices.

Interest-Only Payments

A unique aspect of construction loans is that they often only require interest payments during construction, with the principal balance remaining unchanged until the project is completed. This offers several benefits:

  • Cash flow is preserved during construction since borrowers don’t have to pay the principal. This helps fund the building process.
  • Monthly payments are lower compared to a standard amortized loan.
  • More capital can go toward the actual project rather than loan repayment.

However, interest-only payments also have some downsides:

  • Total interest paid over the loan term increases since the principal is not being reduced during construction.
  • The loan balance remains unchanged until the project finishes, which can be risky if property values decline.
  • Requires balloon payment of principal at maturity, which can be a large lump sum.
  • There is less incentive to complete the project quickly since principal payments don’t kick in until construction ends.

Most lenders require interest-only terms during the building phase, which usually lasts 6-24 months, depending on the size and complexity of the project. This gives developers flexibility and improved cash flow during the high-cost construction period. But it also means principal payments are deferred, accruing more interest expense in the long run.

Alternatives to Loans

Getting a bank or other financial institution loan is one of many ways to finance a commercial construction project. Here are some alternatives business owners should consider:


Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow you to raise money from a large pool of individuals who support your project. You set a fundraising goal and deadline, then promote your campaign to drive donations. The benefit is you don’t take on any debt. The downside is there’s no guarantee you’ll raise enough funds.


Seek out angel investors or venture capitalists willing to invest in your company in exchange for equity. This avoids debt but means giving up an ownership stake. You need a solid business plan and growth projections to attract investors.


Research government, nonprofit, and private foundation grants related to your industry, location, or social impact goals. Grants provide free capital but usually have strict requirements on how funds are used. The application process can be lengthy.

Owner Financing

If you own the land, the seller may agree to act as the lender and let you make payments over time. This avoids traditional financing but depends on having equity or other collateral. Terms vary greatly, so consult an attorney.