Adjustable-Rate Mortgage – when you take out a mortgage, you can either select a fixed rate or an adjustable-rate mortgage. With an ARM, the interest rate can change over the duration of your loan. So, this type of loan is often viewed as risky if you plan to keep a property in your portfolio for more than a few years. With a fixed-rate mortgage, the interest rate stays the same throughout the lifetime of the loan.
Amortization – amortization is the process of spreading out payments or expenses over time, depending on whether the amortization is calculated for either a loan or an asset. So, instead of simply paying off interest at the start, amortization allows you to build more equity in your property early on.
Attornment – attornment occurs when a tenant acknowledges a new owner of the property as their new landlord. In the case of commercial property changing hands, an attornment clause in a subordination, non-disturbance, and attornment (SNDA) agreement requires the tenant to acknowledge a new owner as their landlord and to continue paying rent regardless of whether the property changes hands through a normal sale or a foreclosure.
Building Classifications – building classifications in most markets refer to Class “A”, “B”, “C” and sometimes “D” properties. While the rating assigned to a particular building is very subjective, Class “A” properties are typically newer buildings with superior construction and finish in excellent locations with easy access, attractive to credit tenants, and which offer a multitude of amenities such as on-site management or covered parking. These buildings, of course, command the highest rental rates in their sub-market. As the “Class” of the building decreases (i.e. Class “B”, “C” or “D”) one component or another such as age, location or construction of the building becomes less desirable. Note that a Class “A” building in one sub-market might rank lower if it were located in a distinctly different sub-market just a few miles away containing a higher end product.
Build-Out – a build out represents the construction activities executed to a commercial building space, to make it functional for a tenant. In this respect build outs can also be considered “tenant improvements” or TIs.
Cap Rate – short for capitalization rate. Unleveraged initial yield on the investment expressed as the annual Net Operating Income divided by the property price (or asking sales price).
Class A Property – These properties represent the highest quality buildings in their market and area. They are generally newer properties built within the last 15 years with top amenities, high-income earning tenants and low vacancy rates. Class A buildings are well-located in the market and are typically professionally managed. Additionally, they typically demand the highest rent with little or no deferred maintenance issues.
Class B Property – These properties are one step down from Class A and are generally older, tend to have lower income tenants, and may or may not be professionally managed. Rental income is typically lower than Class A, and there may be some deferred maintenance issues. Mostly, these buildings are well-maintained, and many investors see these as “value-add” investment opportunities because the properties can be upgraded to Class B+ or Class A through renovations and improvements to common areas. Buyers are generally able to acquire these properties at a higher CAP Rate than a comparable Class A property because these properties are viewed as riskier than Class A.
Class C Property – These properties are typically more than 20 years old and located in less than desirable locations. The properties are generally in need of renovation, such as updating the building infrastructure to bring it up to date. As a result, Class C buildings tend to have the lowest rental rates in a market with other Class A or Class B properties. Some Class C properties need significant reposting to get to steady cash flows for investors.
Common Area Maintenance – is one of the three main components that make up operating expenses, the other two being insurance and property taxes. Common Area Maintenance (CAM) expenses are fees paid by tenants to landlords to help cover costs associated with overhead and operating expenses for common areas. Common areas are spaces used for or benefited by all tenants and include, but are not limited to, hallways, elevators, parking lots, lobbies, public bathrooms and building security.
Concessions – in negotiations to attract tenants, a landlord will sometimes grant concessions. These most often take the form of free rent but may also include lease buyouts, moving allowances and above-standard tenant improvement allowances. In a hot real estate market concessions are difficult to negotiate.
Contingent Offer – a contingent offer is an offer to purchase property subject to certain conditions, including the buyer’s approval of income and expense statements, title commitment, physical condition of the property, loan commitment, etc. – being met. The specific amount of time allowed to clear these provisions is called the inspection or contingency period.
Demising Wall – a demising wall is a wall that separates spaces belonging to different tenants in an apartment building. It is even used to define the wall that separates tenants in a multi-tenant commercial building, such as a retail plaza, shopping mall, or office buildings.
Escalation Clause – an escalation clause in a lease providing for an increase in rent at a future time. This could be a fixed or pre-determined rate increase, or a cost of living increase that ties the rent to a cost of living index, or direct expense – the rent is adjusted according to changes in the expenses of the property such as a tax increase.
Estoppel Certificate – an estoppel certificate is a document signed by a tenant that states what the current status is on their lease. In the tenant estoppel certificate, the tenant will confirm certain details of the lease, such as the amount of their rent payment and security deposit, to assist a third party in their due diligence. In most cases, the third party is either a buyer or a lender.
Full-Service Lease – a full-service lease refers to a gross lease where the owner pays the operating expenses of a property. In some cases, a full service, or fully serviced, lease means that the landlord covers certain other expenses, such as cleaning services, which is quite common in office leases.
Forbearance – a forbearance is an agreement between a lender and a borrower to temporarily suspend debt payments. For mortgages, lenders may opt to foreclose on borrowers who are unable to make payments. To avoid a costly foreclosure, the lender and the borrower can negotiate a forbearance agreement to allow the borrower to catch up on payments. For student loans, forbearance postpones payments under certain hardship conditions; however, interest continues to accrue on the principal balance.
Gross Lease – a gross lease of property whereby the landlord (i.e., lessor) pays for all property charges usually included in ownership. These charges can include utilities, taxes, and maintenance, among others.
Net Absorption – the net change in occupied space in a given market between the current measurement period and the last measurement period. Net absorption can be either positive or negative and must include decreases as well as increases in inventory levels. It is recommended to disclose the inclusion (Total Net Absorption) or exclusion (Direct Net Absorption) of sublease space in any calculation of net absorption.
Net Operating Income – net operating income also known as NOI. This is the annual net income remaining after deducting all fixed and operating variable expenses, but before debt service and income tax. The specific formula is: NOI = Scheduled rental income + other income – vacancy and credit losses – operating expenses
Per Square Foot (PSF) – Commercial real estate property rental rates are often quoted on a per-square-foot, annual basis. In a rental situation, the rate will either be Net or Gross numbers (“Net PSF” or “Gross PSF”). If a rent is quoted on a net basis, this number does not include the tenant’s pro-rated responsibility of taxes or common area expenses (known as CAM).
Percentage Lease – a percentage lease is when the tenant pays a minimum rent then also pays a percentage of the volume of the business done on the premises whichever is greater. The percentage paid differs according to the types of business.
REIT – (Real Estate Investment Trust) – a security that sells like a stock on the major exchanges and invests in real estate directly, either through properties or mortgages. REITs receive special tax considerations and typically offer investors high yields, as well as a highly liquid method of investing in real estate.
Rent Escalation – Rent Escalation is a lease provision in which the landlord requires the tenant to pay a higher aggregate rent by adjusting the annual base rent by an agreed method during the term of the lease agreement.
Rentable Square Footage (RSF) and Usable Square Footage (USF)
RSF includes any shared space. This figure is primarily used by landlords to determine the rental amount for a commercial property. USF is the amount of space available to be used in a property. It gives you an accurate estimation of how much working space you have in a building, aside from shared spaces such as stairways, bathrooms, and hallways.
Return on Investment – (ROI) a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment; the result is expressed as a percentage or a ratio. ROI = (Gain from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost if Investment
Right of First Refusal – (ROFR) gives a tenant the ability to accept or decline any additional and unused space that the landlord has available in a property. A ROFR clause in a lease means a landlord is contractually obliged to make this offer to the tenant, before offering spaces to the public.
Tenant Improvements or Tenant Improvement Allowance – (TI) the customized alterations a building owner makes to rental space as part of a lease agreement, in order to configure the space for the needs of that particular tenant. These include changes to walls, floors, ceilings, and lighting, among others. In actual practice, these customized tenant improvements usually have a useful economic life of 5 to 10 years, which spans the average commercial lease term.
Triple Net Lease – (NNN) A lease agreement that designates the lessee (the tenant) as being solely responsible for all of the costs relating to the asset being leased in addition to the rent fee applied under the lease. The structure of this type of lease requires the lessee to pay for net real estate taxes on the leased asset, net building insurance and net common area maintenance. The lessee has to pay the net amount of three types of costs, which how this term got its name.
Zoning – zoning refers to municipal or local laws or regulations that dictate how real property can and cannot be used in certain geographic areas. Zoning laws can limit commercial or industrial use of land in order to prevent oil, manufacturing or other types of businesses from building in residential neighborhoods. These laws can be modified or suspended if construction of the property will serve to help the community advance economically.