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A bridge 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. It is usually called a bridging loan in the United Kingdom, also known as a "caveat loan," and also known in some applications as a swing loan. In South African usage, the term bridging finance is more common, but is used in a more restricted sense than is common elsewhere.
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 11–15%, with typical terms of up to 12 months 2–4 points may be charged. Loan-to-value (LTV) 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).
A first charge bridging loan is generally available at a higher LTV than a second charge bridging loan due to the lower level of risk involved, many UK lenders will steer clear of second charge lending altogether.
Lower LTV's may also attract lower rates again representing the lower level of underwriting risk although front-end fees, lenders legal fees, and valuation payments may remain fixed.
- 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 offsetting 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 whereas a bridging loan would be.
The UK bridge loan market is unregulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) so unlike other sectors of the UK financial services, the Government do not produce statistics and trade bodies make little official data available.
In Corporate Finance
- 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 or an acquisition.
In December 2010, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and partners marketed a bridge loan for its upcoming acquisition of Del Monte Foods. As is common in such cases, KKR planned for the newly private company to borrow money by issuing corporate bonds. To ensure the money would be available, KKR sought $1.6B in bridge loan guarantees, for which it promised to pay 8.75% interest for 60 days and 11.75% thereafter. At KKR's option, these loans could then be replaced with eight-year corporate bonds (in effect, a put option) paying 11.75%. In return for the loans and guarantees, KKR was offering roughly 2% in fees.
South African usage
In South African law immovable property is transferred via a system of registration in public registries known as Deeds Offices. Given the delays resulting from the transfer process, many participants in property transactions require access to funds which will otherwise only become available on the day that the transaction is registered in the relevant Deeds Office.
Bridging finance companies provide finance that creates a bridge between the participant's immediate cash flow requirement and the eventual entitlement to funds on registration in the Deeds Office. Bridging finance is typically not provided by banks.
Various forms of bridging finance are available, depending on the participant in the property transaction that requires finance. Sellers of fixed property can bridge sales proceeds, estate agents bridge estate agents' commission, and mortgagors bridge the proceeds of further or switch bonds. Bridging finance is also available to settle outstanding property taxes or municipal accounts or to pay transfer duties. 
- The KKR Way. Bloomberg Markets, August 2007
- Del Monte Bridge Loan Termsheet. KKR and partners, December 2010
- Investment firms agree $5.3bn Del Monte Foods acquisition. Food Navigator, November 30, 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-22
- KKR Announcement KKR Retrieved 2010-12-22
- Bridging loans to break £1bn barrier, West One FT Advisor May 22, 2012
- Buy to let demand fuels surge in UK bridging loans PropertyWire February, 2012
- Bridging loans increase 45pc due to new landlord appetite The Telegraph October, 2011
- Bridging loan rates Bridgingloan.co.uk July, 2012
- "Investopedia Definition: Bridge Loan". Investopedia.
- "Financial Dictionary: Bridge Loan".
- "Short-term loans". Mortgage Professionals Australia. November 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-09.
- Badenhorst, PJ et al. Silberberg & Schoeman's The Law of Property. Fourth Edition. Butterwoths. 2003
- Deeds Registries Act, 47 of 1937
- http://www.combinedfinance.co.za/services. Missing or empty