What Exactly is Meant by the Term "Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities"?

What Exactly is Meant by the Term

The term “Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities” (CMBS) is defined along with several examples.

Fixed-income securities fall under the category known as commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). It is supported by loans taken out on the real estate. These loans are for the purchase of commercial real estate. Office buildings, hotels, shopping malls, housing complexes, and manufacturing facilities might be among them.

Find out more about commercial mortgage-backed securities, including how they operate and the impact they can have on individual investors.

What Is a CMBS, Exactly?

Commercial mortgage-backed securities are products that are created by banks. They take a number of commercial real estate loans, compile them into a package, and then sell the bond series that results from the sale of the package. Most of the time, these packages are split up into tranches, which are also sometimes called segments.

The bonds are rated from lowest to highest both in terms of risk and grade. Those with the highest ratings present the least amount of risk. These securities are referred to as “senior issues.” Those with the lowest ratings present the greatest degree of danger. “Junior issues” is the name given to them.

Because of the lower level of risk associated with senior issue CMBSs, the interest rate will be higher than that of junior issue CMBSs. This indicates that they offer a more stable and risk-free environment in which to put your money.

The principal and interest payments on the junior issuance will be made after those for the senior issue. In the event that a borrower goes into default, the most junior issues will be the ones to suffer losses initially. You have the ability to pick and select the issue you want to put your money into based on the kind of return you want and the amount of risk you are willing to take on.

How Does the CMBS Process Work?

A commercial piece of property is purchased by an investor in real estate or an owner of a business. They do this by obtaining a mortgage from a financial institution, which enables them to purchase the home. That mortgage is combined with that of other borrowers by the bank. After that, the bank transforms the mortgages in the pool into bonds. After assigning ratings to the bonds, they market and sell them to investors.

The proceeds from the sale of the bonds are given to the bank. Following that, a servicing manager will take over responsibility for the bonds. The holders of the bonds will subsequently be entitled to receive set yields on a regular basis. Because the bonds were sold, the bank now has money that it may lend to customers of other financial institutions.

In most cases, lock-out periods are included in commercial mortgage-backed securities. These rules say that the loans that make up the transaction can’t be paid back early.

The ability to securitize loans enables financial institutions to provide additional loans. In addition to this, it provides institutional investors with an alternative to government bonds that has a greater yield. Because of this framework, gaining access to cash and mortgages is made less difficult for business borrowers.

What Does It Imply for Those Who Invest on Their Own?

You are able to make a one-by-one investment in commercial mortgage-backed securities. But these are usually only owned by wealthy investors, investment firms, or the managers of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and they are not available to the general public.

Mortgage-backed securities are the primary focus of several exchange-traded funds (ETFs) (MBS). These financial instruments are derivatives derived from home mortgages as opposed to commercial ones. These exchange-traded funds (ETFs) could also put their money into commercial mortgage-backed securities. It’s possible that investing in these debt instruments through these exchange-traded funds is the most advantageous strategy for regular investors. They make it possible to gain exposure to diverse risks without making a significant initial commitment.

Alternatives to real estate investment trusts include commercial mortgage-backed securities, or CMBS (REITs). They make investing in the real estate market in the United States easy and convenient.

The two different kinds of investments couldn’t be more different from one another. REITs are equities. CMBS are investments that are made from debt instruments. These investments are often called “debt securities.”


The Pros 

  • Standards of extreme care in underwriting
  • Higher returns
  • Loans with a fixed term

The Cons

  • has a high potential for going bankrupt.
  • Take into account the real estate market.
  • Ratings are based on the bank in question.

Pros explained

  • CMBSs that were written following the financial crisis of 2008 tend to have stricter underwriting rules and are hence bigger. In comparison to MBSs, they have more stringent underwriting requirements.
  • Greater returns: In the bond market, collateralized mortgage-backed securities (CMBSs) often offer greater returns than either corporate or government bonds. This indicates that you will be able to generate a healthy profit off of them.
  • Loans with a set term: Most of the time, the loans that underpin CMBSs are loans with a fixed period. The borrower will be subject to a fee if they attempt to repay the funds early. Because of this, the risk of prepayment for commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) is a lot lower than for residential mortgage-backed securities.
  • The possibility that borrowers will refinance their loans as a result of lowering interest rates is known as prepayment risk. This means they will pay off their previous mortgages sooner than expected.In contrast to what they expected, real estate investors get less money when they pay off their mortgages early.

Defining the Drawbacks

  • Similar to the situation with corporate bonds, commercial mortgage-backed securities have a high chance of defaulting on their payments. CMBS investors run the risk of incurring a loss if borrowers fail to make both their principle and interest payments on time. There isn’t one set level of default risk. It is frequently determined by the robustness of the market in the region where the loan was initially created. Another thing that may come into play is the date the loan was first given.
  • Respond to the real estate market: Commercial mortgage-backed securities that are issued during a market peak or at a time when underwriting requirements are low are likely to offer higher risks. Respond to the real estate market. CMBSs are susceptible to being badly impacted by the real estate market’s deterioration as well. The years 2008 and 2009 were affected by this event. After the financial crisis of 2008, there was a complete cessation of CMBS lending. It was gradually restored when the market’s conditions gradually improved.
  • Ratings are determined by the bank that made the first loan. The ratings that are given to CMBSs are determined by the honesty and integrity of the bank that provided the initial loan. Investors are not aware of what they are purchasing if the securities in question have low ratings or if they are promoted in a dishonest manner. This could cause problems like the subprime mortgage crisis that happened during the Great Recession in 2008.

Key Takeaways

  • CMBSs are not backed by residential real estate but rather by commercial real estate.
  • The creation of bonds from commercial mortgages is a common practice among financial institutions.
  • Although it might be costly to invest in CMBSs, individual investors do have the option of putting their money into ETFs that are produced from CMBSs.
  • Because they are based on loans with set terms, CMBSs have a lower risk of prepayment.

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