Commercial mortgage notes – those notes secured by commercial property – are generally considered more risky to note buyers than comparable residential notes. Owners of commercial buildings can feel less tied to those properties than they would to their own homes, plus they are susceptible to business trends, tenants, and all of the other financial traps that can hit them. Mortgage notes (a.k.a. real estate notes) collateralized by gas stations or other properties with potential environmental issues can be even more problematic. While I have helped a number of note holders sell notes secured by gas stations, they are a small part of my business.
Right now, I’m working on a gas station note along the East Coast with the usual set of commercial challenges, plus others related to delinquent property taxes. While I feel confident that we’ll succeed in buying the note, the road so far has been difficult and there are plenty of bumps ahead. Most mortgage note buyers won’t even consider buying gas station notes. The principal reason is that if the payer defaulted and the note buyer had to foreclose on the property, environmental issues like tank leaks or other violations would have to be remedied, sometimes at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, before the property could be resold and the note investor recover his money.
If you own a gas station and are thinking of selling it using owner financing, be extra certain that all documents are prepared correctly. Of course, make sure that there are no environmental concerns and that all appropriate reports have been prepared and filed. When you sell the property, try to create separate notes covering the real estate versus the business assets, as mortgage buyers are only interested in the value of the land and buildings, and won’t place a value on the business itself. Even if you’ve done everything right, you may receive less on your note than you would with a different property type because of the higher risk and limited number of potential investors.