Most states in America do not require a commercial mortgage broker to obtain a mortgage broker's license or a real estate broker's license in order to negotiate commercial mortgage loans in their state. This fact, however, is often not obvious.
When you first look at the licensing scheme of most states, the law will say something like, "A broker must be licensed as a mortgage broker to negotiate a mortgage loan in this state." Huh. Sounds like a mortgage broker's license is clearly required, right?
However, when you look up the legal definition for a "mortgage loan" in that state, you will almost always find that a mortgage loan is defined as a loan on a one-to-four family dwelling! In other words, no mortgage broker's license is required to negotiate a loan on 5+ residential units (five-plex and above), commercial properties, or land.
Be careful about land. A loan on a single residential lot, purchased to be the future site of the borrower's personal residence, is often considered to be a residential loan. This means that a mortgage broker's license would be required to negotiate such a loan.
I am not licensed as an attorney, outside of California and Indiana, but my research suggests that a mortgage broker's license may not be required in at least 40 states.
Some states definitely require some sort of licensing, such as California*, Nevada, Arizona, Florida (if the property is not owned by an LLC or corporation), New Jersey*, North Dakota, and Minnesota. Stop! Be careful here. Just because I have not listed any other states does not mean that no license is required. I'm just saying that I don't know for sure that a license is required for any other states.
* A real estate broker's license is required, rather than a mortgage broker's license.
Vermont is particularly interesting. I am pretty sure that Vermont has an almost-full-time staff member going around "reminding" any broker who advertises they will arrange mortgage loans nationally that a licese is required to broker loans in Vermont. They use the $1,200 annual licensing fee that they collect from several thousand firms to help finance the Vermont Department of Financial Institutions. Vermont exacted a $1,200 licensing fee from my own company for four years running, money I could have used to help pay for my daughter's college. Here's my beef: They knew we only arranged commercial loans, and I learned recently that no license is required to broker commercial loans in Vermont. Like most states, Vermont defines a mortgage loan as a loan on a one-to-four family dwelling. What a racket!
What if you only make a loan in a particular state once every two or three years? Many states that normally require licensing will allow you to make the occasional commercial loan in their state without a license. Certainly one loan per year would qualify as occasional. What about two loans? I dunno. It's close. What about three loans? A license would probably be required.
Here's another helpful technique. Let's suppose you want to negotiate a large commercial loan in the imaginary state of Artesia, and Artesia requires a license to negotiate commercial loans within the state. You seldom make loans in Artesia, so you do not have a mortgage broker's license or a real estate broker's license in Artesia.
The good news is that you can sometimes "associate in" a licensed Artesian mortgage broker or real estate broker. It's a very similar process to an out-of-state attorney associating in local counsel. The Artesian mortgage broker would review your work and your loan to make sure that everything complies with Artesian law. For this service, you would pay the Artesian broker a fee of, say, $750 or 25 to 50 basis points.
You are reminded to be very careful not to rely on this article! This is just a summary of my best understanding; and the article, almost certainly, contains a number of mistakes. You must be sure to consult local counsel.
I use this blog to train my two sons and the staff of Blackburne & Sons Realty Capital Corporation, one of the oldest private money commercial mortgage companies in the country. If you subscribe to my blog, you'll receive two free training lessons in commercial real estate finance (CREF) every week.
I own a commercial mortgage portal called C-Loans.com. It may be the largest of the commercial mortgage portals. (I'm being modest here. We're the Big Kahuna of commercial real estate finance websites.) C-Loans is free to commercial mortgage brokers, so it makes good sense to always use it. But people procrastinate. People forget. People fail to bookmark. So I have a proposition for you. If you just pre-register (fill out your name and address) on C-Loans.com, I'll send you a free copy of my famous Commercial Mortgage Underwriting Manual. I sell it elsewhere on my site for $199. Why would I do this? If you are pre-registered, you are far more likely to input your next commercial loan into C-Loans.
And of course you will need to know some commercial lenders.
The nice thing about my own private money commercial mortgage company ($50 million - est. 1980) is that we are happy to work with new mortgage brokers and you do NOT have to get pre-approved with us.