What Is a Bridge Loan and How Does It Work? Explained with Example

Bridge loans can be a lifesaver when you’re juggling property transactions and need a temporary financial boost. As you navigate the world of real estate, understanding this unique financing option can help you make informed decisions. In this article, we’ll dive into the nuts and bolts of bridge loans, explain how they work, and provide an example to demonstrate their practical use.

What Is a Bridge Loan?

A bridge loan is a short-term financing solution designed to help borrowers “bridge” the gap between the sale of one property and the purchase of another. These loans are typically secured by real estate and come with higher interest rates than conventional loans due to their short-term nature and perceived risk.

Why Choose a Bridge Loan?

In a fast-paced real estate market, bridge loans can provide several benefits:

  • Timely access to funds: Bridge loans offer a quick financial solution when you need to secure a new property before selling your existing one.
  • Competitive edge: With a bridge loan, you can make a stronger, more attractive offer on a property without having to wait for your current home to sell.
  • Flexibility: Bridge loans give you breathing room to make necessary repairs or upgrades to your existing property, potentially increasing its market value.

How Does a Bridge Loan Work?

Bridge loans work by providing a short-term financial cushion until the borrower can secure long-term financing or sell their existing property. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process:

  • Application: To obtain a bridge loan, you’ll need to apply with a lender who offers this type of financing. They’ll review your credit, income, and property details before approving the loan.
  • Collateral: Lenders typically require collateral, often in the form of real estate, to secure a bridge loan.
  • Loan amount: The loan amount is based on a percentage of the combined value of your current property and the one you’re looking to purchase.
  • Repayment: Bridge loans usually have terms ranging from 6 to 12 months, and repayment often occurs in a lump sum at the end of the term, once the existing property is sold.

Bridge Loan Example

To illustrate how a bridge loan works, let’s explore a hypothetical scenario:

You own a home valued at $300,000 with a remaining mortgage balance of $100,000. You find your dream home listed at $400,000, but you need to act fast in the competitive market. To secure the new property, you decide to apply for a bridge loan.

In this example, a lender agrees to finance 80% of the combined value of your current home and the new property. Here’s the math:

  1. Combined property value: $300,000 (current home) + $400,000 (new home) = $700,000
    Loan-to-value ratio (LTV): 80% of $700,000 = $560,000
  2. Bridge loan amount: $560,000 – $100,000 (remaining mortgage balance) = $460,000

With the $460,000 bridge loan, you can purchase a new home without waiting for your current property to sell. Once you sell your existing home, you can use the proceeds to pay off the bridge loan in a lump sum.

Understanding Bridge Loan Costs

Bridge loans come with various costs, which can include:

  • Interest rates: Due to their short-term nature and higher risk, bridge loans often have higher interest rates than traditional mortgages. These rates can range from 8% to 15%, depending on the lender and your credit profile.
  • Origination fees: Lenders may charge an origination fee, typically around 1% to 2% of the loan amount, to cover the cost of processing and issuing the loan.
  • Prepayment penalties: Some bridge loans may have prepayment penalties if you repay the loan before the term ends. Always check the loan terms and conditions to avoid surprises.
  • Closing costs: Similar to traditional mortgages, bridge loans may come with closing costs such as appraisal fees, title search fees, and recording fees.

Risks and Alternatives to Bridge Loans

While bridge loans can be a helpful tool in certain situations, they also come with potential risks and drawbacks:

  • High costs: As mentioned earlier, bridge loans often come with higher interest rates and fees compared to traditional financing options.
  • Property sale dependency: If you’re unable to sell your current property within the loan term, you may face financial challenges repaying the bridge loan.
  • Double mortgage payments: Until your existing property sells, you may need to manage two mortgage payments—your original mortgage and the bridge loan.

If you’re concerned about these risks, consider exploring alternatives such as:

  • Home equity line of credit (HELOC): A HELOC allows you to borrow against your home’s equity and can be used to fund the purchase of a new property. This option typically comes with lower interest rates than bridge loans but may require ongoing monthly payments.
  • Home sale contingency: Adding a home sale contingency to your purchase offer allows you to back out of the deal if you’re unable to sell your current property within a specified time frame. However, in a competitive market, sellers may be less likely to accept offers with contingencies.
  • Renting out your current property: If you can afford the down payment on a new home without selling your existing property, you may consider renting it out to cover the mortgage costs until you’re ready to sell.


Bridge loans can be a valuable financial tool when navigating the complex world of real estate transactions. By understanding how they work and the potential risks involved, you can make informed decisions about whether a bridge loan is a right solution for your specific situation. Remember to consider your financial goals and needs, and weigh the costs and benefits before committing to a bridge loan.

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