What is the difference between bridging and development finance?

Written by: Norman Phillips

Whether you’re a seasoned property investor or a first-time buyer with a vision, securing the right financing can be the key to unlocking your property goals.

Bridging loans and development finance are two powerful options, each offering unique advantages depending on your project’s scope and timeline.

In this guide, we’ll break down the differences between these two funding options in plain terms. We’ll explore their pros, cons, ideal uses, and how they compare in terms of cost and requirements.

Bridging Loans: Fast-Track Finance

Bridging loans are like the financial equivalent of a sprint. They’re short-term loans designed to get you where you need to go quickly, providing a quick cash injection to cover a funding gap or seize a time-sensitive opportunity.

Here are some scenarios where bridging loans can be a lifesaver:

  • Need to buy a property at auction? A bridging loan can provide the funds to meet those tight deadlines.
  • Found your dream home but haven’t sold your existing one yet? A bridging loan can cover the purchase while you wait for your sale to complete.
  • Want to renovate a property before getting a traditional mortgage? A bridging loan can help you finance the work and increase the property’s value.

While these loans are secured against property or land (meaning you use your property as collateral), they offer flexibility and fast approval times, sometimes within a few days.

However, this speed and flexibility come at a cost.

Bridging loans have higher interest rates than traditional mortgages, typically charged on a monthly basis. It’s important to factor this into your calculations to ensure the loan makes financial sense for your project.

Key Features of Bridging Loans

Bridging loans are designed to give you quick access to funds when you need them most.

Their short-term nature makes them perfect for situations where traditional financing options might not be suitable or timely. Typically lasting anywhere from a few weeks to 12 months, they offer a flexible way to bridge the gap between your immediate financial needs and longer-term solutions.

One of the standout features of bridging loans is their speed. Lenders can often process applications and provide the funds much faster than traditional mortgages, allowing you to act swiftly on opportunities that might otherwise slip away.

The funds are usually paid out as a single lump sum, giving you immediate access to the capital you require.

To provide lenders with security, these loans are secured against a property or land asset, which serves as collateral.

Unlike traditional mortgages, bridging loans offer the flexibility of deferred repayment.

Instead of monthly payments, the full loan amount (plus interest) is repaid at the end of the loan term, either through the sale of the property or refinancing onto a longer-term mortgage. This can be particularly beneficial for short-term projects where you want to focus on the project itself rather than on making regular payments.

The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is another important aspect and most bridging loans are capped at 75-80%. While there are occasions when a higher LTV is needed, one factor to remember is that bridging finance can be taken out for almost any reason.

If the property, the loan to value and the exit strategy stack up the lender will be willing to lend. This makes them an extremely flexible method of borrowing.

Before applying for a bridging loan, it’s important to have a clear exit strategy in place. This involves having a plan for how you’ll fully repay the loan at the end of the term.

Additionally, be sure to factor in the costs associated with bridging loans, such as arrangement fees, valuation fees, and legal fees.

Bridging Loans for Time-Sensitive Property Opportunities

The flexibility of bridging loans makes them useful for a wide range of property scenarios. When time is of the essence, and a quick injection of funds is needed, a bridging loan can be the key to unlocking a world of property opportunities.

For instance, if you’re eyeing a property at auction but have a limited time frame to secure the funds, a bridging loan can step in to ensure you don’t miss out. Similarly, if you’ve found your dream home but are stuck in a chain waiting for your existing property to sell, a bridging loan can provide the necessary funds to complete the purchase, giving you the freedom to move forward.

Bridging loans can also be a game-changer for property renovations. If you have a vision to improve a property but need quick access to capital before a traditional mortgage is viable, a bridging loan can provide the funds needed to make those improvements and increase the property’s value.

The Rewards and Risks of Bridging Finance

While bridging loans offer a unique set of advantages that make them an attractive option for many property investors, it’s essential to understand both sides of the coin before making a decision.

Let’s take a closer look at the potential rewards and risks involved in bridging finance.

The Rewards of Bridging Loans

  • Speed and Efficiency: Bridging loans are known for their quick turnaround times. Unlike traditional mortgages, which can take weeks or even months to process, bridging loans can often be approved and funded in a matter of days. This speed can be essential when time is of the essence, such as in a competitive auction scenario.
  • Flexibility: These loans offer a level of flexibility that traditional mortgages typically lack. Lenders are often more open to unique circumstances and willing to tailor the loan terms to your specific needs. This can be particularly beneficial for complex property transactions or those involving unconventional properties.
  • No Monthly Repayments: Instead of spreading the cost over time, the entire loan amount (including interest) is repaid at the end of the loan term. This can free up your cash flow during the loan period, allowing you to focus on your project without the burden of ongoing payments.
  • Potential for Higher Returns: For experienced investors, bridging loans can also open doors to potentially higher returns. By enabling you to act quickly on time-sensitive opportunities, such as purchasing undervalued properties or those requiring renovation, you can unlock potential for significant profit once the project is completed and sold or refinanced.

The Risks of Bridging Loans

  • Higher Interest Rates: Bridging loans generally have higher interest rates than standard mortgages. This is due to the increased risk that lenders take on with these shorter-term loans.
  • Risk of Asset Loss: Because these loans are typically secured against your property, there’s a risk of losing your asset if you’re unable to repay the loan as agreed.
  • Additional Costs: Beyond interest payments, bridging loans often come with additional fees, such as arrangement fees, valuation fees, and legal fees, which can add up and affect the overall cost of borrowing.

Overall, bridging finance can be a valuable tool for the right project and borrower. If you’re comfortable with the higher interest rates and potential risks, and have a clear plan for repaying the loan, a bridging loan can help you achieve your property goals quickly and efficiently.

However, if you’re risk-averse, looking for a longer-term financing solution, or concerned about the higher costs involved, exploring alternative options might be more prudent.

Development Finance: Fuelling Your Property Ambitions

While bridging loans offer a quick fix for immediate needs, development finance is designed to fuel your longer-term property aspirations.

Whether you’re envisioning a brand-new building rising from the ground up, a major conversion of an existing property, or a substantial renovation that breathes new life into a space, development finance can be your ideal partner on this journey.

More than just a loan, development finance is a strategic funding solution that adapts to the unique rhythm of your project.

It offers a structured approach, ensuring financial resources are available precisely when you need them throughout the various stages of development.

Here’s what sets it apart:

Staged Funding

One of the most significant advantages of development finance is its phased funding model.

Unlike a traditional loan where you receive the entire amount upfront, development finance is released in stages, often linked to the completion of specific project milestones. This not only helps you manage your cash flow effectively but also minimises the interest you accrue, as you’re only borrowing what you need at each stage.

Interest Rates

Development finance typically offers competitive interest rates.

However, it’s important to note that the final rate will vary depending on the strength of your application, the estimated value of the completed project (known as the Gross Development Value or GDV), and the lender’s individual assessment of risk.

Different lenders have varying appetites for risk. Some may specialise in specific types of projects or borrower profiles, resulting in different interest rate structures.

Loan Duration

Importantly, development finance loans offer a longer duration compared to bridging loans, often extending up to three years.

This extended time frame allows for the complexities and nuances of larger-scale projects, providing ample time for construction, finishing touches, and ultimately, the sale or refinancing of the property.

Development Finance: Example Uses

The unique structure of development finance makes it a suitable choice for specific types of projects that require substantial investment and a phased approach to funding.

New Builds

Building a property from the ground up is a significant undertaking, both financially and logistically.

Development finance offers the structured funding needed to work though each stage of the process, from acquiring the land to laying the foundation, building the structure, and completing the final touches.

The phased release of funds ensures that capital is available precisely when needed, reducing interest costs and promoting efficient project management.


Transforming a commercial property into residential units or converting a house into multiple flats can unlock substantial value and create much-needed housing.

Development finance is well-suited for these types of projects, providing the necessary funds to cover the various stages of conversion, from planning and permissions to construction and finishing.

The phased release of funds allows you to tackle each stage strategically, ensuring a smooth and successful transition from one property type to another.

Major Renovations

If you’re planning a significant renovation project that goes beyond cosmetic upgrades, development finance can be a game-changer.

Whether you’re adding an extension, completely overhauling the interior, or upgrading the property’s systems and infrastructure, heavy refurbishment finance can provide the capital needed to bring your vision to life.

By funding the project in stages, you can ensure that resources are available as the renovation progresses, maximising efficiency and minimising financial risk.

Monitoring and Reporting

Development finance lenders often take a proactive approach to project oversight, requiring regular progress updates and financial reports. While this may seem like an additional burden, it’s actually a collaborative effort that benefits both parties.

For the lender, regular updates and reports provide essential insights into the project’s progress, allowing them to identify potential risks early on and work with you to address any challenges. This proactive approach helps ensure the project stays on track and minimises the likelihood of costly delays or unexpected setbacks.

From your perspective, these reporting requirements can provide a valuable framework for accountability and project management.

By regularly tracking your progress and financial health, you can identify potential issues early and take corrective action as needed.

Regular reporting also builds trust with your lender, demonstrating your commitment to transparency and responsible financial management. This, in turn, can facilitate smoother communication and collaboration throughout the project’s life-cycle.

Ultimately, the monitoring and reporting process helps ensure a successful outcome for everyone involved.

Development Exit Strategies

A clear and viable exit strategy is a cornerstone of any development finance project. Lenders need to be confident that you have a solid plan for repaying the loan once the project is complete.

A well-defined exit plan demonstrates to lenders that you’ve thought through the financial aspects of your project and have a realistic path to repayment. This can increase your chances of securing financing and potentially lead to more favourable terms.

There are several common exit strategies in development finance:

Sale of the Completed Property

This is often the most straightforward option, where the proceeds from the sale are used to repay the development finance loan.

Refinancing onto a Long-Term Mortgage

Once the project is complete, you may be able to refinance the development finance loan with a traditional mortgage, which typically offers lower interest rates and longer repayment terms.

Alternative Financing

In some cases, you may have access to other sources of funding, such as private investment or equity release, that can be used to repay the development finance loan.

Development Exit Finance, or Sales Period Funding, can help to lower your borrowing costs by replacing your original development loan with a cheaper alternative.

Projects that have been delayed and are running out of time on their existing development finance deal can seek replacement finance via a Finish and Exit loan facility.

This allows developers new finance, access to additional funds and a time extension to sell the remaining units once complete.

Bridging vs. Development Finance

Now that you’ve explored both bridging loans and development finance, let’s compare them side-by-side to help you determine which option would work best.

FeatureBridging LoanDevelopment Finance
Loan DurationShort-term (1-12 months)Medium-term (several months to 3 years)
PurposeBridge financial gaps, property purchases, renovations, etc.Ground-up construction, conversions, major renovations
Payout StructureLump sumStaged release aligned with project milestones
Repayment TermsRepaid in full at the end of the term (plus interest)Flexible repayment options, potentially aligned with milestones
Application RequirementsLess stringent, focus on property valueMore comprehensive, including project plans, experience, financials
Approval TimeFaster (days to weeks)Slower (weeks to months)

Key Takeaways:

  • Bridging loans are ideal for short-term needs and time-sensitive situations where quick access to funds is essential.
  • Development finance is better suited for larger-scale projects with a longer timeline, offering phased funding and greater flexibility.
  • Interest rates for bridging loans are typically higher than those for development finance, but the total cost will depend on the loan amount, duration, and additional fees.

Choosing the Right Option

Determining the best financing option for your property project isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s a journey that requires careful consideration of several key factors.

If your project involves a quick turnaround, such as purchasing a property at auction or bridging a gap in your property chain, a bridging loan’s swift access to funds might be the ideal solution.

For more extensive projects with a longer timeline, such as new builds, conversions, or substantial renovations, the phased funding and flexibility of development finance could be a better fit.

Interest Rates and Costs

Bridging loans generally have higher interest rates than development finance, but their shorter duration may result in lower overall costs for short-term projects. Carefully evaluate your budget and consider the total cost of borrowing, including fees and interest, for each option.

Experience Level

If you’re new to property development, the structured approach and guidance offered by development finance lenders can be invaluable. However, if you’re a seasoned investor with a proven track record, a bridging loan might offer the agility and simplicity you need.

Finding Your Perfect Fit

Bridging loans and development finance are like different tools in a toolbox. Each is ideal for specific property project needs.

Sprint or Marathon?

Short-term projects like property auctions or bridging gaps in property chains benefit from bridging loans’ fast approvals. For long-term projects like new builds or renovations, development finance’s phased funding is better.

Risk and Reward

Consider both the cost and risk of each option. Bridging loans have higher interest rates, but their shorter terms can mean lower overall borrowing costs for short-term projects.

Development finance can give you more freedom to go big.

The Value of Guidance

New investors may benefit from the guidance of development finance lenders, while experienced investors may prefer the flexibility of bridging loans.

Our experienced brokers can help you get off to a great start. We’ll listen and learn about your ideas, then we’ll find the finance to make it work.

Norman has been in the financial services industry since 1987. For the first 10 to 15 years this was quite broad in scope including inheritance tax, residential mortgages and pensions, but this gradually changed such that since 2005 he has specialised in property finance. Specialisations; Property Development Loans, Holiday Let Finance, Commercial Loans.
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