Borrower Beware: Not All ‘Private Money Lenders’ Are Created Equal
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Post-crisis, most of these institutions took those products away, never to see the light of day again—at least for everyone except their top-tier clients who had significant net worth, cash, and experience (in addition to a long-standing deposit relationship).
A Brief History of Hard Money Lending
Hard money lending existed in the market for decades prior to the flipping craze. Many hard money lenders did what was called an 80-10-10 for owner-occupant homebuyers. This was especially common in the 50s, 60s, and into the 70s. Banks would not extend loans of more than 80 percent for owner occ, so buyers had to have 10 percent cash and then the hard money lender would do a 10 percent second. Therefore, there were millions of small seconds created by hard money lenders in those years.
Once the lending laws changed for owner occupant loans, hard money lenders started to concentrate on more commercial-type and larger transactions all across the real estate spectrum—from land loans to heavy rehab loans and some new construction.
Then, in the mid-80s, thrifts or small regional commercial banks started to enter the high-yield, short-term lending market. And they stayed there for many years, refining their product. What this did was foster competition among the hard money lending companies and increase their willingness to take on higher-risk borrowers. So, if you look back 20 years ago, there were nowhere near the amount of hard money lenders there are today.
Hard Money Lending Today
Now, fast forward to today. Wall Street has entered the industry. There are now very large (basically national) hard money lenders, plus a large amount of smaller, local companies that have entered the business. This came in the wake of the banks vacating this product, which left a HUGE opportunity for those who understand the loan product and have the ability to raise capital.
In addition to that, today we’re living in an age of mass information. So much of real estate now is being done through social media, etc., that the borrower is just overwhelmed.
There is also an illusion that there is a difference in a private money lender and a hard money lender. Many smaller hard money lenders rebranded as private money lenders to feed into the illusion that their rates would be lower. (And we are all looking for lower rates, right?)
So, anyone who advertises is a hard money lender, even if they call themselves a private money lender. A true private money lender is one that you meet at an REIA. They are not in the business of loaning money and will usually use their IRA or solo 401(k) to make a few loans a year.
Where do hard/private money lending companies get the money to lend to the end borrower?
- They will broker loans to investors one-off.
- They create a PPM and pay investors a rate of return.
- They can get a facility from a bank as a wholesale line and then re-lend those funds. (This is how I ran my company.)
- They can crowdfund, raising investor capital to put into loans.
The cost of these funds ranges from bank rates at about 5.5 to 7 percent to investor rates at 7 to 12 percent. Most larger hard/private money lending companies will also have 10 to 20 percent of their own cash in the business, as required by the wholesale lenders/banks.
So, when their cost of capital plus running the business is higher than what these FAUX lenders are advertising (i.e., 5 percent or so), it’s simply not real.
There are 12 states in the U.S. where ANY loan on a one- to four-unit property, regardless of purpose (i.e., commercial or owner occupied), requires NMLS registration and the state’s RMLO license to legally make these loans. This catches many hard money lenders by surprise—especially those that are from areas where no license is required.
For instance, no license is required in Washington, but in Oregon, one is. Same with California—you need a license to make loans on those assets. This is why you rarely see any company that actually lends in all 50 states.
Phony Lenders Exist—Here’s What to Look Out For
Enter into our business the faux lender—or what we call advanced fee lender. I like to call them pump and dump lenders, personally. Their targets generally are anyone on social media who mentions needing or wanting a loan.
These predators hide behind their computer, usually have a very basic website, and talk a great game. The lead-in is very low rates—right now, most like to quote 5 percent!
Spoiler: There is no 5 percent hard money lender in the country.
So, what these predators do is engage in an easy banter—talk enough about the business to give you the illusion they are lenders that can perform. However, as the transaction progresses, they then will ask for some sort of good faith deposit or money up front to draw the docs, etc.
Once they have hooked their victim and collected the first deposit, they keep coming back for more. One expense is pitched as the so-called insurance premium. Since they are loaning you money at 5 percent with nothing down, you must take out this insurance to protect them.
Seems logical—everyone has heard of PMI. But realistically, this is fraud. There is no insurance for hard money loans or private money loans. It's a made-up fee.
Some of these predators are very good at what they do and will get thousands out of a client before finally going dark and never funding.
Following are some red flags to look for when vetting hard/private money lenders.
- No license in states where licenses are required.
- English is off a little.
- They reach out to you. Very few—if any—lenders solicit for business in this manner. (Ninety-nine percent of the time, the borrower makes first contact with a legitimate lender.)
- Basic website with no real information and no mention of the actual principles.
- Again, terms that are too good to be true. (Once you realize there is NO 5 percent money, you should just move on.)
- Too quick to approve you and your deal with minimal information. (Remember, their goal is speed—getting some money out of you as quickly as possible.
- Any lender that says they make loans for $20K to $20 million, this simply is not real. (They do this to catch all the fish in the sea.)
There are a lot of great hard money and private money lending companies in the U.S.—stand-up lenders that do a wonderful job. Current rates for the top-tier borrowers are going to be 8 to 9 percent APR. Beginners or limited experience investors, you can figure about a 10 to 15 percent APR, with the West Coast having the lowest cost of capital.
Do you have any additional questions for me about hard money lending?
Ask me in the comment section below.