What Is a Hard Money Loan?

A hard money loan is a short-term loan funded by private investors. It is generally secured by real estate.

Unlike hard money lenders, banks and credit unions that fund traditional (or “soft”) loans collect extensive information about the borrower to determine if they qualify. Such checks may include a detailed credit history, credit score, criminal and personal background, and even rental history. These banks require quantitative data that provides enough evidence to practically guarantee that the loan will be paid off. Gathering that information can take days, weeks, or even months depending on the specifics of the loan.

Hard money loans, on the other hand, are relatively fast—these lenders may be able to process a loan in as quickly as 48 hours. This allows for individuals to act on the best deals available as fast as possible.

Who Really Benefits From Hard Money Loans?

As you could have guessed, those with a less-than-perfect financial history commonly take advantage of hard money loans. Since banks will likely not approve a traditional loan request from someone with a bad credit score or a history of bankruptcy, private lenders are a better option.

Hard lenders are less concerned about the details of the borrower, so those with dismal credit history need not fret—hard money loans are a practical option.

There may be a negative connotation associated with hard money loans because of our willingness to lend to those with poor financial history. However, there are other types of people who can benefit from soft loan alternatives, too.

Hard money lenders and real estate investors

Consider those who need money very quickly—like real estate investors trying to scoop up a hot deal. Because of its swift turnover, hard money loans offer a solution. Looking to buy a foreclosure or short sale? Investors can get their hands on the funds necessary to purchase exponentially faster than when using a traditional loan.

Hard money lenders are both personal and independent financial institutions, so those looking for a loan need only meet the individual lending company’s unique policies. Typically, these policies are much more lenient, with minimal approval qualifications required.

This is why hard money is attractive to anyone who may not want to divulge their personal financial history, as well as anyone who needs money fast.


Hard Money Loans: Getting Approved

Since hard money lenders are not concerned with the details of the borrower, what do they base their decision to lend on? The answer is simple: the value of the collateral.

Hard money lenders focus their concern on what is called the loan-to-value ratio, or LTV. The LTV is the loan amount divided by the value of the property. While the LTV requirement is unique to each vendor, you can generally expect it to be around 60 to 70 percent.

If someone wants to take out a $100,000 loan, the property they plan to leverage with the lender needs to be valued somewhere between $140,000 to $160,000. That way, even if the borrower fails to pay anything back, the lender remains secure since the property is valued higher than the amount of money loaned.

The potential to gain or lose an asset with substantial equity is what both motivates the lender to supply the money and encourages the borrower to pay it back quickly.

The only caveat here is the property type. Even if the real estate has an acceptable LTV, for many lenders, the type of real estate (i.e., schools, churches, car washes, gas stations, hotels) may not fit into their lending portfolio.

The lender has to protect itself. So, by only agreeing to lend to those assets that a lender feels comfortable with, the lender secures the ability to liquify the leveraged asset for cash without being limited by the property type.

Interest Rates for Hard Money Loans

One of the disadvantages associated with hard money loans, and one of the main reasons people shy away from them, are heightened interest rates. Because these loans are specifically suited for investments that will turn a quick profit, interest rates can go as high as 18 percent. In contrast, traditional loan interest rates usually hover around four to five percent.

While this may seem like an exceptionally high rate, being able to finance large expenses quickly in order to secure an investment can mean thousands of dollars in potential profit for the borrower—if they pay the agreed-upon amount in the agreed-upon timeframe.

This means the borrower gets to make their investment, and the interest rate means profit for the lender. Win-win!

Many hard lending companies are known for their expediency, simplicity, and transparency. Do not let falsely perceived notions about hard money lending get in the way of making the investment of a lifetime. Prospective investors looking to flip a foreclosure, a lackluster credit score, or who simply don't want to jump through conventional lenders' hoops can all reap the advantages of taking out a hard money loan if done correctly.

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Related terms
Amortization
This is the process of spreading out a loan into a series of fixed payments over a period of time. Although a purchasers total payment remains equal each period, the loan’s interest and principal will be paid off in different amounts each month.
Mortgage
A mortgage is a legal agreement by which a bank or other creditor lends money at interest in exchange for taking title of the debtor's property, with the condition that the conveyance of title becomes void upon the payment of the debt.
Unsecured Loan
An unsecured loan is a loan that is issued and supported only by the borrower's creditworthiness, rather than by any type of collateral.