What are these events today? 1) The Mortgage Melt-down. Major financial institutions in the United States are incurring billions of dollars in losses due to the loss in valuation of their investments in mortgage securities. The consequence for borrowers is that these institutions are less inclined to take risks when loaning money for fear of additional losses. And their regulators are demanding that regulated lenders raise their credit standards for borrowers to qualify for a loan. 2) The devaluation of the American dollar versus other world currencies. The U.S. government is spending ginormous amounts of money in excess of what it collect in revenue due to the political compulsion to spend taxpayers’ money, the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina (and other natural disasters) and the war on terrorism. This makes our currency less valuable. It makes importing to the U.S. more expensive. The American people have less money to spend on goods and services, and their money buys less than it did a year ago because prices of necessities such as gasoline are higher. 3) The current tendency of Federal and State governments to reduce funding for social services, health services and education because of inadequate revenues; this hurts individuals and businesses who have less money to spend on products and services which creates additional drags on our economy. 4) The diminishing value of residential real estate all across the United States. This is related to the mortgage meltdown and the fact that many people incurred debts that they cannot repay. The real causes of these events are complicated and beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that these are hard times and hard times create needs for hard money loans.
What exactly is hard money? Here are seven examples:
- A commercial real estate loan where the borrower receives funds based on the value of the property, usually 50% or less, at an interest rate higher than a bank would charge. This is the most commonly understood type of hard money. In this financing, neither the income from the property or the borrower demonstrably supports the repayment of the loan.
- A real estate loan to buy a residential property where the borrower cannot prove their income. This may be accomplished with financing from a seller, the only party willing to take the risk of non-payment.
- A small junior lien on income producing commercial real estate where the first lien is very large. For example, a million dollar second lien behind a ten million dollar first lien. Most lenders simply do not want to consider a loan of this type because of the potential liability for repayment of the first lien. It is ten times the risk of the secondary loan.
- Most loans to people with less than excellent credit. Many loans are based on credit scoring. If you do not have a credit score that is high enough for the lender’s requirement, you simply do not get their loan and you may or may not be able to find a hard money loan to accomplish your objective.
- Accounts receivable financing to construction contractors, medical providers and sellers of agricultural products. Most factors do not offer to these sectors of the economy because of the risks and complexities that are involved.
- Purchase order financing for items with gross margins less than twenty percent. The twenty percent margin is a benchmark for sufficient profitability in a transaction to pay all financing costs and create profits for the business after all costs are paid. During hard economic times margins are squeezed. It is a vicious cycle.
- Loans to businesses that are particularly negatively affected by the current economy. For instance, a loan to build a new lumberyard is impacted by the downturn in new real estate construction and a lower need for lumber. Most banks would simply decline to consider such a loan. The same is true for developers seeking to build new housing tracts or office building developments. This is not a good time to try to start a new mortgage brokerage company; although it may be a good time to be a hard money lender provided that you are very, very careful in assessing your transactional risks.
What do all of these situations have in common? In times of easy money these situations would be less costly to finance and more likely to receive funding. Today, the lender’s answer to your request for funding is more likely to be a polite but strong “no way”. Many lenders have effectively (if not actually) shut their doors. Many lenders will simply decline to lend on hotels/motels, gas stations, owner/user properties, properties with any environmental issues. Borrowers who do not have FICO credit scores above 680, with substantial net worth and income will find it is very difficult to obtain many types of loans. Fortunately, the door for accounts receivable financing is still wide open.