You hear a lot in this business about private money and hard money—often lumped together as if they are the same thing. Both are alternative financing options to banks. There are advantages and disadvantages to using either private or hard money. Let’s start by talking about what distinguishes the two:
- Hard money is more bank-like. It involves dealing with a lender whose business is lending money to individuals or companies for the purpose of buying, renovating, and possibly selling real estate. Hard money lenders are “bricks and mortar” operations; they have a building, marketing and collections departments, and strict rules they must follow.
- Private money is money you borrow form individuals. They can be sophisticated lenders or novices. They can be your lawyer, car salesman, or coworker. They may even make their living by lending money to investors. But they aren’t regulated by the government because they aren’t in the business of lending money. That is they don’t have a building and staff to support.
Investors often lump hard and soft money lenders together, because they serve the same purpose: they provide the money you need to do your business without having to go through the qualification process, wasted time, paperwork, and financial nakedity of a bank loan. The price for this convenience is a much higher cost of money and a shorter loan term. Neither private nor hard money lenders are likely to give you a payback period longer than a year, and you’ll probably pay more points for the loan and a much higher interest rate than you would with a bank loan. For example, we have paid two points (two percent of the total loan) and twelve percent interest for private or hard money as opposed to one point and five percent for bank money.
So why use private or hard money? When you find a profitable deal, you often have to close in a week or two. I have yet to find a bank that can make a decision in less than a month, even when you have an ongoing relationship—as if that meant anything to a bank. The added expense is just a cost of doing business. So what if you pay your lender $5,000 more than you would a bank if you’re still going to make $25,000 or more on a deal you would lose if you waited on a bank to act?
So which is better, hard or private money? The answer is it depends. Private money can make a decision faster, but it can also be more skittish. I have known private money lenders to back out at the last minute. I haven’t had that experience with hard money lenders. But because hard money is more regulated, they can take longer to make a decision in the first place, which can cost you the deal.
One thing to remember is that whether you’re using hard, private, or bank money, your lender is taking a bigger risk on your project than you are. You are risking their money, and the only assurance they have of getting it back is your word. Banks don’t want the property that secures the loan. Hard money or private money lenders often don’t want it either, but they are in a better position to recoup their investment (plus a little) if you default than are banks.
When you use someone else’s money, you play by their rules. Be patient with them if they get skittish at the last minute. They are just trying to cover their assets. Help them overcome their anxiety and get the deal done. You’re going to protect their money better than your own; help them understand that.
Another thing to remember is that your lender is another set of eyes on the deal. They may see problems you missed or glossed over in your initial analysis. Anything that makes your lender anxious is something you should take very seriously once you uncover the root cause. For example, a private money lender we are working with recently got very nervous just before closing. (That’s usually the most stressful time for them.) They started by questioning our analysis, so we walked them through the deal step-by-step.
Then they asked the question that was really bothering them: “What about insurance? Will we be a named insured?” We always name the lender as an insured on our Buidler’s Risk policy. It’s only fair. But when I reviewed my checklist, I hadn’t checked the box beside insurance. Oops! My bad. Luckily, my lender reminded me a few days before closing. Now that box is checked and we’re moving forward.Hermann says please like and share!