Hard money loan

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A hard money loan is a specific type of asset-based loan financing through which a borrower receives funds secured by real property. Hard money loans are typically issued by private investors or companies. Interest rates are typically higher than conventional commercial or residential property loans because of the higher risk and shorter duration of the loan. Most hard money loans are used for projects lasting from a few months to a few years. Hard money is similar to a bridge loan, which usually has similar criteria for lending as well as cost to the borrowers. The primary difference is that a bridge loan often refers to a commercial property or investment property that may be in transition and does not yet qualify for traditional financing, whereas hard money often refers to not only an asset-based loan with a high interest rate, but possibly a distressed financial situation, such as arrears on the existing mortgage, or where bankruptcy and foreclosure proceedings are occurring.[1]

The qualifying criteria for a hard money loan varies widely by lender and loan purpose. Credit scores, income and other conventional lending criteria may be analyzed. However, most hard money lenders primarily qualify a loan amount based on the value of the real estate being collateralized. Typically, the biggest loan one can expect would be between 65% and 75% of the property value. That is, if the property is worth $100,000, the lender would advance $65,000 - $75,000 against it. This low LTV (loan to value) provides added security for the lender, in case the borrower does not pay and they have to foreclose on the property.

Loan structure[edit]

A hard money loan is a species of real estate loan collateralized against the quick-sale value of the property for which the loan is made. Most lenders fund in the first lien position, meaning that in the event of a default, they are the first creditor to receive remuneration. Occasionally, a lender will subordinate to another first lien position loan; this loan is known as a mezzanine loan, a second lien or a junior lien.

Hard money lenders structure loans based on a percentage of the quick-sale value of the subject property. This is called the loan-to-value or LTV ratio and typically hovers between 60 and 70% of the market value of the property. For the purpose of determining an LTV, the word "value" is defined as "today's purchase price." This is the amount a lender could reasonably expect to realize from the sale of the property in the event that the loan defaults and the property must be sold in a one- to four-month timeframe. This value differs from a market value appraisal, which assumes an arms-length transaction in which neither buyer nor seller is acting under duress.

Below is an example of how a commercial real estate purchase might be structured by a hard money lender:

65% Hard money (Conforming loan)
20% Borrower equity (cash or additional collateralized real estate)
15% Seller carryback loan or other subordinated (mezzanine) loan[citation needed]


Hard Money is a term that is used almost exclusively in the United States and Canada where these types of loans are most common. In commercial real estate, hard money developed as an alternative "last resort" for property owners seeking capital against the value of their holdings. The industry began in the late 1950s when the credit industry in the U.S. underwent drastic changes.[2]

The hard money industry suffered severe setbacks during the real estate crashes of the early 1980s and early 1990s due to lenders overestimating and funding properties at well over market value. Since that time, lower LTV rates have been the norm for hard money lenders seeking to protect themselves against the market's volatility. Today, high interest rates are the mark of hard money loans as a way to compensate lenders for the considerable risk that they undertake.

Cross collateralizing a hard money loan[edit]

In some cases, the low loan-to-values do not facilitate a loan sufficient to pay off the existing mortgage lender, in order for the hard money lender to be in first lien position. Because a security interest in the property is the basis of making a hard money loan, the lender usually always requires first lien position of the property. As an alternative to a potential shortage of equity beneath the minimum lender Loan To Value guidelines, many hard money lender programs will allow a "Cross Lien" on another of the borrowers properties. The cross collateralization of more than one property on a hard money loan transaction, is also referred to as a "blanket mortgage". Not all homeowners have additional property to cross collateralize. Cross collateralizing or blanket loans are more frequently used with investors on Commercial Hard Money Loan programs.

Commercial hard money[edit]

Commercial hard money is similar to traditional hard money, but may sometimes be more expensive as the risk is higher on investment property or non-owner occupied properties. Commercial Hard Money Loans may not be subject to the same consumer loan safeguards as a residential mortgage may be in the state the mortgage is issued. Commercial hard money loans are often short term and therefore interchangeably referred to as bridge loans or bridge financing.

Websites to find hard money lenders[edit]

There are many ways to find hard money lenders.

Lead Generation Sites:

  • ConnectedInvestors.com - Community of small investors. Lead generation service, sells your leads to lenders.
  • Biggerpockets.com - Community of investors in the small balance fix and flip industry. Sells your leads to lenders. Contains a paid directory.

Directory websites:


  • Propertygo.com - Apply to multiple lenders with one application. Lending offers are submitted back online.


  • Google.com - Can find lenders by Googling for them and looking at advertisements.

Legal and regulatory issues[edit]

From inception, the hard money field has always been formally unregulated by state or federal laws, although some restrictions on interest rates (usury laws) by state governments restrict the rates of hard money such that operations in several states, including Tennessee and Arkansas are virtually untenable for lending firms.[3]

See also[edit]

  • Asset-based loan — a similar type of commercial loan based on real estate, indicating the loan will be based upon a percentage of the properties appraised value, as the key criteria.
  • Private money — refers to lending money to a company or individual by a private individual or organization.
  • Bridge loan — a similar type of commercial loan based on real estate.
  • Non-conforming loan — a loan that fails to meet bank criteria for funding.


  1. ^ BHUTTA, NEIL; SKIBA, PAIGE MARTA; TOBACMAN, JEREMY (March 2015). "Payday Loan Choices and Consequences". Journal of Money, Credit and Banking. 47 (2-3): 223–260. doi:10.1111/jmcb.12175. 
  2. ^ "Evaluating the Consumer Lending Revolution". fdic.gov. FDIC Office of Inspector General. 17 September 2003. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  3. ^ "Usury Law". dfi.wa.gov. Retrieved 12 October 2015.