Buy Now Hard Money

Underpromise. Overdeliver.

When you, as a real estate investor or rehabber, take out a construction or rehab loan, you are probably going to come across the phrase:  Draws taken in arrears of construction.A rrears

I think this needs some elaboration, because I think this is one of those phrases that says a lot in a few words.  Borrowers may not understand all the implications and how it will effect their transaction.  Sort of like “Time is of the essence.”  Sounds innocuous enough, but has a huge impact if you don’t get it.

First, let’s outline a scenario.  You are buying a property in disrepair to fix up and resell to an end buyer.  You borrow from a bank (unlikely these days) or a hard money lender (more likely these days) the funds to acquire and fix up the property.  You probably had to put down a significant downpayment towards the purchase, and then you received the rest of the purchase money at closing, with the repair funds held for future disbursement.  They are usually disbursed “in arrears of construction”. 

So you close on the loan, and the next day you call your lender and the conversation goes something like this:

You:  “I need a construction draw to purchase materials and start the rehab.” 

Lender: “Sorry, your draws are in arrears, as outlined in the commitment and loan docs.”  (Lender is thinking “Did you actually read anything I sent you?”)

You:  “What do you mean?  How can I start the project without money?”  (You are thinking “Boy, I should have expected this loan shark to screw me over.”)

Now you are both in a bad position:  You have a project you can’t start, and the lender has a borrower who can’t deliver as promised. 

Construction inspectionSo here is what you need to know:  “In arrears of construction” is exactly the opposite of “in advance of construction” – it happens after that portion of the construction is complete.  Usually you will do a part of the job, then get reimbursed for that part of the construction after it happens.  Then you do the next part of the job, and get reimbursed for that next part of the construction after it happens.  The final draw is usually disbursed after the certificate of occupancy is issued, or whatever formality you get from the building inspector in your area.  You will need to supply lien waivers from your subcontractors and copies of invoices/receipts and sometimes photos.  Usually a lender will inspect at each draw, or sometimes send an inspector. 

This is not particular to hard money lenders, this is a process that happens everywhere in construction, both residential and commercial, if there is a construction loan involved. 

Occasionally, if you paid actual cash for the property, the first draw can be disbursed when the construction loan is closed, because there is enough equity, and “skin in the game” to give the lender security for that first draw.  But your second draw will be made after you have done the first part of the construction, and then some more, to bring you to where the lender is reimbursing you for construction already done, not advancing you funds to buy materials and labor before it happens.

And usually these draws are taken by line item.  For example, if you have allocated $10,000 to electrical, and only the rough-in is complete, you will only be disbursed a portion of that $10,000.  And so on for each line item.

I’ve created a spreadsheet that is free to download.  It is a very simple draw spreadsheet, nothing elaborate, that will help you understand and present your construction draws.  You input budget items and the dollars allocated for each item.  Then as you request a draw, you input the amount of that item that is complete, and the spreadsheet shows the total of each draw request and the balance you have left to draw for that item.  You can send this spreadsheet to the lender with your draw request, and it makes you look professional, and gives you both a common reference.  Here is the link, you may share it with anyone you wish.  Download and use at your

I have a favorite saying.  Lack of proper planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.

At the same time, one of the reasons that real estate investors use hard money is speed.   If you find a great deal – let’s say it’s bank owned – and the seller will give you a great price if you can close in 10 days, you need either cash, private funding from friends and family, or probably hard money.

Assuming you don’t have cash or wealthy family, you might need hard money.  Here’s what you should do.
  • Don’t wait until 3 days before closing to call a hard money lender.  That reason should be obvious.
  • Make sure you have electronic photos of the property ready – you should have taken them when you first visited the property, both inside and all exterior shots.  If you don’t buy the property, then delete them, but if you are buying the property, you have saved a trip to take photos.  It will also help you document your improvements later if that becomes necessary when you resell.
  • Have a brief bio of your investing experience all ready.  Who you are and what you’ve done as an investor is important.
  • Have signed versions of P&S contracts and addendums all scanned in and ready to send.  If you’re in a hurry, why are these items unavailable?  They are critical to the closing.
  • Know your rehab budget by line item.  Be ready to explain why x improvement is needed but y improvement won’t help your resale.   Better yet, explain in your executive summary.  Have the budget in a spreadsheet that is easy to read.  No long difficult to read paragraphs that ramble.
  • Pay attention to the lender instructions for getting the deal done – they have a process they’ve done over and over, and they need to do due diligence.  Make it easier for them and it will be quicker for you.
  • Be available.  Nothing is more frustrating than working hard to pull the pieces of a deal together only to have the borrower regularly ignore his cell, or not read and answer email.  If you are in a deal that requires speed on the part of the lender, than you need to make yourself available so as to not hold up the process.  Yes, we all need down time and family time.  And if you are in another appointment, of course you need to wait to answer or reply.  But if you’re not available quickly, then you are the one holding up the works.  It could cost you a deal.  
Ask me how I know.  🙂

It’s the same old “unintended consequences” of legislation.  Or was it unintended?

In my lending business we lend to real estate investors who are buying properties for a business purpose only:  They buy houses in serious disrepair – the ones the banks won’t lend on for a home buyer – and fix them up and sell them to families who are happy to purchase a newly rehabbed home.  These are not speculators, they are business people who do this for a living.  They put significant capital and effort into repairing the property and making it habitable.

Why can't I get a mortgage?But every week I get a few calls from end buyers looking for financing to purchase a home.  Of course, one of the first questions I ask is the intent to occupy the property, since we don’t lend to owner occupants.  They are typically self-employed people who can’t qualify for bank financing.  So while they may have a down payment and good business history, it’s not enough to get them conventional financing in this current climate.  When I explain to them that I can’t help, they ask for a referral to someone who can – a private lender who lends on owner-occupied properties. And guess what?  Most of them are out of the residential lending business, so I have no one to refer them to.

Why?  Because the SAFE act passed in 2009 effectively eliminated private lending to homeowners – the buyer who is going to live in the home.  How did this happen?  Well, Sub-prime lending and mortgage brokers were cast as the villains in the recent financial crises and housing bust.  So our federal government decided to require that all lenders be licensed and enacted the SAFE Act, with a requirement that each state enact its own version of the bill.  The SAFE act outlines the requirement for all lenders who lend on residential properties to become licensed.  Sounds ok, doesn’t it?  Who could argue with that?

But the requirements for lender licensing were designed for institutions, and include expensive bonding and lender experience requirements.  The average small lender with a few hundred thousand to lend as part of an investment portfolio is unlikely to meet the experience requirements.  And won’t want to hassle with the bonding expense and aggravation.

In addition, the term “witch hunt” comes to mind.  In an effort to “clean up” the loan origination business, banking departments and attorneys general are showing voters how diligently they are working to make the crooks accountable.  But it’s all too likely that private lenders will get caught up in the crossfire, even if they’ve done nothing wrong, and are by no means “predatory”.  So many simply decided it was too much hassle for the return.  So they’ve chosen not to lend at all, at least not to homeowners.

Is this an unintended consequence?  Maybe not. Maybe the prevailing sentiment is that all private lenders should be out of the residential lending business.  Maybe that wasn’t the intent, but it certainly has limited the number of private residential lenders out there.

So if you are a home buyer looking for a private lender, now you know why they are so hard to find.  And if you are a licensed private lender in Massachusetts or New Hampshire, shoot me an email.   At least I’ll have some names when I get those calls from home buyers.

I saw a post the other day from an investor who was told he had to get the contract (deal) before he could get funding. Another poster disagreed, and told him that wasn’t true. In the interests of not hijacking the thread, I thought I would post some information that might be useful.

It is very desirable to line up funding for your deal before you sign and contract and put up your earnest money. If you are using conventional residential funding for that deal, it is easy, since pre-approvals are the norm in the conventional residential financing world. If you have a private source of funds – an equity partner or a private lender you have worked with – it might also be easy because of the one-on-one relationship you have developed.

If you are being told you have to get the deal before you can get the funding, you are probably hearing that from hard money lenders. With a few specific exceptions, I don’t know any hard money lenders who will look at and actually approve a deal until there is a likelihood of it actually becoming a deal. And here is why:

I get sometimes a dozen calls in a day from people who want me to approve the deal before they’ve made the offer. Remember, this is a hard money loan based on the property, the amount of cash in the deal (skin in the game) and the experience level and exit strategy of the borrower. In order to tell if I’m likely to approve a deal, I have to know all about the cash available, the rehab plan, and then I have to pull comp sales to figure out the ARV. I have to decide which sales are true comps and which skew the results. I then look at the available houses on the market that are going to be competition based on the projected selling price and location, and time of year. And all before the buyer has even made an offer! In the best of circumstances, this takes about 1/2 hour if I have no interruptions, sometimes up to an hour depending on the deal. If I did nothing else all day, there goes 6 hours of my day. And of these inquiries, maybe one in 30 or 40 actually becomes an accepted contract.

I can spend my entire day looking at deals that never happen, or I can spend my day approving funding for deals under contract where the buyer needs to close quickly. If you are a buyer who needs to close quickly because the clock is ticking on your deal, which would you rather?

An exception that was referenced above would be a repeat borrower that I have done business with already. In that case, I of course will look at a deal while they are in negotiations.

We all have to make decisions on how to prioritize our time, but the above illustration is to explain why you may be told that you need to get the deal before you can get the funding. If you can get true project approval before you sign on the dotted line, all the better, but if you can’t, this may be why.

Part 7 in a series of 7 posts

Ok, we’re getting down to the last three questions here. 

Should I form an entity to lend?  It is not the same thing to lend as to borrow.  Even though we can’t lend to end homeowners, and lend to commercial entities only, we don’t have to be a commercial entity to lend.  The issue here is about liability protection.  So once again, consult with your attorney about the liability incurred in lending, and the two of you should discuss together whether you will lend from an entity.  My personal feeling is that since this is a business transaction, I want to do business from my entity, but that’s my personal situation. 

Should I lend outside of my geographic area?   Ok, on this one, there are strong feelings on both sides.  Certainly, when you buy stock through your broker, you don’t worry about where the company is, simply if they are making money.  But depending on how you lend, the answer can be quite different.  If you are contributing money to a pooled fund, and have no control over where your money goes, then where the fund lends is also outside of your control.  In that case, the costs of managing a loan in a particular location are the only considerations.  Since you aren’t managing the loan, the fund is, it is probably not an issue.  However, if you are lending directly or through a local hard money company, then there are numerous things to think about:

  • You should always go to the property before you lend on it.  How far do you have to go to put your feet on the dirt?
  • Do you have a network of attorneys, title companies or real estate brokers in the area where you are lending?  You will need an attorney or title company, depending on the state, to close the loan.   
  • Do you have contractors to finish a rehab in that area?   If the property is in disrepair, and you need to take it back for non-payment, you’ll need to manage contractors to finish it if that’s part of your exit strategy. 
  • If you have to foreclose, you’ll need an attorney for that, and an auctioneer.
  • Then you’ll need to resell.  Do you have a network of potential buyers in that location, or a real estate broker to get it sold quickly? 
  • Are you familiar with the laws in that state?  It’s easy to get tripped up by assuming they are the same as they are in your state.

Attorneys, title companies, auctioneers, real estate brokers, and even buyers are all over the place.  If you are comfortable setting up this network in an unfamiliar location, have at it, but it is much more difficult to find these people, and find good ones, from 12 hours away.

Now, just to give some perspective on the other side of the argument, if where you live is not a good location for lending, and assuming you wish to lend, then you have two choices:  move, or lend in another location.  And there is no reason to invest in your backyard simply because it’s convenient.  I know many people who are comfortable investing all over the US.  Certainly it increases the pool of available deals.   But it also exponentially increases the complexity, because of logistics and the need to educate yourself and make connections.  I wrote a post on “Grief to Revenue Ratio“.  Everyone has to decide how much extra aggravation is worth it to them.  It’s a personal choice.  But most experienced real estate investors seek local lenders, because a local knowledge of the market is critical to making an informed decision.  Local lenders make quicker decisions, and that’s how more business gets done.

 What about business loans instead of real estate loans?  Auto loans?  Personal loans? 

  •  The reason we make real estate loans is because the loan is secured by a hard asset (hence the term hard money).   With a business loan, if the owner lets the business decline or shut down, the asset is gone.  Poof.   Take a restaurant for example.  If the restaurant isn’t operating because it gets shut down by the health department, then there is no income, and pretty much no asset.  If the restaurant pays rent and doesn’t own the building, then all that’s left  is the sign over the door and a lot of used restaurant equipment.  And in this economy, used restaurant equipment or office furniture isn’t selling.  Believe me, there is a surplus.
  • Auto loans?  Well, it’s an asset, but a depreciating one.  And the problem with autos is that they have wheels.  And I think the laws that effect debt collection and the repossession are going to be determined by where the vehicle is at that moment.  Do you really want to be repo man in Alabama?  Alaska?  Minnesota?  (choose a state that’s not near you to fill in this blank)
  • Personal loans?  Just donate the money to to needy and be done with it.  You’ll have no unmet expectations.

There are many considerations in whether to buy, borrow or lend.  If you want to talk about lending some more, get in touch with me.  My phone and email are posted on my website.    I’m happy to chat and answer your questions

Part 6 of a series

I’m continuing a discussion of lending money to real estate investors. My company lends money exclusively to real estate investors in a specific geographic area. This allows us to be local to any property used to collateralize the loan, stay on top of legislative changes through our network of local attorneys and professionals, and to understand local trends, since all real estate is local.

How do you protect yourself from fraud or incompetence?  First of all, know who you are dealing with.  If you are lending directly to an investor, ASK AROUND!  It’s amazing to me how many people invest or lend with one real estate investor without getting references from other people who are in a position to know.  If you are going to put money into a deal, the people involved should be 100% transparent in their dealings.  Both from an ethical perspective and from a competency view.

  • Google them.  You can’t always find everything about them that way, but you might see a pattern one way or the other.  I once was approached by an investor for a loan, and when I googled him, it turned out he was a disbarred real estate attorney who had twice misappropriated escrowed funds.  Not someone I want to do business with.
  • Ask around.  Ask at local Real Estate Investor Associations.  Ask your network of attorneys and accountants.  Sometimes what they won’t say tells you a lot.  People are careful about giving bad references, but will usually give you enthusiastic recommendations if everything they know is positive.
  • Do your due diligence.  If you are investing with one person, you have to research the property ad market yourself.  If you are investing with a hard money company, the company does the due diligence.  Ask the company how much of that research on each deal is available for you to review.  If you are investing in a fund, the answer is probably none, because you aren’t investing in an individual deal, but if you are working with a company where you get to choose the deal your money goes to, you should be able to get information about the person and the deal.  
  • Go to each property yourself.  Each deal is different, and a property photo can be edited to not show the railroad tracks in the back and the auto junk yard next door. Pay attention to the neighborhood as you drive there, and leave the property in another direction.  
  • Trust your instincts.  I don’t want to get all fuzzy here, but if you get that uncomfortable little niggling doubt, then do more research to find out why.  You should reach the point at which your discomfort is resolved.

What happens if the borrower stops paying? Well, you are going to take the necessary steps to resolve the situation.  If you are working with a borrower directly, then you should talk with the borrower to get to the underlying problems and then determine the appropriate actions.    If you are working with a hard money company, the company will be the intermediary working with the borrower.  If you are in a pool, you won’t be involved at all, because you are not the lender, the pool is.  In a declining market, time is not on your side, but since this is a business transaction, you are not dealing with a homeowner, you are working with a businessperson.

How much of my portfolio should I allocate to lending?   I’m not a financial advisor, so you should speak to your own professional for personalized investing and allocation advice.  However, if you are a knowledgeable real estate investor yourself, you probably are comfortable with a large percentage in lending, because you have the expertise and resources to finish the project yourself.  In fact some lenders hope to take the property.  We don’t “loan to own” be be aware that some do.  If you have limited real estate investing experience, then limit your exposure by doing just one or two deals at a time.

These questions have partially addressed some of the risks in lending.  A much more detailed discussion is beyond the scope of an education blog post.  If you have interest and want to know more of the what if’s, then contact me.  It will help you decide if lending is for you.

Next post we will discuss the following questions:

•Should I form an entity to lend?

•Should I lend outside of my geographic area?

 •What about business loans instead of real estate loans?

Part 5 of a series

First, let’s define a real estate investor, for purposes of this series of posts.  Buying real estate to hold for income, or buying real estate to resell – both of these are called real estate investors.  Also, wholesalers, who get properties under contract and then assign the contract.  We’re not going to get into the debate about whether these people qualify to be called “investors”, I’m simply defining the word for my purposes.  For my purposes, a financial investor or lender is the person putting up the money.  So I’m differentiating between a real estate investor, who may or may not have money, and a financial investor, who is putting up the money.

Ok, you’ve decided you want to consider lending as part of a real estate investing strategy.  Here are some points to consider as you work through the process.

How do you find these good deals to lend on?

  1. This can be a challenging process.  If you belong to your local Real Estate Investor Association (REIA), you know dozens of real estate investors. At the REIA’s, you’ll find dozens of people who have deals and are looking for funding.  They don’t want to pay hard money rates, so they seek private money lenders or partners.  Also check your local Property Owners Association.   Ask your friends and family – they may know real estate investors that you don’t even know about.
  2. Find a local hard money company.  Most of them use OPM to lend – either they have warehouse lines from institutions, or they lend pension fund money, or they have pools of financial investors, or a combination of these and other sources.  You would be one of these financial investors.  But be careful!  Get references, and be sure you have transparency from the lender.  In New Hampshire, a well known private lender was recently sentenced for fraud in a large Ponzi scheme.  I know people who invested with him and lost hundreds of thousands before he was shut down by the FBI.  So ask around, and get lots of references from people you know and trust.
  3. Some companies, (like mine!) lend out other people’s money on individual deals.  The financial investor (you) gets to choose which deals they are comfortable with on a case by case basis.  The source of those funds is frequently your self-directed IRA, or perhaps capital that you’ve earmarked for real estate investing.  Instead of buying a property and rehabbing it, the financial investor lends money on a deal screened by the hard money company.

How do you choose the deal you will lend on?

Are all of these people that invest in real estate good candidates to lend to?  NO!

  • First, disqualify first time investors.  If you are a first-time lender, and they are a first-time rehabber, for example, there is greater potential for disaster.  Everyone needs to get started, but let the experienced lenders lend to them for their first time out of the gate.
  • Trust your instincts.  If you don’t feel right about the investor or the project, let it go.  It might be totally legit, and the person might have the greatest integrity, but if the deal makes you uncomfortable, move on to the next one.  Your instincts will evolve as you learn more, anyway.  And that includes deals you might look at that I present.
  • Consider the worst case.  If you have to foreclose, heaven forbid, and take back the property, consider what you will do to get your money back.  Can you finish the rehab if it’s not done?  Can you find a buyer?  Will you keep it and rent it out because you liked the neighborhood and property anyway?  Will you sell it “as-is” through the large network of real estate investors looking for deals?  Can you pay the taxes that the real estate investor didn’t pay?  Can you afford to pay the attorney and auctioneer and media for the foreclosure process?  (Hint:  if you can’t, you shouldn’t be doing the deal.)
  • Decide on a return that works for you.  You may be getting only 1/2 a percent on your money market fund, but if the borrower is offering only 6-8%, that may not be anywhere near high enough to compensate for the increased risk.  Your money market fund is much less volatile.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  Yes, you’ve heard it a million times before, and it sounds corny.  But the reason you’ve heard it so many times is that it’s true.  If you have $300,000 to lend, don’t put it all in one deal.  Consider several smaller deals to diversify.  And while we’re at it, don’t take your entire savings or capital and put it into lending until you are more experienced.  If you are an experienced real estate investor, then my recommendation would be different, because you know what you are doing.  Experienced real estate investors can make money in up or down markets, and the rich don’t get rich by diversifying into money market accounts.  They get rich by concentrating on a niche.

Should you ever lend in second position?

  • No.  I’ve seen so many second position mortgages get wiped out, that after lending on one, where I got out by the skin of my teeth, I thanked my lucky stars and never did another.  The more you know about investing, the more you realize just how risky a second position is in this market.  If the borrow runs out of time, money or know-how, the liens ahead of a second position can grow quickly.  Taxes, utilities, interest and penalties on the first position, foreclosure expenses on the first position, etc.
  • Maybe.  The reason for the maybe is this:  If you are determined to be an equity partner in a deal, then at least take a second position to protect your capital.  Remember, the mortgage gets paid before the equity investor.

Next post we’ll continue on the rest of the questions.  If you are reading this and want to see the earlier posts in the series,  the rest are on my Active Rain blog and my website blog starting with Lending, Borrowing or Buying.

•What about business loans instead of real estate loans?

•How do you protect yourself from fraud or incompetence?

•How much of my portfolio should I allocate to lending?

•What happens if the borrower stops paying?

•Should I form an entity to lend?

•Should I lend outside of my geographic area?

Part 4 in a series

Lending money to real estate investors can be a lucrative way to participate in a project without running the project yourself.  It can lessen your risk, because of where you stand in the line of people waiting to get paid.

First, lets make it clear we are talking about real estate investment deals here – not a homeowner purchasing a home to live in.  The real estate investor will probably sell to an end buyer, but a lot happens before that.

Irving Investor is going to buy a property in disrepair, using some of his own money and some of yours.  He’s going to fix it up, probably using your money, and then sell it to an end buyer in this example.  When he sells to an end buyer, everyone gets paid off:  The taxes, the utilities, the mortgages and the agent if Irving used one.  Irving pockets what’s left over.  For purposes of this discussion, we’re going to leave the agent out of the picture, simply because it’s not relevant to the issue I’m illustrating.  If there is not enough money, someone at the end of the line is left out in the cold.

Here is the order of payment:

  • Property Taxes
  • Condo fees
  • Utility Liens
  • 1st position mortgage holder
  • Mechanics and medical liens (The contractor you didn’t pay, Medicare, etc)
  • Additional liens
  • Equity investor

So since you are not the town levying the taxes and you’re not a condo association, the next best position is first mortgage holder.  Notice that the owner and/or equity investor gets paid last.  He takes the most risk.

Now, I’m not saying that the equity investor won’t make more profit – he might.  Or if something goes wrong, he might not.  The point is, the lender is paid before Irving Investor is paid.

Before you jump into lending with both feet, there are some things you need to know.  I’m going to cover a few here, and then some more over the next couple of posts.

First the disclaimer:  I am not an attorney, don’t play one on TV, and am not dispensing legal advice.  But I know lots of them in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and consult them regularly.  This information is presented as educational only, and if you are considering an investment, alway consult a professional.  A good real estate attorney is essential, as is an accountant.  If you are a real estate investor and are not a licensed agent, find a good investor-friendly agent or broker.

Do you need to be an accredited investor? No, not if you are lending directly to a borrower.  But by all means, take this to your attorney and speak to him about it first.

Do you need to be licensed?  What about the SAFE Act? Ok, here is another “consult your attorney” disclaimer.  But I’ve consulted several, and the concensus seems to be that commercial transactions are exempt from licensing requirements.  Since all my loans are made to companies acquiring property for business purposes, the licensing requirement doesn’t come into play.  All of our borrowers take title in an entity, such as an LLC, and do this as a business.

Should you buy into a “pool” or lend directly? Well, that depends on how much you are allocating to the endeavor, your experience level and your comfort level with the deal.  You should always make sure than anyone you do business with comes recommended by others and is someone you trust.

Buying into a pool may require (generally speaking) that you be an accredited investor, because you are pooling your funds with others, and that is considered to be a security.  You are likely to get a lower return in a pool than lending directly, because the fund keeps a larger part of the return.

Buying into a pool removes any decision makng about individual loans or borrowers, because the fund managers make all those decisions.  Individual lending leaves the control and the decision making about a particular deal in your hands.  You are also free to set the interest rate and terms, within state usury limits.

Here are some of the questions I’ll address in my next post, this one is long enough for today.

  • How do you choose the deal you will lend on?
  • How do you find these good deals to lend on?
  • Should you ever lend in second position?
  • What about business loans instead of real estate loans?
  • How do you protect yourself from fraud or incompetence?
  • How much of my portfolio should I allocate to lending?
  • What happens if the borrower stops paying?
  • Should I form an entity to lend?
  • Should I lend outside of my geographic area?

Part 3 in a series

First, if you are considering investing funds in real estate without doing the actual leg work, there are many ways to consider handling that investment. But here are some things to consider before you take the plunge:

  • Am I comfortable investing in something where I won’t be there every day to see what’s happening?
  • Do I want to stay hands off, or am I dying to swing a hammer?
  • Do I want to keep my day job and grow my capital, or do I want to jump in with both feet and a blow torch and thaw out frozen pipes on a Saturday night?
  • Can I afford to quit my day job?
  • Do I simply want returns on my money, or would I rather peer down into that toilet bowl?

These questions sound slanted toward persuading someone to invest hands off. But the reality is that jumping in there is right for some, and not for others. Sometimes new investors don’t realize all the options out there, and they start into a project for which they are totally unsuited and unprepared. So this will start the discussion of hands-off investing methods.

My warped humor

Self-directed IRA’s are a great source of funds for hands-off investing, because these are funds you can’t access yet anyway. If you have a conventional IRA from a previous job, or a solo 401(k) from self-employment, you can use those funds to purchase or lend. I personally have a self-directed Solo 401(k), a self directed IRA and a self directed Roth IRA. If you google self directed IRA, you’ll get tons of information.

A few ways to invest in real estate without the day to day management issues:

  • Be the credit partner: you put up your signature and good credit history, and sign on a mortgage, so that the other partner can buy the property using your good credit.  In return for this you get a piece of the ownership, and a mortgage in your name, but usually don’t work on the day to day property management or rehab.  The downside to this is that you are risking your credit score and are on the hook for the mortgage should the property values plummet further.  And an unfinished rehab should your partner be unable to finish the project will leave you…..well you get it.  You’d be better off if you had some day to day knowledge of the management or the project and could step in if the unforseen happened.
  • Be the money partner: you put up your money to fund the deal, either the entire purchase and rehab, or the downpayment money for a conventional or hard money loan.  You are typically an equity partner, meaning you get a piece of the ownership of the deal, but don’t have to manage the purchase, the rehab, the rental or the sale of the property.  Before we go any further, please check out an article I wrote about protecting your capital when investing in real estate.  Sometimes when you are a money partner, you hold a mortgage in second position, so you should understand the ramifications of this.
  • Hire a property manager: you can hire a manager for property that you hold for rental income. Bear in mind that if you participate in a large property, you will almost always have a property manager, sometimes onsite.  But for single family and small multi’s, the cost to hire a manager is high, cuts into your cash flow, and is no guarantee of a trouble-free investment.
  • Lend the money: There are pros and cons to this strategy as well, and the next couple of posts will go into more detail on exactly this.  You can be the first to get paid, and sometimes participate in the profit in the deal at the same time.

Part 2 in a series

If you are starting out in investing, chances are you want to invest hands on. You probably want to either invest full time, or simply add to the family finances with a deal or two a year.  Deciding the type of investing that works for you, and how much time and money you should invest, are important decisions.

Choosing a direction and focusing will make a big difference in how successful you are.  One thing you should consider is the skill set needed for various niches in the investing world.

If you are an experienced investor, you know more about what you are doing and how much time and financial resources you should allocate to real estate.

But if you are just starting out, make sure you are not cashing in your kid’s college fund the first week.  Allocate a portion of your capital to real estate investing to stay diversified.  As you become more experienced and you have invested in a few successful deals, then you can increase the allocation to real estate.

If you prefer hands-on investing, then consider what niche you prefer.  Here are a few examples:

Buy and hold Multi-family investing:

Requires some cash for a downpayment, and thick skin.  Buy some books to learn about calculating cashflow BEFORE you start looking at properties.  Learn some property management skills BEFORE you buy your first multi.  It’s amazing how many people buy a multi without having any real understanding of how the numbers will play out, or what a landlord should and shouldn’t do.  For example, in Massachusetts a landlord can hold first months rent, last months rent, and a one month security deposit.  But in New Hampshire, the max is first months rent and a one month security deposit.  No pet deposits, either.  You need to know these things or they can trip you up.


Requires the ability to keep going no matter how many times you hear “no”.  You must contact a boatload of homeowners to find one who will sell you their house at a price low enough for profit.  Finding sellers is a numbers game.  Requires no cash except what you spend for marketing to homeowners.  If you can find good deals, you’ll have no trouble selling them to your local real estate investors who want to rehab.  Spend some money on a marketing course, and attend your local REIA’s to build your buyer’s list.


Make sure you can either do the work yourself (properly) or you are good at managing contractors.  Paying retail for contracting will kill your profit, or you’ll be bidding so low on a property that lots of people will outbid you.  Rehabbing requires the ability to find deals, the ability to evaluate how much you should pay, the ability to manage the rehab, the ability to market the house for sale and evaluate the price you should be listing at.  The last two can be handled by a real estate agent, but you must know the end value before you can make your offer.  If you don’t have the funds to buy cash, you’ll need hard money or a money partner, because banks won’t lend on properties in serious disrepair.

I’m getting a little long here, so I’ll discuss hands-off investing tomorrow.