Tips for Avoiding Common Hard Money Lender Scams

Hand offering money to man through computer screen

For many engaged in real estate investing, hard money loans, also known as bridge loans, can be a helpful tool in financing transactions quickly and efficiently without the need for an extensive approval process. That’s because the loan approval is not based on the credit worthiness of the borrower, but rather the appraised value of the property the loan is being used to purchase. In other words, the property serves as a kind of collateral.

There are many reputable hard money lenders for real estate investors in Texas, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a fair share of nefarious entities offering hard money loan opportunities. However, engaging in a hard money loan with a disreputable lender can lead to considerable strife for an investor. Therefore, it’s important that when seeking hard money loans that investors arm themselves with knowledge and learn to separate the legitimate hard money loan opportunities from the scams. Keep reading for a few tips that you can use to avoid some of the more common hard money lender scams being perpetrated today.

No Property Evaluation Required

The entire premise of a hard money loan is that the property you plan to buy with it serves as collateral for your loan amount. The loan amount itself is based on the value of the property, so you should immediately be suspicious of any hard money lender that offers approval without first evaluating the property.

This doesn’t just mean that the lender reviewed an appraisal. A legitimate lender will want to physically visit the property to perform a detailed assessment. If you can get approval over the phone for property that the lender has never seen, avoid that lender.

Upfront Fee Scams

Another sign that a hard money lender may be questionable is if there’s a request for a large upfront fee before the proper procedure is performed. Hard money loans follow a specific set of steps, and any deviation, including a sizable upfront fee, can be a sign of a scam. Fake lenders will sometimes call these upfront fees by another name such as an underwriter fee or administrative fee.

Legitimate lenders sometimes also request a fee early in the process, but those fees are generally not expensive and are usually in place to protect the lender if the borrower backs out at a later stage.

Hundred dollar bill in mouse trap

Full Funding Guarantee

Another tactic sometimes used by fake lenders is guaranteed funding of 100% of the property cost in exchange for a high fee. In other words, the lender will tell the borrower that the full cost of the property can be funded if the borrower agrees to paying a high fee. Most hard money lenders will only fund a loan equivalent to 60-70% of the appraised value of the property, so if a full funding guarantee is made contingent upon payment of a fee, you should avoid that lender.

Uncharacteristically Low Rates

It’s not unusual for hard money lenders to charge rates in excess of the bank rates for real estate loans. That’s because there is more risk inherent for the lender in a hard money loan, and because hard money loans are meant to serve as short-term funding sources for real estate investments. Therefore, when a hard money lender lures a borrower in with artificially low rates, there’s problem a scam afoot. If the rates offered by a hard money lender dip well below 10%, that should be a sign that something is wrong.

Hard money loans can provide a tremendous rule for securing funding for real estate transactions quickly, but they aren’t without risks posed by fake lenders. To learn more about how to spot and avoid hard money lending scams, contact Investor Loan Source at (409) 735-6267.