The 4 Types of Real Estate Investor Financing

Throughout my real estate investing career, I’ve spent many dozens of hours speaking with lenders and potential financiers of my deals. With all the different types of loans and equity financing products available to investors these days, it’s important to have a good understanding of the benefits and the drawbacks of each, so you can choose the most appropriate financing option for your particular need(s).

Of course, given today’s credit situation, options are not only more limited than they were a couple years ago, but the definition of a “good deal” from a lender has changed as well. When I first started looking at financing for single family houses, I passed on a couple potential options that in hindsight were pretty good given today’s tight credit market; so it’s important to not only understand the types of financing that’s out there, but also which types are most prevalent and most easy to come by.

The point of this article is to define the four most common types of financing available to real estate investors; while there are, of course, more than four ways of financing real estate investments, most are a derivative — or combination — of the four we will discuss here.

1. Traditional Financing

This type of loan is generally done through a mortgage broker or bank, and the lender may be a large banking institution or a quasi-government institution (Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, etc). The requirements to qualify for a loan are based strictly on the borrower’s current financial situation — credit score, income, assets, and debt. If you don’t have good credit, reasonable income, and a low debt-to-income ratio (i.e., you earn a lot compared to your monthly obligations), you likely won’t qualify for traditional financing.

Benefits: The benefits of traditional financing are low-interest rates (generally), low loan costs (or points), and long loan durations (generally at least 30 years). If you can qualify for traditional financing, it’s a great choice.

Drawbacks: There are a few drawbacks to traditional financing for investors, some major:

The biggest drawback to tradition financing is what I stated above — it’s difficult to qualify these days. Just a year or two ago, you could have qualified under a “sub-prime” variation of traditional lending, where income and credit were less of an issue; but given the sub-prime meltdown (many of these borrowers defaulting on their loans), these sub-prime options have gone away. So, unless you have good credit, income, and small debt, you’re better off not even bothering with trying to get traditional financing these days.
Traditional lenders generally require that at least 20% be put down as a down payment. While this isn’t always true, investor loans with less than 20% down can be tough to find via traditional lending these days.
As an investor, it can be difficult to deal with traditional lenders who don’t necessarily understand your business. For example, a house I closed on last week with traditional financing almost fell-through because the lender wouldn’t provide the funds until the hot water heater in the investment property was working. As an investor, it’s common that I’ll buy houses with broken hot water heaters (among other things), and I can’t generally expect the seller to fix this for me, especially when my seller’s are usually banks. In this case, I had to fix the hot water heater before I even owned the house, which is not something I want to do on a regular basis.
Traditional lenders take their time when it comes to appraisals and pushing loans through their process. It’s best to allow for at least 21 days between contract acceptance and close. As an investor, you often want to incent the seller to accept your offer by offering to close quickly; with traditional lending, that can often be impossible.
If the lender will be financing through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (and most will), there will be a limit to the number of loans you can have at one time. Currently, that limit is either 4 or 10 loans (depending on whether it’s Freddie or Fannie), so if you plan to be an active investor going after more than 5 or 10 properties simultaneously, you’ll run into this problem with traditional lending at some point.
There are no traditional loans that will cover the cost of rehab in the loan. If you plan to buy a $100K property and spend $30K in rehab costs, that $30K will have to come out of your pocket; the lender won’t put that money into the loan.

2. Portfolio/Investor Lending

Some smaller banks will lend their own money (as opposed to getting the money from Freddie, Fannie, or some other large institution). These banks generally have the ability to make their own lending criteria, and don’t necessarily have to go just on the borrower’s financial situation. For example, a couple of the portfolio lenders I’ve spoken with will use a combination of the borrower’s financial situation and the actual investment being pursued.

Because some portfolio lenders (also called “investment lenders”) have the expertise to actually evaluate investment deals, if they are confident that the investment is solid, they will be a bit less concerned about the borrower defaulting on the loan, because they have already verified that the property value will cover the balance of the loan. That said, portfolio lenders aren’t in the business of investing in real estate, so they aren’t hoping for the borrower to default; given that, they do care that the borrower has at least decent credit, good income and/or cash reserves. While I haven’t been able to qualify for traditional financing on my own due to my lack of income, portfolio lenders tend to be very excited about working with me because of my good credit and cash reserves.

Benefits: As mentioned, the major benefit of portfolio lending is that (sometimes) the financial requirements on the borrower can be relaxed a bit, allowing borrowers with less than stellar credit or low income to qualify for loans. Here are some other benefits:

Some portfolio lenders will offer “rehab loans” that will roll the rehab costs into the loan, essentially allowing the investor to cover the entire cost of the rehab through the loan (with a down-payment based on the full amount).
Portfolio loans often require less than 20% down payment, and 90% LTV is not uncommon.
Portfolio lenders will verify that the investment the borrower wants to make is a sound one. This provides an extra layer of checks and balances to the investor about whether the deal they are pursuing is a good one. For new investors, this can be a very good thing!
Portfolio lenders are often used to dealing with investors, and can many times close loans in 7-10 days, especially with investors who they are familiar with and trust.

Drawbacks: Of course, there are drawbacks to portfolio loans as well:

Some portfolio loans are short-term — even as low as 6-12 months. If you get short-term financing, you need to either be confident that you can turn around and sell the property in that amount of time, or you need to be confident that you can refinance to get out of the loan prior to its expiration.
Portfolio loans generally have higher interest rates and “points” (loan costs) associated with them. It’s not uncommon for portfolio loans to run from 9-14% interest and 2-5% of the total loan in up-front fees (2-5 points).
Portfolio lenders may seriously scrutinize your deals, and if you are trying to make a deal where the value is obvious to you but not your lender, you may find yourself in a situation where they won’t give you the money.
Because portfolio lenders often care about the deal as much as the borrower, they often want to see that the borrower has real estate experience. If you go to a lender with no experience, you might find yourself paying higher rates, more points, or having to provide additional personal guarantees. That said, once you prove yourself to the lender by selling a couple houses and repaying a couple loans, things will get a lot easier.

3. Hard Money

Hard money is so-called because the loan is provided more against the hard asset (in this case Real Estate) than it is against the borrower. Hard money lenders are often wealthy business people (either investors themselves, or professionals such as doctors and lawyers who are looking for a good return on their saved cash).

Hard money lenders often don’t care about the financial situation of the borrower, as long as they are confident that the loan is being used to finance a great deal. If the deal is great — and the borrower has the experience to execute — hard money lenders will often lend to those with poor credit, no income, and even high debt. That said, the worse the financial situation of the borrower, the better the deal needs to be.

Benefits: The obvious benefit of hard money is that even if you have a very poor financial situation, you may be able to a loan. Again, the loan is more against the deal than it is against the deal-maker. And, hard money lenders can often make quick lending decisions, providing turn-around times of just a couple days on loans when necessary. Also, hard money lenders — because they are lending their own money — have the option to finance up to 100% of the deal, if they think it makes sense.

Drawbacks: As you can imagine, hard money isn’t always the magic bullet for investors with bad finances. Because hard money is often a last resort for borrowers who can’t qualify for other types of loans, hard money lenders will often impose very high costs on their loans. Interest rates upwards of 15% are not uncommon, and the upfront fees can often total 7-10% of the entire loan amount (7-10 points). This makes hard money very expensive, and unless the deal is fantastic, hard money can easily eat much of your profit before the deal is even made.

4. Equity Investments

Equity Investment is just a fancy name for “partner.” An equity investor will lend you money in return for some fixed percentage of the investment and profit. A common scenario is that an equity investor will front all the money for a deal, but do none of the work. The borrower will do 100% of the work, and then at the end, the lender and the borrower will split the profit 50/50. Sometimes the equity investor will be involved in the actual deal, and oftentimes the split isn’t 50/50, but the gist of the equity investment is the same — a partner injects money to get a portion of the profits.

Benefits: The biggest benefit to an equity partner is that there are no “requirements” that the borrower needs to fulfill to get the loan. If the partner chooses to invest and take (generally) equal or greater risk than the borrower, they can do so. Oftentimes, the equity investor is a friend or family member, and the deal is more a partnership in the eyes of both parties, as opposed to a lender/borrower relationship.

Drawbacks: There are two drawbacks to equity partnership:

Equity partners are generally entitled to a piece of the profits, maybe even 50% or more. While the investor doesn’t generally need to pay anything upfront (or even any interest on the money), they will have to fork over a large percentage of the profits to the partner. This can mean even smaller profit than if the investor went with hard money or some other type of high-interest loan.
Equity partners may want to play an active role in the investment. While this can be a good thing if the partner is experienced and has the same vision as the investor, when that’s not the case, this can be a recipe for disaster.

Why Developing a Strong Islamic Finance Market is an Important Step For Hong Kong

Islamic Finance is a big new area of interest for banks and financial services. Not only does it offer opportunities for new products and services, but it is also one of the fastest growing areas of finance. Despite the global economic slowdown, analysts estimate that the market for Islamic assets will grow by 10 to 15 percent in 2009. While this is not as fast as the 20 to 30 percent growth experienced in 2008, it nonetheless is an important opportunity for banks, particularly in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has made a point of being an attractive destination for investors and marketing participants of Islamic Finance.

With a worldwide market size of US$400 billion and no clear leader in the market for Islamic Finance, Hong Kong stands to gain considerably from boosting its market presence, infrastructure and capabilities in this area. While Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and London all have sizeable markets for Shariah products, no one can claim global leadership in Islamic Finance. And with over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, this is an important and growing market that no financial center can afford to ignore. Islamic law (Shariah) prohibits taking or giving interest (Riba) which is the most essential feature of Islamic banking. Because of this, other approaches such as profit-sharing and fee-based financing have developed to comply Shariah laws.

These special modes of financing have emerged in retail, private and commercial banking for debt and capital markets, insurance, asset management, structured finance, project finance, derivatives, and other areas. To capture this opportunity, it is important that market participants in Hong Kong are well-trained and properly versed on the intricacies of Islamic Finance.

Broadly, Shariah investing prohibits taking or paying interest (Riba), speculative transactions or gambling (Masir), selling something with uncertain contract terms or which you do no own (Gharar), and investments in businesses that have non-Islamic behaviors (such as businesses dealing in alcohol, drugs, gambling, weapons, and so on). Financial services companies that want to get into the Islamic Finance market need to ensure that their staff members are trained on the fundamentals of:

Bai’ al-inah- sale and buy-back
Bai Ad-Dayn – sale of debt
Ijarah – leasing
Istisna – contract of exchange with deferred delivery
Mudarabah – profit sharing
Musharaka – equity participation
Murabaha – cost plus
Sukuk – Shariah compliant bonds
Takaful – Islamic insurance
Jualah – service charges
Kafalah – guarantee
Qard – loans
Wakala – Agency

In addition to developing domestic business, Hong Kong can be seen as a gateway to China for Islamic Finance. With the large number of petrodollars and Chinese sovereign funds looking for investments, the creates a unique opportunity for Hong Kong (which is the fund-raising platform for Chinese companies outside of the China).

Hong Kong has already developed financial products that are Shariah compliant and has several tracker funds and exchangeable sukuks in its markets. While proven structures will continue to flourish in a the Islamic Finance market, there are signs that some of the more sophisticated originators and investors are looking for more value-added and innovative structures. As a center for financial innovation in Asia, Hong Kong is well-positioned to capture this opportunity.

However, my analysis shows that Hong Kong’s banks and financial services firms do not have the human capital, skills or knowledge to truly engage in the Islamic Finance market. Banks should therefore invest in broad-based employee training initiatives so that their staff understands the market opportunity and potential approaches to Islamic Finance. This can only be done if top leaders truly believe in the potential for Shariah compliant products and embrace effective training as a way to drive change.

Alex Raymond is the Founder and CEO of Vast Talent, which provides online finance courses, including for Islamic Finance training. He has been in the e-learning business for ten years and has worked with dozens of banks around the world on their training strategies.

The Role of the Flexible Finance Director

Not all businesses have Finance Directors, and there is a common attitude that only large, enterprise level companies need them – and afford them. However, many growth businesses need help from a finance director before reaching enterprise level, understanding the role of a financial director can be the first step towards gaining the expertise of an individual that can literally make the difference between the success or failure of a business.

The primary functions of a financial director can be summed up in six points:

1. Finance Directors are responsible for managing the finance function of the business which would include overseeing such things as transaction recording, cash flow management, internal controls management and statutory reporting, finance department personnel management and development , external auditors and tax advisors.

2. The FD manages the financial and business planning of the business, including budgets, forecasts, strategic business reviews, financial strategy, cash and finance requirements and formal business plans that can be presented to third parties such as potential investors.

3. FDs manage relationships with important external interested parties including funders, bankers, outside investors, solicitors and corporate financiers as well as the aforementioned auditors and tax advisors

4. A finance director with a commercial business background is often able to contribute to and manage functions such as IT systems, legal, HR, property and other facilities. Special projects such as mergers and acquisitions and internal change management are also often handled by the finance director.

5. The FD will be the numbers interpreter and translator. A good Financial Director will not only produce good quality numbers using sound and robust systems and processes but will be able to describe what the numbers mean. Furthermore, this interpretation encompasses not only what has happened but what might happen in the future, using indicators and key metrics. The translation of numbers into facts on the ground is probably the main differentiator that a good Finance Director has over a good financial controller.

6. Finally, but crucially, the FD is perfectly placed to be the business number two to the MD, the ideal business partner, devil’s advocate, conscience, voice of sanity and where occasionally necessary, the brake. A good FD can talk finance to finance people as well as present finance issues affecting the day-to-day running of the business in a clear and concise way to the management team.

It might be logical to conclude that with all of these responsibilities, a Finance Director is a full time role required by bigger companies. However, more and more businesses are discovering that there is a crucial period in the life of a growing business where the skills and experience that can deliver the above services are required, but not on a full-time basis, and that a flexible Finance Director is a low risk, cost-effective bridge between using a bookkeeper/accountant combination and acquiring that first full-time FD.

What is a “flexible” Finance Director?

A flexible, or part-time FD does just about anything one would expect a permanent Finance Director to do, as long as it’s not illegal, unethical or immoral! Some clients have just a bookkeeper, others have a financial controller leading a finance team and the flexible finance director adapts to the resources of the client.

Generally, flexible Finance Directors work on an on-going basis with clients on projects of strategic value but are also happy to oversee the finance function in all its entirety.

Moreover, a flexible FD doesn’t go native as they are not working within the company full time. The main advantage this gives is the ability to retain an external perspective on issues. This can be very important when management teams in SMEs are often very overworked and do not have quality time to stand back from issues to see them in a fresh light.

A Look at Finance Managers

Individuals who aren’t in the finance industry may find all the job titles floating around very confusing. In this article we are going to look at what finance managers actually do, other than manage finance in some way.

A finance manager’s responsibilities mainly revolve around providing finance support and advice to clients or colleagues in their organisation and help them make informed and sound finance decisions.

The organisations and workplaces that finance managers can work in are extremely varied and can be in both the public and private sector. These include Financial Institutions, Charities, Trusts, Universities and Multinational Corporations.

Most major business decisions are based on financial decisions and considerations. Companies need to know financial implications of any business decisions before they can be made, so Finance Mangers must help advise these situations and also make sure that all financial practices follow statutory regulations and legislations.

The role of a financial manager can be very varied, and the title of the role often confuses people so great care should always be taken to analyse the responsibilities in each organisation.

When a finance manager is employed in a large corporation, their role will usually be more concerned with strategic analysis, and finance managers working for smaller companies and organisations might only have to prepare and collect accounts.

Typical activities of a finance manager will include interpreting financial data and making recommendations, analysing cash flows and making predictions on future trends. They will often have to formulate long term strategic business plans. Reduce costs for the business by reviewing and evaluating opportunities, find new sources of income to manage the debt of an organisation.

They will also be expected to keep up to date with regulations and legislation for the finance world to make sure that the organisation is doing everything by the books.

There are obviously a lot of tasks and responsibilities not mentioned in this article but when you take a step back from it all, the role of a finance manager does boil down to various tasks that revolve around managing the finances for a given organisation

How to Get Great Car Financing Plans

The thrill of getting a new car, especially if it is your first one, is definitely incomparable and inexplicable. But the burden of paying for the car is not. This is why many people rely on car financing. Car financing or car loans are perhaps the most common kind of loan today. But despite this, many people still do not know how to shop for these types of loan plans. Here are some ways to get great auto financing plans to help you enjoy your car even more, knowing that you bought your car getting the best deal available.

Know where to shop:

In order to get the lowest interest rates, you need a good credit history. But what if you do not have the best credit history? Worse, what if your credit history is actually bad? Fortunately, there are car financing plans for people with bad credit or no credit history at all. The interest rates may be higher than the standard plans, and the financing plan may require a down payment, but it is definitely better than nothing. Of course, not all dealers allow people with bad credit to get this type of car finance plan, so it is best to look around. The best place to shop for bad credit car financing plans is on the Internet, where you can easily compare prices. Even if your car dealer has an in-house financing department that can accommodate your needs, it is best to search before you settle.

Foresee future cost

Many buyers choose cheap car financing plans upfront, without checking if the plan is indeed cheap. This is because the total cost of the plan may be more than the actual worth of the car, even if you consider interest rates. When shopping for auto financing plans, it is best to go for loans that may not seem so cheap now but can actually help you save money in the long run.

Know your limits

Of course, since we are talking about car financing plans you are not going to pay for the car in full. However, are you sure you can really pay for the car in the long run? It is always best to know your limits financially. Track your budget to see if how much your car finance plan payments would be for the car you would purchase. In a way, this tip compliments the previous one. You should know your financial limits for the long run, possibly until you are done paying for the car loan.

Avoid penalties

Some car financing plans have penalties, but they are often not called “penalties” in the fine print. To understand the contract better, employ the help of a legal expert. Also, choose plans that give you the option to pay extra payments, or pay the entire loan without any penalties of any sort. When choosing a car financing deal, go for the most flexible plans. Your budget is not static, and your financial status can change, for better or worse. You need the flexibility to keep up with your payments