Hard Money Loans: Use At Your Own Risk

Katie DuncanMay 27, 2024

Reviewed By: The Amplify Commercial Loan Team

In the world of business and real estate investment, opportunities often knock when you least expect them. Deals can hinge on your ability to get quick and easy financing, leaving investors looking at options like hard money loans.

Hard money loans may seem like the perfect solution: rapid approval, minimal credit checks, and a swift influx of cash. But, in reality, hard money loans often turn out to be a dangerous choice, far from the ideal commercial loan vehicle.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of hard money loans and why, more often than not, opting for a hard money loan can be a decision fraught with risks and drawbacks.

What is a hard money loan?

A hard money loan is a type of short-term financing that is typically used in real estate transactions.

Hard money loans are typically offered by private individuals, investment firms, or specialized hard money lending companies— not your traditional banks or credit unions.

These loans are secured by the value of a property rather than the borrower’s creditworthiness, making them popular among real estate investors and individuals who may not qualify for traditional bank loans due to poor credit history or other factors.

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9 Reasons Why Hard Money Loans Are a Bad Idea

While this may seem like a lucrative deal, there are many reasons why they can be a poor choice for your investment. Here are nine points to consider.

1. Interest rates are much higher than other types of commercial loans.

The most notable drawback of hard money loans for commercial purposes is the substantially higher interest rates they carry.

These rates can be several percentage points above what you’d find with traditional commercial loans. This elevated interest expense can significantly increase the overall cost of borrowing, making hard money loans less financially sound.

2. Short repayment terms can create financial pressure.

Another disadvantage is the relatively short repayment terms that come with hard money loans.

Borrowers typically have to pay back the loan within a few months to a few years. This compressed timeline can exert financial pressure on businesses, as they need to generate the necessary cash flow or secure alternative financing to meet these accelerated repayment obligations. It may not provide the flexibility some businesses require for their long-term growth strategies.

3. Required loan-to-value ratios are lower, requiring more significant upfront capital.

Hard money lenders often impose lower loan-to-value (LTV) ratios, meaning borrowers must put up a more substantial amount of their own capital upfront to secure the loan. For businesses with limited cash reserves or those seeking high leverage, this requirement can be a significant impediment. It may necessitate seeking additional financing sources, complicating the overall financial picture.

4. There is a risk of property loss in the event of loan default.

One of the most significant risks associated with hard money loans is the possibility of losing the property used as collateral in the event of loan default.

Since hard money loans are secured by the property itself, failure to meet repayment obligations can result in the lender taking possession of the property. While many types of loans also use property as collateral, the tighter repayment terms and higher interest rates of hard money loans make this especially dangerous.

5. There are limited regulations and protections.

Hard money lending is often less regulated than traditional lending, which can expose borrowers to potential predatory practices or unfavorable terms. Borrowers may have fewer legal protections and recourse in case of disputes with hard money lenders, making it essential to thoroughly research and choose reputable lenders.

6. There can be higher upfront costs.

In addition to higher interest rates, hard money loans can come with substantial upfront costs, including loan origination fees, application fees, and other expenses. These upfront costs can add to the overall expense of borrowing and reduce the funds available for the intended investment or project.

7. Hard money loans can be harder to find.

Hard money loans may not be readily available in all regions or for all types of properties. Lenders tend to focus on specific markets and property types, so finding a suitable hard money lender for a particular project can be challenging in some areas or for unique property types.

8. Terms are often inflexible.

Hard money loans often have less-flexible terms compared to traditional commercial loans. Borrowers may have limited options for tailoring the loan terms to their specific needs, which can be a disadvantage when trying to align the financing with the project’s requirements or the business’s overall strategy.

9. Hard money loans are short-term focused.

Hard money loans are primarily designed for short-term use, such as property flips or quick renovations. For businesses with long-term financing needs or those looking to hold onto an asset for an extended period, hard money loans may not be the most suitable option, as they typically require refinancing or repayment within a relatively short time frame.

Alternatives to Hard Money Business Loans

Luckily, hard money loans are far from your only commercial financing option.

More traditional business loans may be more within reach than you think and offer many of the same benefits of hard money loans— but without the drawbacks.

Here are a few types of commercial loans to consider:

  • Traditional term loans: Traditional commercial loans are offered by banks and traditional financial institutions and are suitable for established businesses with good credit. They come with fixed interest rates, predictable monthly payments, and a variety of term options.
  • Business line of credit: A business line of credit provides flexible access to funds, allowing you to borrow up to a predetermined credit limit. You only pay interest on the amount you use, making it a versatile option for managing cash flow fluctuations.
  • SBA loans: Backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), these loans offer favorable terms and low interest rates. The SBA provides several loan programs, including the 7(a) loan for general business purposes and the 504 loan for real estate and equipment financing.
  • Equipment financing: If you need to purchase machinery or equipment, equipment financing allows you to borrow funds to acquire these assets. The equipment itself often serves as collateral for the loan.

It’s always worth researching and consulting with a commercial loan specialist to find a financing solution that works best for your business.

Consider Your Options

While hard money loans may seem like a tempting lifeline in moments of urgency and opportunity, there’s a reason to be wary. These loans may sound good in a pinch but carry significant risks and drawbacks. The higher interest rates, shorter repayment terms, and potential loss of collateral property make hard money loans a less-than-ideal choice for many borrowers. As with any financial decision, careful consideration and research of other financing options are essential to safeguard your financial stability and success in the long run.

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Katie Duncan

Katie Duncan is a financial writer based in Austin, Texas. Her articles include financial advice for freelancers, homebuyers, and more. When she’s not writing, Katie loves traveling and exploring the outdoors with her friends and her dog, Poe.