Fairfield Financial Services, Inc. - Private Money Loans, Lending & Borrowing

A brief unofficial analysis of the private money market for investors

Clay Sparkman

The national economy is in a state of confusion and the local economy is in a state of confusion. So what does this mean for the market for investing in trust deed based loans?

Well of course nobody really knows–and this is just my take on it–but here goes:  First of all, let’s talk briefly about investment choices.  With so much uncertainty in alternative investment vehicles, maybe trust deed secured loans are a pretty good place to put your money.  After all, you will have real security backing up your value, and that can’t be said about most investments.  And you certainly have the opportunity to receive a nice double digit return on your investment, and that being so even if you opt for the best and most potentially safe such investments.

The key thing to keep in mind is that real estate markets are uncertain and potentially volatile.  And thus you need to be particularly rigorous in making loan selections.  I would say that the most important keys are: (1) Make sure you know as much as possible about the recent price history of the particular market you are considering.  This will most likely allow you to better gage the potential future volatility of the market.  (2) Keep the loans either short or long.  1-2 years for quick-turn projects, and maybe 5 years to those borrowers looking for and able to afford the long hold.  The danger zone in my opinion tends to be in between.  (3) Make sure that your borrower has a solid exit strategy (no exit strategy is foolproof given the seemingly scare nature of bank financing, but some strategies look a whole lot better than others).  And (4) Keep your LTV a little lower than usual so as to better absorb potential market depreciation during the life of your loan.  We still have clients who lend 75% LTV on very solid transactions, but these days most investors feel better at or around 65%.

With regard to demand, the following is relevant once again: Markets are uncertain and potentially volatile.  How does this apply to the market for borrowers of private money? To answer this question, we have to look at who borrows private money. I would say with complete confidence that easily 80% of all of the loans that we do (Fairfield Financial) are to those who buy, sell, renovate, and construct real property with the intention of earning a profit.

The relevant point here is that most real estate investors are likely to be avoiding the long-term hold and attempting to make the good buy and turn properties for a quick profit. This is a market where properties are going back to the banks at a frightening rate, and where this spells bad news for home owners who over-borrowed, this means opportunity for the quick-strike investor. The bottom line of all this is what? Again, it’s hard to say, but I think it would be fair to conclude that if you are a private money investor (like most of you on this list), you might want to look particularly for: (1) those borrowers looking to buy and sell property on a dime to make a profit (many times you can justify lending up to 100% of fix up money and repair money to these borrowers when they are buying well), or (2) borrowers that have a longer hold scenario (closer to 5 years) that fall between the cracks of the more conventional lenders, generally already own the property,  and might bear a 10-12% holding rate to bridge the gap for several years. The idea is that this type of borrower can afford private money sized payments over the longer haul and will utilize this option to get to from point A to point B.  And point B–I might add–is a place that we’d all like to believe is a better place, a place where life is predictable once again and property values are something we can hang our hat on.

– Clay (clay@privatemoneysource.com, 503-476-2909 or 800-971-1858)

Clay is Vice President of Fairfield Financial, a primary source for private money loans since 1964.  Fairfield works with a broad range of private money investors, in a broker capacity, finding, underwriting, presenting, closing, servicing, and when necessary, assisting in the workout of difficult loans.

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