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

Rehab and construction loan FAQ (revised) – a blog

Clay Sparkman
Here is an updated version of Fairfield’s Rehab and Construction Loan FAQ.
One of the most promising areas, at the moment, for real estate investors and brokers, by all indications, is REO, rehab, and quick flip of properties. The opportunity to buy distressed properties at a low price point is evident in many markets.  And yet it is difficult for most end-buyers (with a non-profit initiative) to take advantage of these opportunities, as they are not prepared to deal with the financing challenges or the rehab work involved when buying one of these properties. Thus comes a wonderful opportunity for those real estate investors who can size up a market effectively, move to buy challenged properties at below value prices, rehab them quickly, and get them back onto  the market at a slightly below market price.
Another point in favor of this brand of real estate buying/investing: Real estate investors who either (a) buy and sell quickly or (b) hold for the long haul are not as likely to get hurt by falling market values. It is those who are planning to hold a property for 1-5 years that are the most vulnerable.
And as we know, what is good for the borrower in this business is generally good for the lender, as well; these types of loans may be some of the best that private money lenders can expect to see for the next year or two and thus the easiest to get funded.
We tend to receive an endless parade of questions from lenders, brokers and borrowers as to how to best structure these types of loans, so here is an example (representative I think) of how one organization (Fairfield) goes about it.


What is your maximum LTV ratio for rehab and construction loans?
Well, it is important to talk about front-end and back-end LTV. Our maximum back-end LTV is 75% and our maximum front-end LTV is about the same (with a little more flexibility), though in the present market we try to keep that closer to 70%.
What do you mean by “back-end LTV”?
By back-end LTV, I mean the LTV at the completion of the project. For example: let’s say a borrower needs $100,000 for the acquisition of a property and $20,000 for construction funds and thus wishes to borrow $120,000. If the completion value of the property is conservatively figured at $185,000 based on comps provided by the borrower, the back-end LTV will be 120/185 or 65%.
Okay, so then what is “front-end” LTV?
Front-end LTV is the LTV immediately upon the closing of escrow but prior to any construction. In the example above, it is a little tricky to talk about the current value of the property since it is a fixer (and fixers are tough to comp directly), but if we determine that the AS IS value of the property is $135,000 then the front-end LTV is 100/135 or 74%. Generally, with rehab projects, if the back-end LTV is in-line, then the front-end LTV will be in-line also. This is because with rehab projects, the profit is made in the buy, not so much in the construction or the sale.
With construction loans, on the other hand, it is usually the other way around. The profit is made in the construction and generally not in the acquisition of the land. So, with construction loans, we need to work a little harder to make sure that the front-end LTV is in order.
Do you require an appraisal?
For rehab projects, rarely ever do we ask for an appraisal. We know that professional investors must move quickly and that they are frequently the best source for data regarding the projected value of their project. If an investor tells me that he expects to sell a property for $200,000 upon completion, I say, “Show me how you have come to this conclusion.” A good set of comps is frequently enough.
With construction projects, it is a little tougher sometimes to get a handle on the completed project, so on occasions, we will ask for an appraisal.
Are you able to loan 100% of hard costs?
Generally, not 100%. We like to see “a little skin in the game,” The amount of required down payment may be quite low. It all depends on the particulars of the borrower and the project. Our very strong repeat borrowers are sometimes able to leverage 100% and are not required to bring any money into the project. And borrowers with additional collateral, as well. It really depends on two factors: (1) How strong is the borrower? And (2) How well is he buying?
How does the construction money get disbursed?
From time to time, as a borrower completes the construction of a project, the borrower will submit a draw request to Fairfield Financial. Fairfield will review this request and, upon approval, release funds either directly to the subs/suppliers (if requested to do so) or to the borrower (if the borrower has already paid the subs/suppliers). Fairfield is responsible for ensuring that (a) the work is completed to an appropriate quality standard, (b) the project is on-budget (or if not on-budget, appropriate adjustments are made), and (c) that all subs and suppliers get paid for their work on the project. Borrowers are encouraged to make as many draw requests as they require, and if a request is complete and valid, we can generally disburse funds within 48 hours.
How much experience do you require from the borrower?
Well, it is nice to see a borrower come in with a little experience, but I have learned over the years that success in this business isn’t as much about experience as it is about common sense and the willingness and the ability to work tenaciously toward the completion of a project. So, if you don’t have experience but you can show me that you have the drive, the discipline, and the common sense, I’ll give you a chance.
What sort of credit and financial stability do you require from the borrower?
We don’t have specific underwriting guidelines. As far as credit, I am not looking for a perfect credit score (though we do have quite a few borrowers with credit scores in the 700s). I am looking at a pattern of payment over time. If a person has had a few bumps in the road or even a BK, for example, along the way, this doesn’t bother me. What concerns me is the borrower who has consistently shown a disregard for debt obligations over a period of time. I probably won’t want to get into a project relationship with this person.
Regarding financial strength (net worth and income), my primary concern is seeing that the borrower has either enough income (stated) or enough cash or liquid assets (stated) to get through the project (even if setbacks occur). That means showing the capacity to (a) make payments for the duration of the project (if an interest reserve account has not been set up) and (b) weather a few bumps in the road if the project doesn’t go exactly as planned. Beyond that, we don’t expect our borrowers to have any great wealth. We know that they are in the process of attempting to build something, and sometimes that starts from practically nothing.
What is the term of your loan and how are the payments handled?
The term of the loan is generally one year, though if a project is expected to require longer, we can make a loan for two years or more. Payments are made monthly and are interest-only. If there is enough equity in a project, we can arrange to have some number of payments held in reserve and applied to the loan for the initial period of the project.
What are your rates?
For this sort of thing, rates generally range from 11-14%. The rate is determined by (a) the LTV, (b) the strength of the borrower, (c) the amount of leverage involved, (d) the merits of the overall project, and (e) the perceived volatility of the local market.
Does the borrower pay interest on the full amount of the loan or only on the funds that have been disbursed?
The borrower must pay interest on the full amount of the loan for the duration of the loan. The funds are being held in trust by Fairfield Financial on behalf of the borrower. As such, the funds are not available to the lender throughout the duration of the loan and thus the lender has committed these funds and cannot utilize them in any way or earn interest.
What fees are involved?
We charge a loan fee equal to 5% of the gross amount of the loan (sometimes this can be less). We also charge a doc prep fee (generally $675) and an account-servicing setup fee which is based on the size of the loan and averages about $650. We also charge a property inspection fee, which is based on the size of the loan and the location of the property (typically $500 for local loans). There are no hidden junk fees.
Can the fees be paid from the proceeds of the loan?
Yes, if there is enough equity in the project. This is frequently the case.
Is there a pre-payment penalty?
There is no pre-payment penalty (except in rare cases.)
What happens if there is money left in the construction account upon completion of the project?
Excess funds will be credited to the borrower at the closing of escrow.
What is the approval process?
There are basically four steps.

  1. The borrower (or a representative for the borrower) runs the project concept by us. If we like the project concept and feel that the numbers are acceptable, we proceed to the next step.
  2. We review a complete loan packet. We ask that this be sent via overnight mail or via email as an Adobe Acrobat file attachment. The packet should include the following items:
    1. 1003 for each borrower/personal guarantor
    2. Credit (tri-merge) for each borrower/personal guarantor (or permission to pull credit)
    3. Company financials if the borrower is an entity (2 years)
    4. A privacy notice signed by the borrower
    5. A purchase agreement (when property acquisition is involved)
    6. A preliminary title report (if available)
    7. A detailed line-item budget for all construction work to be done on the project
    8. Plans (for all construction loans, and for rehab loans that involve changes in the basic floor plan)
    9. Borrower’s estimate of the completion value of the project, and comps (or other value analysis) to support this estimate
    10. Photos of the subject property
    11. Borrower credentials
    12. A copy of contractor license, bond, and insurance (for all construction loans)

13.  If all this checks out, we ask the borrower for a refundable deposit (generally somewhere between $500 and $2000). The deposit should be in the form of a cashier’s check or money order. We provide a conditional Loan Commitment Letter at this time.
14.  If the property checks out, we draw up the documents and close the loan through escrow.
Is the deposit refundable?
If we close the loan through escrow, the deposit is applied as a credit to the loan fees. If we don’t close the loan because (a) the borrower does not or cannot perform or (b) the project upon inspection is significantly different than as represented, we keep the deposit to reimburse us for our costs. Otherwise, if Fairfield fails to perform for any reason, we return the deposit to the borrower.
How long does it take to put the loan together?
We generally ask for a minimum of two weeks from the time we review a project packet until closing.
– Clay (clay@privatemoneysource.com)
Vice President of Fairfield Financial, lending since 1964.  Currently targeting loans in Oregon and Washington, with potential to loan in:  AK, CA, CO, ID, FL, GA, ID, MT, NV, NY, OK and TX.  To submit a loan to Fairfield Financial for consideration: http://www.privatemoneysource.com/loanproposal.php

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