First a brief definition of what a hard money loan is from Wikpedia:
Many hard money mortgages are made by private investors, generally in their local areas. Usually the credit score of the borrower is not important, as the loan is secured by the value of the collateral property. Typically, the maximum loan to value ratio is 65-70%. That is, if the property is worth $100,000, the lender would advance $65,000-70,000 against it. This low LTV provides added security for the lender, in case the borrower does not pay and they have to foreclose on the property.
By now we have all heard about Thomas Hastert, 53, who now faces 73 counts of embezzlement, securities fraud, conspiracy and filing false documents . He is alleged to have misused funds taken from private investors that were supposed to be invested in real estate properties or construction of new homes.
I don’t know all of the various schemes that he is supposed to have perpetrated, but I am familiar with at least one. I was approached by a mortgage broker and asked if I knew any good hard money lenders because her friend had started building a home with a loan from Thomas Haskert . As the conversation continued, it was explained to me that Haskert had made the loan with insufficient money in her friends construction account.
I am not a lawyer, but I believe this is a felony. Prior to allowing the homeowner to sign papers for the construction loan, the loan must be fully funded by the hard money lender, the money must be placed in a trust fund independent of the lender after the papers are signed and a third party must inspect the construction phases prior to releasing any money. This protects both the investors and the borrower.
What Haskert apparently did was to have the borrower sign papers prior to having the loan fully funded, putting his investors and borrower at great risk. For example, if you borrow $500,000 to build a home, then during the course of construction you incur costs of $150,000 in materials and subcontractors bills. At that point you are ready for a draw of $150,000. However, if Haskert has not fully funded the loan and there is insufficient funds to give you $150,000, you are in a lot trouble.
Now your property is subject to construction liens, you have a note against your property for $500,000 (the money you borrowed that is not there) and you are going to have some real problems getting out of this mess.
So remember, if you do borrow from a hard money lender for a construction loan, be sure all of the money is there, be sure that the money is put in a trust fund and that someone comes out and inspects your progress. If you invest your money with a hard money lender, check out how long they have been in business, which may or not mean anything (think Bernard Madoff), look at the property you are going to invest in, and determine that you have a safe loan to value ratio.