Personally, I think Shakespeare had it wrong when he penned this advice in Hamlet: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” Perhaps he may be forgiven for his error, however, since Shakespeare suffered from a lack of the tremendous benefits of a truly self-directed IRA.
Money in self-directed IRAs can be loaned out to any person who is not a “disqualified person.” While this means that you cannot loan yourself or other related disqualified persons money from your self-directed IRA, you can loan the money to anyone else. Loans can be secured by real estate, mobile homes, equipment or anything you like. If you are really a trusting soul, you can even make a loan from your IRA unsecured (although in that case I personally would tend to support Shakespeare’s advice).
First, let’s look at it from the borrower’s perspective. At our office we offer a seminar entitled “Make Money Now With Self-Directed IRAs.” One of the ways you can make money for yourself right now with your knowledge of self-directed IRAs is by creating your own “private bank.” To do this, simply share the news that an IRA can be a private lender, refer people with IRA money to Entrust to open a self-directed IRA, and then borrow their IRA money for your own financing needs.
With private financing the loan terms can be whatever the borrower and the lender agree to within the legal limits. If you know a person who is getting 5% in a “safe” IRA at a bank, and you can offer them 9% secured by a first lien on real estate with only a 70% loan to value, would they be happy with that? Even with a higher interest rate, private financing can work for you. IRA loans can be done quickly and without a lot of fees or fuss, which may mean you can get a deal which might be lost if you had to wait on the bank. This is especially true in distressed sale situations, such as a pre-foreclosure purchase.
From a lending perspective, your IRA can grow at a nice rate while someone else does all the work. In a typical hard money loan, the borrower even pays all of Entrust’s modest fees as well as any legal fees for preparation of the loan documents. True, you won’t hit a home run with lending, unless you are fortunate enough to foreclose on the collateral. But the returns can be quite solid. For example, by making very conservative hard money loans my Mom’s IRA has grown by about 10.5% in one year. This is much better than the amount she was earning in her money market fund before she moved her IRA to an Entrust self-directed IRA.
Even small IRAs can combine with other self-directed accounts to make a hard money loan. My brother recently combined his Roth IRA, his traditional IRA, his wife’s Roth IRA, his son’s Roth IRA, his Health Savings Account (HSA), and 5 other IRAs to make a hard money loan. The smallest IRA participating in this loan was for $1,827.00! Each IRA made 2% up front and 12% interest on an 18 month loan, secured by a first lien on real estate with no more than 70% loan to value.
One thing to avoid in hard money lending is usury. Usury is defined as contracting for or receiving interest above the legal limit. The usury limit varies from state to state, with a few lucky states having no usury limit at all on commercial loans. Some people have the theory of “What’s a little usury among friends?” However, if the investment goes bad and your IRA has made a usurious loan, the consequences of the borrower making a claim of usury could include the loss of all the principal of the loan plus damages equal to 3 times the interest. Some states even have criminal usury statutes. It is best to consult with a competent attorney prior to making a hard money loan to make sure your IRA does not violate any usury laws.
To see how well hard money lending can work, let me give you an actual example. One of our clients made a hard money loan from his IRA to an investor who purchased a property needing rehab. The terms of the loan were 15% interest with no points or other fees except for the attorney who drew up the loan documents. The loan included not only the purchase price but also the estimated rehab costs. The minimum interest due on the loan was 3 months, or 3.75%. The investor began the rehab by having the slab repaired, and before he could take the next step in the rehab process, a person offered him a fair price for the property as is. The investor accepted the offer, and they closed about 6 weeks after the loan was initiated.
From the investor’s perspective, was this a good deal? Yes, it certainly was! True, he was paying a relatively high interest rate for the time he borrowed the money. However, he was able to purchase a property with substantial equity which a bank most likely would not have loaned him money to buy due to the condition of the property. Also, while the interest rate was high, the cost of financing was actually comparatively low. With a normal bank or mortgage company there are fees and expenses incurred in obtaining the loan. Common fees include origination fees, discount points, processing fees, underwriting fees, appraisal fees and various other expenses relating to the loan. On the surface an interest rate may be 8%, but the cost of the financing is actually higher than 8% since a borrower has to pay the lender’s fees in addition to the interest on the loan. Spread out over a lengthy loan term these additional fees do not add much to the cost of the financing. However, if an investor has to pay all of these fees up front and then pays the loan off in only 6 weeks, the cost of the financing goes way up.
In this case the investor’s total loan costs were limited to 3 months minimum interest at 3.75% plus $300 in attorney’s fees for preparing the loan documents. Best of all, the investor walked away from closing with $20,000 profit and no money out of his pocket! Far from “dulling the edge of husbandry” this loan actually made the “husbandry” (ie. the purchase and resale of the property) possible. Incidentally, the purchaser of the property was absolutely thrilled to get the property at less than full market value so that they could fix it up the way that they wanted it.
What about the lender in this case? The lender was also quite happy with this loan. His IRA received 3 months of interest at 15% while only having his money loaned out for 6 weeks. For the 6 week period of the investment, his IRA grew at a rate of approximately 30% per annum! Although his yield was above the legal limit for interest in Texas on loans secured by real estate, prepayment penalties are generally not included in the calculation of usury here, so there was no problem. The investor was happy, the new homeowner was happy, and the lender was happy. Anytime you can create an investment opportunity with a win-win-win scenario, you should.
When I lecture about hard money lending, I ask the audience what they think is the worst thing that happens if you are a hard money lender. Invariably, most people in the audience answer that you have to foreclose on the property. Nonsense! If you are doing hard money lending correctly, the worst thing that can happen is that the borrower pays you back! Unfortunately, this is a common risk of hard money lending. Most hard money loans are made at 70% or less of the fair market value of the property. If you are fortunate enough to foreclose on a hard money loan, your IRA will have acquired a property with substantial equity while the investor did all the work of finding and rehabbing the property!
While it is true that foreclosing on a property owned by a friend may cause an end to that friendship, a properly secured hard money loan will at least not “lose itself” as Shakespeare asserts. In fact, it may lead to substantial profit for your IRA! To avoid losing a friend, simply don’t loan money from your IRA to someone you would feel bad foreclosing on. In order to be a successful hard money lender, you do have to be prepared to foreclose on the property if necessary.
In modern times I believe the proper advice, at least in the right circumstances, is “Either a lender or a borrower be!” You can make more money for yourself right now by borrowing OPI (Other People’s IRAs). Borrowing from someone else’s IRA can even lower the total cost of your financing compared to a conventional loan from a bank or mortgage company, especially on short term financing. From a lending perspective, your IRA can make great returns by being a hard money lender, either through higher than average interest rates or, better yet, through foreclosing on property with equity. You may find that hard money lending from your self-directed IRA is a great way to boost your retirement savings without a lot of time and energy invested on your part.