As you start growing your real estate business, you will likely get to the point where you will need to find more money to fund your deals. Even if you started with a lot of money, leveraging OPM (other people’s money) decreases your risk and offers the chance of an infinite return. So, regardless of your financial starting position or your real estate niche, everyone should have the capability and understanding of how to raise capital.
When most investors reach the point where they need to find more money, they get nervous. They think accessing capital will be difficult. However, with a few quick Google searches, you’ll find a flood of people who need to deploy their capital quickly.
That’s great, right? Well, not exactly.
Ross Hamilton, who is the CEO of Connected Investors, an aggregator of crowdfunding portals with 250,000 investors, said “we work closely with all of the real hard and private money lenders around this great country, and the number one complaint and the biggest competitor of lenders is not other lenders. It’s scammers.”
So, with a plethora of scam artist lenders, how do we distinguish between the real and the fake? In our recent conversation, Ross explained how to screen lenders by looking for the six red flags of a scam artist lender.
Related: How to Qualify for a Commercial Real Estate Loan
What is a scam artist lender?
Before outlining the six red flags, let’s define a scam artist lender. Ross said that a scam artist lender is “going to be people who are actually trying to steal your money, and other people who are just completely and totally wasting your time.” So, a scam artist is the Zimbabwe King that emails you asking for your personal information so they can send you millions of dollars, a newbie lender that doesn’t know what they’re doing, and everything in-between.
When screening a new lender, what are the red flags to look out for?
#1 – Do they want you to wire the down payment?
“If a lender ever asks you to wire them your down payment money, run,” Ross said. Typically, down payment transfers are handled by your attorney, which the lender should know. Therefore, if they ask you to personally wire them money, that is a huge red flag.
#2 – Do they ask for your social security number or other personal information?
Ross said, “Giving away your social security number or any of that information before you’ve vetted a lender” should be avoided and should raise your alarm. This includes bank account information as well. Provide this information and risk having your bank account emptied or your identity stolen, both of which Ross has experienced. If these are the first things they ask for, consider working with another lender.
#3 – Do they have a business email address?
“Using a Gmail [email] address [is a] red flag. This person’s not really in business,” Ross said. This is a quick red flag to spot. If the lender doesn’t have a business email address, that’s a sign that you’re potentially dealing with a scam artist.
#4 – How well is their English?
Ross said another red flag is if “their English isn’t very proper. You can hear the accent come across in the e-mail correspondence.” However, that doesn’t mean that foreigners are the only scam artists. “The people who will waste your time are inside the U.S., the people who will steal your money are typically outside the U.S., because it’s tough to track those people down.”
If improper English is the only red flag, then you are likely in the clear. But if there are other red flags as well, like a Gmail email address and they are asking for your social security number, they may be a scam artist.
#5 – Do they have a website?
“Make sure they have a website. A lot of these lenders have very bad, fake websites (they’re easy to see through) or they just don’t even have a website,” Ross said. This is an obvious red flag that is applicable to any potential business partner. If someone doesn’t have a website in this day and age, something fishy is going on.
#6 – Do they have examples of past deals?
If the lender passes the first five red flags, the last test is to ask for referrals.
Ross said, “A big thing you want to do is you want to vet the lender and you want to say ‘Hey, can you give me some examples of recent deals that you’ve funded?’” If they are the type of scam artist that wants to steal your money, you probably won’t hear back. If it is the incompetent scam artist type, they will either disappear, or they will back pedal, both of which will be obvious to spot.
Related: Pay Attention to These Five Loan Components to Maximize Your Apartment Returns
There are a lot of lenders and private money investors looking for deals to fund. However, a portion of them are scam artists.
In order to screen lenders, Ross Hamilton tells us to look for these 6 red flags:
- Do they want you to wire the down payment?
- Do they ask for your social security number or other personal information?
- Do they have a business email address?
- How well is their English?
- Do they have a website?
- Do they have examples of past deals?
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.