What Hard Money Personal Loans Are & How They Work

By Anna Davies · June 12, 2024 · 7 minute read

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What Hard Money Personal Loans Are & How They Work

You want to flip a house, but you don’t have enough money for a down payment — and your credit isn’t where it needs to be for a personal loan. Or, maybe you’re a small business owner who wants to own a piece of commercial real estate. People who are investing in real estate beyond their primary residence may consider a hard money loan as an option, especially if a traditional mortgage isn’t.

A hard money loan is a short-term loan commonly used by investors, such as house flippers or developers who renovate properties to sell. The loan typically uses the property as collateral. Hard money loans are usually funded by private lenders, individuals, or investor groups, rather than banks.

A hard money loan may make sense on paper, but because it typically has a shorter term than other types of loans and interest rates can be high, paying back the loan can be challenging. Defaulting on a hard money loan could mean losing the property.

What Is a Hard Money Personal Loan?

A hard money personal loan is a type of personal loan that uses collateral. While a mortgage is also a type of loan that uses property as collateral, a hard money loan is very different.

First of all, a hard money loan doesn’t come from a bank. It comes from a private lender, which may be a company or an individual. The loan will likely have higher interest rates and a shorter payback period than a traditional mortgage.

It can also be a much shorter process to be approved for a hard money loan. While a mortgage may take weeks for approval, it’s not atypical to have cash in hand within a few days of a hard money loan application.

A hard money loan also may be more lenient in terms of credit scores or assets than a traditional loan. This can be beneficial for people who are wanting to flip a house or buy an additional piece of property, who may not have enough assets on paper to be approved for a traditional mortgage, or who need a larger down payment than they have.

How Do Hard Money Personal Loans Work?

Hard money personal loans are often advertised to — and used as a tool for — house flippers, but other people may pursue a hard money personal loan as well.

Let’s say someone wants to buy a house to flip, or a piece of land to use as a rental property. They may still be building their credit, or they may not have enough money for a down payment. They may have been turned down for a mortgage, or they may not want to apply for a mortgage, knowing that it’s a time-intensive process and their finances might not be as strong on paper as they know the bank would like.

In this case, the person might turn to a hard money personal loan. Individuals, groups of investors, or private companies may specialize in offering hard money loans. Terms vary but are often less than one year, compared to 20 or more years for a mortgage. But the one constant: If you can’t pay back the loan, then you lose the collateral, which would be the property.

Other things to be aware of regarding a hard money personal loan: Interest rates may be high and the loan term is much shorter than a mortgage. This comes with a fair amount of risk.

Pros and Cons of Hard Money Personal Loans

As with any personal loan, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of the loan. It can also be a good idea to consider what-ifs, and how you might pay back the money if the original plan doesn’t work. Here, some pros and cons to think about before applying for a hard money personal loan.

Pros of a hard money personal loan

Cons of a hard money personal loan

Receive money fast Short loan payback period
Flexibility in terms of credit score and overall financial picture High interest rates
Can use hard money for whatever you need the money for Possibility of losing property if you cannot fulfill the terms of the loan

Personal Loans Versus Hard Money Loans

The primary difference between an unsecured personal loan and a hard money loan is that a hard money loan is secured. Both are personal loans, but using collateral for a personal loan means the loan is secured.

Collateral can be anything of value. But in the case of a hard money loan, it’s in the form of property. A personal loan typically does not require collateral. If you were unable to pay back a personal loan, the lender could not take away your house, for example. Both types of personal loans have specific terms and conditions, and both can provide cash relatively quickly. However, many personal loans are backed by a bank or other financial institution.

Hard money loans

Personal loans

Backed by a private individual or company Backed by a bank or other financial institution
Credit checks and financial picture play a limited role in approval Credit check plays a large role in approval
Provides cash Provides cash

Is a Hard Money Personal Loan Right For You?

Hard money personal loans may be an option for certain financial needs. But, as with any personal loan, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons, and consider what-ifs. Questions to ask may include:

•   What other avenues can I follow to raise the money I need?

•   What happens if I don’t pursue this loan?

•   If I do get this loan and plan to do a specific thing with it, what happens if that specific thing doesn’t happen the way I anticipated?

•   Can I afford this loan, including interest?

•   Could I afford this loan if my financial circumstances changed?

These questions can help you assess worst-case scenarios. You also may want to ask your potential lender any questions you have as well.

Recommended: Personal Loan Alternatives and Options

Hard Money Personal Loan Alternatives

There are potential alternatives to hard money personal loans. Some may require collateral, and others, like a personal loan, may not. Each comes with pros and cons. Your financial situation may also determine which loans you might be eligible for. If you’re building your credit, you may not have access to certain loans.

Credit Cards

If you’re purchasing land or property, you likely need cash. But for other purchases, using a credit card could be an option. If you don’t need a lump sum of money, using the line of credit that a credit card offers may work well for making periodic purchases.

However, credit cards may have high, variable interest rates. Plus, the more of your available credit you use, the higher your credit utilization ratio, which could impact your credit score.

Recommended: What Is A Personal Line of Credit & How Do You Get One?

Personal Loans

Can you buy land with a personal loan? You could. Generally, once you’re approved for a personal loan, you receive money in your account and can then use it for virtually any purpose. Some people use personal loans to pay for renovations or other home improvement projects.

But it could be challenging to get mortgage approval if you were planning on using a personal loan for a down payment, for example. A personal loan may affect mortgage eligibility.

Recommended: Do Personal Loans Affect Getting a Mortgage?


A home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a type of revolving debt. For example, if you apply for a HELOC and are approved for $10,000, you can draw up to $10,000. Once that money is paid back, you can draw from it again for the set period of time defined in the terms of the loan.

A HELOC is a popular option for people who are doing home improvement projects. They may not need a lump sum of cash but may have ongoing expenses. Generally, interest rates on a HELOC are variable, not fixed.

Since a HELOC is a loan secured by the borrower’s home, there is a risk of losing the home if the loan is not repaid.

Recommended: How Do Home Equity Lines of Credit Work?

The Takeaway

For some people, hard money personal loans can allow them to realize their real estate goals. But hard money loans typically have high interest rates and short payback periods, which can make them risky. It can be a good idea to carefully weigh the pros and cons of a hard money loan.

A SoFi Personal Loan may be an alternative to consider. Since unsecured personal loans from SoFi do not require collateral, they could be a good option for those just entering the real estate market. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

Photo credit: iStock/JLco – Julia Amaral

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