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Where and how to find mortgage investment opportunities

8 October 2019

Those who have gotten into mortgage investing find this method of wealth-building attractive for several reasons. One is that risks, while they do exist, can be managed and more predictably assessed because of the basic nature of these types of investments.
A mortgage, by definition, is a loan that is secured by collateral, usually in the form of real estate property. By contrast, stocks and mutual funds don’t offer this type of protection. Stock prices can fluctuate based on an unpredictable market, and investors have little to no control over what happens in the stock exchange.
When an individual has managed to significantly build up a nest egg big enough that they can afford to take some risks in the pursuit of capitalizing on their assets and growing their wealth, the next question is usually “Where do I take my money?” Should they discover the upsides to mortgage investments, the same question becomes a lot more specific.
But before getting into sourcing the mortgage notes, an investor must decide on one of three strategies.

  1. Investing in a fund managed by professionals. The least onerous way of getting into mortgage investments is by letting the experts do the heavy lifting. In this scenario, investments are combined into a larger pool of capital that a MIC uses to then reinvest in other ventures, like real estate equity, mortgages, or a mix of both. Here, the fund managers take care of finding and processing loans, dealing with defaults, and managing the portfolio. All an investor has to do is find a mortgage fund with a structure that’s aligned to his/her financial objectives.
  2. Working with a mortgage investment specialist. An established brokerage firm can source and originate loans for a mortgage investor with enough capital. The downside to this approach is that the investor since he or she is the sole source of financing must have on hand a large enough amount to lend to the borrower. Such a large investment will significantly impact the lender’s cashflow, a risk that can be mitigated by having a liquid buffer. However, with an excellent broker, the investor also gains access not only to sound mortgage market advice but also to a comprehensive network of professionals and potential borrowers.
  3. Going it alone. One should only choose this option if one is prepared to take on all the risks and responsibilities along with the benefits. Making a mortgage investment completely independently means sourcing and assessing every loan, creating and handling all the necessary documents, processing appraisals, and making sure that everything is compliant with government regulations. Of course, since there are no other players to share the pie with, the risk of default also rests on the shoulders of a single investor, and he/she would then have to rectify and amend that situation him/herself.

Whatever course an investor decides to take in terms of mortgage investment opportunities, it is wise to understand where the loans come from to get a better picture of the marketplace.
While in the U.S finance ecosystem you may find a vibrant market where mortgage notes are bought and sold, Canada does not have the same environment. It is more common for small banking institutions to sell off non-performing mortgage notes to hedge funds and individual investors in the U.S, but in Canada, a bank will simply foreclose on the property if the mortgage is in default.
As Canada does not share a similar environment, it is far more difficult to participate in mortgage investing on this side of the border. Instead, investors need to seek out the end consumer in need of financing directly as opposed to simply finding an intermediary party that will sell off their mortgages. Developing the infrastructure to collect potential private mortgage seekers is not easy for an individual and requires extensive marketing and business development. These skill sets are necessary to establish a strong and consistent pipeline that can accommodate a healthy deal flow whereby you can acquire the top mortgage investment deals.
Short of knocking on doors and asking if anybody there needs a loan, an independent lender usually gets business only from recommendations. He or she will typically begin with lending to family and friends, and while this “strategy” might suffice in the short-term, the lender will eventually exhaust the limited network. Additionally, a series of expensive mistakes that lead to broken relationships and sometimes even messy lawsuits ultimately leads to the professionalization of the lender’s business practices. Suddenly, they need to conduct due diligence, hire lawyers to draft contracts, and deal with government regulations. More often than not, the juice stops being worth the squeeze.
On the other hand, an interim party like Canadian Lending Inc. (CLI). manages this process so that investors can partake in a true passive capital-growing opportunity. As an established firm with a team of brokers and underwriters, and a professional marketing arm, a professional mortgage investment team won’t have to break an arm and a leg to find viable loans. Instead, it is usually the borrowers who approach the institution, applying for a loan. CLI’s underwriting team then vets each application by assessing not only the borrower’s credit history but also the property being securitized.
In a way, mortgage investors can have their cake and eat it too. They can gain exposure to the real estate market without a.) disbursing a huge amount of capital, b.) having to source and originate loans, c.) dealing with the mammoth job of due diligence, and d.) coping with the hassles of direct real estate ownership.

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