Private Lenders vs. Bank Mortgages? Which Is Better?

Many options abound in the realm of real estate financing. A critical decision for borrowers is deciding to secure a loan from a private lender or a traditional bank. 

The decision depends largely on the borrower's unique financial situation, real estate goals, and the nature of the investment property involved. This article will demystify the differences between private lenders and bank mortgages so you can make an informed decision on your financing journey.

What Is a Private Lender?

A private lender is a non-institutional individual or company that lends money to purchase real estate. These lenders could be private companies, individuals, or even friends or family, though, in this conversation, we focus on professional entities.

Unlike traditional lenders, private lenders assess a loan application based on the property's potential profitability and the borrower's real estate strategy, often making them a preferred choice for real estate investors.

Private lenders typically provide short-term financing with higher interest rates, commonly known as bridge loans, hard money loans or private loans. These are favored by borrowers who need quick financing, those with contractual obligations, have an existing loan that is reaching maturity, foreign nationals with no banking relationships in the U.S., or self-employed individuals with complex financial profiles who might not meet the strict requirements of traditional lenders. 

The loan process for a private loan is often faster, with no income verification, and the terms are more flexible, allowing borrowers to seize timely investment opportunities. However, these advantages come with a cost — private loans usually carry higher interest rates than bank mortgages.

What Is a Bank Mortgage?

A bank mortgage is a loan issued by a financial institution, such as a bank or credit union, to buy a property. These types of loans are often long-term, extending up to 30 years, and have lower interest rates. 

Traditional banks and credit unions follow a rigorous loan approval process, which thoroughly examines the borrower's credit history, employment status, debt-to-income ratio, and financial stability.

Banks offer different types of mortgage loans, including conventional mortgages, insured by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and government-insured loans like FHA and VA loans. The mortgage lender (usually a bank or a mortgage broker) oversees the underwriting process, loan origination, and even services the loan post-closing. 

For homebuyers and homeowners seeking lower interest rates, longer loan terms, and the potential for smaller down payments, bank mortgages often appear to be the most appealing choice.

Unfortunately, this meticulous vetting process can also be a hurdle for those with less-than-stellar credit scores or irregular income patterns. Beyond that, bank loans often entail a slower application process, which can be a deterrent for borrowers looking for fast funding.

What’s the Difference Between a Private Lender and a Bank Mortgage?

Several key differences stand out when comparing a private lender and a bank mortgage.

1. Lending Criteria

Bank mortgages have stringent lending criteria. Borrowers must exhibit a strong credit history, stable employment, and an appropriate debt-to-income ratio. Banks also require substantial documentation during the loan application process, which can be daunting for some borrowers.

In contrast, private lending institutions like Vaster have more flexible lending criteria. While they still consider the borrower's financial profile, their primary focus is on the value and potential profitability of the subject property. This can make private lenders an attractive option for those with less conventional financial situations or for those investing in properties that banks might view as high-risk like a non-warrantable condo. 

2. Interest Rates and Fees

As a trade-off for their flexibility, private lenders typically charge higher interest rates and fees than banks. This is because private loans represent a higher risk compared to traditional mortgages. Banks, with their rigorous underwriting standards, offer lower interest rates but also are more difficult to qualify for. 

3. Loan Processing and Approval Time

One of the significant advantages of private lenders is the speed of loan processing. With fewer regulations and a less rigid approval process, private lenders can often close a deal in less than two weeks. 

This is particularly useful for borrowers who need quick funding, such as real estate investors in competitive markets. In contrast, the approval time for a bank mortgage can be lengthy — often over a month. 

4. Security

Both private and bank lenders provide secured loans, meaning the loan amount is backed by the property itself. If the borrower fails to make the monthly payments, both lenders have the right to seize and sell the property to recover their funds.

5. Loan Purpose

Bank mortgages are primarily consumer loans that are intended for individuals that want to buy a primary residence. However, a bank mortgage can also be used to buy a vacation home or investment property. 

Private loans are primarily commercial-use or business-purpose loans that are intended for individuals or companies that want to buy a property for investment purposes. A private loan can be used to finance property types that a bank mortgage could not, such as vacant land, non-warrantable condo, or a commercial property

A private loan can also be used to buy a single family residence, townhome or apartment, as long as the property is non-owner occupied. 

What Are the Advantages and Downsides of Private Lenders?

Pro: Flexible Lending Criteria

Private lenders provide options for borrowers who might not fit the traditional mold. Whether it's to refinance a loan that's reaching maturity, save your deposits from a contractual obligation, or tap into your equity to fund a new venture, private lending can provide solutions tailored to your specific situation.

Con: Higher Interest Rates and Fees

While private lenders offer more flexibility, this comes at a cost. The higher interest rates and fees can lead to larger monthly payments, which is why it’s important to have an exit strategy in place to pay off the loan. 

Pro: Faster Loan Processing

With the ability to close loans in under two weeks in some cases, private lenders offer a significant advantage when time is of the essence.

Con: Harder To Find

Compared to traditional banks (widely advertised and well-known), private money lenders can be more challenging to locate. It often requires networking and research to find a reliable private lender.

Pro: Local Expertise

Private lenders often possess superior local market expertise compared to nationwide lenders. This understanding can lead them to see value in properties that other lenders, like big box lenders, may overlook, providing you with more loan options.

What Are the Advantages and Downsides of Bank Mortgages?

Bank mortgages have unique benefits and challenges worth considering when deciding on your loan source.

Pro: Longer Repayment Terms

One of the most significant advantages of bank mortgages is the provision of longer repayment terms. Traditional banks often offer loan terms extending up to 30 years, resulting in smaller monthly payments and allowing borrowers to manage their personal finances more effectively.

Con: Stringent Lending Criteria

The downside to bank mortgages lies in their stringent lending criteria. Banks closely scrutinize your credit score, employment history, income, and debt-to-income ratio. Obtaining a mortgage loan may be challenging if your financial situation doesn't meet their debt-to-income requirements. 

Pro: Easier To Find 

Bank lenders are ubiquitous, with thousands of storefronts and mass advertising. It's likely you're already familiar with one or more banks because you have a checking, savings, or other type of account with them.

Con: Limited Loan Purpose

Unlike private lenders, banks typically restrict the purpose of their mortgage loans. While they cater to homebuyers seeking primary residences, they might not support other needs like land financing, commercial loans, or real estate developments.

What Should You Consider When Choosing a Lender?

1. Your Financial Situation

Before deciding on the type of lender to approach, assess your financial situation. Private loans might be a better fit for transactions requiring fast closing or an infusion of capital while waiting to sell another asset.

2. Why You Need the Loan

The purpose of your loan will significantly influence your choice of lender. A traditional bank might offer favorable terms if you're purchasing a primary residence. If you're an investor or developer needing quick funding, a private mortgage might be the answer.

3. How Much Funding You Need

The loan amount needed will also guide your lender choice. Banks might hesitate to approve large loans for unconventional properties or risky investments. Private lenders often focus more on the property's potential profitability and could be willing to offer higher amounts.

4. Repayment Time Frame 

Consider your preferred repayment time frame. If you prefer lower monthly payments over an extended period, a bank mortgage might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you're okay with higher payments over a shorter term or if you plan to sell or refinance the property soon, a private lender could be the better option.

Who Are Private Lenders Best For?

Private lenders, like Vaster, are ideal for several types of borrowers seeking flexibility, speed, and a customized approach to lending.

Firstly, real estate investors find private lending advantageous. As investors often deal with time-sensitive deals, they benefit from the fast funding that private lenders can provide. Whether it's an urgent property purchase, a renovation, or a flip loan for quick property turnaround, the speed and flexibility of private loans can make all the difference.

Foreign nationals, another significant client group, may also favor private lenders. Traditional banks often have stringent criteria that foreign nationals may find challenging to meet, especially regarding credit history and income verification. Private lenders, however, may offer more accommodating loan options.

High-net-worth individuals with complex ownership structures also lean towards private lending. This group includes those with various income sources, multiple properties, and business interests who may not fit the standard borrower profile at traditional banks.

Lastly, private lenders cater to borrowers looking to finance properties that banks may shy away from, such as condotels, commercial properties, or vacant land. In these cases, private lenders can offer bespoke real estate loans tailored to the property and the borrower's unique needs.

Who Are Bank Mortgages Best For?

Bank mortgages tend to best serve homebuyers with excellent credit and verifiable income. If you're a prospective homeowner with a steady employment history, a strong credit score, and a desire for a long-term loan with lower interest rates, a bank mortgage could be your best bet.

Banks offer a variety of mortgage loans with attractive terms for those who meet their lending criteria. Traditional banks also provide borrowers with a sense of security and familiarity, thanks to their established reputations and comprehensive financial services.

Bottom Line

The choice between a private lender and a traditional bank mortgage depends on your personal circumstances, financial needs, and property type. Both private lenders and banks have their advantages and potential drawbacks, making it essential to consider your specific needs and circumstances before making a decision.

If you're a real estate investor, a foreign national, a high-net-worth individual with complex financial structures, or a borrower looking to purchase non-traditional property types, private lending might be the optimal choice. On the other hand, homebuyers with strong credit and verifiable income could find traditional bank mortgages or non-qm loans more appealing.

Regardless of the type of lender you choose, ensure that the loan aligns with your overall financial and real estate goals. If you're considering private lending, visit Vaster to explore our tailored portfolio financing solutions. Our expert team is ready to guide you through your unique lending journey. Apply today and take the first step toward realizing your real estate dreams.


What Is a Mortgage? Types, How They Work, and Examples | Investopedia

Need a Mortgage Loan? Good Luck. Lenders Are Tightening Standards | WSJ

15-Year vs. 30-Year Mortgage: What's the Difference? | Investopedia

Hard Money Loan Definition | Investopedia

14 Real Estate Financing Options | University of San Diego

Special loan programs | Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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