Craig Hill with The Norris Group #149

This week Bruce is joined by Craig Hill. Craig has been handling The Norris Group’s hard money loan business for over ten years, and he is a trust deed investor himself.

Bruce begins by asking Craig what the difference is between Craig’s California private lending business and other lending businesses such as Bank of America or FHA. Craig says that there is not as much of a difference as people think. The main difference is that you are lending to a different client and for many reasons. Craig has the ability to lend within a shorter time frame, and he will lend on properties that banks would lend on due to conditions. Craig’s business deals to people who have more need for a quick loan.

The funding source in Craig’s business is very different from a bank. Banks have a pool of money, but with Craig’s hard money, there is an individual who has money to lend and they get a good return on the loan they end up making.

Hard money lending is a generalized term for private money and private loans. The Norris Group is a private broker for investors. Hard money has a negative connotation to it because it can be expensive and, in the past, it was given to people with bad credit.

When Bruce and Craig first met, Craig was working for another company in Orange County. Bruce asks Craig what his typical client looked like in that environment. Most of Craig’s clients were delinquent on their trust deeds. They had poor credit because of some sort of problem they had been affected by. Hard money was a way for those people to get rid of some of their problems, and move on.

When Bruce and Craig met, Bruce was an investor. He had found a couple properties, but he had maxed out his credit line. Bruce had never met with a hard money lender, and Craig had never met with an investor. If you have a house that is worth $100,000, hard money lenders are typically willing to lend 60 to 70 percent of what that house is worth. Bruce had two houses that he wanted a loan on, but he was only asking to borrow 50 percent of what those houses were worth. This made Craig realize that working with Bruce was a great opportunity. Craig had a hard time finishing those loans though, because at that time, people had the mentality that a house was only worth as much as what you were willing to pay for it. Even if two houses were appraised at equal value, the lender would have still wanted to lend to the person in foreclosure.

In the 1990s, there was usually a first deed on a property when a hard money was asked for. Most of the hard money loans that Craig did at that time were between $10,000 and $25,000. 80 percent of the home was typically covered in the borrower’s first loan, and Craig gave them a small loan behind that first loan. The interest rate was typically 15 percent. Most of the companies that did hard money dealt with brokers. Craig’s company worked with brokers who would refer loans to them. If there were 10 or 15 points, those brokers would receive half of that value. There were a few more people involved in the transaction.

Bruce’s company does not rely on referrals. The Norris Group has a great network, so they do not need to use referrals. Craig had to frequently persuade brokers that it was better for borrowers to get a $15,000 second loan. The brokers wanted Craig to give them a new $80,000 first loan, because that generated more income. With The Norris Group, Craig does not have to worry about this problem, and he can choose the best option for each client.

Most hard money loans are still very referral based. If you are not talking directly to the borrower, a broker may not give you all the information you need, to make the best decision for the client. The broker may try to make you believe a false story.

Bruce and Craig quickly became comfortable with talking to each other, because they were dealing with the same people. Bruce was talking to people in foreclosure who wanted to sell their homes, and Craig was talking to those same people about making a loan.

Investors had come to Craig before Bruce, but it was with a concept rather than a property. People would ask Craig what he might do in made-up scenarios, but Bruce was the first person to come to him with his two properties. Craig thought Bruce’s idea gave a lot of security to the investor. After Craig’s experience with Bruce, he chose to only give loans to investors. The second investor Craig dealt with was Mike Cantu, and this loan plan worked well for Mike as well.

Mike Cantu is still borrowing from The Norris Group. That consistency would not occur for a loan business, or for people who were invested in trust deeds. People who loan to those kinds of borrowers will have to work very hard just to get them to borrow money once. Lenders who deal with investors will only have to find a few people who can borrow 40 or 50 times a year for them. It did not take Craig very long to realize that this was a very sensible business plan.

Most people think of the investors as the risky borrower, and the occupant as the safe one, but this is not true. Bruce asks if there are different rules for loaning to occupants. There is more protection for occupants, and there are different regulations on loan amounts. When Craig is doing a loan for an investor, he understands that the investor needs money to fix a home and sell it. When you give a loan to an owner occupant, you probably never know why that person needs the money, and Craig has been shocked in the past by the ways owner occupants will use their loan money.

Hard money loans are not a cheap resource. An owner occupant would not want a hard money loan unless they have no other choice. An investor taking a hard money loan probably has the option to use another loan option.

When checking to see if an investor is qualified for The Norris Group’s hard money loans, Craig checks their credit, the amount of debt leverage they have, and cash reserves. Someone with good cash reserves is a good candidate for hard money loans. Most investors take these loans for single-family residences and small units. The Norris Group is currently not offering loans on land, and tends to stay away from commercial real estate. In the future, The Norris Group may give loans for construction. Craig asks people how they found the property and how long it has been on the market. If an investor finds a property that has been on the market for 60 days with no price change, Craig will be cautious, because there is probably a reason why that property has not been sold.

Some passive investors are really looking to get involved in the market by getting properties flipped to them by a wholetail investor who passes it on to them for a small fee. The fees being tacked onto these deals sometimes wipe out a lot of the profit. Most wholesalers get a nominal fee for the work they have done. Craig recently talked to a man who was buying a $400,000 house for $349,000. He though he had a good deal, until he discovered that the original buyer had just paid $249,000 for it.

It is very important to predict real estate cycles. We are currently in a good cycle, but you still have to be careful when buying. If the cycle is going up, lenders can do deals according to a loan to value scale. In the current cycle, Craig stays away from deals that can take 6 months to complete, because a lot of things can change within 6 months. In the last six months, investors have had a “can’t lose” mentality. This can be problematic, because if investors feel like they cannot get a bad deal, then they may pay too much. The Norris Group encourages people to not get involved with long-term project houses, unless they have experience. Craig often asks his client if they have a background in construction. Craig thinks that a new investor should not try buying a house that has been red tagged by the city.

There are many people who come to The Norris Group expecting to receive a loan, because they have attended clubs and seminars in the state. Other people have told them that they can get a loan without a credit score, and without a down payment. This is not true. Craig has disappointing conversations with these people, but most of them are thankful, because Craig informs them on how they can get qualified for a future loan. Some of these people will put everything they have into a deal because they’ve been told that it is easy. This is a difficult and volatile time for real estate, yet people are willing to go “all in” on a property investment. People are coming from a 2006 mentality, where any property you got your hand on would get you a big check, but now things are much more difficult than that.

Craig can be reached at 951-780-5856. He will be glad to talk to you about borrowing money.

Bruce speaks with Craig Hill about the hard money loan business, how they met, how they work together, and what Craig brings to the table as a money partner. The Norris Group only loans in California so The Norris Group offers local insights and prides itself on a very good track record. Video on the program can also be seen at and more on trust deed investment in california can be found at

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