Investing In Real Estate Notes: A Beginners Guide

Investing In Real Estate Notes: A Beginners Guide

Real estate investing offers several opportunities, from purchasing a primary residence to active ventures like house flipping or wholesaling. While some investors prefer the hands-on approach, others lean towards passive strategies (like me), evaluating rental properties for BRRRR or real estate syndications.

Among these options, real estate note investing can be a great yet overlooked way to build generational wealth and create income.

This comprehensive guide highlights what you need to know to get started investing in real estate notes (aka mortgage notes).

Different types of real estate notes exist, each with its own set of requirements, risks, and returns. Familiarizing yourself with the roles of various participants, key terms, and the overall process of investing in real estate notes can help you make informed decisions and mitigate potential risks.

Key Takeaways

  • Real estate notes provide an alternative investment strategy with potential for steady cash flow
  • Familiarity with different types of notes, roles, and processes is crucial for success in this market
  • Evaluating benefits, risks, and comparisons to other investments helps determine if real estate note investing is a suitable option for your portfolio
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What Is A Real Estate Note?

Real estate notes, or mortgage notes, are IOUs that use a piece of real estate as collateral for a loan. These legal documents outline the details of a loan, including the terms for purchasing or refinancing a property.

A real estate note is comprised of two parts—

  • promissory note
  • lien

Promissory Note

As a borrower, you sign a promissory note which contains the loan terms such as the principal amount, interest rate, repayment schedule, and other related details.

It serves as a legally binding agreement that you promise to repay the loan according to the specified terms.


A lien is a security interest placed on the property to ensure the loan is repaid. If you, as the borrower, default on your loan, the lender has the option to take possession of your property and sell it to recover the outstanding debt.

Real Estate Note Investing Benefits

Real estate note investing can be a profitable and valuable addition to your investment portfolio. By investing in real estate mortgage notes, you essentially become the lender and receive payments from the borrower over the life of the loan.

This type of investment can provide a steady stream of passive income while allowing for diversification from traditional real estate investing.

Benefits Of Note Investing

#1. Higher returns

One of the main benefits of real estate note investing is the potential for high returns on your investment. Mortgage notes often carry higher interest rates than other types of investments, allowing you to earn more interest on your money.

Additionally, since the financed property is collateral for the loan, you have added security in case the borrower defaults on their payments.

#2. Flexibility

Another advantage of real estate note investing is the flexibility it offers. You can choose between various types of notes, such as performing and non-performing notes, depending on your desired level of risk and potential returns.

Also, you can invest in notes secured by different properties like residential, commercial, and even vacant land, providing several opportunities for diversification.

Notes On Real Estate

#3. Easily Managed

Real estate note investing can also be more easily managed than traditional real estate investing. For instance, you won’t have to deal with property management, tenant issues, or maintenance.

Instead, you simply collect payments from the borrower, making the investment process much more hands-off and passive.

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3 Types Of Real Estate Notes

Typically, real estate notes are classified as mortgage loans or deed of trust notes, secured by real property that generates income for investors.

Type of Note Description Investment Considerations
Mortgage-Backed Securities Notes backed by a pool of mortgages, offering returns from mortgage interest payments. Provides diversification; composed of multiple mortgages from various areas and property types.
Performing Notes Borrower consistently makes payments on time. Stable income stream; assess borrower’s credit history and property details for risks.
Non-Performing Note Borrower has failed to make regular payments, leading to loan default. Higher risk; potential for property acquisition below market value or renegotiation with borrower.

Key Terms in Real Estate Notes

Here’s a brief overview of the terms related to real estate notes and their significance in your investment journey.

Terms of the Note

The terms of a real estate note cover aspects such as the principal amount borrowed, the interest rate, and the repayment schedule.

These terms outline the borrower’s obligations and form the basis of the agreement between the lender and the borrower.

Security Instrument

A security instrument, such as a mortgage or deed of trust, is the document that ties the loan to the collateral, in this case, the real property.

This legal instrument secures the debt and ensures that the lender can take possession of the property if the borrower fails to meet their repayment obligations.

Down Payment

The down payment represents the portion of the purchase price that the buyer pays upfront rather than financing through a loan.

In real estate notes, a higher down payment typically indicates a lower loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, which can be an attractive factor for investors.

The LTV ratio reflects the relationship between the loan amount and the property value, and a lower ratio generally suggests less risk for the investor.

Terms of the Loan

The terms of the loan go beyond the note terms and include additional conditions set by the lender, such as insurance requirements, property maintenance expectations, and provisions for default.

By reviewing the loan terms carefully, you can gauge risks associated with the investment and make more informed decisions about the real estate note.

What’s The Process of Investing in Real Estate Notes?

#1. Due Diligence

First and foremost, you need to conduct thorough due diligence. This involves examining the property tied to the note, reviewing the borrower’s credit history, and analyzing the terms of the loan.

Ensure the property holds enough value to serve as collateral and that the borrower is likely to make their mortgage payments on time.

#2. Purchasing the note from lender

When you’ve identified a suitable real estate note to invest in, the next step is purchasing the note from the existing lender. Once you own the note, you’ll receive the cash flow generated from the borrower’s loan payments.

This includes both principal and interest payments.

#3. Monitor payments

Keep track of these payments and remain vigilant for any signs of delinquency or default, as this might necessitate legal action or possible foreclosure.

Here’s a summary of the key points to remember during the process of investing in real estate notes:

  1. Conduct thorough due diligence on the property and borrower
  2. Purchase the note from the current lender
  3. Monitor loan payments and address any delinquencies or default situations
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Risks and Returns in Real Estate Note Investing

A key component of note investing is understanding the higher risk associated with higher interest rates. Typically, notes with higher interest rates indicate that the borrower may have a lower credit score or that the property being financed is in a less desirable area.

As a result, the potential for borrower default is higher, which increases your risk as a note investor.


Here are some potential risks you may face when delving into real estate note investing:

  • Credit Risk: The possibility of your borrower defaulting on their payments. To mitigate this risk, you may need to assess the borrower’s credit score and financial history before investing.
  • Property Risk: The quality, location, and condition of the property securing the note. If the borrower defaults, you may end up with a property that is difficult to sell or rent.
  • Interest Rate Risk: The possibility of interest rates changing over the life of the note, which can affect your returns.
  • Legislative Risk: Changes in laws or regulations that may impact the real estate note market or your ability to collect payments.


Despite the potential risks, real estate note investing also offers opportunities for higher yields and attractive returns. Some of these benefits include:

  • Higher Yield: Notes with higher interest rates can provide higher yields for investors, which is especially appealing when compared to more traditional investments like stocks or bonds.
  • Portfolio Diversification: By adding real estate notes to your investment portfolio, you can spread your risk and potentially enhance your overall returns.
  • Passive Income Generation: When investing in real estate notes, you receive payments from the borrower, allowing you to earn income without the need for active management of the investment.

Investing in Real Estate Notes with Self-Directed IRAs

A powerful way for you to invest in real estate notes is through a self-directed IRA (SD-IRA). This investment method allows you to diversify your portfolio and potentially benefit from long-term gains.

In a self-directed IRA, you can invest in real property, mortgages, private placements, and other non-traditional assets as allowed by Section 408 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Notes On Real Estate

To begin investing in real estate notes with a self-directed IRA, your first task is to find a qualified borrower and a property they want to purchase. This task can be accomplished by your own efforts or by partnering with a reputable private loan company.

Remember that your self-directed IRA custodian can’t assist you with this process.

Once you have identified a viable borrower and property, your self-directed IRA can lend money to the borrower in exchange for a promissory note. This note serves as an IOU guaranteeing repayment of the loan with interest. As the borrower repays the loan, your IRA will receive interest payments, contributing to your retirement savings growth.

However, keep in mind that investing in real estate notes with a self-directed IRA comes with certain rules and restrictions.

For instance, you are not allowed to personally guarantee the note or lend money to a disqualified person, such as a family member. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with these rules to avoid potential penalties or tax consequences.

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Legal Considerations in Real Estate Notes

When dealing with real estate notes, you must understand the legal aspects associated with them. This will help you navigate the process with confidence and ensure that your rights are protected.

Federal and State Laws

First, when drafting a real estate note, you should be aware of the applicable federal and state laws. These laws govern interest rates, usury, and consumer protection.

Ensuring compliance with these laws will not only protect your rights but also prevent any potential legal disputes later on.

If a borrower defaults on the real estate note, the lender has the legal right to initiate foreclosure proceedings. A deed of trust, which usually accompanies the promissory note, serves as a security instrument, allowing the lender to take legal action and foreclose on the property in the event of default. You, as a borrower, should be aware of the consequences of default and make every effort to meet your obligations on time.

Transferability of Notes

When it comes to the transferability of real estate notes, there are specific rules you should be familiar with. If the note is considered a negotiable instrument, it is governed by the negotiable instrument rules of the Business & Commerce Code.

However, if it does not qualify as a negotiable instrument, common law rules relating to the assignment of contracts will apply.

How Real Estate Notes Compare to Other Investments

When you’re looking to diversify your investment portfolio, it’s important to consider how different asset classes stack up against each other.

This includes understanding how real estate notes compare to other investments like the stock market and investment properties.

Stock Market

Real Estate Notes

In contrast to the stock market, real estate notes offer a relatively stable and predictable cash flow. The stock market can be subject to high levels of volatility, which might not be suitable for every investor. With real estate notes, you have the added security of an investment backed by physical property, providing a tangible and relatively stable value.

Investment Property

Now, let’s look at how real estate notes compare to investment properties. Owning an investment property involves managing tenants, maintaining the property, and dealing with potential liabilities.

Real estate notes, on the other hand, allow you to generate income passively without the need for direct property management. This can be particularly appealing if you prefer a more hands-off approach.

It’s worth noting that investing in real estate notes versus real estate properties may produce different types of returns. While investment properties can potentially provide both rental income and capital appreciation, real estate notes typically generate interest income.

As such, real estate notes can be considered a fixed-income asset class, while investment properties are a growth asset class.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key factors to consider when investing in real estate?

When investing in real estate, you should consider the location, property condition, and market trends. Evaluate the neighborhood, infrastructure, and potential future development. It’s also essential to assess the property’s condition, repair costs, and maintenance needs. Additionally, consider market trends to help you determine the potential for appreciation and rental income.

How can one find and evaluate real estate notes for investment?

To find real estate notes for investment, you can connect with note brokers, lenders, or other investors. Look for online platforms that specialize in note listings. When evaluating the notes, assess the borrower’s creditworthiness, the property’s value, and loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Examine the payment history, interest rates, and terms of the note. Conduct due diligence and consider diversifying your investment for risk mitigation.

What is the difference between residential and commercial real estate?

Residential real estate comprises properties meant for housing, such as single-family homes, apartments, and condominiums. Commercial real estate consists of properties used for business purposes, like office buildings, retail spaces, and warehouses. Investing in residential real estate typically focuses on appreciation and rental income, while commercial real estate investments prioritize cash flow, business potential, and long-term leases.

What is the role of a real estate note template in property transactions?

A real estate note template provides a standard format for creating a promissory note during a property transaction. It outlines the essential terms and conditions of the loan, such as the principal amount, interest rate, repayment schedule, and terms of default. It ensures clarity and understanding between the borrower and lender, and it’s legally binding, serving as evidence if disputes arise.

How do mortgage notes impact the real estate market?

Mortgage notes affect the real estate market through their influence on available financing options, interest rates, and liquidity. When more mortgage notes are available and lending practices are less stringent, buyers are more likely to secure loans and enter the market. However, high default rates can lead to increased foreclosures, negatively impacting home prices. Interest rate fluctuations also affect affordability and investment attractiveness.

What are some essential tips for starting a real estate business?

To start a real estate business, first, define your niche, such as residential, commercial, or investment properties. Create a solid business plan, outlining your goals, strategies, and target market. Obtain necessary licenses, and build a professional network with other agents, mortgage brokers, and industry experts. Invest time in marketing, leveraging digital channels, and social media to gain exposure. Always stay informed about market trends, regulations, and seek continuous professional development.