Introduction to Real Estate Debt Investing

Natasha Khullar Relph
Natasha Khullar Relph

May 13, 2024

Introduction to Real Estate Debt Investing

Diversifying your investment portfolio is a strategy that’s stood the test of time for good reason: It helps mitigate potential losses and presents opportunities for wealth growth over time. 

Real estate debt investments offer a unique way to diversify, providing exposure to the real estate market without the burden of actively managing an investment property. 

Here’s how it works: 

What Is Real Estate Debt Investing?

Real estate debt investing involves providing funds to real estate assets through loans or debt securities for property transactions or development projects. In this type of investment, individuals or institutions act as lenders, extending financing to property developers or owners. The borrowers, in turn, commit to repaying the borrowed funds over a specified period, typically with interest. In the interim, the underlying asset serves as collateral, providing the investor extra security in the event of downside scenarios.

The world of real estate debt is vast, ranging from commercial to residential loans with varying structures and complexities. Some common types of loans include: 

Land Loans

A land loan is used to finance the purchase of land. Depending on the state (permitting, zoning, etc.) and the land's intended uses (residential or commercial purposes), it can take various forms. Land loans are generally used if there isn’t an immediate need, plan, or ability to start developing an asset. Because of the speculative timeline of these loans and the lack of a cash-flowing asset to support them in the near future, they can be considered riskier in nature. 

Residential Mortgages

Mortgages are long-term (typically 30 years) loans issued by banks or mortgage originators. The borrower repays in monthly installments until the loan is paid off, and the loan is either supported by rental income (if the house is used for investment purposes) or by the borrower’s income (if owner-occupied). 

Commercial Mortgages

Like residential mortgages, these loans facilitate acquiring or refinancing commercial assets, such as office buildings, industrial warehouses, retail centers, or hotels and resorts. The assets serve as collateral, and the income generated by these assets, like tenant leases, provide coverage for the debt service. 

Often, these loans are packaged and tranched into commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), which are issued and traded by financial institutions and can offer investors exposure to a diversified portfolio via one security. The broader CMBS market provides liquidity to commercial real estate lenders by enabling them to offload mortgage debt from their balance sheets while offering investors an opportunity to invest indirectly in the commercial property market.

Construction Loans

As the name implies, these loans finance the development or repositioning of new properties. Given that they are not supported by cash-flowing collateral, they are usually considered higher risk and command higher rates. Because of this expensive rate, borrowers will look to refinance the projects once they are complete and capitalize their assets with more traditional, longer-term financing methods.

There are many offshoots of construction loans with different collateral structures, fixed or floating-rate interest rates, underlying asset qualifications, and other differentiators. 

Private Credit

Private credit refers to direct loans or financing provided by private lenders or institutions to entities such as real estate developers, typically bypassing traditional banking channels. Private credit can incorporate all of the four types of loans described above. For example, a short-term construction loan extended by a private lender to a multifamily complex developer. This form of lending enables borrowers to access capital outside conventional financial avenues, often tailored to specific project needs and with potentially more flexible terms than traditional bank loans. 

The Arrived Private Credit Fund is a form of private credit. The fund invests in short-term loans to support ventures, such as property renovations, rehabs, or new home construction projects, overseen by experienced real estate practitioners. Residential properties back these loans, which typically span from 6 to 36 months and amount between $100,000 and $500,000. Investors in the fund can earn returns through interest payments collected from the loans, which are distributed monthly.

The Benefits and Challenges of Investing in Real Estate Debt

Investing in real estate debt offers several potential benefits for investors seeking income and diversification within their investment portfolios, like:

  • Steady Income Stream: Real estate debt vehicles can provide a steady income stream through monthly payments. 
  • Diversification: Including real estate debt in a diversified investment portfolio can potentially contribute to risk mitigation. 
  • Secured Investment: Real estate debt investments are typically secured by real collateral, meaning the underlying asset can be liquidated in a downside scenario, and investors can try to recoup their principal balance.
  • Accessibility and Liquidity: Real estate debt funds — like the Arrived Private Credit Fund — typically have lower entry barriers than direct real estate investments or private equity investments available only to accredited investors. Investors in these funds can also generally redeem their shares or units at predetermined intervals, providing a more flexible exit strategy.

Investing in real estate debt, while offering potential benefits, also comes with some risks. For example, 

  • Default Risk: There is potential for borrowers to default on their loan obligations. Borrowers with significant experience in real estate development may pose a lower risk to mitigate this potential drawback. 
  • Market Fluctuations: Real estate values can fluctuate due to market conditions, affecting the debt collateral. A decline in property values may impact the recovery of funds in the event of default.
  • Property-Specific Risks: The performance of real estate debt can be influenced by the specific characteristics of the underlying property. Factors such as location, market demand, and property management can impact the investment’s success.
  • Project Execution Risk: For transitional projects, such as construction or large rehab projects, there is always the possibility that the borrower may not be able to complete the project, thus not fully improving the value of the underlying collateral due to factors like cost overruns or labor issues. This risk can be mitigated by lending to credit-worthy and experienced borrowers.

Loan Evaluation Criteria in Real Estate Debt 

Generally, real estate debt investments are evaluated for their investment potential and risks. Below are some of the most impactful factors impacting risks and investment potential: 

  • Borrower’s Experience & Creditworthiness: Borrowers are often ranked based on their years in the real estate industry, how many similar projects they’ve successfully completed, and if they work in real estate full or part-time. A borrower’s credit profile, including liquid reserves and their FICO credit score, is also considered. Generally, lower-risk borrowers have several years of experience in the field, have completed several similar-sized projects, and are well-capitalized. 
  • Loan to ARV (After-Repair Value): The loan-to-ARV ratio represents the proportion of the loan amount — including any additional property debt — to the estimated after-repair value (ARV) of the property, typically expressed as a percentage. This ratio includes the property appraisal from a qualified appraiser. A project with a lower LTARV generally has a higher likelihood of recovering its principal balance in the event of any downside scenarios.
  • Loan Position: Loans on a real estate project have different levels of standing in terms of both principal and interest payment. Loans in the first position are considered senior debt and have the first priority of repayment, resulting in lower risk potential for investors. (Learn more about the capital stack and the repayment priorities in What Is the Capital Stack?) 
  • Property Location: Local market dynamics can significantly influence exit liquidity - whether via sale or refinancing - and the value of a property post-completion, with lower-risk projects typically situated in robust real estate markets. 

In addition to the above four criteria, many other factors are considered when determining an individual loan's risk and return potential. For example, any additional collateral or guarantees that secure the loan, the project scope, and whether there are any prepayment penalties. 

Investing in Real Estate Debt vs. Investing in the Arrived Private Credit Fund 

Investing in real estate debt involves carefully considering and understanding available investment options, conducting due diligence to verify that an investment has potential, seeking guidance from the pros, and monitoring your investments. In short, it takes a lot of steps. 

The Arrived Private Credit Fund can simplify the process while giving you the potential to earn interest payments monthly in just a few steps.

Investing in both debt and equity can be important for a well-balanced portfolio. If you want to diversify your real estate investments, the Arrived Private Credit Fund is an easy way to access real-estate-backed debt. We’ve removed barriers to this investment vehicle at a time when high interest rates provide investors with an attractive yield secured by quality real estate.

Arrived Private Credit FundInvest in short-term financing for real estate projects with a 7-9% expected annual dividend and backed by residential housing.


The opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security or investment product. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice.

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