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Understanding Dodd-Frank for Real Estate Investors

Good morning, folks! Welcome to episode 24 of “Grant Teach Me Something.” I’m Ryan Harper, and as usual, I’m joined by the one and only Grant Kemp from Creative Cash Flow. Today, we’re diving into the nitty-gritty of Dodd-Frank and its impact on seller financing. If you’re planning on venturing into this arena, this is essential knowledge.

What is Dodd-Frank?

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s so much talk about Dodd-Frank in the real estate sector, let me break it down. In the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the government introduced the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The aim was to enforce tighter regulations on financial institutions and ensure better consumer protection. For us real estate investors, understanding Dodd-Frank is critical, especially if seller financing is part of your strategy.

Why Dodd-Frank Matters in Seller Financing

When Dodd-Frank came into play, it created a lot of confusion. Over time, people have understood it better, and services have emerged to help you stay compliant. Even if an external service handles your Dodd-Frank compliance, having a basic grasp of the rules is crucial. It helps you set up your deals correctly and understand what you can and cannot do.

Grant’s Journey with Dodd-Frank

I’ve been through the trenches with Dodd-Frank. I began my real estate investing journey with seller financing. I saw the need for compliance services and founded Texas Pride Lending to handle Dodd-Frank compliance for others. Within a couple of years, it grew to be the largest residential mortgage loan origination (RMLO) service in the nation. Though I sold that company, my background means I understand Dodd-Frank inside and out.

The Elevator Pitch on Dodd-Frank

Think of Dodd-Frank as a series of amendments to existing laws like RESPA (Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act) and the Truth in Lending Act. These amendments introduced new compliance requirements for financial transactions, including those involving real estate. The aim was to protect consumers and bring more transparency to financial dealings.

Getting to the Core: Qualified Mortgages

One key concept in Dodd-Frank is the Qualified Mortgage (QM). To achieve QM status, your loan must meet certain criteria. Having a QM is invaluable because it provides you with substantial court protections if your borrower defaults or claims they were misled.

Loan Terms and Interest Rates

Qualified Mortgages must adhere to specific interest rate limits. Here’s a simplified version:

  • APOR (Average Prime Offer Rate): This is the index used to determine what interest rates you can charge.
  • Higher Priced vs. High Cost: Aim to keep your loans in the “higher-priced” category, which is APOR + 3.5% to APOR + 8.5%. Avoid the high-cost category (APOR + 8.5% and above), which requires more regulatory hoops to jump through.

Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

For a QM, the DTI ratio is crucial. It measures how much of the borrower’s income goes toward debt payments. For smaller creditors (like most of us), there’s no maximum DTI cap, but I recommend staying at or below 55%.

Key QM Features

  • No Negative Amortization: Your loan balance should not increase over time.
  • No Balloon Payments: Avoid requiring the borrower to pay a large lump sum after a period.
  • No Interest-Only Payments: The borrower must be paying down the principal as well as interest.
  • Max Amortization of 30 Years: The loan term should not exceed 30 years.

Advertising Rules

Be cautious about how you advertise your owner-financed properties. Don’t include specific numbers like down payments, interest rates, or monthly payments in your advertisements. Stick to phrases like “low payments” or “affordable financing” to stay compliant.


In conclusion, understanding the Dodd-Frank Act is crucial for real estate investors involved in seller financing. This legislation, enacted to protect consumers and ensure financial transparency, imposes specific compliance requirements on financial transactions, including real estate deals.

By familiarizing yourself with concepts like Qualified Mortgages, interest rate limits, and debt-to-income ratios, you can structure your deals correctly and avoid legal pitfalls.

As Grant Kemp’s journey illustrates, navigating Dodd-Frank can be challenging but manageable with the right knowledge and resources. Stay compliant, stay informed, and you’ll be well on your way to success in the world of real estate investing.

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