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Real Estate Investing and the SEC

While speaking all over the nation, meeting thousands of real estate investors the past couple of years and getting asked these same SEC questions, I realized that there is a lot of confusion concerning SEC regulations Vs private lending.

The confusion seems to arise because of the following:
1) Each state establishes their own regulations and exemptions. Therefore there are different guidelines depending on where you live.
2) If you cross state lines with your private lending, i.e. houses in one state and lenders in another, the Federal SEC regulations come into play.
3) There are a lot of half truths floating around and when people hear these, they get confused and possibly fearful.

To be better equipped to answer everyone's questions, I decided to hire an attorney to do some research. Since each state is able to establish their own regulations, I decided to have the attorney start his research with the state of Ohio.

Some highlights while working with my attorney:
1) As long as my properties and lenders are in Ohio, just the state regulations apply. If I have lenders and/or houses in different states, then the Federal SEC regulations apply.
2) I need to give a disclosure statement to potential lenders.
3) Can't pool lender money, but I can if I file the proper paperwork.
4) Can't use the word 'guarantee' in my advertising.
5) You can't advertise at all with having a registered security.

As a side note, some of you are under the impression that the SEC is out to cause you problems. The SEC is not the bad guy; they are looking for the bad guys. They want legitimate business owners to prosper. They are very willing to help you if you just ask. They just want you to comply with their regulations.

So what is a security?

The term "security" is broadly defined to mean "any certificate or instrument, or any oral, written, or electronic agreement, understanding, or opportunity, that represents title to or interest in, or is secured by any lien or charge upon the capital, assets, profits, property or credit of any person or of any public or governmental body, subdivision, or agency."

That's the language used on the website of the Ohio Division of Securities. This definition includes such common items as shares of stock, warrants and options, promissory notes, membership interests in limited liability companies, bonds and debentures. Limited partnership interests are considered to be securities, while general partnership interests are generally not considered to be securities. The statutory definition additionally includes the term "investment contract," which has been construed by court decisions to include numerous investment opportunities and business opportunities, which at first glance may not appear to fit within the definition of "security."

Does that mean private lending may be considered securities?

When you are borrowing money from private lenders, you are offering them a security. You're making an IOU to them by borrowing their money and promising to pay them a fixed interest rate over a certain time period or when the sale of a property is concluded.

When a company sells shares or stock, it's giving the purchaser of the securities an ownership interest. Shareholders make their money when they get dividends on their investment or when they sell their stock. Private lenders are lending you funds, and they make their money by receiving the interest rate you've promised them.

All states allow securities to be offered to lenders when they are either registered or offered under a proper exemption . Securities laws do define debt as a type of security. This means that your business has the same kind of opportunities as businesses that sell shares of their company to the public. It also means that securities laws and regulations apply to the business.

About the Author: Alan Cowgill is a national speaker, author, and real estate entrepreneur. Alan had bought or sold over 200 investment properties. His step-by-step system "Private Lending Made Easy" teaches Real Estate investors and mortgage brokers how to find private lenders. Contact Alan at 937-390-0816 or 866-831-3540. For a FREE audio CD go to

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