Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Maintaining Your Required Minimum Net Worth

Many states require your company to maintain a minimum net worth in order to get licensed and to keep your license. The amounts range from $10,000 to $1,000,000. If you are licensed or want to be licensed in a state that has minimum net worth requirements how do you obtain the capital you need?

There are a number of ways. The most obvious is to transfer money held in your personal bank account into the corporate entity’ bank account. Initially, this is how every new mortgage company gets started.

Beyond that, you could sell equity in the company and bring on a new partner. Your partner would have to buy shares in your corporation or a membership interest in your limited liability company, and the money from the sale of company stock or membership interests becomes part of the capital and net worth of the company.

Although it’s not easy, you may be able to find an investor willing to provide funding without giving up any equity in your business. Typically, this is a family member or a very good friend.

As you commence business operations, you can build net worth through retained earnings. Retained earnings are the profits your company makes that are not paid out to the owners of the company. To increase profits, increase your income (more closings or larger fees per closing) and/or decrease your expenses (go through each expense line-by-line and think of ways that each can be lowered). If the profits are kept in the company’s bank accounts or used to pay for company assets, they are counted as part of the company’s net worth.

Once you have been in business for awhile, you can explore merging with another company whose assets combined with yours will meet the minimum net worth requirements typically required of a mortgage lender. When you are looking to merge with another company, you want to find a company whose strengths complement your strengths. Together, your company and the company you merge with are greater than your two companies individually.

Eventually your plan should be to generate higher earnings by acquiring weaker companies and loan originators displaced by competitors who could not meet the net worth requirements and were forced to close. Your company may then continue to increase net worth as other competitive advantages become available as a larger company with increased production and profitability. Larger companies usually are stronger than smaller companies. They can offer more products, have offices in many locations to serve more borrowers, are licensed in more than one state, and have better management (which is how you became a bigger company).

The other key to the net worth issue is maintaining the net worth. Your company should never go below the minimum net worth required by your licenses. Hoard cash to get you through the lean times (including now) and do not make distributions to the owners if they will jeopardize your company’s net worth. Although you know that when your accountant comes in to audit your financials after each year-end so you make sure that your net worth meets the minimum requirements, you could also be subject to a random and unexpected examination of your records by your state licensing agency. You want to make sure that they find that you met every requirement, including net worth, when they conduct their examination.