Red Flags for Construction Lenders

May 20, 2024

1. Slow Progress

One of the most glaring red flags is slow progress on the construction site. This can manifest in two key ways: infrequent draw requests by the builder and minimal progress each month. Both scenarios deserve a closer look. If a builder is requesting draws infrequently, it could indicate financial instability or a lack of progress on-site, suggesting that the project is not advancing as planned. Similarly, minimal progress each month, even with regular draw requests, raises questions about the builder's efficiency and ability to manage the project timeline effectively. Lenders should monitor these signs closely, as they can hint at underlying issues that may jeopardize the project's completion.

2. Contingency Fund Depletion

A well-planned construction project includes a contingency fund to address unforeseen expenses without derailing the financial stability of the project. However, a red flag emerges when this fund is depleted early in the project. This premature depletion could signal poor project management, underestimated costs, or unexpected challenges that were not adequately accounted for. It's crucial for lenders to assess the reasons behind the rapid use of the contingency fund, as it may indicate that the project's financial health is at risk.

3. Questionable Draw Requests

Vigilance is also required when reviewing draw requests. A significant red flag is when builders attempt to secure funds for work that has not yet been completed. This practice not only undermines the integrity of the draw process but also exposes lenders to increased risk. It's essential to verify that the work for which payment is requested has been satisfactorily completed before releasing funds. This may involve more stringent inspections or tighter controls on the draw process to prevent such issues.

4. Shifting Stakeholders

Stability in the project's key stakeholders is critical for its success. A red flag arises when the borrower attempts to introduce a new builder or significant changes occur within the project team. Such shifts can disrupt the project's momentum and introduce uncertainty about the project's future direction. Lenders should scrutinize these changes carefully, understanding the reasons behind them and assessing their potential impact on the project's timeline and financial outlook.

5. Questionable Notifications or Postings from Local Municipalities

Local municipalities play a crucial role in the construction process, from issuing permits to conducting inspections. During on-site visits, lenders should be alert to any questionable notifications or postings from these entities. These might include notices of code violations, stop-work orders, or other regulatory issues that could affect the project's progress. Such notifications are red flags that require immediate attention to understand their implications and determine the necessary steps to address them.

6. Excessive Change Orders

Change is a constant in construction projects, but excessive change orders that significantly exceed the original project scope are a major red flag. While some changes are inevitable, a high volume of change orders can indicate poor planning, unclear project objectives, or a lack of control over the project's direction. This not only affects the project's cost and timeline but can also strain the relationship between the lender and the borrower. Monitoring the frequency and nature of change orders is essential to ensure that they do not jeopardize the project's success.


Monitoring construction loans requires a keen eye for detail and an understanding of the many moving parts that define a construction project. By being aware of these red flags—slow progress, contingency fund depletion, questionable draw requests, shifting stakeholders, questionable notifications from local municipalities, and excessive change orders—lenders can take proactive steps to mitigate risks. This involves not just identifying these issues but also engaging in open communication with borrowers and builders to address them effectively. The goal is to ensure that every construction loan not only supports the realization of physical structures but also builds a foundation of trust and transparency between all parties involved.

In this complex landscape, the role of the construction lender extends beyond financing; it encompasses being a vigilant partner dedicated to the project's success. By maintaining high standards of oversight and engaging proactively with potential issues, lenders can navigate the challenges of construction lending, ensuring that projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

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