Investing in lien notes has become an increasingly popular way for investors to diversify their portfolios and tap into the real estate market without the need for direct property management. Among these, first and second lien notes are particularly significant. This article will explore what first and second lien notes are, their differences, risks, and potential rewards.

What are First and Second Lien Notes?

First Lien Notes

First lien notes are a type of secured debt where the lien—the right to hold or sell the debtor’s property—is the primary claim against the property. In real estate, if a borrower defaults on a mortgage, the holder of a first lien note has the first right to foreclose on the property. This position offers a higher level of security to the investor because they are first in line to receive proceeds from a foreclosure sale.

Second Lien Notes

Second lien notes, on the other hand, are subordinate to first liens. If a borrower defaults and the property is sold, the second lien holder only receives payment after the first lien is satisfied. This makes second lien notes riskier investments; however, they often offer higher returns to compensate for this increased risk.

Risk and Reward

Security and Priority

The primary difference in risk between first and second lien notes is their security and priority in the event of a borrower’s default. First lien notes are generally considered safer investments due to their primary position, while second lien notes, although riskier, can yield higher returns.

Interest Rates and Returns

Typically, second lien notes carry higher interest rates compared to first liens, reflecting the greater risk. Investors looking for higher income potential and who are comfortable with the additional risk might find second lien notes appealing.

Investment Strategies


Investors should consider diversifying their investment across both first and second lien notes. This strategy balances the safety of first liens with the higher returns of second liens.

Due Diligence

Performing thorough due diligence is crucial. This includes assessing the borrower’s creditworthiness, property value, and understanding the legal processes involved in lien enforcement.

Legal Considerations

It’s important to understand the legal framework governing liens in the property’s jurisdiction. Laws and processes can vary significantly, impacting your rights as a lien holder.


Investing in first and second lien notes can be a lucrative addition to an investment portfolio. While first lien notes offer more security, second lien notes can provide higher returns. A balanced approach, thorough due diligence, and a clear understanding of legal frameworks are key to succeeding in this investment arena.

uDirect IRA Services is not a financial advisor and we do not offer investment advice.  This article provides a basic overview, and it’s always advisable to consult with a financial advisor or real estate expert for personalized advice and to consider the most current market trends and legal regulations.  To learn more about self-directing your retirement into Notes, reach out to uDirect IRA Services at