A Brief History of Real Estate Crowdfunding
Following the housing crash of 2007 – as regulations were introduced and credit tightened – emerging companies were left with little or no access to the capital markets. In an effort to ameliorate the credit crunch, Congress drew up the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act(JOBS Act for short), broadening the scope of who can invest in startups.
While the legislation was conceived with startup businesses in mind, interested parties quickly realized that the new rules could extend to real estate equity investments, allowing real estate companies to essentially market shares of projects to individual investors – a method of raising capital that had been legally precluded since the Securities Act of 1933. While real estate companies are able to broaden the reach of their investor network through this new paradigm, individual investors also gain access to a realm of real estate projects that were previously available almost exclusively to very wealthy individuals and institutional players, lowering the barrier to entry and allowing many investors to participate in commercial real estate investing for the first time. This value was evident enough to encourage a number of hybrid real estate/tech companies to enter the space, with Fundrise, RealtyShares and RealtyMogul emerging as early leaders and raising substantial venture capital.
The road hasn’t always been easy. While a handful of companies have grown impressively, many others have fallen by the wayside, as many investors and real estate companies have been cautious in pursuing real estate crowdfunding. Those without the requisite experience in tech and real estate have struggled to find scale. Still, the young industry continues to grow impressively year over year:
|YoY Growth – Real Estate Crowdfunding|
|Year||RE Crowdfunding Numbers Worldwide|
|2015||$2.5bn (150% growth)
· North America: $1.4bn
· Europe: ~$1bn
· Asia: ~$50m
|2016E||$3.5bn (40% expected growth)|
While growth slowed somewhat in 2016 (likely in response to top-of-market trepidation) the 40% figure is still robust, and the U.S. accounted for a large share of the $1bn of overall industry growth this year. In 2015, the $1.5bn in volume for U.S. real estate crowdfunding represented only 0.3% of total real estate finance transactions in the U.S., indicating that the sub-industry still has enormous room to grow, even while remaining modest as a share of overall commercial real estate activity in the economy. As time goes by, crowdfunding platforms have specialized and molded themselves around particular niches within the space, focusing the profile of their deals.