[0:00:13.9] MF: Welcome to the InvestFourMore Real Estate Podcast. My name is Mark Ferguson and I am your host. I am a house flipper. I flip 10 to 15 houses a year, I own 13 rental properties with a goal to buy 100 by 2023. I’m also a real estate agent. I’ve been licensed since ’01, I run a team of nine and we sell close to 200 houses a year.
So on this show, we’d like to interview house flippers, landlords and the best real estate agents in the business. So stay tuned for some great shows, if you want more information on my rentals, on the numbers, on how I buy properties, check out investfourmore.com.
[0:00:59.1] MF: Hey everyone, it’s Mark Ferguson with InvestFourMore and welcome to another episode of the InvestFourMore Real Estate podcast. Today, I’ve got Amy Kirsch on the show who is the Director of Investor Relations for realty shares and that’s a crowd funding site which is kind of a relatively new concept in the real estate world where people can kind of group together to invest in real estate projects, other investors can get money from other groups of investors.
Instead of kind of one person lending private money to one investor, it’s a group concept which allows kind of a smaller investment and spreads the risk a little bit but Amy’s going to talk all about crowd funding, how it works, how her company works, kind of the pros and cons of it and I’m excited to hear form her, exactly what they’re doing right now and see what we can learn. Amy, thank you so much for being on the show, how are you?
[0:01:51.1] AK: Thank you so much for having me, I’m doing very well, thanks.
[0:01:53.9] MF: Great, I’d love to start off with just a real quick, maybe if you can outline how crowd funding works in the real estate world just for people who aren’t familiar with it?
[0:02:03.6] AK: Absolutely, crowd funding which is a relatively new concept, it arises from the 2012 jobs act which allows solicitation through the internet for certain kinds of investments. What realty shares does is connects real estate opportunities eventual and commercial with real estate investors and allows sponsors as well to raise capital more efficiently.
It’s a marketplace that connects investors with sponsors and as you mentioned, allows for a lower entry point than typically for a real estate investing.
[0:02:37.1] MF: Before 2012, I know I talked to a couple of companies and that seemed to really change the whole way raising money worked but were there many people doing crowd funding at all before 2012 or was that when it really first started.
[0:02:49.4] AK: That’s when it really first started and really, it allowed for technology to play a factor in real estate, in investing in the entire landscape where you could do fractional shares and bigger investments and it even applies to other private companies that you may see. All arose from that 2012 legal change.
[0:03:08.4] MF: Okay. How did realty shares get involved in? I know kind of when I first heard about crowd funding, real estate really wasn’t part of it, it was more other investments investing in businesses and then it’s kind of cool how real estate got involved, was realty obviously shares just about doing real estate deals from the beginning?
[0:03:26.6] AK: It was, our founder in 2013 was working in as a real estate attorney and saw all of the friction that was involved with real estate investing, you had to be, to know someone to get access to a deal, the minimum investment was typically very high, it was hard to uncover opportunities, not nearby where you live.
He saw that, while and he was aware of the law landscape and how it was changing and he thought how he can marry these two ideas together and that’s how realty shares was born and it’s been focused on real estate from the very beginning.
[0:04:00.8] MF: Were you guys focused on, I mean, I guess there’s two different parts of crowd funding, first you have the investors who invests into a project and then you’ve got the investor who is borrowing money for a project.
Was it tricky kind of getting both of those at the same time or was there one that was easier to get in the beginning when you started the company?
[0:04:21.7] AK: I’d say and I’ve been with the company for about a year but I was with a similar company before. I’d say, getting people comfortable with a new way of doing things is definitely a challenge on both sides. Nav was very fortunate from the beginning that he was working with people who are open to this new type of solicitation of investments and also investors who were hungry for a new investment opportunity. While it took a while to get the platform going.
What we find now is we have really good appetite on both sides, from both sponsors and investors so that has been overcome over the last couple of years but at the beginning it was more of a challenge.
[0:04:59.6] MF: Okay, I know at one point there is some issues with – I forget the term but when you have a certain amount of net worth or income, only those types of investors could invest but that’s changed recently right?
[0:05:13.3] AK: Yes, accredited investors and that’s over a certain –income threshold, that’s true. Some of our competitors do allow for not fast and then there’s a different vehicle that they use called an eerie which allows for a lower investment amount, you typically one to 2,000 dollars. Right now, guilty shares only has investments that are available to accredited investors.
[0:05:37.6] MF: Okay. Got you, what are the requirements to be in an accredited investor?
[0:05:43.1] AK: Certainly. As an individual, you need to have $200,000 of income for the current year and the previous two or as a couple $300,000 between the two of you or alternatively you could qualify based on net worth which was a million dollars of your liquid portfolio excluding the value of your primary home.
If you had investment real estate, that would also qualify as a part of your net worth.
[0:06:11.3] MF: Okay, great. What are some of the – let’s start with the person who let’s say they’re flipping a house or they’re doing a big you know, project for apartments or commercial, whatever it is. How does it work for them to get money through a crowd funding site like yours?
[0:06:28.9] AK: Yes, if you’re interested, we have a team in house that’s vetting the incoming inquiries for capital and how that process, would it be helpful to general process, the due diligence process that we do?
[0:06:42.3] MF: You know, if they’re interested in just getting a general outline of how the process works like I’m sure they have to apply with you guys and go through vetting but like you know, how long it might take and what kind of maybe rates they might pay and different things like that if they’re – just a real basic outline of how it would work.
[0:07:00.2] AK: Sure, they would apply online as you suggested, we can fund for a residential deal typically within 14 days, commercial, it can take a bit longer between one month or two depending on the complexity of the deal itself. The rates will really vary and the rates for residential are going to be related to the location of the property, what kind of market it’s in.
The borrower’s credit score, the experience by the borrower. There’s a lot of various factors that go in to the pricing that the borrower would receive.
[0:07:34.0] MF: Okay, do you have a range of maybe for a really strong borrower to someone who is maybe not quite as strong?
[0:07:40.0] AK: Eight to 12 I want to say is pretty typical.
[0:07:43.9] MF: Okay, that helps. Then for residential, it might take as little as 14 days, is that like after you’ve been vetted and kind of been through the system a little bit or is that from right from the start?
[0:07:53.5] AK: From application to funding.
[0:07:54.9] MF: Okay. For you to have, to be able to fund that quickly, I’m thinking you already have quite a few investors kind of lined up, ready to invest in a deal, is that right?
[0:08:06.7] AK: Yes, we have 40,000 registered users, on a pretty wide investor base that we present deals to several times a week so we don’t know exactly who’s going to – we have a general understanding of investor preferences but we present deals, specifically debt deals, like you’re talking about two times a week to investors and they kind of know the cadence of when we’re releasing them and are ready to invest at that point and we present them in generally the same manner each time.
You can look at the specific metrics or understand the business plan and it’s all there for you on the offering page.
[0:08:39.8] MF: Okay, great. For the investor who is looking to invest $10,000 or $20,000 into a project, is it like a first come first serve? Whoever says yes first until you have the amount of money needed, they get in the deal?
[0:08:55.2] AK: Exactly right, whoever’s first come first serve and we do see a lot of demand for debt and a lot of our products we see a lot of demand and they can fund very quickly and whoever is first to fill out the investor package, of course we encourage them to review the entire offering but whoever is the first to invest has the available shares.
[0:09:14.4] MF: Okay, then what kind of rate do you typically see for those people who are investing into the project?
[0:09:20.5] AK: We take a spread of some kind and so it could be seven to 11-ish, something like that on the equity side, the returns are going to be much more robust because you participate in the up side. There’s the potential, I’d say those returns on average are projected to be 16 to 20 and again none of these returns are guaranteed but just to provide you with a general range.
[0:09:44.7] MF: Okay, can you talk more about that? The equity of investing? I’m not sure I’m familiar with that myself either.
[0:09:50.0] AK: Sure, of course. That will look more like being a business owner in a real estate project where you’re going to be able to still have that lower entry point but maybe an owner of an apartment building in Texas let’s say and then you’re going to invest alongside of this sponsor and where you’re going to be distributed available cash flow over the life of the investment.
Then if the sponsor’s able to achieve a sales price that exceeds the purchase price, you would participate in those profits as well.
[0:10:20.4] MF: Okay, cool. Is there kind of – are those higher investment points or is that still kind of the low investment points you see with the other just straight interest rate deals?
[0:10:30.0] AK: Typically with debt, our interest points are actually two to $5,000 most often, on equity, I’d say, lately it’s 10 to 25,000 and that’s because we have an investor maximum of 99 that are – so we’re restricted for raising three million dollars, the minimum has to be a little bit higher to accommodate those 99 investor, the 99 investor limit.
[0:10:51.2] MF: Okay, that makes sense, what percentage would you think of the deals that you have going through your system? The debt versus the equity?
[0:10:59.1] AK: That’s a good question. I’d say it’s probably 70% equity or preferred equity and 30% debt, somewhere maybe 60/40.
[0:11:09.7] MF: Okay, there’s actually more equity deals coming through than debt? Okay.
[0:11:14.3] AK: And the debt deals are much smaller typically. In dollar value that’s where I’d say it shakes out 70/30. The number of deals might be a little bit closer to 50/50.
[0:11:25.8] MF: Okay, I’m guessing the debt deals are maybe more individual like you know, flipping properties or smaller deals and the equity ones are the bigger projects that are more long term?
[0:11:35.4] AK: Exactly right.
[0:11:37.3] MF: How long would like an equity deal typically take? How long are you tied into it for?
[0:11:43.7] AK: It completely depends on what the business plan is of the sponsor so we sometimes have 24 month project immaturities, all the way out to 60 years. Depending on what the sponsor is trying to accomplish, if they’re doing – looking to get out more like a fix and flip, that could be a shorter duration and the durations with equity are not fixed like they are with debt in that the sponsor has the opportunity to extend if they need extra time.
What they’re trying to do is maximize the exit so if that means exiting sooner or later, they hold that process and manage that exit.
[0:12:21.0] MF: Right, okay. With the debt deals or I guess with the equity ones, I imagine if you’re going to invest into something like this, you need a lot of information as the investor to decide if it’s a good investment or not. Let’s say if someone’s investing in a fix and flip, are they getting kind of like the purchase price, yes made repairs, yes made caring cost. Is all of that provided upfront before someone is investing into a project?
[0:12:44.8] AK: Absolutely. We’re trying to empower with the investor with as much possible information so our offering pages are going to have exactly right purchase price, after repair value, we add the appraisal to the offering page, we put the track record of the borrower, their credit score, where the project is located, pictures, that’s all there and absolutely as you mentioned, should be reviewed prior to making an investment.
[0:13:13.7] MF: Okay, right now, I know we can talk about it a little bit but do you think you have more money ready to invest in deals or more people with deals looking to get money?
[0:13:22.9] AK: It’s so – it fluctuates I’d say over time. Right now, because the last couple of months of summer, we have a lot of sponsors that are looking to close deals so maybe right now we have a really good variety of deals but we also have a lot of – we have a ton of investors with capital already to deploy.
It’s a pretty even match I’d say, we have a pretty good balance.
[0:13:44.6] MF: Okay. That’s a good place to be.
[0:13:47.3] AK: Yeah, exactly.
[0:13:48.8] MF: Just like Vegas when they make their line, they want an equal number of people on each side. That’s the goal.
[0:13:53.8] AK: Exactly right.
[0:13:56.9] MF: I don’t know if this would work for your particular company but I mean, with the accredited investor thing, what if somebody’s got $10,000 to invest but maybe they’re not in an accredited investor. Is crowd funding a good way to go or is that maybe not the best option for them because of that restriction?
[0:14:14.8] AK: I do think it’s a great way to go and especially if they are looking to invest in real estate like I mentioned some of our competitors do offer investments for non-accredited investors and I would recommend absolutely checking them out, they do a nice car, the differentiation for realty shares as you can go in and actually select the underlying properties that you’d like to invest in, if you’re looking for diversification or you have specific preferences then you would be able to accomplish that more easily through our platform.
[0:14:44.2] MF: Are you working in all 50 states now or are you restricted a little bit by which states you’re in?
[0:14:50.2] AK: We have offerings in 35 – we’ve raised capital in 35 states.
[0:14:54.8] MF: Okay, I know it’s been tricky with hard money, all kinds of lenders every state has different restrictions. So I don’t think I have yet to find one kind of hard money crowd funder that works in every state yet. There’s always a couple that are missing.
[0:15:09.9] AK: Yeah, I think it’s something. We did have some restrictions earlier on that we’ve been able to overcome and I think we’ll continue to see that. I hope at some point we can say we’ve lent money in all 50 states.
[0:15:21.2] MF: So what are your plans for the company? Are you looking to just keep growing as big as you can or are you comfortable right now where you’re at or is there certain goals you’re trying to reach?
[0:15:30.4] AK: As far as fund raising or in terms of investments?
[0:15:35.2] MF: Just growth with the company and I guess its current size right now and how much you’re lending.
[0:15:39.8] AK: Sure, absolutely. So we have about a 110 employees right now and we’ve raised about $300 million through the platform as of January of this year and growth is absolutely on our minds. One of the things that we are really focused on is growth through automation and machine learning. So how can we use the technology that we’ve started here in house and apply that.
So that we can grow at a pace without adding employees but actually then provide outstanding service through some of the learnings we’ve had and the data points that we’ve had over the last several years of raising capital and having about and matching that with investors.
[0:16:20.2] MF: I imagine this is a growing business with different companies popping up and obviously you are doing three hundred million dollars. Do you have any idea of how much it’s grown since 2012? I don’t know if those numbers even exist.
[0:16:32.2] AK: They absolutely do exist. I know it’s a billion dollar industry and of the real estate industry is several trillion dollars. So there is still a lot of still opportunity for us to grow and take market share away from some of the traditional players in the market and I think that is what you are seeing that some people are early adopters to technology. So going online and buying stock currently for an idea three years ago and now everybody transacts that way.
We are looking to accomplish the same thing for real estate and I think the fact that there’s competitors popping up is a good thing because that means that people are buying into the idea and understanding the level, the value that we are providing both on the sponsor side and the investor side. We are creating a lot of efficiency on the market place which is always good for both sides.
[0:17:16.9] MF: Right, I know obviously you’re kind of competing and trying to break into work with some investors who maybe used hard money in the past and I’ve used hard money myself. I know a lot of people have used it and some of the challenges I found with hard money were one the rates are pretty high, they are getting lower but then they’ll charge points like two points, three points even five points on the money you borrow.
So if you are working on an investor who is borrowing money, the flipper, the person doing the project are they paying points or is it just the interest rate?
[0:17:50.4] AK: They are paying points more affordable than hard money lenders and the reason why people also come to us is because of the efficiency of deploying capital. So if you have done a deal with us before, it’s a pretty quick process to get money again provided that the deal meets all the criteria that we are looking for. So there is that and once you start to do a couple of deals with us then we provide break points.
[0:18:12.6] MF: Okay and did you say how much those points might be?
[0:18:15.7] AK: It’s typically about 2 points.
[0:18:18.8] MF: Okay and then a lot of hard money lenders will also lend a certain percentage of the purchase price and then maybe they’ll lend repairs as well after that. Do you guys have programs like that or you’re just lending a certain percentage of the purchase price or do you lend on repairs too?
[0:18:34.3] AK: We lend down repairs as well and then the borrower would submit to our request which we would process in house to give it additional of funding.
[0:18:42.4] MF: Okay, great. One thing that surprised me when I did my hard money loan and I usually use banks or private money but they charge me interest on the money I had not used yet when I was doing draws. Is that how it works with you guys as well or do you just charge interest once someone borrows that money and uses it?
[0:19:00.9] AK: We charge money on the full loan amount.
[0:19:02.6] MF: Okay.
[0:19:03.0] AK: We charge interest on the full loan amount.
[0:19:04.5] MF: Okay, alright and then I’m trying to think of – there is one other question I had that I think it just slipped out of my head. Is there a typical – I know you said that there are shorter terms but for flippers is there a minimum amount of time that they have to borrow money or maximum amount that you do for the flip loans?
[0:19:20.1] AK: 90 days is the minimum pre-payment period and it’s 12 months is the typical loan term. We offer a six month extension usually that we would have to validate before offering the extension.
[0:19:35.4] MF: Okay. Alright so you have the investors investing in the project, the investors borrowing, what kind of risks do the investors who are investing their money into these projects have? What if a flipper completely overestimated the ARV or his repairs are doubled and he is underwater, he hasn’t done a project and just disappears? You know worst case scenario.
[0:19:59.8] AK: Exactly and I think you just described potentially the worst case scenario. So with the residential debt investments, there is a lien on the property. If the borrower walks away from it, we do have the ability to foreclose and exit the property using our own realtor or whatever the best exit we think might be if we have to which we have a pretty big network of fixing properties. So we may know someone to purchase the property and that has happened before.
But yeah, I think that the potential that with any investment on our platform is that it could lose value and potentially not return all principle or interest. So that’s why we evaluate investors especially who are new to real estate helping them to understand what the potential outcomes may be and to make sure that the investments are really suitable for them.
[0:20:47.0] MF: Okay and then one thing, do you require those flippers to have skin in the game? Are you doing 90% or 85% loan to value ratios or anything like that?
[0:20:57.6] AK: Absolutely, they are required to have skin in the game.
[0:21:00.3] MF: Okay, great. So hopefully if someone is flipping a house and they are putting some money into it and even if things do go bad they aren’t losing very much money but it still could happen.
[0:21:09.7] AK: It still could happen right and that’s why we evaluate the borrowers upfront. We found that credit score and experience are two really good indicators of whether a borrower will be able to make a repayment. It’s not a perfect science but we’re looking at that. So I was talking about that earlier about how we can use data from previous experience to better improve our underwriting requirements and really understand the projects that we’re putting high quality projects for investing.
[0:21:35.7] MF: Okay, that makes sense. I know you said you do equity investments rather investments for the bigger rental property apartment complexes. Do you ever loan on smaller, single family rentals or the smaller apartment complex rentals?
[0:21:50.9] AK: We don’t loan on rentals right now on the smaller rentals. It’s something that we’re contemplating but we don’t loan on rentals right now. What we do have is a commercial debt program which is in the larger building. So we have debt offerings and equity offerings on larger apartment buildings but for right now we don’t offer loans for rentals.
[0:22:11.8] MF: Okay, that makes sense. I know it is a little trickier to judge returns and how long people have their money on it on a smaller rental.
[0:22:20.0] AK: Right.
[0:22:21.3] MF: Alright, so I guess we have the risks for the person investing kind of the outline of how it works, how they do it, is there a maximum amount that you let those investors invest? I mean if they want to spend more than $25,000 can they invest more?
[0:22:37.1] AK: They absolutely can invest more. Part of what we’re doing here though too when we’re having those initial investor conversations is to make sure if they do want to invest more and we do have investors who make significantly higher investments to make sure that in terms of their overall investment portfolio is not a significant concentration. That they really understand what they are investing in and that’s part of why we have my investor services team speaking with this broad group of investors but yeah, if a person wants to make a larger investment there is a minimum but not a maximum.
[0:23:08.4] MF: Okay, great and then I guess on the flipper side, what percentage of people do you think that come to you looking to fund their projects get funding? Do you have an idea of what that looks like?
[0:23:21.9] AK: Yes, I do. It’s under 5%.
[0:23:23.8] MF: Okay, so you got to meet pretty strict criteria to get your deal.
[0:23:29.4] AK: You do and I think because some of them just aren’t a good fit for the platform for whatever reason their rental so that knocks out a lot of them but we really do widdle down the deals quite considerably from what comes through and how many applications we receive.
[0:23:45.2] MF: When you are looking at a flip deal, do you guys look at what percentage of ARV they’re buying it for with the repairs? Do you have any formula in house that you want to see a property meet before you’ll even think of approving it?
[0:23:59.4] AK: Yeah, it is usually between 65 and 70. There’s a science to it because we’re going to take the appraisal into consideration but that’s about what we are looking for.
[0:24:09.7] MF: Okay, great. That makes sense and that’s pretty typical in the industry of what they want to see for the spread as well and as a flipper myself, I think if you go much over 70% you’re asking for trouble anyway.
[0:24:21.8] AK: Right.
[0:24:22.7] MF: Awesome. Well I think I went over everything I wanted to cover. Do you have anything else you’d like to add for either the investor investing into the company or someone looking for money to take back out of a project?
[0:24:33.4] AK: Yeah, certainly. The best way to get to understand the way we present offerings is that we have on the platform is to sign up. My team is available to answer any questions about the process. That can certainly be a change from what people have been doing before but we have a lot of really experienced people here to work with investors and for borrowers. So I would encourage your listeners to sign up and check us out.
[0:24:55.8] MF: And that’s just realtyshares.com right?
[0:24:58.1] AK: Correct.
[0:24:59.0] MF: Okay. I know you guys have been really easy to communicate with, really good to work with. I know a few people who have used you and have been very happy with it. If someone is looking to invest money into a project, how long does it typically take them to get approved and get into the system?
[0:25:16.1] AK: There is a 30 day cooling off period which can be way - if you speak to a member of the investor services team that is a compliance measure that’s suggested so you get time to understand the platform and we have some time to understand what your interests are. So that can be overcome though with a conversation. Otherwise, you can start investing right away. So the second you move through that cooling off period as long as you are an accredited investor you can start investing right away.
[0:25:43.3] MF: Okay and do you need to see tax returns or net worth statements or something to prove that they are an accredited investor?
[0:25:52.4] AK: We ask that investors fill out an investor profile that goes through their career and their income history and their overall investment mix so far and that’s what we evaluate when looking at a first time investor when they are placing their first time investment.
[0:26:07.0] MF: Okay, awesome and I guess one last question I have and I think you told me, you said you had 40,000 investors or 4,000?
[0:26:14.7] AK: 40,000 registered investors on the platform.
[0:26:18.4] MF: Wow, how many of those do you think are actually actively investing?
[0:26:21.7] AK: It’s hard to say, probably around 15% or so.
[0:26:25.7] MF: Okay, very cool. Alright well I think those are all the questions I had. Great information, I know it’s brought a completely new way to invest in real estate. There is a lot of people out there who want to get involved in rentals or flips and they don’t have the money needed to get started. It’s not as easy as having 20,000 in the bank to flip a house. You need a lot more than that or to buy a rental and it is very interesting how this has evolved.
Great information, I know it’s going to be interesting to see how it evolves more and more and also provides another financing method for those looking to flip or do bigger projects. So it is a pretty exciting technology. So thank you for being on the show Amy. I really appreciate it. Anything else you want to share with us before we head out of here?
[0:27:08.8] AK: No, that’s all. Thank you so much for having me. It was great chatting with you.
[0:27:11.8] MF: Alright, great. Thanks again and yeah, hopefully we’ll be in touch.
[0:27:14.9] AK: That sounds great.