Friday, January 25, 2013

Crowdfunding for Real Estate: Buy a Slice of a Skyscraper

Photo illustration by Alis Atwel
Written by Max Raskin Bloomberg
 From the pyramids to the Empire State Building, the world’s largest structures have typically been financed by the superrich. New York-based Prodigy Network, best known for marketing the Trump SoHo hotel condominium, is now trying a different model: It’s bringing crowdfunding to real estate, soliciting thousands of investors to buy slices of a skyscraper in exchange for a share of rents and property appreciation. “The big difference from traditional real estate is that instead of buying into a fund with a pool of assets, people invest in a single asset,” says Rodrigo Niño, Prodigy’s founder and chief executive officer. “It lets them control the risk.” Prodigy has wanted to try crowdfunding almost since its founding seven years ago but didn’t get a chance until it stumbled on the derecho fiducario, a little-known financial instrument in Niño’s native Colombia that allows individual investment in isolated real estate projects. In Colombia, Prodigy has crowdfunded a building called BD Bacatá that will be the nation’s tallest. About 3,100 investors kicked in $171.8 million (COP308 billion) of the $239 million needed to build the 66-story skyscraper in downtown Bogotá. Investors can also buy and sell shares through a resale program, which functions like a secondary market. Prodigy is currently under contract to buy 84 William Street in downtown Manhattan for $58 million. It plans to invest an additional $32 million. Prodigy says it intends to raise some $26 million in equity from individual investors in 11 countries. FTI Consulting (FCN), based in West Palm Beach, Fla., will ensure that Prodigy complies with the U.S. tax code, as well as anti-money-laundering laws, when accepting money from outside the country. “Instead of buying crappy condos in South Florida, this allows international investors to invest in real markets like New York and in assets that actually make sense,” says Niño, who was raised in Colombia and studied economics in Switzerland. Prodigy says William Street investors will see returns of 15 percent, compared with 21 percent for investors in BD Bacatá. The company’s investors don’t yet include Americans because the U.S. allows only accredited investors—generally those who have assets of more than $1 million—to buy equity in private firms. That will soon change: The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, signed into law last April, allows anyone to invest as much as $2,000 or 5 percent of their income or net worth, whichever is greater, in closely held ventures. The Securities and Exchange Commission is still working on rules for investor safeguards required by the act. SEC guarantees may not be enough for leery U.S. investors, says Dan Fasulo, a managing director at Real Capital Analytics. “It’s hard enough to develop a property down the block,” Fasulo says. “How are you going to do it sitting 3,000 miles away?” Gustavo Gonzalez, a Colombian civil engineer who bought two shares of BD Bacatá in 2010 for 101 million pesos ($57,178), says the returns speak for themselves. Since his purchase, based on an advertisement he read in a local newspaper, the shares have appreciated by about 43 percent. “I like the idea that this is going to be the highest building in the country,” he says. Just as important, “I thought it was going to go up a lot, and that’s what happened.” The bottom line: Once the SEC finalizes its safeguards, ordinary American investors will be able to buy a slice of individual properties.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Crowdfunding Pubs 135 investors at a time...

Photo: Daniel Jones

The villagers who clubbed together to save their pub

A campaign to save the pub brought the village of Shottisham together.

Raise a glass to raising funds: the Sorrel Horse was saved from closure by the Shottisham community

 By Ian Evans11:29AM GMT 14 Jan 2013

 Buying your local and drinking the profits has long been a guffawing topic of conversation in pubs across the country. But when the Sorrel Horse in the Suffolk village of Shottisham was threatened with closure, the locals did just that and bought the 16th-century, picture-postcard hostelry, ensuring its survival for future generations. With an estimated 18 pubs closing every week according to the Campaign for Real Ale, villagers from the surrounding area bucked the national trend by raising the £350,000 asking price to buy the pub and, so far, nearly all the additional £100,000 for taxes, rethatching and other costs. One of the seven directors of the newly created Sorrel Horse Shottisham Ltd, Paul Venediger, said: “It started off as a chat among a few people and then grew from there. I think there was a feeling that we didn’t want to lose the pub because there isn’t much else in the village.” Unlike many threatened pubs, the Sorrel Horse was not owned by a brewer or pub chain but by a local businessman who had wanted to build seven houses on adjoining land and spend some of the profit renovating the timber-framed, Grade II listed building, including adding a conservatory. Fellow director Philip Bouscarle said: “There was a general feeling that it just wouldn’t happen, trade would go down and the pub would close and be converted into housing. We just didn’t want that to happen.” After initial meetings of an unofficial steering group in April and May 2011, they approached the owner and offered £350,000; he accepted by email within 24 hours. “He was very good throughout and is now a shareholder,” said Philip. “Once he accepted, we arranged a public meeting in the pub and sent out leaflets explaining what we wanted to do.” Around 70 people attended the first meeting in a village of around 160 people, some of whom use the properties as second homes. “People were asking about the price and how we’d make money,” said Paul. “We thought it was important that it should be a commercial venture and aim to make a profit because without that incentive, it won’t work. “We thought that without the pub, property values could fall £20,000 to £30,000 because Shottisham would just become a 'drive-through’ village,” he said. An official steering group was voted in to carry on the project. At the end of June 2011, banners were erected in the village, a website established and an off-the-shelf company created with five directors which would buy the pub. It was decided that shares would cost £500 each with a maximum individual investment of 45 shares with the added attraction of Enterprise Investment Scheme tax relief of 30 per cent for investors. By August 2011, the group had enough to buy the pub with 135 investors. In October last year, the pub held its first AGM and in early November published its first set of accounts. To date, 71 per cent of the 200 investors own two or less shares with most coming from local communities, but some as far away as Oman and Australia. Just three shares remain. Single shareholders and regulars Diana and Greville Bickerton, who live in nearby Sutton, were willing investors. “We didn’t buy shares for profit, it was for the sense of community – we didn’t want to lose the pub,” said Diana. Greville added: “There’s nothing here apart from the church and the village hall. “I’ve lived around here for 25 years and I’ve probably met more people in the last year through buying the pub that I’ve done before. “There’s been a real sense of community and people wanting to get involved. There’s a real feeling the pub is theirs and they want to come here and enjoy it.” The board of directors oversee the running of the pub which employs a full-time manager, two chefs and three part-time bar staff. They hold open meetings once every two months and aim to pay dividends, although none have been paid so far. However, buying the pub hadn’t been without contention. “There were some people who were against it and suspicious of our intentions,” said Philip. “Even now we get comments from a minority that we treat it like a personal fiefdom which is frustrating. But I think the majority of people are happy that the pub’s been saved.”

135 Investors put in an average of 2,592.00 pounds each.