YC-Backed RealCrowd Rides The Crowdfunding Wave To Pool Capital For Real Estate Investments

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Hardware projects. T-shirts. People. Scientific research. Crowdfunding is getting applied to every possible niche vertical.

Now a Y Combinator-backed team is looking to bring crowdfunding to real estate, with big-ticket projects that often start at around a $10 million range.

Called RealCrowd, the startup is the brainchild of Adam Hooper and Roman Rosario, two longstanding real estate investors who worked for a Sacramento-based brokerage called Palmer Capital. At Palmer, Hooper and Rosario helped closed on more than $3 billion in investment transactions and was involved in managing investments in buildings like the ones on 625 Market St. or 260 California St. in San Francisco.

“There have been very few actual technology improvements with real estate investments over the last few decades, so the opportunity to change that only happens once in a life time,” Hooper said.

RealCrowd is aiming to give accredited investors the chance to put in as little as $5,000 to $10,000 to participate in larger commercial real estate transactions.

Each property on the site is vetted and features a business plan, detailing any kinds of improvements or maintenance that may be needed over the life of the investment. RealCrowd clients become minority stakeholders that entrust the operations and maintenance of the property to a real estate operator vetted by RealCrowd. Because Hooper and Rosario have been in the business for so long, they say they’ve accumulated enough relationships to know trustworthy operators, that will have profiles with their track records on the site.

“Going into it, you’ll know if the plan is for a 25-year lease to Walgreens with no capital improvements — which is a very straightforward deal, or whether it’s to buy a building in SOMA and renovate it,” Hooper said.

While every deal is totally unique, each RealCrowd investor would ideally receive rental cashflow or returns in proportion to their stake in the property. RealCrowd takes a small transaction fee and an asset management fee to cover their administrative expenses, which would probably be in the 2 to 4 percent range of total equity committed upfront and then a 0.5 to 1 percent annual asset management fee.

Hooper says this is less than the fees an investor would pay to participate in a REIT, or real estate investment trust, where 15 percent might go toward fees before investing in the property.

While every deal is different, RealCrowd’s investments will likely be in a preferred position before the operators, who manage the deal — meaning RealCrowd and its clients would take their capital out before the operators in a sale.

While there are a ton of other real estate crowdfunding startups, Hooper says many are focused on residential real estate, not much larger and more high-profile commercial deals.

For now, accredited investors have to sign-up to browse the site. But in 60 days, once the SEC’s ban on open solicitation finally lifts, RealCrowd will be able to publicly show off properties in its portfolio.