If you were to ask people in the UK whether they would like to invest in property, most would say a resounding yes.
However, investing in property today is an expensive business – tens of thousands of pounds are needed for a deposit, and that’s before figuring out whether the rental income could cover the interest for a buy-to-let mortgage.
And let’s not mention the effort required to let, manage and stay the right side of all the regulation that has cropped up recently targeting landlords.
This is where property crowdfunding sites profess to be the future: invest in property from as little as £50 and they do all the work for a fee, including sourcing the properties, finding the tenants and providing management services.
The most popular sites are Property Partner and The House Crowd – with Property Moose (the first to be fully regulated) and Bricklane (the first to offer a property ISA account) providing a supporting cast.
But how successful is property crowdfunding as an investment, compared, say, with premium bonds and cash ISAS, which remain the most popular places for Brits to store their money – if you don’t count our own homes as an investment?
The numbers are staggering – 25m people have savings with premium bond provider NS&I and there is a combined £585bn held in ISA accounts.
So naturally we should judge the success of property crowdfunding websites – and their promise to democratise property investing – by the amount invested.
Here are all the websites we could find data on:
Property Partner – £107.8m of property invested in (£2.7m income earned)
The House Crowd – £74.5m (£16.7m income earned)
Property Moose – £13m
Bricklane – £8m
There were several other websites that are open to investors but were seemingly too small to divulge how much they have invested in and therefore were difficult to rank: Brickvest, Yielders, Crowdwithus, Crowdlords, Uown, Crowd2let, Capitalrise and Propertycrowd.
The combined c. £200m accumulated by property crowdfunding websites over the past few years is at best disappointing.
This isn’t the panacea of investing we were promised by endless articles on the topic of property crowdfunding.
Looking at posts on forums like Moneysavingexpert, many of the comments focus on the small amount of income after fees.
And in this climate of lower property price growth, income is all you can truly rely on when it comes to property investment.
Articles in the FT also point to the risks of investing for property price appreciation rather than for secure income.
Maybe that’s the problem: most people associate buy-to-let with runaway house prices – but that is something that few people believe in today.