SAN FRANCISCO—Nav Athwal is co-founder and CEOof RealtyShares, a leading crowdfundingfor real estate platform. Prior to foundingRealtyShares, he was a real estate and land useattorney at San Francisco based Farella Braun & MartelLLP where he represented developers, fund managers,nonprofits, governmental organizations and REIT's on some of thelargest mixed use residential, commercial and renewable energyprojects across the country. GlobeSt.com recently caught upwith Athwal to chat about trends in crowdfunding, the types ofinvestors in the space and anticipated trends going forward.

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GlobeSt.com: Can you tell us about a specificcommercial deal RealtyShares has crowdfunded?

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Nav Athwal: We recently crowdfundedStrawberry Creek, an approximately 63,000-square-foot retail centerin Sacramento. The center is not only shadow-anchored by Target,but also has national and regional tenants such as Starbucks, JambaJuice, Panda Express, Subway and Rubio's. For us, this wasespecially exciting because RealtyShares' Investors had anopportunity to invest alongside and on the same terms asinstitutional investors through PacificCastle, a very reputable Southern California-basedinvestment company. The opportunity offered immediate cash flow toinvestor's as well as upside potential at time of sale. Altogether,we had 25 investors in 13 states participate.

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GlobeSt.com: What are some other commercial dealsyou've funded and are you noticing any trends?

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Athwal: We've crowdfunded over 40investment opportunities across 10 states and with a total value inexcess of $100 million through RealtyShares. In addition toStrawberry Creek, we've funded mixed-use assets in Phoenix,multifamily assets in Texas, Chicago and New Jersey and governmentleased buildings in California.

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We've experienced that it's easier to fund cash flowingopportunities through the crowd than blind-pool funds andconstruction and ground up development projects. Thus, we arecurrently not funding those types of investments.

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GlobeSt.com: What types of investors are you seeingusing crowdfunding to invest in real estate?

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Athwal: One of the benefits ofcrowdfunding is its transparency and level of control. UnlikeREITs, our investors can select a specific asset in a specificmarket to match their own personal investment strategy or portfolioneeds. In addition, our investors are excited about directinvestments in real estate as a way to diversify their portfoliowhile reducing over-exposure to highly-volatile publicequities.

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Currently, all investors using the RealtyShares platform toinvest in real estate have been Accredited US Investors, whichmeans they meet strict standards related to their income and assetsas set by the US government. Our investors range in age, occupationand location. We have doctors, accountants, entrepreneurs,engineers, C-level executives, lawyers and others from almost everystate in the US using RealtyShares. We also support investmentsthrough Self-Directed IRA's thus allowing investors to usetax-deferred dollars.

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What's even more exciting is that the JOBS Act, which wasenacted in April 2012, will allow non-accredited investor's toparticipate in our crowdfunding platform for the first time. That means that anyone, anywhere, could potentially take part inthese real estate investment opportunities, democratizing access tothese investments. We hope to see this act become operable by theend of the year.

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GlobeSt.com: What sort of trends do you anticipategoing forward?

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Athwal: Two years ago when we startedRealtyShares, most of the conversations surrounding crowdfundingfor real estate were met with blank stares and skeptics. Today,it's the hottest topic in national platforms and events hosted byICSC and ULI. Over the last 18 months, crowdfunding platformslike RealtyShares have raised close to $100 Million of debt andequity capital for dozens of real estate projects nationwide. This number will grow exponentially over the next few years ascrowdfunding continues to gain momentum as a way for sponsors toraise capital and investors to invest in quality real estateproperties. We also expect to see institutional and foreigninvestors become more engaged with crowdfunding platforms.

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Additionally, we expect to see even higher profile commercialreal estate deals come through crowdfunding platforms, and forcrowdfunding to represent more of the raised capital of a completeddeal. Take Strawberry Creek for example. Although we helpedraise equity capital for this investment opportunity, third partyinvestors were also involved. As crowdfunding continuesto gain popularity, we'll see platforms like RealtyShares providingall of the equity capital (rather than only a portion) for highquality commercial real estate investments like StrawberryCreek.

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GlobeSt.com: How does it work for aninvestor?

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Athwal: Prospective Investors' cancreate a free RealtyShares Investment Account and get access tocurated, nationwide real estate investment properties. Duringthe account creation process, all investors must verify theirstatus as an accredited investor and only those meeting the minimumthresholds are provided access to active investmentopportunities.

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Investors can access specific information on any given propertyincluding financials, legal documents, property specificinformation and FAQs. If interested in investing, theinvestor can complete the entire process through our secureplatform signing all documents electronically and transferringfunds via ACH. Our current minimum investment amount is$5,000. Investors also have access to an investor dashboard throughwhich they can monitor their investments, earnings, legal and taxpaperwork, etc.

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GlobeSt.com: How does it work for a real estatesponsor or company?

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Athwal: Real Estate companies canapply to raise debt or equity capital for real estate offeringsdirectly through our website. The online application requestsinformation on the companies track record, deal type, size andlocation, dollars transacted, deal strategy (i.e. development,reposition, value-add flip, etc.) and the contact information of acompany representative.

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We use this initial application to screen those companies thatare not a fit due to lack of experience or a strategy that doesn'talign with our investment thesis (i.e. development deals, dealslocated in a market we're not operating in, etc.). If thecompany appears to be a fit, we'll proceed to vet the principals ofthe company and the deal. This includes criminal backgroundand credit checks on the Sponsor and underwriting the deals usingour proprietary underwriting techniques. Once an investmentis curated and approved, we can fund it within 24 hours and up tothree weeks depending on the size of the raise.

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Natalie Dolce

Natalie Dolce, editor-in-chief of GlobeSt.com and GlobeSt. Real Estate Forum, is responsible for working with editorial staff, freelancers and senior management to help plan the overarching vision that encompasses GlobeSt.com, including short-term and long-term goals for the website, how content integrates through the company’s other product lines and the overall quality of content. Previously she served as national executive editor and editor of the West Coast region for GlobeSt.com and Real Estate Forum, and was responsible for coverage of news and information pertaining to that vital real estate region. Prior to moving out to the Southern California office, she was Northeast bureau chief, covering New York City for GlobeSt.com. Her background includes a stint at InStyle Magazine, and as managing editor with New York Press, an alternative weekly New York City paper. In her career, she has also covered a variety of beats for M magazine, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, FashionLedge.com, and Co-Ed magazine. Dolce has also freelanced for a number of publications, including MSNBC.com and Museums New York magazine.