Real estate crowdfunding booms in Asia despite regulatory uncertainties
In Asia, real estate crowdfunding is mostly about presales and debts, instead of equity investment, as regulators have yet to pin down the details on how they would like to govern the fledging industry.
Mainland China had 128 crowdfunding online platforms as of the end of last year, including 32 for equity, according to a report by 01caijing, which provides broader online financial services, including data and research.
Although none of them are only targeting the real estate sector, many developers have been actively using such platforms to reach out to potential home buyers at a much earlier stage than before, as part of their efforts to reduce inventories.
Apart from that, crowdfunding can also help cut construction, marketing and sales cost while speeding up cash collection, said Shi Kancheng, chairman of Zhong An Real Estate.
Zhong An, like many other rivals, embraced the internet by testing crowdfunding in July when it put for sale online some units in a new project in Hangzhou.
“That enables us to find specified demand first and then make products,” he told the South China Morning Post.
Crowdfunding, which pools funds from a large number of investors via the internet, was acknowledged by Premier Li Keqiang last year and legalised in December. Then 10 different ministries issued a joint set of guidelines in July to define it as a public small equity investment via the internet to fund start-up firms. In August, the China Securities Regulatory Commission issued a notice to check crowdfunding activities in the country.
Despite regulatory uncertainties, many mainland developers including Dalian Wanda Group and Country Garden have been raising funds and selling homes through crowdfunding websites such as Zhongchou.com and e-commerce platform Taobao’s crowdfunding channel.
In Singapore, where it is not clear whether such investment activities should come under the oversight of the city state’s monetary authority, real estate crowdfunding operator CoAssets has been operating for more than two years and got listed in Australia’s junior stock market in July as it expands across the region.
“We have observed that developers, after using our site to crowdfund, found it very effective to reach out to the crowd to also sell some of their products,” CoAssets co-founder Getty Goh told a forum in Macau.
Most of the website’s recent listings are tagged as “presales” rather than “crowdfunding.” For example, a developer called Jalin Realty International is marketing a residential project in Melbourne. Apart from introduction of the project and contact information, the website showed minimum investment is A$340,000 and that 28 investors are interested as of Friday.
The listing on the National Stock Exchange of Australia is a step to bring itself to a larger regional audience and getting prepared for an eventual initial public offering in one or two more years.
Goh described CoAssets as a website for developers to raise bridge loan or short-term working capital at a maximum amount of S$5 million per deal.
“The hardest sum to raise is between the S$500,000 and S$2 million mark, because it is too big for friends and families to chip in, but too small to get banks interested in,” he said.
CoAssets has raised S$40 million through over 30 successful deals, in the form of debts. But Goh is moving into equity investment in Malaysia, where the local securities regulator approved six equity crowdfunding operators in June, ahead of many other Asian nations.
CoAssets is also looking at opportunities in Indonesia and China. The current project listings on its website come from all over the world, including London and Tokyo as well as cities in China and Cambodia.
“There is a lot of demand for this kind of services here in Asia,” Goh said, when pointing out that the number of registered investor on CoAssets’ website has soared above 26,000.