Hong Kong company offers crowd funding for London property
Hong Kong promoter of the concept sets his first target as the London market, which may be beyond the price range of individual investors
As house prices in many markets increase, owning a piece of property is often just an aspiration for a lot of investors. A novel solution might help: online crowd funding.
A modern-day variant on pooled investments, online crowd funding allows hundreds of people to come together to support a fledgling company, sponsor a good cause, or now to buy property.
"The potential to disrupt business is huge - in a positive way," says property crowd funder Saeed Hassan. As chief of Crowdbaron.com he has created an online platform for Hong Kong purchases of London property.
The concept of crowd-funding property has taken off in the United States, with newly enacted legislation making it easier for firms to promote investment opportunities to the public. More recently, the idea has received a tentative welcome in Hong Kong.
Hassan's newly launched site focuses on off-plan central London property. For a minimum outlay, typically 1 per cent of the purchase price, an investor can join a syndicate.
If the target funds are raised, an offshore limited company is formed to acquire the property and investors get shares equal to their stake.
Shareholders will be bound by a deal that gives Crowdbaron.com the authority to manage the property and sell it once certain capital gains targets are met.
Crowdbaron.com's portfolio offers a range of strategies. Some properties are identified as medium-term plays with a focus on income and steady capital gain. Others are designed to be on-sold before completion.
Another entrant to the market is The House Crowd, a British-based firm specialising in lower-end housing in Manchester. Target houses cost around £50,000 (HK$619,000) plus renovation costs and come with a guaranteed 6 per cent rental yield. The minimum buy-in is £1,000.
While the casualness associated with an online transaction suggests these opportunities are potentially open to anyone with spare dollars, national regulations on the promotion and sale of investment schemes vary greatly.
Crowdbaron.com asks that Hong Kong resident clients demonstrate they are professional investors, as defined by the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), by proving they have liquid assets of more than HK$8 million and can complete an investment questionnaire showing they understand the potential risks involved.
Hong Kong regulators are aware of crowd funding but so far have shown no signs of changing the rules to make it easier to promote or invest in non-SFC authorised investment products.
Legislative councillor Sin Chung-kai said: "It is only five years since the Lehman Brothers issues and the banks and SFC are still cleaning up the mess. If we relax [the rules] that might cause some problems. (Professional investors) understand the risk. But most people do not understand thoroughly the risks and opportunities."