The House Crowd – ISA Review

Overview

Founded in 2012 by Frazer Fearnhead and Suhail Nawaz, The House Crowd was one of the UK’s first property crowdfunding companies and has invested more than £84 million in more than 365 properties. Typically, these are loans that are used to refurbish and sell a property for profit. Basically, the House Crowd enables likeminded investors to get together, buy a property, do it up and sell it on.

The firm says it’s committed to transparency, honesty and keep things simple and being committed to socially responsible business. To the company’s credit, it has already paid out £30.3 million to more than 23,000 investors and the blog section on the website gives investors updates and plenty of information on loan performance.

Interestingly, MD, Frazer Fearnhead appeared on the TV series, Dragon’s Den, pitching for a £1 million investment in the House Crowd for 5% equity. Although he was unable to secure any takers.

Customer service

The website is colourfully illustrated, light-hearted, slight irreverent and to the point – clearly aimed at small and amateur investors rather than professionals or high net worth individuals. How IFISAs work in general is well explained and there is very detailed information on the available properties for investors to make up their own mind.

It’s fairly easy to get started, and the House Crowd’s auto-invest service makes it easy to regularly fund your investment. Reviews at TrustPilot are generally good. This IFISA provider commands a four-star rating, but some customers say that updates could be more regular.

The stats

The House Crowd ISA

Investors have two options: a fixed income product that promises to pay between 7.5% and 10% annually, or, a shared equity arrangement where investors take 75% of rent and/or a share of the profits when the property is sold.

When a property is fully funded, the House Crowd take care of the rest of the details such as renting it out or sale. All properties have a minimum five year term before being sold, and only after a shareholder vote.

The House Crowd recently launched a new auto-invest service promises to diversify investors’ money across a wide range of secured property loans, minimising risk. The Property Crowd promise a net return of 7%, tax-free, of course, from this service, with interest paid twice per year, or compounded for an annualised return of 8.2% over five years.

Security

The loan is secured on the land with a legal charge at the Land Registry, but obviously there is no guarantee that a buyer will be found (although to date this hasn’t happened). Furthermore, your capital is at risk if a developer goes bust or the property doesn’t secure the forecast price. However, the House Crowd promises to prioritise investors’ capital as soon as the value has been recouped from property sales. Interest is paid later when all the properties are sold and all investors have received their capital.

There’s plenty of detail on the website about each property so investors can perform their own assessment on risk and potential profitability, before choosing a preferred investment. When it comes to making payment, rather than making payment online using a debit card, the money has to be transferred to a solicitor where it is kept in a ‘ring-fenced’ account as an added safety measure. Should the House Crowd go bankrupt, your money is returned to you.

Conclusion

The 25% fee charged by the House Crowd looks high compared to other IFISAs, however, most investors seem to think it’s reasonable given the advantages. The suggested rates of return appear to be quite conservative in the current housing market with a more realistic rate of 11% being achievable on the equity based model. Of course, this could all change with any downturn in the housing market.

The House Crowd is an excellent option for those looking to invest in property development but lack the high level of funding required for going it alone. It also offers the opportunity to diversify your investment by splitting your cash across a number of properties. All in all, a solid business model for those looking for a property based investment.

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Originally Published: Thursday, October 25th, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

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