Tag: <span>commercial real estate investment</span>

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain once remarked when an overexcited journalist transmuted the illness of a friend Twain was visiting into the fanciful poverty-stricken death of the author.

Many in the P2P industry will know how he feels after the insolvency specialist Damian Webb reheated some leftovers from his AltFi 2019 “State of the Market” article at a recent NARA (Association of Property and Fixed Charge Receivers) conference. As the man charged with recovering funds from the Lendy wreckage, Webb, a crocodile tear welling up in his eye, pronounced that “P2P lending, from my perspective, is dead”.

For his “perspective” read, “from the point of view of one whose main professional interaction is with patients who are dead, or nearly dead”. It’s like asking an undertaker who will win a marathon. We called Mr. Webb out on the same material nearly two years ago [1], and yet the record hasn’t changed.

Yes, Lendy was an appalling car crash which should never have been allowed to happen. But we (along with other informed commentators on P2P, such as 4thWay) were calling out Lendy’s bad practices long before they came to Mr. Webb’s professional attention.

In fact, long before they appeared on the administrator’s slab, 4thWay actually refused to list Lendy among the P2P institutions they commented on, citing “lack of access and little information about its processes, performance, people and legal structure. Its publicly provided information left a lot to be desired and serves as a warning to prospective lenders attracted by high interest rates and vague concepts of property security” [2].

Mr Webb’s pronouncements at the Insolvency Practitioners’ jamboree were reported in an article entitled ‘The downfall of P2P lending: self-valuation, excess capital and no experience’ [3] and described “the shocking details of how the once booming P2P property lending market collapsed”.

By “collapsed”, he of course means that, of the scores [4] of regulated P2P lenders, 26 have withdrawn from the market and only 8 of those actually went down owing money to investors. Of the remaining 18, three switched to institutional only lending, three changed to a new business model, four were sold and their new owners discontinued P2P operations and 8 decided voluntarily to close down. But only 8 actually went bust [5].

Of course, that’s eight more than anyone would like – and we truly feel for those who lost money to these bad platforms – but to suggest this represents a “collapse” of the industry is playing fast and loose with the facts. We would expect better of a financial professional.

And in his cataloguing of this “collapse” he somehow neglects to mention the many thousands of homes that would never have been built if P2P hadn’t stepped into the breach to help fund the building industry after the banks stopped lending in 2008. CapitalStackers has been instrumental in raising the money to build 118 houses and 433 apartments.

Webb cites the platforms’ withdrawal as “natural selection for the benefit of the market because the poor players are effectively being killed off because they are not competitive”, as if such a process is a unique feature of P2P. It’s not, of course.

Banks have gone bust, institutional lending operations have gone bust. So have newspapers, supermarkets, lawyers, accountants and even insolvency practitioners [6]. Badly-run, uncompetitive or ill-prepared companies in every industry have gone bust owing money – yet no one is writing about the death of supermarkets or accountants. Or even, dare we say it, insolvency practitioners.

So clearly Mr. Webb has an agenda, and to this Damian, all omens are bad. A man with the gift of hindsight is presuming to tell us the future.

He wipes a few smudges and finger marks off his crystal ball and pontificates that, “I think there will be more failures in that P2P space, but it has largely been fixed or closed down by the Financial Conduct Authority” [7].

Again, this is ill-informed. The tweak to the regulations imposed an obligation that retail investors must pass an “appropriateness test” and, in the absence of taking independent advice, limit their lending to 10% of their investments until sufficiently experienced (which equates to lending on two deals within the last two years) at which point they could change their status from “Restricted” to “Sophisticated”, for P2P purposes. Those platforms that voluntarily left the regulated space did so because the regulations were too much of a faff – but they weren’t “regulated out”. They simply weren’t committed enough to go the extra mile and left the business to those that were.

At this point of his speech, Dr. Hindsight may have managed the kind of frosty smile that killed off all the houseplants in the building and mustered an attempt at cheeriness – “There are a number of operators in that space that will do well. They are well run, they’ve got a good client base and they will continue” – Gee, thanks Damian – “but the market is moving very much towards alternative lending out of institutional funds” – Oh.

So then the man who has no professional knowledge of healthy P2P companies went on to proclaim that, “The future is alternative lending – P2P may be an aspect of that but it’s going to be a very small aspect”.

What exactly does this endgame specialist know about institutional funds? Or lending in general, for that matter (apart from the kind that’s ossified into terminal debt). Does he follow the view of some investors that the mere presence of an institution in a deal gives them comfort because people who deal in finance must ipse facto understand all forms of finance? Does he think the institutional lenders have some sort of expertise in property lending that would have prevented the Lendy bellyflop?

Well, they might have done, not because they understand property debt, but because they can smell the stench of bad practice.

But why on earth Webb feels institutional lenders are “the future” is an unsolved mystery. True, a few platforms have found them to be a useful source of funding fast growth, but at CapitalStackers we’ve only proceeded down that route (as indeed we do all routes) with caution, because our retail investors are so important to us. And since stability outweighs speed of growth in our book, we haven’t been in a hurry to secure a large institution’s funds. We’re not against an institutional tie up. Far from it – just as long as it doesn’t cut across our highly valued relationship with our existing investors who, after all, have been with us from the get-go.

On the other hand, we do work hand in hand with banks on almost every deal, which is an institutional partnership of a different kind. While we’re regulated by the FCA, banks, for their part, are subject to very high standards of regulatory control through the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority, which tightened controls further after 2008. In effect, this means banks can only lend up to around 60% Loan-to-Value ratio, otherwise they require more regulatory capital and business becomes less economical.

Which is the basis of our business model – funding the gap between a property developer’s equity and the amount it’s economical for the banks to lend – which is a sensible position for crowdfunding. Small investors who prefer not to tie their capital up in REITS or unit trusts can get involved in the kind of regulated, transparent deals that banks normally fund. This gives them more choice and flexibility. Not to mention the confidence generated by a deal fully funded from the outset.

And yes, this means we take a junior position in the “stack” to our bank partners, but this is a calculated and painstakingly assessed risk. Whilst in the repayment cascade the bank would be out first, it’s worth pointing out that they would never enter into a deal with a junior lender where they expected that junior lender to go into default, since this would also cause issues with their own deal.

Anyway, continuing to paint a portrait of the entire industry through his keyhole, Dr. Hindsight goes on to explain that the “historic failures in P2P lending over the last decade” (all eight of them) were all down to “shareholder greed, too much capital, using technology to cut out credit risk processes, and lack of experience in lending”. Furthermore, he states that “many of the people involved in fintech were more technology than finance-based, they had no financial background,” tarring the entire seagoing fleet with the same brush he used to damn the few that sank.

“There was no grey hair”, he goes on (boy does he go on!), “there was no experience, people just jumped into the sector, worked out there was an ability to deploy money and did so with minimal review of credit or understanding of lending.

“And they went into areas I think they deemed to be simplistic, i.e. property lending, but they didn’t really understand the issues involved.”

Which, to be honest, sounds a bit like, dare we say it, an insolvency practitioner predicting the future of an entire industry when he doesn’t understand the issues involved.

The above litany is nothing like our experience. In fact, it pretty much describes the opposite of the CapitalStackers business model. As catalogued by 4thWay, our shareholders’ demands are modest. Where there is still hair, it is grey. The experience of our directors’ spans decades of specialist property lending in major banks. Our credit processes are not automated, but still go through the time-proven process of staring into the borrower’s eyes and seeing his very soul (plus a lot of exhaustive financial modelling, independent surveys and information sharing with banks). And while we’ve had no difficulty raising funds for the kind of deal we publish (we recently broke our own record, raising half a million pounds in under a minute), deep due diligence into the quality of the deals is more important to us than the need to deploy vast amounts of capital quickly.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how much capital we have – if the deal doesn’t get through our narrow gates, that capital ain’t getting deployed.

So the suggestion that the kind of serious property lenders who form the backbone of this industry would “run roughshod over credit processes and standard banking processes that had been in place for years, creating significant value for themselves in the business but at significant expense of the retail investors investing into the platforms” would be libellous if they weren’t clearly the words of someone suffering from insolvency practitioner’s myopia.

The future of property-based P2P, Mr, Webb, cannot be borne on the broad shoulders of institutions alone. Yes, they bring a source of capital (in return for a steady income) – but if they had lending expertise, they would do it themselves. This is why they come to the P2P platforms in the first place. No, the future, as ever, is partnership – a marriage of resources and skills, with each team member bringing their best game.

As the interlopers and charlatans get weeded out, the field will be left to experienced property lenders, well-versed in banking best practices, lending on high quality deals with appropriate LTV ratios and maintaining complete transparency in all areas and at all stages with their investors. They will happily work with regulators, banks and investment institutions to create the best of all possible worlds for all investors, borrowers and, of course, the many happy people who benefit from the homes they help to build.

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We’re delighted to add a new layer of transparency on the CapitalStackers website.

On the new “Portfolio Statistics” page, members can find answers to general questions, such as how much cash we’ve raised in total through our investors, how much has been provided by banks and what the average investment is.

But it also allows them to browse through enlightening performance stats such as

  • Highest and lowest investor returns
  • Average return
  • Repayment performance
  • Risk and reward

Along with useful background information to explain any anomalies or unusual variations.

You may ask why we haven’t done this before. The simple answer is, until recently we haven’t had sufficient data. However, having reached the significant milestone of £60 million funding raised (that’s £45 million through banks and the rest through you) we feel the sample size is now robust enough to give you a meaningful set of statistics.

We’d like to take a moment to thank our investors and appreciate what a huge achievement they’ve helped to make possible – behind every statistic there is a viable, successful building project that would never have got off the drawing board if it weren’t for their collective support.

So now’s finally the time to stop hiding our light under the bushel.

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It’s still possible to earn double-digit returns from P2P without excessive risk. Look beyond the trends and big data and you can uncover some lucrative gems.  

The recent AltFi “State of the Market” report July 2019 had some sobering words for investors – particularly from BondMason’s CEO Stephen Findlay and the restructuring expert, Damian Webb. 

The report largely based its melancholy conclusions on the slackening growth in the Big Four – Zopa, Funding Circle, RateSetter and MarketInvoice – which gives you a summation that, while statistically correct, is incomplete and unhelpful to the investor. A bit like telling us all cars are unreliable because you once owned an Austin Allegro. 

Yes, the Big Four comprise the lion’s share of the market, but they also cover a limited field of vision – that is, they chiefly deal in unsecured loansor those not secured on easily identified concrete assets (with the exception of RateSetter’s property book) 

BondMason announced recently that it was pulling out of P2P due to these diminishing returns, but in this report Mr Findlay is keen not to appear a total Cassandra. 

Surveying the £6 billion world of peer lending from his vantage point atop a £54m loan book, he contended that net returns in the 3% – 6% range are achievable today at acceptable levels of risk and that the market is settling into a low-to-medium risk spectrum.  

“I still think there are some good opportunities to earn attractive risk-adjusted returns,” he shrugs, “but probably at the more conservative end of the market”. 

 

High returns aren’t the only yardstick. 

Had Mr Findlay looked a little further, he might have found reasons to be a little more bullish There are still opportunities for canny investors to make double digit returns without going on a white knuckle ride of high risk. Just because a return is high doesn’t mean you’re at the crazy end of the market. On the other hand, it’s equally possible to earn under 6 per cent and have the investment catching fire in your hands. High returns aren’t the only yardstick, although the way some commentators paint it, you’d think they were. 

It’s possible, for instance, to find platforms like CapitalStackers where you can lend to developers sitting on a reassuring chunk of equity and with Loan-to-Value ratios as low as 55% – and yet still make double digit returns in the time it takes to convert an old warehouse into upmarket flats.  

It’s also possible, to find platforms that are totally transparent and view regular and granular reporting as the duty of care it is, rather than an onerous and grudging requirement. 

The report overlooks opportunities like these and the nervous investor, led by pronouncements that lump together such diverse  “property lending” products as bridging loans, buy-to-let mortgages and development finance, might think that all real estate P2P is going to hell in a handcart. 

Particularly those that read the section written by Damian Webb. Viewing Mr Webb’s comments through the lens that he is an insolvency practitioner, may offer a little perspective. Were it possible to rub one’s hands and type at the same time, one can imagine Mr Webb doing just that here. 

“The sector is becoming more and more fraught with uncertainty,” he laments. ““Many of the alternative finance lenders have focused on markets that are underserved by traditional lenders or in spaces where traditional lenders do not operate. Banks and traditional lenders retreated from these areas due to the issues and losses they experienced during and after the financial crisis and consequently regard them as high risk.” 

Nowhere does he suggest that it’s possible to invest in platforms like CapitalStackers that work in tandem with the banks to mitigate the liquidity risk, partnering on deals the banks have every confidence in, and also to benefit from due diligence that is tighter and more thorough than many banks aspire to.

He laments that the elements of the business lending market he’s come across professionally are often characterised by limited data, which makes underwriting inherently difficult or challenging. 

He bases these insights on “his own experience of dealing with impaired business loan books” (although not specifying markets, connections or backgrounds), which is a bit like an undertaker giving us his opinion on who’s going to win the World Cup. 

He goes on to adumbrate about property lending in particular, whose yields “have fallen dangerously low during Britain’s long property boom”. 

“In Birmingham, for example,” he says, “five years ago it was possible to achieve residential yields of 7 per cent to 8 per cent. You would be lucky now to get between 4 per cent and 5 per cent. People are investing in development projects on the basis of these low yields.” 

Of course, the hearty chuckles of investors who’ve been comfortably pocketing 12, 18 and 20 per cent in CapitalStackers deals in recent months will be drowned out by Mr Webb’s ululations.  

Likewise, his complaints that P2P platforms don’t own their assets and loans can’t be sold to retrieve capital will be met with puzzled looks by CapitalStackers investors who trade their loans openly in the platform’s secondary marketplace. 

Yes it’s easy to look at big data and find patterns that frighten you. But big data leads to bad maths. And bad maths leads to poor investment.  

So rather than wring their hands about the bad operators in this market (and some of them were – and almost certainly are – very bad), the astute investor can find opportunities by looking through the leaden headlines to find the gold in the cracks between.  

Of course, there are risks in any investment market, and in property development the biggest risk – not necessarily the most likely, but the biggest – is the possibility of property values crashing more than 25%, burning through the comfort blanket and leaving lenders facing a loss. And of course, this kind of financial apocalypse is entirely possible – but then, all risk should be priced in by prudent platforms, and it makes sense to check this before investing. 

However, in property-based crowdfunding, fortune can still very much favour the lateral thinkerSo don’t be put off by the headline rates; don’t automatically assume that high returns mean high risk; and above all, don’t swallow whole what the “experts” tell you. 

Even when the whole world feels like it’s going to hell in a handcart, someone, somewhere is making money out of it. 

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CapitalStackers investors were invited to benefit from the refinancing of a popular ongoing project, which was already at an advanced stage of construction, with practical completion scheduled for May 2019.  

The original auction for the Boothferry Road development in Hesslewest of Hull city centrewas sold out in 24 hours, with investors bidding returns between 11.07% and 14.45% for Loan-to-Values of 63.3% and 69.8%, respectively. 

Hampshire Trust Bank  the senior debt provider – had increased their facility to cover cost increases caused by:  

  1. bad weather – necessitating deeper foundations and a temporary road, and 
  2. cost inflation for materials and labour. 

Of course, cost increases are never ideal, but we regarded these as fair. However, the developer wished to access additional working capital and restructure the funding to allow them to expedite the second phase and take advantage of the current, very positive sales momentum.  

In considering their approval, CapitalStackers’ risk assessors were impressed by the experience of the team (Craig Swales and Steve Vessey Baitson of Applemont), and the high level of reservations on the houses (mainly from first-time buyers with no chain).   

Applemont is an experienced player in housebuilding and general construction around East Yorkshire and Hull. Their knowledge of the Hull owner occupier market is sound – and clear evidence of this is shown by the keen early sales interest in the Hessle scheme.  

Eleven reservations have been taken on the fifteen new houses in the first phase and, of these, only one purchaser has a house to sell. Among the initial purchasers are seven first time buyers and six have paid a reservation fee. Six viewings over a recent weekend suggest ongoing demand for the scheme.  

The agreed sales prices already exceed the Savills valuation by £27,500 and currently stand at £2,057,500 in aggregate 

Craig Swales of Applemont said of the new deal, “It’s fantastic for a small developer to have this facility and flexibility. The ability to refinance on the move gives us much-needed agility in a fast-changing world and CapitalStackers make it so easy to adapt our scheme and raise the right money when needed”. 

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CapitalStackers – the hottest new concept in peer-to-peer lending – has added considerable weight to its board with the recruitment of new director Tony Goldrick.

The online platform specialises in property investment and development deals secured by commercial and residential real estate, so Tony’s considerable experience in both the banking and property sectors enhances the company’s powerful presence in this market.

After 30 years working for Royal Bank of Scotland, Tony spent the second half of his career in real estate finance – having established the bank’s first dedicated regional property lending team in Manchester in 1999. The success of the team led to expansion across the north of England, and at its height Tony and his team were managing more than £5.5bn of lending.

Tony is a well-known face in the real estate sector, with a wide range of contacts with developers, investors, property agents, banks, and other professionals.

Since leaving RBS in 2012, he has been advising a number of large regional property development and investment companies, and will continue in this role, complementing his involvement with CapitalStackers.

“This is an exciting addition to the board” said Steve Robson, CapitalStackers’ Managing Director.

“His experience and knowledge of real estate really complement our existing team and I look forward to working closely with Tony to push the business forward”.

As part of the pre-launch activities Steve Robson, Managing Director of CapitalStackers presented his new model at the highly successful Great British Private Investor Summit in London in March – unveiling an inventive template which augments traditional bank lending, allowing private and corporate investors to tailor their risk and return profile.

It’s likely to be a particularly attractive vehicle for investors, given that all loans are secured by commercial and residential real estate. The North West based firm has gained a lot of attention in this embryonic, but fast growing and dynamic sector.

CapitalStackers aims to be the first-choice destination for investors looking to finance property investments and development schemes. It’s the ideal platform for high net worth individuals or sophisticated investors with a minimum of £5,000 to invest, looking to achieve a better deal than the more traditional investment routes offer.

It is supported financially and professionally by Hallidays Ltd – a firm of accountants with an admirable reputation. CapitalStackers and Hallidays already have a successful track record in changing the world of property finance and information technology. In 1999 they set up pi-FRAME Ltd, a specialist software house which sells real estate lending risk analysis software to banks and property lending boutiques.

The CapitalStackers team have huge property lending experience and can introduce investors to well-structured and secured real estate lending deals, setting up relationships with experienced property entrepreneurs and giving attractive risk-weighted rewards.

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