Potential homebuyers could crowdfund their future homes

by Chelsea Niaz

Fundrise, a Washington D.C. managing company, created a way for prospective homebuyers to crowdfund their future homes.

Public investors buy shares in an “eFund,” a limited liability company that develops housing in the city. Investors must make a minimum investment of 100 shares at $10 per share with a limit of $50 million in shares, according to Fast Company. Those funds are then used to build new condos and detached homes using empty lots most developers ignore.

“There’s a very deep, systemic problem around supply,” Ben Miller, co-founder and CEO Fundrise, said to Fast Company.

Fundrise intends on launching the service in Los Angeles, a city chronically undersupplied in homes with more prospective buyers existing than homes to satisfy them. Los Angeles homes are also unrealistic for a large segment of prospective homeowners, millennials. According to Curbed Los Angeles, four out of 10 millennials live with their parent because of monetary constraints. These young people are Fundrise’s main focus.

“There’s a generation of people that can’t afford the houses that they want,” Miller said. “The houses that they want aren’t being built…the traditionally-funded system is building the wrong houses, in the wrong place, and the young generation, people that are first-time homebuyers, aren’t buying those homes. They don’t want to live in the suburbs. They don’t want to spend an hour and a half each way in the car every day.”

This philosophy is behind the company’s intention to bring “mixed-use, walkable urban” places to millennials who want to move out of their parents’ places and into their own.

Changing the way we build and buy

For Fundrise, crowdfunding started at the community level. The company, founded in 2012, first introduced commercial crowdfunding for new restaurants, cafés and apartment buildings.

“We focused on this idea of changing how the whole financial system works,” said Miller. “Today, it’s extremely top-down. A bunch of old white dudes decide what gets funded, what gets built.”

To combat this, Fundrise constructs buildings on often-overlooked lots and commits to projects that defy construction expectations. One example of this is the recent construction of a Whole Foods in one of Chicago’s most economically-depressed communities.

Fundrise projects building between 250 and 750 homes over the next five years. Once the houses are ready, crowdfunders a.k.a. “homebuyer investors” can either buy the units or profit from their investment as the homes sell. They estimate average home prices ranging from $700,000 to $1 million in consideration of cost of land, materials and labor. Los Angeles’s already competitive housing market plays a large factor in their predictions, there will be variation in price range for homes in other cities.

Although the houses’ price tags may scare off millennials, the usage of online tools to invest in their future could be a big draw. Considering 56 percent of millennials most likely used the internet to purchase their current home and 86 percent are most likely to use a mobile device to search for homes.