This is an article that was originally published in De Telegraaf.
The fact that real estate is a booming business will not have eluded many. However, playing along in that market seemed so far to be reserved for the wealthy elite, until now. Not only does a sky-high threshold stand in the way, but also the lack of transparency and guarantees discourage many investors.
This will change for good if it is up to Max Crowdfund. At the Rotterdam office of Max Crowdfund, with a magnificent view of the river Maas, they are done with the shyness of the traditional investment world. The office is coloured by sympathetic and mostly young employees who, not only move mountains for their clients, but also co-invest in every project offered. 'Skin in the game,' they call it. These employees consider this to be perfectly normal.
The atmosphere is relaxed, but hard work is certainly being done on the platform through which everyone can co-invest in the real estate market. The idea is simple: you look at the supply of properties and investment periods and choose what you invest in and how you diversify your money. You don't have to bother with the whole 'flipping' (the process of purchasing, renovating and selling, ed.). Even better, you don't have to touch a single stone. You can participate starting at just 100 euros. They don't call themselves the 'Robin Hood of the real estate world' for nothing. "We make sure that people who are not swimming in money can also benefit from real estate," explains CEO Felix Berkhout. With his 25 years of experience in the industry, he can safely be called the senior of the bunch. Together with the management board, the company counts a large international real estate experience. Max Crowdfund, therefore, received an exemption from the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) early on in its existence.
"We really started Max Crowdfund out of our own frustration," Berkhout continues. "A high return usually goes hand in hand with a high risk. You subsequently end up with shady funds and like-minded managers. With all the associated frustrations. We asked ourselves: 'How can you combine security with a good return? We found the answer in stones. Or rather, in stones as collateral. We offer a good return of often 10 to 12%. Currently, the average return on all loans on our platform is no less than 8.95%. Because we offer the bricks as collateral on the investment and never lend more than 90% of the execution value, the risk is extremely low. Now compare that to opening a savings account via your bank, investing in a fluctuating fund, or in the volatile cryptocurrency market. In addition, we only offer projects in which we ourselves are fully invest invested. As a company and as employees. All of them."
Because there are several investors investing in properties, small amounts are enough to participate. All you have to do is register, choose a project you like and invest in it. No hassle with notaries, brokers or contractors. All the work is taken off your hands. After that, it's really just a matter of checking your account every month to see your interest coming in. "Laziness and profitability have never been so easy to combine," says Berkhout, laughing.
But where is the catch? "Well, there simply isn't one," says Berkhout. "What you see is what you get. Of course, every investment comes with a risk. But I really don't know of a safer way to get such a high return. In addition to the property as collateral, we never lend more than 90% of the execution value of a property. This is always lower than the market value and so that we can remain underneath it. It would have to be rather strange for an investor not to get their money back when the term of the loan has expired. So it's not surprising that we have a 100% success ratio up to now. Or as we say in our world: a 0% default. Moreover, we have projects with different terms. You choose whatever you feel comfortable with. The average term is 15 months, so anyone who can spare a few months worth of money and aspires to attain monthly returns in exchange is at the right address."
The employees of Max Crowdfund co-invest quite often. See Julia van der Kooij, content manager at Max Crowdfund, who also co-invests in every loan - as far as her financial situation allows her to. The employees certainly don't have to do that," says Berkhout, "but they see that it works, so they want it. We also notice this among our regular customers and that is why many projects in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany are already financed within a few minutes. This influx of investors can be considered to be a 'surge' because they all want to get on the plane well before takeoff. This is both effective as well as sustainable because the more investors, the more projects we can offer."
Anyone who visits the website will see that you can be a real estate entrepreneur in as little as an hour's time. You can create your own portfolio of projects in which you invest and everything is fully automated. So it's very easy to play along with the 'big boys'. "You can always start small to see how and if it works and if you like it," says Berkhout. "And you decide for yourself whether you want to invest more to get an even higher return. But it's just great that investing in real estate is now so easy and actually accessible to everyone. That is what it was all about for us. Yes, of course, we would like to make some money. We are entrepreneurs, after all and this is why we charge a monthly fee of 0.1 percent of the outstanding investment amount, which is all neatly arranged on our 'fees details' page. What you see is what you get; no hidden costs and full transparency. Above all else, we would like others to make money too and hope the lack of transparency in the investment world will become a thing of the past so that there are equal opportunities can become a thing of the future. With the Max Crowdfund platform, we turn these possibilities into reality."