Property Investment for All
Fred Bristol at Brickowner is looking to make property investment open for all with his crowdfunded investment platform
Article by Rupert Watkins
Property is a very British obsession. We talk about it, worry about it but certainly for many, it remains a nebulous aspiration. Fred Bristol aims to make taking that small investment leap into property that little bit easier with Brickowner. A property investment crowdfunding platform, it allows individuals to choose property investment opportunities and then invest through an online platform.
Fred has worked in property his entire career. He tried various summer internships whilst still at university, “I just found the time I spent with a property firm far more interesting than the other areas such as banking I had a look at” he smiles. Upon graduating, he worked in commercial and private property moving to Tallinn, Estonia for seven years. He enjoyed his time in the Baltic state, though he comments he was there just before the country gained its current reputation as a tech hub; nonetheless he still owns a small property out there himself.
Moving back to the UK, he worked on various properties in Suffolk and Lincolnshire in a variety of planning and development roles. In early 2015, Fred was considering buying property. At the time in East Anglia, “you could find substantial Victorian cottages at below new build prices. I began to think about the possibility of getting a fund together to take advantage of this.”
There are effectively three types of property investors that have appeared in recent years: large institutional investors, buy-to-let and private investors. Given the financial crash, banks have become ever more cautious about how they lend money. But the demand and desire to be able to invest in property by those who have smaller chunks of money still remains. During this period of peer-to-peer lending platforms and the ever increasing maturity and transparently of these facilitative investment conduits, the rise means Fred firmly believes there is now an opportunity to broaden access to property investing.
Based out of a tech hub just off Chancery Lane, Brickowner is an aggregator platform, allowing crowdfunding small investors to put up sums as low as £100 and enabling collective access to institutional grade property, “we give access to people who otherwise would never have the opportunity” remarks Fred, “with the accumulative money we have, we are also able to do the vetting process for the fund managers on behalf of our investors.” Brickowner is currently invested in residential development projects and student accommodation and Fred is considering expanding the scope to include sectors as diverse as hotels, care homes, and industrial. Working with asset managers, Brickowner analyses differing property areas and the overall property cycle, providing a way to diversify into property.
So far, the average size of investment on the platform is £1,200 and there are an increasing number of more sizeable investors, proving the concept behind the site remains attractive. Around 30 per cent of investors are UK expats keen to keep the proverbial finger on the property pulse back home. Gratifyingly, Fred has found that many investors have initially helped fund the business and then gone on to personally invest in property through the site.
There have certainly been challenges in setting up Brickowner, “everything online is so much quicker” comments Fred, “this has meant that much more investment and higher costs up front.” Despite the lack of direct competition, there is also the inevitable task of marketing the platform as a viable and transparent way of approaching property investment. There is also the ever present need to comply with FCA regulation.
Compared with other ways of investing into property, Brickowner offers a high level of cost transparency and provides thorough detail on the properties, allowing investors to have confidence in the platform. Fred has seen many investors lured by seemingly highly attractive return, some around the 14 to 15 per cent mark. These quite frankly “too good to be true” statistics do indeed mask stiff hidden costs, in some cases reducing the return by up to two thirds. The arena, he feels, needs to evolve and be shaken up. “Actually delivering on your projections is key to creating and nurturing long term relationship with your investors.”
Despite the obstacles, Fred is keen to drive Brickowner forward. “People will always have that natural affinity with property” he remarks, aware of this country’s all-consuming interest in it, “it’s something tangible.” Fred aims to offer a total annual return of around eight plus per cent – certainly an attractive possibility for individual investors and better than most available investment opportunities.
The firm is about to open its fourth round of angel investment. With the platform offering that element of equity and ownership – you can simply invest for the long term or opt to see an income from the individual’s proportional share in any monthly rental income – Fred hopes, “Brickowner helps people achieve life goals quicker and more efficiently by allowing them to invest in property for income and capital growth in a flexible and diversified manner.”