Real estate investing in the form of crowdfunding is one way you can get a stake in real estate without having to purchase it directly. This Groundfloor Review will show you some of the key points you need to know about investing and the debt side of real estate holdings.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in real estate but aren’t sure where to start, Groundfloor might be an option for you. With a low minimum investment amount and surprisingly affordable fees, Groundfloor has made real estate investing more than affordable.
Groundfloor is a crowd-funded real estate platform with as little as $10 and has reasonable fees. However, as with any investment, there is a potential for loss of principal investment.
Minimum start up
Ease of use
- Minimum to start
- Non-accredited investors
- No fees
- Investment in LROs risks
- Deferred investments
- No liquidity
In This Article
- What is Groundfloor?
- How Does Groundfloor Work?
- Who Can Invest With Groundfloor?
- Pros and Cons
What is Groundfloor?
As mentioned earlier, Groundfloor is a crowdfunded real estate investing company. It was founded in 2013 by Brian Dally (co-founder of Republic Wireless) and Nick Bhargava.
Their goal was to help the average investor have the freedom to participate in an investment asset class that was typically only available to higher-end investors.
You’ve probably heard and read about other crowdfunded real estate investing companies such as Fundrise. The difference between Groundfloor and other real estate companies is that Groundfloor gives you control over where and how you invest your money.
In the words of CEO and founder Brian Dally, the company “helps investors create their own portfolio of direct investments in individual real estate projects based on their own risk criteria.”
Other companies offer investments in real estate management companies instead. The Groundfloor website says that the client’s financial returns speak to the success of the company’s model. Its debt-based investment platform has gained returns averaging a consistent 10%+ over the last six years.
How Does Groundfloor Work?
Groundfloor offers real estate debt investments to investors, whereas other companies provide equity investments to customers. The difference is that debt investments seek to earn a profit by offering loans to real estate investors.
In contrast, equity investments seek to profit from rental income paid by tenants or capital gains if the property sells for a profit.
Groundfloor only deals in debt investments. Most crowdfunded real estate loans managed by Groundfloor run for 12 to 18 months. However, some loans are for even shorter terms.
Conversely, many other crowdfunded real estate companies have investment terms of three to five years in length.
When you invest with Groundfloor, your profits are either paid out monthly or deferred until the end of the loan, depending on the investment.
When the investment’s term is up, profits are distributed to investors. Investors can then reinvest or cash out–whichever they prefer.
Here’s how the company sets up and manages its investments.
Groundfloor’s Investing Process
Groundfloor’s real estate investing process starts when a real estate investment borrower wishes to borrow funds for a real estate project. Typically, the projects either involve refinancing for cash out on a short term loan or purchase and rehab (i.e., fix and flip) properties.
The borrower submits an application, and Groundfloor’s underwriting team vets and approves (or denies) the project.
Once a project is approved, the loan is given a grade as to its risk level: most loans are graded A through G. “A” loans have less risk, while “G” loans have the most risk.
The further down the alphabet the loan is, the higher the interest rate the borrower is charged. Then, when the loan is paid back, the lenders, i.e., the investors, earn a higher return rate.
As an example of potential returns, Grade A loans typically have a yield of 5.5%. Grade G loans have returns closer to 26%. However, the higher risk of lower-grade loans means there is more potential for loss of investments.
Groundfloor makes it easy for you to get information on each loan so that you can have a clear picture of the risk factors of each available loan. We’ll talk more about that later.
How Do I Get Started With Groundfloor?
To get started with Groundfloor, you head to the Groundfloor Investors page and begin the process to open a new account. You’ll start by sharing your name, address and other personal information on Groundfloor’s secure site.
Then you’ll add your bank account information through Plaid. Plaid is a Visa-owned company that helps consumers link their bank accounts with trustworthy financial partners.
After your bank account information is verified (Plaid uses multi-level security), you can transfer funds to your Groundfloor account. It takes a few days for the transfer to go through, but once it does, you can start investing.
If you’d like, you can set up automatic transfers from your bank account to your Groundfloor account. That way, you’ll always have funds in your account if you want to make investment purchases.
*Note: The Automatic Investment option is only available to accredited investors.
How Does Groundfloor Work?
When you’re ready to invest, sign in to your account and go to the “Invest” tab. Then you’ll see a list of investments that are available to you. All of the investments have important information about them displayed.
You can see information about each investment ,such as:
- Its risk/grade level
- The rate of return it will pay
- The length of the investment
- Where the investment property is located
- The loan term
- The project’s loan-to-value (LTV for cash-out refinances) or after-repair value (ARV for rehab projects)
Plus, you’ll be able to see how much money the borrower is looking for, and how much has been committed for funding. And lastly, you’ll be shown how many days are left before funding is complete.
Also, you can click on the link to the loan’s detail page to get further information on each loan.
Additional Loan Information
Groundfloor’s full-page detailed information gives a comprehensive list of facts about a loan and the borrower behind it. For instance, you’ll be able to see data in a rating-like format that can help you assess your comfortability with the loan.
Groundfloor rates the loan one through ten on factors such as:
- Loan to value
- The area of town the property is located in
- The borrower’s experience level
- Quality of valuation
And there’s more. For instance, one valuation grade is called “skin-in-the-game.” This grade gives you an idea of how much of the borrower’s own money is tied up in the project.
If the “skin-in-the-game” grade is a two out of ten, the borrower doesn’t have very much of their own cash committed to the project. In contrast, if the grade is an eight out of ten, they’ve got a lot of their own money applied to the project.
These types of additional details help you as an investor do a deep-level assessment of the project. That way, you can make a more informed decision about whether you want to invest in the project.
After You Choose Your Investments
Once you choose the projects you want to invest in and the amounts you want to invest in each project, you can complete your purchase.
At the end of the project term, you’ll receive your initial investment back, along with any profit you’ve earned. The monies will go into your Groundfloor investment account.
From there, you can reinvest in other projects, leave your funds in your Groundfloor account, or cash out your investment funds.
If a project fails to fully fund, any investment you earmarked for the project is returned to you with interest.
Closely Monitored Investment Projects
One way that Groundfloor works to help protect the investment projects it approves is with close monitoring of each project. Groundfloor’s Asset Management Team works to obtain monthly status updates on projects directly from the borrower.
The company also agrees to a schedule for completion with each borrower. If regular draws to help complete the project are not being made, Groundfloor sends an independent inspector to the project to check on its progress.
These regular inspections help ensure the safety of the investment. Also, anytime a borrower requests a draw, they have to get a new independent inspection of work completed and give a project update report.
The project update reports are then shared with investors. Besides, Groundfloor works with borrowers to ensure timely completion of the project and subsequent loan payoff.
All of these added steps help Groundfloor avoid potential problems with loan default.
What if the Loan Goes Into Default?
Whenever you’re investing in real estate loans, there’s a chance the loan could go unpaid. If it goes into default and funds cannot be collected, Groundfloor starts the foreclosure process.
Foreclosure is a last-resort solution, however. Groundfloor first works to resolve the situation in a way that works with the property owner to get the loan paid back. Finding a resolution first is important to the company.
There are several features that potential investors might appreciate.
Here are some of the company’s most prominent features.
- Groundfloor has a $10 minimum investment threshold
- Both accredited and non-accredited investors can participate
- The company works with residential properties only
- All loans are pre-vetted and pre-funded
- There are no fees for investors
Of course, the $10 minimum investment amount and the lack of fees for investors make for attractive features. These features help ensure that investing with Groundfloor is affordable. That means people in almost every financial situation can start to build wealth.
Who Can Invest With Groundfloor?
Groundfloor is available to both accredited and non-accredited investors. So, basically, anyone can invest with Groundfloor. And the company’s $10 minimum investment threshold was set in place to encourage investors from every wealth level.
Is Groundfloor Secure?
As far as online security measures go, Groundfloor is secure. They use bank-level security when it comes to online investor interactions.
Is Groundfloor an REIT?
Groundfloor is not a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust). Instead, Groundfloor issues investment shares in LROs (Limited Recourse Obligations). An LRO is a debt security.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of LROs from Investopedia.
Recourse debt is debt that is secured by collateral from the borrower. In the case of default, the lender has the right to collect from the debtor’s assets or pursue legal action. Recourse debt can either be full or limited. Full recourse debt allows the lender to seize and sell the debtor’s assets, including assets that were acquired through the original loan, up to the full amount of the unpaid debt.
Limited recourse debt allows the lender to only collect on assets that are named in the original loan contractual agreement. In effect, this type of debt gives the lender a limited amount of recourse to the borrower’s other assets in the event of default.
If the borrower defaults on his or her payments, the lender can exercise its rights concerning the collateral pledged; however, the lender’s recovery is limited to the collateral. In other words, if the collateral is insufficient to make up for the unpaid portion of the loan amount, the lender has limited or no claim against the parent company.
The borrower is not personally liable for any shortfall between the amount of unpaid debt and the amount realized on the collateral.
Limited recourse debt is secured up to a certain amount. For example, a loan on which 40% of the principal is collateralized is a limited recourse loan.
Groundfloor Holds a First Lien Position
Note that Groundfloor holds a first lien position on all loans it funds. Also, each loan is backed by its underlying real estate assets.
However, as with all investments, there is some risk of loss. For instance, Groundfloor holds the lien on the invested properties; investors do not. You are an unsecured creditor to Groundfloor.
Groundfloor does submit its LROs to the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) for qualification. So the loans are assessed by the SEC.
Nonetheless, there is some risk to you as the investor because you are investing in Groundfloor, and Groundfloor is investing in the properties.
So, if Groundfloor were to fail as a company, you would have no recourse to get your investment funds back.
Pros and Cons
As with any investment, Groundfloor has its pros and cons. Here’s a brief summary of some of the pros and cons of investing with Groundfloor.
- Minimum investment of $10 makes Groundfloor accessible to almost all people
- No need to be an accredited investor
- Small minimum investment means high potential for diversification
- Thorough vetting process for potential borrowers
- Easy-to-use investor platform
- No fees for investors
- Investing through LROs can involve significant risk
- Borrowers can default on loans, which would affect investors negatively
- Deferred investments mean your cash flow will be delayed until the end of the loan period
Additional Information About Groundfloor
Here are some answers to other questions about Groundfloor you may want to know.
No, you don’t. International investors can invest with Groundfloor too.
Yes, investors can buy stock shares in Groundfloor. Groundfloor went public with the hopes of giving every investor a chance to own a part of the company.
You can buy your Groundfloor stock shares directly through Groundfloor. There is a minimum purchase requirement of ten shares of Groundfloor stock.
When you invest with a traditional REIT, your “basket” of investments is chosen on your behalf. With Groundfloor, you get to choose which investments go into your basket.
In other words, you create your own REIT. Groundfloor gives you information that helps you determine and manage risk and reward.
The loan details pages and loan comparison tool help you make informed decisions about what to put in your personal REIT.
Groundfloor focuses on single-family real estate projects.
Some of the types of projects they finance include:
Single-family residential homes
Multi-family dwellings of up to four units
Townhomes and condominiums
Planned Unit Developments
New construction homes (in some areas)
Note that Groundfloor does not finance commercial properties or mobile or modular homes. Also, they do not finance properties with over 3.5 acres of land, nor do they finance vacant land lots.
Yes, you can open a self-directed IRA through Groundfloor. Groundfloor partners with the IRA Services Trust Company to help you get tax-advantaged investing options in real estate investing.
You can set up self-directed IRAs through Groundfloor in a variety of types, including:
When you open an IRA account with Groundfloor, you can transfer funds directly from another IRA, do a rollover or make a contribution via a personal check.
As mentioned before, Groundfloor uses bank-level security to protect investors’ bank accounts. The company uses what’s called multi-factor authentication and AES 256-bit security.
You must pass multiple security levels before you have access to transfer money from your bank account to your Groundfloor account.
Groundfloor’s one-time-use passwords help ensure that passwords cannot be re-used if you need to log in again. And you will need to re-authenticate every 30 days as well.
All of these security steps are in place to help make doubly sure your personal information stays safe within Groundfloor’s online system.
All Groundfloor loans are short-term in nature. As discussed earlier, 12 to 18 months is typical, and some loans are much shorter than that.
When you invest with Groundfloor, you cannot withdraw your funds early. You must wait until the loan is paid out before you can have access to your invested funds.
Yes, Groundfloor does offer a referral program. If you want to refer family and friends to open a Groundfloor account, the company will reward you for your efforts. After you’ve opened your account, you’ll get a referral link to send to family and friends.
When a family member or friend opens a Groundfloor account using the referral link you sent them, you are eligible for a $10 cash bonus. You’ll get your $10 bonus deposited into your Groundfloor account when your referred party transfers money into their Groundfloor account.
Bonus: There’s no limit to the amount of $10 referral bonuses you can earn. The more people you refer, who open up and deposit into an account, the more cash you earn.
Groundfloor does not offer investment advice. So you’ll be totally on your own when it comes to choosing your investments.
Although the loan details pages do provide much information about each investment, you should not construe those pages as investment advice.
Your best bet to help protect yourself from investment losses is to do your due diligence research. Read the loan details pages carefully.
Learn what your risk tolerance level is by taking a risk tolerance quiz. Then decide on and manage your risk and invest accordingly.
Groundfloor’s Trustpilot score is low (3.6 out of 5), but I believe it’s because of a lack of reviews. There were only two reviews for Groundfloor on the Trustpilot site. Both were rated “Great,” meaning a 4 out of 5.
Neither of the reviewers had anything negative to say about the company.
Many successful investors tout the benefits of real estate investing. But most people can’t own and manage real estate investment assets on their own. Groundfloor provides an affordable way for nearly everyone to get involved in real estate investing.
However, be sure to use Groundfloor’s “loan details” page to screen loans before investing in them.