The French real estate market has been growing at impressive rates for the past decade. Property prices are increasing consistently year-over-year, with the residential sector seeing a tremendous surge in demand and value.
Considering the impressive growth trends in the French real estate market, I thought it would be worth exploring whether there’s real investment opportunity in the market — and reveal the easiest way to invest in French real estate online. After all, brick and mortar in Western European urban centers is often hailed as a great hedge against inflation and a pillar of security.
Digging deep into market, data and statistics show that metropolitan housing prices increased by 3% last in 2019, with a consistent house climb since 2016. Paris is the most attractive city for property investors as it boasted an impressive upswing of 6.5% in the average apartment price. Not only that, according to a recent report by global real estate consultancy Knight Frank, Paris is set to grow 7% in 2020 alone.
Ile-de-France, the most populated region in France, experienced a growth of 4.5%, while Petite Couronne and Grande Couronne followed by 4.4% and 3% Y-o-Y increase respectively. The overall growth looks like this:
With high prices and reasonable rents, the rental property demand is also surging. Now, from an investor’s point of view, hike in house prices and surging demand, both factors are very positive, pointing towards exciting opportunities in the French real estate market.
How do I invest in French property?
Consistent demand and rising prices make French property a promising investment. But the question remains: how do I get started?
It used to be that the real estate sector was reserved for millionaires, banks, and large-scale investment firms. However, those days are long gone. Today, private individuals can get access to the European property market, including the French one, through online real estate investment platforms who utilize crowdfunding methods.
Real estate crowdfunding platforms facilitate companies and individuals to invest in business loans and property loans and provide monthly yields or annual returns.
The easy way to invest in French (and Swiss) real estate
There are numerous platforms in the French crowdfunding space, and they have different investment models and operational workings. Most of them operate on a peer-to-peer lending model, allowing investors to lend money to businesses and property developers for an average time of 18 months.
The unsurprising downside for many foreign investors? Most of these platforms are only available in French.
Having spent months testing and comparing dozens of sites recommended by the French investor community, translating technical vocabulary, and researching their track history, I think I finally landed on a winner: Raizers
Raizers is one of the leading property crowdfunding websites in France with more than €50m already raised and is fully accessible in English and German, welcoming international investors from across the world.
Raizers has over 40,000 members investing with them, spanning across 80 different nationalities, with ongoing real estate projects in France, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Let’s review how Raizers works in-depth and how you can get a foot in the door of the booming real estate market of France and Western Europe.
What is Raizers?
Raizers is a real estate crowdfunding platform that gives individual investors and professionals access to a range of real estate investment opportunities in France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Most importantly, the company is regulated by multiple tier-one regulators in Europe, including the French Financial Markets Authority (AMF) and the Belgian Financial Markets Authority (FSMA).
About the company
Raizers‘ team consists of real estate professionals and finance specialists and is headed by co-founders Grégoire Linder and Maxime Pallain.
Linder and Pallain have been working closely together as business partners for around 10 years. Both individuals made their careers in the international finance industry before launching their first company together in 2012. But like many aspiring entrepreneurs, the duo faced initial difficulties in finding funding to bootstrap the company. After five refusals from banks, the sixth finally agreed to provide financial support.
Following this experience, Linder and Pallain wanted to create a solution that could help other small and medium-sized business owners get access to capital. Two years later, in 2014, the French government introduced the official accreditation as Crowdfunding Investment Adviser. This turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Linder and Pallain to create a marketplace, which they named Raizers, that could bring real estate companies together with investors directly and avoid the big banks.
How does Raizers work?
Raizers operates under the peer-to-peer lending model, meaning it aims to connect borrowers and lenders directly and cut out the middle man. The first step involves Raizers scouting the market and establishing contact with financially-sound property developers in need of a loan to realize a specific real estate development project.
Following an initial assessment of the applicant, Raizers makes a complete audit of the company from head to toe. If all economic, legal, technical and other relevant elements look coherent and advantageous, Raizers goes on to accept the project.
Finally, the applicant issues a dividend-paying bonds by contracting a loan, which Raizers in turn presents on its website as an investment project to its investors.
Pros and cons
As with all investment platforms, there are advantages and disadvantages to consider before investing with Raizers. As an investor, you should carefully evaluate all benefits and drawbacks of the platform and the individual projects listed there before committing any funds.
- Regulated by multiple tier-one authorities
- 10% average interest from collateralized real estate loans
- Most investments are secured with a first or second charge on the property, plus a personal guarantee
- Short-to-medium term exit strategy, averaging less than 20 months
- Experienced management team
- Accessible to international investors
- Multiple account funding methods, including credit card and bank transfer
- Active deal-flow with new projects coming in every week
- Phone and live chat support in English
- Minimum investment of €1,000
- No secondary market for making an early exit
- Platform feels a bit dated in terms of design and functionality (but is still highly intuitive)
- Information in the FAQ section is somewhat confusing and needs an overhaul
Raizers in numbers
Raizers boasts impressive numbers in terms of performance. The platform has attracted more than 40,000 members of 80 different nationalities. Approaching a century of projects, they claim more than €60 million in investments and an impressive average return of 10%.
The total amount lent through loan bonds is approximately €49.5 million, split across 75 projects; 68 out of these 75 projects are real estate development and rehabilitation projects, while 3 of them financed SMEs. The real estate loans yielded an average internal rate of return of 10.09%, while SMEs returned 7%.
Along with promising returns, the platform also boasts the ability to raise funds quickly. The team informed us that the average fundraising period for large projects is around 6 days, while projects under €500,000 sell out within 24 hours.
The average length of investments is 20 months as the platform mainly invests in short-term bonds. Bonds account for more than 50% of Raizers’ operations and have so far yielded a 10% return on average.
Another promising detail about the platform is the ability to pay back to investors, with a 0% reported defaults since inception 5 years ago.
Who regulates Raizers?
The French market for alternative investment platforms is heavily regulated by multiple authorities. As mentioned above, this also applies to Raizers, who holds a license as a crowdfunding adviser from national association ORIAS (‘L’Organisme pour le registre unique des intermédiaires en assurance, banque et finance’) under the French Financial Markets Authority (AMF).
Raizers is also licensed to operate in Belgium as an Alternative Financing Platform by the Belgian Financial Markets Authority (PFA).
In France, ORIAS is the primary organ who oversees Raizers. For confirmation, you can go to the ORIAS website and type Raizers in the top right corner to see its registration details. The French Financial Markets Authority has also approved the platform as a participatory investment adviser. On the other hand, the Belgian Financial Markets Authority has approved Raizers as an alternative financing platform.
These authorities monitor and supervise the platform and set out key requirements and safeguarding measures to provide investors a secure business environment.
How safe is Raizers?
If you’re wondering whether Raizers is a safe investment platform, you should look at the overall risk-return stats, the mortgage structure, the average LTV (loan-to-value) of projects and monitor the properties where your money is invested.
Make deep observations and assess the overall statistics of the platform to get an idea of how safe your investments are. Looking at various projects, the firm has a stable risk management methodology. Following industry standards, they use property-backed loans, and most of their projects have low LTVs. Moreover, they tend to focus on urban properties where rents, prices, and demand is stable and well known.
In terms of website security, one downside is the lack of multi-factor authentication for logging in, which would provide a much stronger layer of protection to its investors’ accounts. The team informed us that they are currently working on this function and will implement it in the near future.
How are my investments secured?
Raizers has multiple safeguards in place for ensuring the protection of clients’ investment. These may vary from project to project, but primarily include:
- First or second legal charge over the borrower’s asset. Meaning, if the borrower cannot pay back the loan, although it may take several months or years to recover the remaining debt, investors take ownership of the property or land with help from Raizers.
- Personal guarantee on borrowers personal assets. In the event of non-payment, lenders receive the right to the guarantor’s personal assets.
Raizers may also include other guarantees such as:
- Group guarantee from companies associated with the borrower
- Pledge of company’s shares.
- Deed of trust (“Fiducie sureté” in French law)
When investing, your right to the subscribed bonds is represented by an investment certificate issued by the borrowing company in your name. This legal position makes a recovery much more likely in case something goes wrong, although it may not be in the original amount you invested.
On top of that, client funds are kept in an escrow account until it reaches the borrower. Once all funds have been collected, money is transferred in full to the borrower to use for their project.
Finally, Raizers has the right to validate transactions from the borrower’s account until the loan is paid off, meaning the real estate developer cannot make any payments elsewhere without prior agreement with Raizers. This is an extremely strong protection for investors.
Who can invest on Raizers?
Raizers accept investors from all over the world, with a few limitations. Currently, they have investors from 80 different nationalities. Most natural persons and legal entities can join Raizers and begin investing after getting their account validated and passing the KYC.
KYC is a process followed by the platform to collect information about their investors. This information includes proof of identity i.e. government-issued id card, passport, address, and property survey. Anyone who is a natural person and has proof of their identity to pass the KYC, is essentially eligible to invest in the Raizers platform.
For legal entities, this includes a commercial register, articles of association, and id card of the entity representative.
How does Raizers Work?
Raizers allows investors across the world to invest in western European properties and build a diversified real estate portfolio. Their team of analysts and real estate experts selects investment projects after conducting thorough due diligence on the property, its owners, and the developer.
You can invest in loan bonds that will lend money to property developers using a real estate crowdfunding model.
Lending to real estate developers is done through a live funding event in the form of bonds that yield 8% to 12% return per year from 6 to 36 months in France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Step 1: Open an Account
Opening an account is simple and takes just a couple of minutes. You can either sign up directly using your email id and name, or you can sign up with your LinkedIn profile. The platform allows both individuals and companies, so you can either register personally or through your company.
You just need basic information such as your name, email, and password to sign up. Once the sign up is done, you can provide more information such as your nationality, DOB, zip code, tax residence, etc. to complete your profile. This information is required to verify your identity.
Step 2 – Pass the KYC
If you’re registering as an individual investor, the platform will require your government-issued id card, proof of your address, and property survey.
However, if you’re a legal entity, the platform will ask for your commercial register, articles of association, shareholder’s declaration, and identity card of the legal representative of your company.
Once you provide all the relevant information, your account will be verified, and you can move on to transferring funds.
Step 3 – Transfer Funds
Once you’ve passed the KYC and found a project of your liking, you’re almost set to get started.
To transfer funds to your Raizers account, you can navigate to “my profile” section and click the “my investments” tab. In here, hit the “contributions/withdrawals” section.
Enter the amount you wish to transfer and hit the “validate my contribution”.
A new window should pop up. When transferring funds from your local bank account, you need to include the “bank wire reference” given here.
As an alternative, you deposit by bank transfer directly into a specific project without prior allocations into your wallet.
Step 4 – Invest
After transferring funds to your account, you can start investing.
Since projects tend to fill up fast, investors who subscribe to the newsletter will receive a message minimum 24 hours before a new project goes live. Investors are given full access to the operation details, so they can decide beforehand if they want to invest.
To select a project for investment, you should click on the ‘invest’ button on the top right of the website. This will take you to the investments page where you should see two investment options: lend to real estate developers and invest in real estate.
You can go with the investment product you find suitable. After deciding the investment, you will need to validate it as part of anti-money laundering regulations. Once validation is done, you receive an email containing all the relevant information about the project and its progress.
To make things clear about the platform, and how investments work, let us go through three project examples.
Project 1 – Operation Crans Montana (funded)
This project seeks funding for the refinancing of part of the equity on which the property developer carried out rehabilitation work before resale. Crans Montana is a ski resort located in the Canton Valais in Switzerland.
- The funding target is €700,000, with a minimum investment of €1,000 and an annual return of 10% over 12 months.
- The platform has two personal guarantees before the notary from the owners of the property.
- The project is in the finalization phase, no technical work is required, and the sale is on hand.
- Location is ideal, at the heart of Crans Montana, and has two airports nearby.
- The loan is secured using 2nd rank mortgages with large coverage.
Project 2 – Espace Catalan Operation (funded)
This is a large-scale project loan of €3.3m to acquire a plot of land located in Perpignan city of France to build a new commercial complex. The plot is in a good location in a popular shopping district, just 10 kilometers from the Perpignan airport, opposite to E. Leclerc hypermarket.
- The operator will create a shopping center and develop warehouses on this land.
- The funding target is €3,300,000, with a minimum investment of €1,000 and an annual return of 10% over 24 months.
- Guarantees for repayment security include 1st-rank mortgage of the plot, two personal guarantees from the directors, and the first-demand guarantee from Espace Catalan (the holding company).
- 77% of the loan repayments will be according to construction progress.
- Interest repayments will be made annually, while the capital will be paid over time.
- Almost 3/4 of the complex is already sold with signed contracts
Project 3 – 55 Inkermann by Taroc (funded)
In this project, Taroc, a real estate development company, seeks funding for Inkermann, a residential development project that is already under construction and has reached the foundation completion stage. The project location is district Arsenal Redon, just 100 meters from the metro station.
- The developer’s funding target is €750,000, and the annual return is 10%.
- The operation is 45% pre-commercialized
- The loan period is 18 months, and the minimum investment requirement is €1,000.
- The developer has already begun the construction with his own funds.
- Raizers has the project developer’s personal guarantee and 1st-rank mortgage on two lots.
- The loan bond provides investors an early redemption on the sale of the lots.
- The project location is ideal, and it is secured by a 1st-rank mortgage with a manager’s personal guarantee, and the estimated completion time of 12 months.
How does Raizers select borrowers?
Raizers follow a detailed borrower selection criterion, which they call operation selection policy. It includes six steps from the preselection of the property to making repayments to investors.
The platform performs property preselection, signs a contract, performs a thorough audit, prepares the legal documentation, raises funds, and then monitors the repayments to investors. The prerequisites for borrowers include expert managers with no on-going legal proceedings against them and a legal entity.
For every project, all investors get access to key information about the borrower, including names, shareholders, financials for last couple of years, and exact location of the real estate in question. You can also see the structure of legal arrangement and repayment schedule.
How does taxes work at Raizers?
Raizers have separate taxation criteria for France taxpayers on the one hand and for other individuals on the other. Most nationalities, except French citizens, will have to report their earnings in the country of their residence according to local tax laws and regulations. To make it simple: Raizers will not be withholding tax.
If you are a developer in Switzerland, Raizers will act as a withholding agent, and you will receive your gains after a 35% withholding tax deduction. All dividends and profits will be distributed after deducting withholding tax. For more information on taxes in Switzerland, you can go through the Act. 21 to 28 of Federal law on withholding tax.
Please note the above information does not constitute tax or legal advice or consultation but simply references the information available at Raizers’ website. Investors should contact Raizers’ support team for further clarification and seek independent tax advice if necessary.
The verdict: Is French property a good investment?
Given the country’s rich culture and stable economy, France provides real estate investors with opportunities for generating passive income through investment property.
The country’s legal and taxation system coupled with secure transactions and high rental yields make it one of the most lucrative regions for real estate investments. France is quite favorable for estate investors, especially foreign investors because they must pay lesser acquisition and procedural fees (solicitor, administration, and registry fees).
Moreover, a massive influx of businesses and individuals searching for rental properties is another positive factor that investors should consider. This influx will cause an upswing in rents and rental property demand.
Having facilitated investments worth more than €60 million, Raizers attracts international investors with double-digit returns and the ability to diversify across a host of different projects. These are our top findings on Raizers:
- Given the gradual increase in French residential and commercial housing prices, real estate crowdfunding platforms such as Raizers present an opportunity for risk-averse investors looking to grow their capital.
- Founded in 2014, Raizers is regulated in two tier-1 jurisdictions: In France by national financial authority, the French Financial Markets Authority, and in Belgium by the Belgian Financial Markets Authority as an alternative financing platform. All in all, this makes Raizers a trusted platform.
- With target returns up to 10% and an average exit strategy of 20 months, Raizers presents a competitive offering for investing in property-secured deals in France, Benelux, and Switzerland. Moreover, Raizers provides a gateway for non-French speakers into these markets.
Founded in 2014 and regulated by multiple top-tier financial authorities, French-Swiss Raizers is a leading platform for investing in European real estate. With returns of up to 10% per year, €60m under management, and an experienced leadership team, Raizers is a solid choice for beginners and professionals alike.
The European market for real estate crowdfunding is growing at explosive rates, with an annual increase of 90% according to E&Y or 136% according to another report. In France, real estate crowdfunding grew by 77% between 2016 and 2017, thanks to a bespoke regulatory regime, an adequate protection of retail investors, and, most importantly, a massive surge in demand.
Following this trend, Raizers joins the race to break down the traditional monopolies of banks and to provide individual investors a share of the robust European property market. Their team of analysts have installed multiple safeguards, including mortgages, personal and first charge guarantees, and other commitments from the borrowers. Moreover, most projects have a low LTV, and urban areas are prioritized for stability.
Finally, investors can talk directly to the borrower or property manager, giving them additional assurance and a chance to gain adequate insights before committing funds.
To conclude, it will be interesting to see how Raizers develops in the years to come and how it plans to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market.
Raizers alternatives (for non-French speakers)
Raizers is one of the few French platforms accessible to non-French speakers. However, it’s never a bad idea to spread your portfolio across multiple, independent platforms, so as not to put all eggs in one basket. These are some popular alternatives to Raizers:
- Homunity: A Paris-based crowdfunding platform, registered as a crowdfunding adviser at ORIAS is one of the feasible alternatives to Raizers. The average annual returns are 9.2%, and there are more than 37,000 members who have funded more than 200 projects. The minimum investment requirement is €1,000, and the project duration ranges from 12 to 30 months. That being said, the Homunity is not fully translated into proper English and most project descriptions are still only available in French.
- October: Another Paris-based crowdfunding platform, registered by ORIAS as an intermediary in participation financing (IFP). October has so far returned an average of 9.9% per annum to more than 21,000 investors. October allows you to lend money directly to SMEs at different growth stages of their business. The platform has so far raised €421 million and returned €28 million to its investors. You can start from as little as €20. Unfortunately, default rates at October have been rising in the past few years, as they’ve been taking on more risky projects.
- EstateGuru: Founded in 2014, EstateGuru is one of the largest crowdfunding platforms in Europe, headquartered in the Baltics with offices in Germany and the UK. Although not operational in France, the platform has more than 45,000 investors and provides an average annual return of 12%. You can start from €50 only and invest in various loans such as business loans, development loans, and bridge loans. EstateGuru boasts impressive numbers having total earnings of more than €15 million and an average loan term of 14.2 months.