CrowdFundBeat Honors Real Estate ‘Mogul’ with Crowdfunding Award,
By Robert J. Mullins , CFB Senior Staff Writer,
Jilliene Helman has discovered the power of using crowdfunding to open up the market for real estate investments. As the co-founder of Realty Mogul, along with partner Justin Hughes, she has already completed multiple deals across the country in just eight months of fulltime operation.
For her success and for her advocacy on the subject from appearances at several crowdfunding conferences, CrowdfundBeat is awarding Helman its CrowdFunder of the Year Award for 2013.
In an interview with CrowdFundBeat Senior Staff Writer Robert Mullins, Helman discusses the new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules on crowdfunding by accredited investors, coming new rules on non-accredited investors and the philosophy behind Realty Mogul:
Jilliene Helman: The hypothesis that we’ve been operating under is really twofold. On one side, there’s an economic opportunity for investors to invest in real estate and make money investing in real estate and generating income. So all of the transactions that we do generate cash flow for our investors. We’re looking for opportunities to get dividends back to our investors, directly back into their bank accounts. Then the other hypothesis for starting the company was the political rationale. The JOBS Act passed through Congress last year and while we still don’t have final regulations on Title III, which is for non-accredited crowdfunding, there is a huge market of accredited investors that has been largely untapped. You look at the number of accredited investors in private placement in 2012 and it was less than 40,000 accredited investors out of 7 or 8 million. So we thought that there’s this political opportunity where people are going to be more comfortable investing through the Internet and we took that economic opportunity and that political opportunity, put them together and out came Realty Mogul.
Robert Mullins: You said in an article that “crowdfunding was revolutionizing capital formation in real estate.” What changes with crowdfunding?
Helman: I think the biggest things are access to deal flow and access to capital. When it comes to deal flow, millions of investors have never had access to deal flow, historically. There’s been no simple way to get them access to that deal flow. Now that you have the Internet and have the ability to transact online, we can open that up to millions of investors all over the world. So the access to deal flow is huge. And the flip side is access to capital. You have these real estate companies who historically were working with the banks, investment banks or the other established players to get capital, but they didn’t have a base of thousands and thousands of investors that they could go to. And that’s where we are. We’re a conduit in the middle and that’s what I think revolutionizes this market.
Mullins: The SEC has approved regulations for accredited investors but the regulations for non-accredited investors won’t be finalized until sometime in 2014. What are your concerns about what the final rules on non-accredited investors will be?
Helman: The rules for accredited investors allow for general solicitation as long as the investors are validated. I think the SEC gave pretty decent guidance on how to accredit those investors.
It’ll be interesting to see with the Title III rules [on non-accredited investors] how they come down on doing simultaneous [fund] raises with accredited and non-accredited investors. It looks like they’re going to deal with that in a way that’s favorable and we’re looking at that very closely.
Mullins: What kind of deals have you done so far at Realty Mogul?
Helman: We crowdfunded what we think is the first shopping center in the country, maybe in the world, in Monterey, Calif. We have some top-tier tenants such as Safeway, CVS, Subway, Starbucks, McDonald’s and it was a great opportunity to allow investors, again going back to this nucleus of access to deal flow, many of whom never had access to that type of deal flow.
We own a 267-unit apartment building in Texas, we own a couple of assets in the Kansas market including a shopping center in Lenexa, Kansas, we own a host of single-family homes in the Tennessee market. We’ve done a variety of interesting transactions.
Mullins: Are you seeing competition from other crowdfunding real estate ventures?
Helman: Real estate is a really big space. Real estate alone is a $17 trillion business so there are going to be numerous people who will take to the Internet to raise capital for real estate.
At the end of the day I think it’s going to be about performance. We are really proud that eight months in business, we’ve already distributed over $600,000 back out to investors in distribution and principal payments. We really focus on cash flow. The need that we serve is generating income for investors, generating cash flow and also potentially investing for appreciation and longer term investments.
Mullins: How did you get into real estate in the first place?
Helman: I grew up talking real estate around the dinner table. My mom’s been in the real estate industry for decades, my father owned commercial and industrial projects. My grandfather built properties in the Los Angeles market, so I really learned my real estate chops from the dinner table.