Summary: Property Partner offer a markedly different way to invest in property than many other P2P investment platforms as crowd-funded money actually purchases the properties and rents them out, thus exposing owners to the underlying asset price change. With a slowing in property prices anticipated this may not be such a good decision at the moment, but it does offer a diversified way to gain exposure to these assets if you don’t currently possess them. This Property Partner review has updated to reflect the fact that the model changed significantly in July 2019, adding assets under management fees, plus a monthly fee. This double charge disproportionately affects smaller accounts. The feeling is while ‘Partner’ is in the name, the relationship is heavily skewed towards making them money.
Here is how Property Partner compares to other property-backed investments. Interest rates are not directly comparable due to the difference in the product type:
|Platform||Link||Target Rate (%)||My XIRR (%)||Status||Live Rating|
|Review||Up to 16%||-5.4% (estimate)||CLOSED||1.5/5|
|Review||Up to 7.2%||7.23%||OPEN||4/5|
|Review||Up to 11%||5.72%||OPEN||4/5|
|Review||Up to 13%||3.90% (estimate)||CLOSED||2.5/5|
|Review||Up to 8.5%||4.46%||OPEN||2/5|
|Review||Up to 8%||TBC||OPEN||3.5/5|
JANUARY 2020 UPDATE: No change. A new normal of lower earnings here after fees.
DECEMBER 2019 UPDATE: No change.
NOVEMBER 2019 UPDATE: No change. If I could take my money out, I would.
OCTOBER 2019 UPDATE: No change.
SEPTEMBER 2019 UPDATE: No change. Am preferring to hold my remaining investments rather than take a big loss on the spread.
AUGUST 2019 UPDATE: It seems that I am not alone in wanting out, still large queues to sell investments. Not impressed!
JULY 2019 UPDATE: New CEO, new fees. An asset under management fee, a monthly account fee is now added to the transaction fees. Even worse, it is not possible to liquidate investments without taking a loss. With this, the rating drops to 2 stars, and is a huge turn-off.
JUNE 2019 UPDATE: No change.
MAY 2019 UPDATE: Back to normal this month, although sentiment against property remains bad.
APRIL 2019 UPDATE: Portfolio suffered a 1% loss as recent revaluations downgraded many properties.
MARCH 2019 UPDATE: No change. With a London property slowdown all but confirmed and perhaps even a nationwide one I am wary of investing here.
FEBRUARY 2019 UPDATE: No Change
JANUARY 2019 UPDATE: No new deals invested in: there have been a slim amount of deals recently.
What is Property Partner?
Set up in 2013, Property Partner was exactly as the name implies, allowing individual lenders to purchase buy-to-let property and share in the rental and capital increases, with the platform administering all the work (and taking a cut of fees for the trouble). Although there have been several other platforms offering a similar proposition, Property Partner has remained the biggest, possibly the best and certainly the most well known of all platforms of its type.
Properties are sourced by the platform and lenders can purchase a share of them and are paid accordingly. There appears to be some strategy with the selection of properties: some are located in London, close to the new Crossrail, others are located in areas which are perceived to offer good high price growth. Furthermore further discounts are gained on the purchase of properties: typically Property Partner seek to purchase multiple properties in the same block or even a block outright. Once a property is bought, it is refurbished and offered to the rental market, and these monies are distributed to investors in the forms of dividends.
In recent years the property types have expanded: previously only offering residential flats, they now beginning to offer loans such as student developments, commercial properties for shops and offices. At the moment all properties are located in the UK.
The platform is flexible: property shares can be traded at any time at a price of your choosing, just like a regular stock market. This has allowed people to benefit from price movements as their shares were worth more than they originally paid for them. This can cut both ways though, as some properties on the platform trade at a discount to their original price.
Property Partner are by no means unique in offering this way of co-owning property, but they are perhaps the largest of their cohort (others include uOwn, Property Moose and The House Crowd).
Here is a table showing Property Partner features:
|Advertised Returns||Up to 8.5%|
|Loan Types||Residential Property|
|Minimum Investment||£50 (none on secondary market)|
|Fees||2% Transaction Fee|
0.5% Stamp Duty
|Available in ISA?||No|
|Active on forum?||No|
Are Property Partner profitable?
Property Partner is a trading name of London House Exchange Limited. This company has been incorporated since 2013. Last accounts were received on 30 September 2019 for the period of 12 months to 31 December 2018. These show that the company made a loss of £5.37m (down from £6.24m the year before). As with many similar companies, the main culprit of the losses was operating expenses dwarfing that of revenues.
The company has financed retained losses of over £23m by issuing equity: approximately £5.5m was raised in the last year. The share count expanded by almost 20% to accommodate this. On a rough valuation this appears to be sustainable for the next few years although a downturn in trading would be poor.
The operating model on Property Partner works slightly differently from other P2P platforms. Properties are introduced from time to time and you purchase shares in them at a defined opening price. Once enough money is raised, the property goes live and the investment becomes live. Because of the nature of the purchase, you have to pay fees (stamp duty and Property Partner fee) which is an upfront cost which is rare on other platforms.
There is no notional interest, and income from the investments primarily comes from the rental incomes generated by the property. Their properties tend to be in areas of high demand, and some void periods have been factored in to projections. Assuming that the property is let successfully, investors receive an income stream every month of dividends.
Properties are revalued regularly by the platform and any increase in valuation results in an increase in value of the share. That being said, the secondary market for shares is flexible, and share values can rise simply on supply and demand.
The ideal is that properties are rented out for the long-term, but occasionally Property Partner may divest (ie sell) a property if they deem it to be a good deal for investors. Sadly, investors do not get a say in this.
In theory the returns will show a higher volatility than a standard P2P platform. In a rising market, investors should be better off, as their rental income stream will be boosted by a gain in equity value of the property. In a falling market, the opposite happens, and debt-backed investments such as Kuflink or LendInvest may fare better.
How are funds protected?
There are no provision funds here, and the main attraction is that the loan is secured on the value of the property. The purchase price does not exceed 70% loan to value (and in some cases is purchased outright without the need for a mortgage), so in theory your values are as secure as the housing market itself. That said, there are some downside risks that are not seen on other platforms, such as unforeseen events such as damage to properties. These are covered in a small way as a fund is withheld within each property for maintenance.
Pros of Property Partner
There are some things to like about Property Partner:
Direct Exposure to Property Market: This gives about as good as exposure as you can get without actually purchasing a property, allowing investors to participate fully in any increases in the value
Good Property Choices: In the main, the properties featured appear well chosen with their commercial case well detailed. This is in contrast to other P2P lending platforms where we often see low-quality loans pushed because they are paying fees.
Potential Tax Advantages: Income received is classed as dividends: this may be helpful if you don’t use your allowance as these earnings will be tax-free up to the limit.
Flexible Secondary Market: The secondary market works well, allowing a variety of prices to match supply and demand. It is easy to pick up properties with a bit of patience.
Bulk Buying Discount: Often the properties are picked up at a discount to selling price as Property Partner buys in bulk. These savings are passed onto investors.
Cons of Property Partner
Property Partner is slightly different from other platforms and also comes with some unique downsides:
Small Dividends: Yields have been depressed to very low levels in the BTL market, and this is reflected in the returns received. Property Partner projections for returns include a capital growth element, which may not materialise at all
Range of fees: There is no counterparty to pass fees onto, and investors are hit with a variety of them: a fixed fee on investment, a stamp duty fee and also a 2% transaction cost to sell on the secondary market. These mount up and drag on returns.
Exposure to risks: There are risks such as loss of confidence in the housing market, and on a smaller level, properties failing to rent, needing a discount to rent, or even problematic tenants. These costs all reduce returns but are risks that any BTL investor should assume.
Lack of control: The ultimate control of properties revert to Property Partner. They may choose to either sell (or not sell) a property despite individual wishes.
Auto-invest requires more money: New listings require a £50 minimum investment, but to invest in the auto-listing products requires a £5,000 commitment.
My Property Partner Investing Strategy
I have an exposure to many properties on Property Partner now. Do note it is marginally cheaper to purchase properties on release as opposed to the secondary market (which there are fees for), but on the flip side there are many properties available at decent discounts on the secondary market which compensates for having to pay a fee.
One of the good things is the range of information given about properties and the investment case is set out, which contains a lot of information without being overly biased. My strategy consists of:
Research thoroughly: I treat an investment as if I was buying the whole property. Using the information and Rightmove, it is fairly easy to discern whether the rental figures are going to stack up and whether the indicated prices are going to be realistic.
Diversify: Different areas have different types of housing market. I tend to try and give myself a reasonable spread of properties over the country, instead of investing large amounts in a few. If you don’t own a property in your area (for example, you rent) it might act as a natural hedge to own many properties near you.
Use the secondary market: It may be prudent to sell properties if you feel their values have risen too far. There is nothing to stop you putting a price on a few ticks higher than the market.
Property Partner offers a much different way for people to invest, and may offer a great diversification strategy for non-property owners and those who are dividend-light due to the tax advantages. Due to a lack of capital growth in the house price markets, returns will lag here in bad years and outperform in good years. Additionally there is also a reliance on Property Partner to be competent when renovating properties and letting them out to maximise returns. So far this seems to be the case, but this has been a big weakness for other similar platforms.
Disclaimer: This article represents my own opinions and should not be substituted for investment advice. Please research before you invest with any firm. Typically P2P investments are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the way bank deposits are, and there are no guarantees that you will receive the returns advertised (or even a return at all).