Property Partner Review – A P2P View (Updated September 2020)

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Summary of Property Partner Review
Property Partner offer a markedly different way to invest in property than many other P2P investment platforms. 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. However it does offer a diversified way to gain exposure to these assets.

This Property Partner review has updated to reflect the fact that the model changed significantly in July 2019. This added 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. The pandemic has also adversely affected investors, with some properties losing value and others facing increased costs.

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:

PlatformLinkTarget Rate (%)My XIRR (%)StatusLive Rating
ReviewUp to 8.5%3.27%OPEN2/5
ReviewVariableTBCOPEN3/5

What is Property Partner?

Set up in 2013, Property Partner was exactly as the name implies. It allows individual lenders to purchase buy-to-let property and share in the rental and capital increases. The platform administers 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. Whether it is the best is debatable, but it is 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. These monies are distributed to investors in the forms of dividends.

In recent years the property types have expanded. Previously only offering residential developments, they now 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.  This is much 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. 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:

Established2013
Advertised ReturnsUp to 8.5%
Loan TypesResidential Property
Loan SecurityProperty
Minimum Investment£50 (none on secondary market)
Cash DragSmall
Secondary Market?Yes
Fees2% Transaction Fee
0.5% Stamp Duty
Provision Fund?No
Auto Invest?Yes
Available in ISA?No
FCA Authorised?Yes
Active on forum?No
Sign-up offers?None

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.

Operating Model

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. 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. Share values can rise and fall simply on supply and demand.

The ideal is that properties are rented out for the long-term. 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.

New Fee Schedule

Perhaps motivated by the losses, July 2019 saw a large change. A raft of fees were introduced. An asset under management fee came in. This charges 1.2% per year on portfolios up to £25,000 and 0.7% over this. A monthly account fee of £1m is now charged. This is in addition to the standard transaction fees seen.

This caused a bit of a rush for the exit, with many property share values being marked down as investors sold out.

How did Covid-19 affect operations?

Adding insult to injury was the 2020 pandemic. This has disproportionately affected Property Partner more than other platforms because of their exposure to property. Some of the measures taken are: abandonment of imminent property exits and dividends suspended, initially until June. The further outlook is not great with rent arrears expected on many properties. The student properties also look to be heavily affected.

More pertinently for investors, the valuations of some properties may take a large hit. Some of this will reflect as an uncrystallised loss as the properties will not be sold.

At the end of September 2020, there was signs of things getting back to normal again. Dividend payments have resumed on some properties, and exits will be considered for others.

My current XIRR has not reflected any revaluations as yet, but could easily turn negative in future. My account value is at the stage where fees wipe out the dividends.

How are funds protected?

There are no provision funds here. 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. Unforeseen events such as damage to properties and void periods eat into returns. These are covered in a small way as a fund is withheld within each property for maintenance.

Property Partner Review: Pros

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. This allows 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.

Property Partner Review: Cons

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. 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. 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). 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. This 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 REVIEW: CONCLUSION

Property Partner offers a much different way for people to invest. It 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. If the house markets are weak, your investment here will be likewise.

The big increase in fees is also a concern. 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 Property Partner review 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. There are no guarantees that you will receive the returns advertised (or even a return at all).

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