Rich Uncles is among a growing group of investment crowdfunding platforms opening up REITs to everyday investors via JOBS Act provisions. Monthly cash distributions (with optional reinvestment) and broad diversification for a low minimum investment make Rich Uncles worth a close look, especially for non-accredited investors.
- Low minimum investment ($500)
- Open to non-accredited investors
- Broad diversification across multiple properties
- Monthly cash distributions (with optional re-investment program), and optional auto-investment feature
- Repurchase program provides some liquidity (with limitations)
- Potential fees may be quite a bit higher than implied by 3% advertising
- Short track record (operating Reg A+ REITs)
- Only one REIT option at the time of this writing (with another coming soon)
- Not available in all states (new REIT coming soon will be available nationwide)
Rich Uncles Overview
Rich Uncles is among a growing crop of investment crowdfunding platforms offering a "public, non-listed REIT" (PNLR) leveraging various parts of the 2012 JOBS Act, including Reg A+. Founded in 2006 as a more traditional REIT, they rebranded in 2016 as "Rich Uncles" as part of a strategy to offer REITs via direct marketing to smaller investors (ie, crowdfunding).
Like the other major platforms offering Reg A+ REITs, Rich Uncles features low minimums, and an easy way for non-accredited investors in particular to get broad exposure to commercial real estate, with both regular cash distributions and the potential for long-term equity appreciation.
Types of investments Rich Uncles offers
The REIT you invest in via Rich Uncles invests in income-producing commercial real estate nationwide. The number of properties owned by the REIT will grow as more investors provide capital, and at the time of this writing their website lists 36 properties in the portfolio. The targeted mix is described in their prospectus:
What do you get when investing with Rich Uncles?
Investors in a REIT offered by Rich Uncles receive common stock (priced at $10/share, with a minimum investment of 50 shares, or $500). The actual properties may be owned directly by the REIT, or via wholly-owned subsidiary partnerships. Investors are entitled to receive dividend distributions, and unlike many of the real estate investment crowdfunding investment choices, also receive voting rights (one vote per share) along with their investment.
Rich Uncles fee structure
Part of the Rich Uncles value proposition is that they're sidestepping many of the typical fees associated with REITs, in particular sales commissions paid to brokers (Rich Uncles intends to primarily use direct marketing rather than sell via brokers). The REIT you invest in pays 3% of the money raised to Rich Uncles as compensation for those sales and marketing activities, which is indeed quite a bit less than typical sales commissions and related fees for REITs.
That said, there are also a range of other fees outside of that 3% that prospective investors should be sure to understand in order to be clear on how Rich Uncles in particular (and its affiliates) are compensated. For example, the REIT will pay its "Advisor" (which itself is a separate LLC, wholly owned by Rich Uncles) an Acquisition Fee of 3% of the price of a property when it purchases a new property. There is also a 0.1% monthly Asset Management Fee, as well as possible Financing Coordination Fees, Property Management Fees, Disposition Fees, Leasing Commission Fees, and Other Operating Expense Reimbursements.
These fees may well be reasonable and appropriate, but as Rich Uncles points out in its prospectus, "Investment in our shares still involves substantial fees which may exceed fees paid by other REITs for the same services." (And while there are limits imposed on some of those fees, in most cases the REIT's board of directors can waive those limits.)
Potential returns and cashflow
Investors receive monthly distributions, as authorized by the REIT's board of directors. Also, all REITs are required to distribute 90% of their taxable income annually to retain the favorable tax treatment REITs receive from the IRS (in short, they don't pay income taxes as long as they distribute at least 90% of their annual income back out to shareholders). Rich Uncles advertises a "7%+ annual dividend", though actual distributions and performance will of course vary with the income and performance of the underlying properties owned by the REIT.
Breadth of offerings on Rich Uncles
As of this writing, Rich Uncles offers one REIT option ("Rich Uncles NNN REIT"), with another student-housing oriented REIT listed as "coming soon". The Rich Uncles website lists 36 properties under the NNN REIT, and as more investment flows into the REIT, more properties would be acquired (though there is of course the risk that they receive capital to invest faster than they can sensibly deploy it, which would potentially drag down returns).
Regulatory framework and due diligence expectations
Rich Uncles is offering shares in their REITs to non-accredited investors, though the current NNN REIT isnot available in all states. Also, while investors need not meet the standards of accreditation as defined by the SEC, Rich Uncles itself has set some "suitability requirements", which are that investors must have either a net worth of $250,000 (excluding primary residence) or an income of $70,000 and a net worth of at least $70,000. (There may be some further restrictions at the state level as well, depending on where you live.)
The REITs are "blind pool" investments, so investors are not able to opt-out of particular properties, and are relying entirely on Rich Uncles' judgment about which properties to acquire and all the terms of the purchase, any renovation, etc.
Also worth noting is that while their model of avoiding the use of broker-dealers does reduce the sales commission, there are potential side effects prospective investors should be aware of. As they state in their prospectus:
There are plenty of other real estate investment crowdfunding choices that also aren't reviewed by a broker-dealer, but as a counter-balance to the case agains the sales commission, is something prospective investors should understand.
Rich Uncles deserves credit for driving innovation in real estate crowdfunding, joining a number of other platforms in expanding the diversity of the REIT universe and helping to make REITS more approachable to everyday investors. While their track record with these new forms of REITs is short, the transparency and disclosure requirements associated with the JOBS Act provisions they're using help both make the case those working as intended and can give prospective investors some confidence they'll be able to review and monitor in close detail how their investment is being managed. (You can review all of the SEC filings for Rich Uncles on the SEC website)