The people who raise money to build real estate are on one side. On the other hand, investors are looking to make money. And Upvest is a way for the two groups to meet. Let’s find out how the investment project works, how much money it makes for investors, and what its biggest flaw is.
Upvest review at a glance
Upvest is a Czech crowdfunding site where you can put money into projects that will help people.
Upvest’s strength is that development projects go through strict legal, business, and technical reviews. Upvest also gives ongoing investment control for projects that are still going on.
Only 1 out of 10 loan applicants pass the Upvest review, so only the best projects get to be on the platform. But it also has one bad thing about it. The offer to invest is strict, and the goal amount is often taken out in just one day.
At least 5,000 crowns must be put into each project. The expected growth rate is between 4 and 9% per year, and the time until maturity is usually between 1 and 4 years.
The platform was made in 2017, has helped fund 20 development projects, and has helped set up almost 7,000 investments worth more than 500 million crowns. The Upvest project was made with the help of Komern Banka, which owns about a third of the shares through its subsidiary KB SmartSolutions.
- Only verified projects
- Returns up to 9% per annum
- Minimum investment of 5,000 crowns
- Czech project (CNB permission, support for Czech and CZK)
- An austere offer of projects
- The fee will reduce the yield by 1 to 2%
- Some loans have poor collateral
- The investment cannot be terminated prematurely
Basic information about Upvest
Upstairs is an investment platform based in Brno, Czech Republic, that emerged in 2017 and has permission to operate from the Czech National Bank. It focuses on peer-to-business loans for development projects, with expected returns ranging from typically 4 to 9% per year and investment maturities lasting from 1 to 4 years.
Early withdrawal from the investment is not allowed, and the minimal investment required is CZK 5,000, with payment methods limited to bank transfers and the investment currency in CZK. Upstairs does not offer an auto-invest feature or a secondary market but does have investment fees that typically range from 0.9 to 2.5% per year, with no additional charges.
What does Upvest offer?
First, let’s look at the services that Upvest provides and who they are for.
Upvest is a place where you can invest in real-world development projects that have been checked out.
We need to make it clear that investing in a building project is not the same as investing in real estate. And it’s not even money put into a company that builds things. Each project gets its own company, so the risks aren’t shared with the developer’s other projects.
HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?
Everything starts with the developer, who uses Upvest to get money to build something. Upvest, or more specifically the Investment Commission, will check the developer and the project very carefully.
After the project is approved, Upvest and the developer will sign a loan agreement. The project is then shown on the Upvest website, where small investors put in money to reach the goal.
At least 5,000 crowns must be put into the project. If the fundraising is successful, the investment can’t be canceled or ended early. If the goal amount isn’t reached, the fundraising is considered a failure, and the money is sent back to the people who gave it.
Loans can be paid back slowly (like twice a year) or all at once on the expected date of maturity.
METHOD OF PROJECT FINANCING
Upvest gives two different kinds of loans to developers:
- Senior financing has lower returns and less risk than junior financing. The first people to get money are the investors.
- Subordinated (Mezzanine) financing: Higher returns, higher risks (loans may not be secured). Investors only back the bank that gives the most important loan first.
Risk versus return
In general, the relationship between risk and return is direct. So, the more risky an investment is, the more money it should bring in. But does this equation hold true for Upvest as well?
Let’s start with something easy: returns.
According to Upvest, returns can be as high as 9% per year, which sounds very appealing. There is a catch, though. After fees are taken out, annual returns drop to 5-7%.
And now, the danger.
Investors take a risk that is easy to see: if the borrower stops paying, you could lose all the money. In this case, Upvest would try to get the money back, which could help reduce any losses. It could, but it might not. It would depend on how it was locked.
The ones with the least risk are the ones that Upvest finances first. In this case, the payments come before any other bills, and the loan is protected by putting a lien on the property. This means that the real estate or land itself is guaranteed by the developer.
Most of the ways to protect against risk are used by a senior creditor if Upvest provides subordinate (mezzanine) financing (usually a bank). In this case, there aren’t many ways for Upvest to protect investors.
One of the ways that security is provided is by adding the partner to the debt. In practice, this means that Upvest can get the unpaid debt from the person who agreed to the debt. In other words, the project company’s debt is given to a certain person.
On the official Upvest blog, you can learn more about different ways to get insurance.
Upvest would take care of any debt collection, but luckily that hasn’t happened yet. But there is always a chance that a project won’t work out, so don’t forget to read the investment analysis and risk analysis for each project.
Fees at Upvest
The fee for the provision of payment services is the only thing on the official list of fees.
How does this fee work, though?
It’s a small fee that Upvest takes out of each payment to cover the cost of investing. If the borrower doesn’t pay back the loan, it makes sense that you won’t have to pay any fee.
After taking out all fees and costs, you can find the expected return in the prospectuses. This is called the “Net return.”
Registration and payments
To start investing, you must first sign a contract with Upvest and open an investment account. Registering and signing the contract takes no more than 10 minutes and is done over the Internet. But get two things ready to prove who you are.
VERIFICATION USING DOCUMENTS
When you sign up, you have to give copies of two personal documents:
document: identity card
Health insurance card, birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, or a license to carry a gun.
As a small-scale payment service, Upvest is required by Act No. 253/2008 Coll., on measures against the legalization of the proceeds of crime and the financing of terrorism, to check the identities of its clients (AML).
There are two ways to add documents: either upload copies from a computer or take a picture of them with a cell phone during registration.
Verification with a mobile phone is faster and easier: Just click on the link you get by text message and do what it says (i.e. take a picture of the front of the ID, the back of the ID, and the front of the second document).
DEPOSITS AND WITHDRAWALS
There is only one way to deposit or withdraw money, and that is through a bank transfer.
You must use the bank account you gave when you signed up to make your first deposit. For payment, you need to fill in the variable symbol, which you can find in your profile after logging into the platform.
The good news is that both putting money in and taking money out are free.
The exclusive investment club is only open to clients who have invested at least 100,000 crowns. Club members can get discounts or be given the chance to work on projects before anyone else.
The minimum age to join a club used to be half, but as the number of members grows, the requirements get stricter. According to the company’s founders, Upvest tries to “keep the investment club exclusive so that only about a third of the investors can join at any given time.”
Who is behind Upvest?
In 2017, the Upvest project was made. It was made by the programmer Petr Voln and the financial analyst David Musil. David Musil is the CEO of the operating company upvest s.r.o. and Petr Voln is the CTO. Both are still working on the project.
In June 2020, Komern Banka’s subsidiary company KB Smart Solutions joined the project as capital. So, KB bought an 18.9% share of Upvest, which it then increased to 31.06% a year later.
Experience with Upvest
Internet reviews say that Upvest is a successful project, and Internet discussions also have positive things to say about it.
First of all, we should be grateful for how carefully development projects were chosen. So far, money has been paid back on time, but a few payments have been late or the due date has been pushed back.
The Upvest project seems to be a good idea, but it has one big problem: the financial statements for 2018, 2019, and 2020 show that the economy did not do well. In other words, the platform makes a loss, which isn’t great for its long-term viability.
Several investors also complain that there aren’t enough chances to invest. In 2020, for example, Upvest only had five projects to choose from, and some of them were funded in just one day. This year, people want investments even more, so it’s important to keep an eye on what’s out there.
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR?
- Given the returns on offer, the collateral for mezzanine loans is not very high (many investors say it’s almost none).
- 10 ZDP says that profits are subject to income tax just like any other income.
Upvest and competition
Upvest is a serious project that has been running well for a long time. But it’s not the only project like it.
The Estonian EstateGuru is one company that makes it possible to invest in real estate and development projects. It will have more projects and better yield, risk, and security parameters on paper, but it doesn’t have as many checks as Upvest. The same thing is going on with Fundlift, a Czech P2B investment platform.
The Czech projects Ronda Invest and Investown are also about real estate. Investors help pay for loans to buy real estate through these projects. Ronda gives investors traditional interest, and Investown clients get a share of the rent. But the returns are about the same, between 4 and 5% a year. At Upvest, the returns are just a little bit higher, but the risk is a lot higher.
Government anti-inflation bonds, which are almost risk-free compared to P2B loans, give you a return of about 5% per year. To give you an idea, the year-on-year inflation rate in September 2021 was 4.9%, and economists say it could go up to 7% by the end of the year.
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