Ratings Methodology for Real Estate Investment Platforms

NerdWallet rates real estate investing platforms on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 5 being the best possible score. The ratings are incremented in tenths of a star — for example, 4.7, 4.8 and so on. Detailed information about how we rate real estate platforms and the factors we consider in our assessments is below.

How our real estate platform ratings work:

Our ratings formula calculates a base rating for each real estate investment platform overall, from 1.0 to 5.0 stars. The rating is based on core features of the platform — the factors that matter most to the average investor and directly affect how investors choose and use a real estate platform. Those are:

  • Account minimum.
  • Redemption options.
  • Investment fees.
  • Investment selection.
  • Website usability.
  • Investment transparency.
  • Customer support.

  • We then apply a standard adjustment to the final score to account for factors we consider table stakes offerings. If the platform doesn’t offer these, they do not get an adjustment. For the real estate platform’s overall score, this standardized adjustment applies if the platform earns five stars in our investor requirements category, which requires that it offer at least some investment options for nonaccredited investors.

    How we choose the best providers:
    NerdWallet evaluates each provider across the weighted categories below to determine the best providers for real estate investment platforms.

    Data collection and review process

    NerdWallet reviews 7 companies that allow U.S. customers to invest in real estate, primarily through non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) or private equity.

    We collect data from providers and observe provider demonstrations, as necessary. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with our specialists’ hands-on research, make up our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance.

    The final output produces overall star ratings. Ratings are rounded to the nearest tenth. These overall star ratings appear on roundup pages and the provider’s review.

    Factor weightings

    The weighting of each rating factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way.

    Information updates

    Our writers and editors conduct real estate investment platform reviews on an annual basis. Throughout the year, we maintain contact with providers and update our reviews to reflect changes to their offerings.

    The review team

    The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement, and investment strategy. In addition to appearing on NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo Finance and other national and regional media outlets. Each writer and editor follows NerdWallet’s strict guidelines for editorial integrity.

    The combined expertise of our investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluation of products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors together have more than 50 years of experience in writing about finance.

    Account minimum

    This is the minimum amount required to open an account and begin investing. A required minimum of $500 or less earns the highest rating; a required minimum of $25,000 or more earns the lowest rating. This category does not consider whether investors need to be accredited, which some real estate investment platforms require.

    Redemption options

    Often, real estate investments are illiquid and require consumers to lock up their funds for several years. This category considers how long that lock-up period is, and whether the provider offers repurchase opportunities, which may allow investors to exit during the lock-up period. It also considers the fee associated with repurchase agreements.

    A policy that charges no penalty to redeem your investment after two years earns the highest score here. Providers that do not offer redemption options earn the lowest score.

    Investment fees

    This category considers the costs associated with investing through the provider. Providers that require no fee earn the highest score; those whose fee is greater than 3% earn the lowest score.

    Investment selection

    This category considers the number of investments available through the platform and the level of diversification those investments afford. It is common for real estate investment platforms to offer only one or two investment opportunities.

    The highest rating is awarded to providers that offer at least two different investments that have wide diversification of project type and location. The lowest rating goes to providers that offer only one investment that lacks diversification — for example, a single REIT that invests only in residential properties.

    Website usability

    We define website usability as how easy it is for our reviewers to find key details on the provider’s website. If we can find all information in under five minutes, a provider earns the highest rating. If we can’t find any information, the provider earns the lowest rating.

    Investment transparency

    This category rates providers on how much information is readily available about the investments they offer. Our reviewers look for easy-to-understand information about:

  • Fees.
  • The level of risk involved.
  • Steps the provider or investment takes to mitigate those risks.
  • How the investment was vetted by the provider.
  • How investors earn a return.

  • Providers that fully disclose all five factors on their website earn the highest rating. If our reviewers can only find one of five factors, the provider earns the lowest rating.

    Investor requirements

    Our investor requirement category rates providers on whether they require clients to be accredited investors, which means they must meet certain income and net worth requirements. Platforms that are only open to accredited investors earn the lowest score; those that offer at least some products to investors who aren’t accredited earn the highest.

    Customer support

    Our customer support rating is based on availability and means of contact. Providers who offer phone support during extended hours (such as weekends or evenings) earn the highest rating. Those that offer only email support earn the lowest rating.

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