Nearly eight years ago, we set out to give investors a true alternative to the stock market by creating a simple, low-cost way to invest directly in real estate.
Our performance in 2018 certainly feels validating in that aim. As a platform, Fundrise beat the overall stock market by a healthy margin, with an average return of 9.11% net of fees¹ — more than 14% better than the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF and the Vanguard Real Estate ETF.²
The stock market volatility at the end of 2018 (which continues to persist as of this writing) illustrates clearly why we feel the need to provide our investors with greater diversification from traditional public markets. From the beginning, we’ve believed that by leveraging technology we could provide Fundrise investors with the ability to purchase real assets directly, at lower costs, closer to true intrinsic values, and as a result generate higher potential yields.
In fact, the Fundrise platform has achieved, on average, a 10.79% net annualized return over the past five years,¹ more than 2.75% higher than either the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF or the Vanguard Real Estate ETF during the same time period.² (To be clear, the Fundrise net annualized return is not representative of any individual investor’s performance, which is likely to vary depending on when they invested and the allocation of their portfolio).
While we are proud of the results we have been able to produce for our investors, it is important to remember that past performance is not indicative of future results. In our opinion, the investment environment has only become more challenging over the past twelve months. And while the stock market has begun to reprice, it is still trading well above historic averages in terms of price to earnings. There is still a lot of capital in the market chasing deals, which is propping up asset prices and driving down yields.
A realistic perspective on the upcoming year
In our view, 2019 looks like it is shaping up to be extremely challenging for investors in search of quality.
While the core US economy is strong, we seem to be stuck in a catch-22, with each piece of good economic news just as likely to encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, cooling markets, as opposed to propelling continued growth. Meanwhile, central banks around the world who once resuscitated the financial markets during the Great Recession by dropping interest rates to zero, or less, and printing trillions of dollars (a.k.a. quantitative easing) have now begun to withdraw that monetary stimulus, raising interest rates and unloading their balance sheets. In the US, the Federal Reserve is currently liquidating $50 billion a month from their holdings — in other words, the Fed is withdrawing $600 billion a year of stimulus from the economy, which is likely to act like a giant vacuum sucking up most of the would-be growth.
At this point, virtually every economist and financial analyst is forecasting a downturn in late 2019 or 2020. And although we are skeptical of consensus views, we are working to position our investments defensively.
Investing is not for the faint of heart. We are entering the winnowing period when wills are tested by adverse conditions as we transition from the end of an economic cycle.
How Fundrise stays ahead of the curve
Given these broader macroeconomic conditions, we’ve begun exploring several investment products that may be uniquely suited for this transitional environment, while still continuing to work relentlessly on creating innovations that can unlock new and better ways to invest. With a growing team of software engineers and real estate professionals, we are arguably better positioned than any real estate investment firm in the country to use technology to lower costs, open new opportunities, and drive ever improved results.
We look forward to tackling whatever challenges the coming year may bring together. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.