Real estate is considered a venture for the wealthy, often leaving out the voices of those living next door to new developments. But that doesn’t have to be the case.
With the help of crowdfunding, two brothers have set out to change that dynamic.
In 2010, Ben and Daniel Miller created Fundrise, a crowdfunding platform that allows residents to invest in a project with as little as $100, giving communities a stake in shaping what projects pop up next in their neighborhood. The company officially launched in August of 2012, following the legalization of crowdfunding in the JOBS Acts, according to the New York Times.
Large-scale, institutional investors are often removed from projects in which they pool their cash into, which can lead to a commercial project being a bad fit for a community. So who better to know what an area needs than its locals? If more residents are invested in their community, that could spur more economic growth as well as help determine the best fit for commercial projects.
The Fundrise concept is simple: Developers list projects on the site and investors can invest as much or as little as they want, generating income from rent, if the development is leased or any proceeds or appreciation if a property is sold. The company estimates its investors see a return of 12 to 14 percent after fees.
MORE: It Takes a Village: Crowdfunding Neighborhood Improvement
More than 300 developers have listed on the site over the past several months, financing an estimated $15 million worth of projects in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles, according to Fortune. The new flush of funding will help the site expand to the Seattle and San Francisco markets as well as help the platform scale it’s quickly rapid pace of raising around $1 million per week, according to Ben Miller.
While the company was founded to break down the monopoly big investors have on the market, the Millers are not ruling on enlisting the wealthy for help.

“We found that if you have 1,000 or 2,000 investors, that [will add up to] a few million, but if the project is $10 million, you need $8 million more,” Miller told the Times. “You need to get the scale.”

The company contends that institutional investors will embrace the idea of social capital, working with community members who could help with the exhaustive processes and permits required for urban buildings.

Regardless of how large an investment is, the stakes are high in real estate. But if more neighborhoods begin to work together to determine the future of their community, the investment is priceless.