11 Tips for choosing real-estate syndication software in 2021

11 Tips for choosing real-estate syndication software in 2021

We know how hard it can be to choose the right tool for your real-estate syndication business. We’ve been in your shoes, and we were also looking for the best way to help you grow your business. That’s why we decided to write this post and share with you our 11 tips for choosing real-estate syndication software.

There is currently nine leading real-estate syndication software in the market:

* Juniper Square

* IMS

* Update Capital

* AppFolio

* Investor Deal Room

* InvestNext

* GrounderBreaker

* Syndication Pro

* Cash Flow Portal

At first, it can be a little complicated to figure out which tool is best for you. We based our tips on personal experience using various software and feedback from other syndicators and passive investors. Our tips will guide you through the process of choosing the right investment software to fit your needs and preferences.

Tip #1: Analyze pricing structure

Real estate syndication software cost anywhere from $50/month to $1,500/month. To determine what’s the best pricing structure, we’ll use a car analogy.

What kind of car would you like for your syndication business – is it a Mercedes/ BMW, Subaru, Honda Civic, Tesla? 

You could argue that since you’re just starting out, a car like Honda Civic or Subaru is perfect for the job and that when you are scaling up, you can then transition into a more prestigious car.

Or you can determine that you want to come across as ultra professional from the get-go and invest in a super expensive car like Mercedes/BMW. 

You could also say you want to look at this from a long-term perspective: in the long run, what is the best software business partner I want to have as I scale my syndication journey? Who do I trust?

For me, I own a Tesla and I love it. It is as expensive as BMW and it is reputable in different ways. When I bought it 2 years ago it was actually rough on the edges. I have heard stats that over the course of a lifetime, a Tesla is way cheaper than a BMW, and costs roughly as much as a brand new Toyota Camry. 

So the first tip is to choose a software with the right balance between price and reputation, and think long term – this software will stay with you for a long time.

We are so bold to think that we can be the Tesla of real estate syndication software over the long run. Of course, we need to live up to that expectation, and that’s our aspiration. We offer you to try our syndication software absolutely free with no strings attached till you close your first deal.

Tip #2: Check the minimum length of the contract

Length of contract is essential for two reasons:

1. You will have to commit to paying a certain sum to use software that you don’t know you will 100% derive value yet.

2. Companies that offer only long-term contracts have guaranteed revenues coming in, which is essential for their long-term sustainability as a company

Our tip is to opt for contracts that are flexible, something that allows you to back out any time if it did not meet your expectations. 

Our guarantee at Cash Flow Portal is if you are not happy about the contract, you can cancel the contract month to month and no questions asked. This allows you maximum flexibility to make sure you actually get value before you pay. 

Tip #3: Is the company customer service-driven or sales-driven?

In my experience, most sales folks are not real estate-focused or have minimal experience working with real estate syndications. They don’t fully understand how our business works and what our main challenges are (we say “our” because we are also real estate syndicators).

How do we know if the company is sales-driven? You have to talk to a salesperson before getting your hands on the software. I strongly believe that you should be able to sign up whenever you want and be able to derive value instantly, without talking to any salesperson. Think Zoom, Slack, and Mailchimp – while they have enterprise versions, you can sign up directly. 

This is related to the first point. Keep in mind that more expensive does not always mean better – in my opinion, a syndication software is not that hard to build, and people are charging more not necessarily because the software is always better – they could just have a large sales team and they have to charge more. Or they are the first entries to the marketplace so they can charge more.  

Tip #4 Longevity in the real-estate syndication software business

Longevity can be both a positive and a negative sign. On the negative side, companies that have been too long in the market tend to have a clunkier UI and can innovate less rapidly. Think traditional banks.

On the positive side, their features are relatively mature, they have a good customer base, and are usually trustworthy (otherwise they wouldn’t have survived). In general, longevity in business is a good thing.

Tip #5: E-signature functionality

Most current real-estate investment software companies use DocuSign integration. While this is a popular option, it has disadvantages.

For example:

1. Passive investors get notified of DocuSign documents via email, instead of being able to sign them embedded on the portal directly.

2. Setting up DocuSign templates as a syndicator requires many different configurations, and the process is very complicated. For example, in some portals, one has to create a custom section to get PPM requirements in front of every document. All these sections have to be manually created by a syndicator. As a result, the process can take hours or days to set up.

If possible, opt for portals that use signatures that can be embedded into the portal directly.

Tip #6: Ease of use for passive investors

While it can be beneficial to use a white label tool that powers your website, there are also disadvantages to such an approach. Your passive investors will have to create multiple accounts for every syndicator’s website. As a result, they will have to log in to these accounts one by one to pull information on six different deals (if they are from 6 syndicators). Another downside is that they require approval from each syndicator for investors to sign up to the portal.

In Cash Flow Portal, we care a lot about the experience of the passive investors and offer a single sign-on for passive investors across all deals and syndicators. I think this may be the most controversial decision we make – as some syndicators do want a white-label tool. Again, I am making a bet that in the long run, this is a better experience making equity raising a much more efficient and consistent process.

Tip #7: Ease of use for real-estate syndicators

Creating a deal with Cash Flow Portal is straightforward and easy. Even people with zero experience in real-estate or SaaS can do it easily by clicking a few buttons:

Equity raising feature allows syndicators to look professional, invite investors to the portal, and showcase deals on a comprehensive dashboard:

Equity raising feature for real estate syndicators on cash flow portal

So the tip is to opt for something that can get you started in as little as 10 mins, instead of hours or days.

Tip #8: Look for the robustness of features of real-estate syndication software

While some features might not be easy to use, some entrenched incumbents’ features are robust and help syndicators automate most of the back-office work. 

A bonus tip here: sniff ways in which you are put into a second-tier support system. For example, there might be an important feature such as “inviting co-sponsors” to your portal that should be a default option but is treated as an add-on. I remember one time my business partner asked for that feature with the support agent, only to be told no. When I insisted on pushing, they escalated up the support chain to find out that that’s something the higher tier supports – and the low-tier support agents had no idea. Don’t let that happen to you.

Cash Flow Portal combines the ease of use, intuitive UI of a user-centric SaaS with robust features of the incumbents. Our features are also amazingly transparent – when we don’t have something we’ll tell you we don’t it and when we will build it. 

Tip #9: Is it an ecosystem or a white-labeled tool?

At the time of this writing, all the real-estate syndication software mentioned in this post is white-labeled. As a result, they allow syndicators to fully brand the tool and raise capital directly on their own websites. We already mentioned in our Tip #6 how it affects passive investor experience. Moreover, if the investor does not know the syndicator’s website, the chances that the investor will find it is close to zero.

At Cash Flow Portal, we will offer a white-label option to large customers. However, our goal is to create an Airbnb-like ecosystem, so we offer passive investors an option to view all the deals on one platform and track all the investments in one place. This approach’s advantage is that a passive investor can switch between a syndicator and a passive investor view using the same account. It is similar to Airbnb, where you can change from traveling to hosting and vice versa using one account. 

"Switch to investing" button allows investors switch between syndicating and investing
The “Switch to investing” button allows investors to switch between syndicating and investing

Tip #10: Engineering culture

Another point that will tell you whether the company is sales or product-driven is how they structure their engineering teams. We might be biased because we are an engineering-driven company. An agile engineering team can quickly fix bugs, automate tedious tasks, help improve onboarding, and delight customers.

Cash Flow Portal is founded by a Silicon Valley Engineering Manager with experience working in top IT companies like Lyft, Twitter, and Amazon. We consider ourselves a Silicon Valley company.

I have a huge bias on this, which is that Silicon Valley engineering culture produces results. Call it pride or arrogance, I do believe we insist on the highest standards of engineering and reliability.

Tip #11: Founder-product fit

Would you want your software’s creator that entrusts your data and business operations to understand your problems as a syndicator? It is only possible if the founder has experience as a real-estate syndicator himself.

The founder of Cash Flow Portal is the lead syndicator on two deals, 172-unit and a 408-unit, and invested passively or is a KP in more than 1,600 doors.

So this tip is to shoot for a company that’s found by successful syndicators themselves.

Conclusion

At the beginning of this article, I look for the qualities I want from syndication software. We audaciously compared Cash Flow Portal to Tesla because we believe that our tool can deliver in the long run. Our ecosystem helps accelerate your equity raising, streamline back-office, and easily communicate with your investors.

As biased as this article may be, my aim is to help set syndicators up for success in the long run. I want software that checks all the boxes I as a syndicator want from software. You may argue it’s very biased and why does Cash Flow Portal magically and tautologically have all these qualities. I would answer it slightly differently: I start off with a list of criteria I have from any syndication software, and by definition, I am going to build a company that fulfills my needs as well as thousands of other customers’ needs.

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About The Author

Perry Zheng
Perry Zheng

Perry Zheng is the founder and CEO of Cash Flow Portal, a real-estate syndication software. It is robust investment operations software and a powerful tool for raising capital that already helped syndicators raise $100MM+. Perry is also a full-time engineering manager at Lyft. He worked at Twitter and Amazon before that.

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