Jeff Bezos has received his fair share of criticism over the years – for everything from Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) business practices to his large investments in space and, more recently, his investments in a real estate startup that’s been purchasing single-family homes in several states across the country.
The startup Arrived is an investment platform that allows retail investors to purchase shares of single-family homes that are used as either long-term rentals or short-term vacation rentals. The company is the first platform qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to offer shares of rental properties to nonaccredited investors.
Bezos made an early investment in the company through his Bezos Expeditions Fund during the seed round in 2021, joining other high-profile investors like Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM) Founder Marc Benioff through Time Ventures, former Zillow Group Inc. (NASDAQ: Z) CEO Spencer Rascoff and Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UBER) CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Bezos made a second investment in the company earlier this year during Arrived’s series A round.
Arrived has been growing rapidly since its launch last year and has now acquired over 200 properties. Retail investors on the platform have fully funded 182 properties with a total value of over $66 million. The rental property investment offerings are priced at $10 per share with a minimum investment of $100.
People are usually able to find a way to criticize Bezos for practically any move he makes, but the timing of his investment in Arrived has likely contributed to the amount of backlash. Several markets throughout the country saw record appreciation in home prices between 2020 and 2022, which put homeownership out of reach for many Americans.
While several factors contributed to the rapid growth in home prices, many people have placed a share of the blame on institutional investors. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, investors accounted for 24% of U.S. home sales in 2021, and data from the National Association of Realtors says that institutional buyers made up 13% of the residential sales market in 2021.
During a hearing held by the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in June, Chair Al Green said, “Private equity companies have bought up hundreds of thousands of single-family homes and placed them on the rental market. This removes from the housing market homes that might otherwise have been purchased by individual homeowners.”
The hearing didn’t call out Arrived or Bezos, but several people have expressed their outrage on Twitter.
Minnesota real estate agent and “Big Brother” star Janelle Pierzina tweeted, “Six more families that can’t buy in this market. This market is going to be effed for a very long time.”
Several other tweets suggest similar opinions, like this user who said, “Perfect… .just what an overheated market needs… .the richest ppl in the world using retail investors to further crowd out ordinary buyers.”
Another recent tweet said, “This seemssss~ Really bad. Admittedly I don’t fully understand, but I’m certain it’s extremely exploitative during a housing crisis, and I’m both angry & terrified all at the same time”
But is a real estate investment platform really hurting the housing market?
With the total number of homes sold in the U.S. between 2021 and 2022 totaling approximately 12 million, Arrived’s roughly 200 purchases account for about 0.0000167% of transactions, unlikely to be significant enough to impact the housing market.
While critics see Arrived as something that’s limiting access to real estate ownership, the company’s founders believe they’re doing the exact opposite. During an episode of Benzinga’s Real Estate Podcast, Arrived CEO Ryan Frazier said, “Why does it have to be so binary that, you save up for multiple years for these down payments that are often six figures nowadays, and then you’re committed to that city or that property forever or really for the long run?
“And so that is the idea for Arrived. How do we look at these barriers that prevent people from getting started today in owning real estate? The capital, the time commitments and the expertise required, and how do we lower the barrier to entry? So, if you have time and expertise but maybe not the amount of capital to diversify in as many properties as you want, Arrived can facilitate that for you.
“You don’t have time to invest in new markets and build up a presence there and you wanna be able to diversify. Arrived can step in that scenario as well. So it’s really about taking those three major rocks that keep people out of investing capital, time and expertise and making it very convenient to get started.”