The Lindsay, a new crowdfunded condo conversion through Fundrise

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When historic rowhouses get chopped up into high-priced condos, the projects often spark feelings of resentment in neighbors who preferred the single-family spaciousness that used to predominate (as well as at the Office of Planning, which proposed to restrict condo conversions). They may also arouse twinges of envy. After all, when a property owner turns, say, a $380,000 house into condos worth more than $2 million, it’s hard not to wish you could get in on the wildly profitable action, much as you might dislike the final product.

And now you can. Fundrise, founded in 2010 by brothers Ben and Dan Miller, is best known for its crowdfunding of major real estate projects in the H Street NE area, including a recent $650,000 financing haul for a 45-apartment building at 1326 Florida Ave. NE. But the company has begun to get into the condo conversion game, allowing investors who may not be able to afford to buy property to capitalize on the real estate boom nonetheless.

For the first time, Fundrise just paid back investors for their contributions to a condo conversion—-a Dupont Circle project that turned a rowhouse at 1817 Riggs Place NW into three condos. The project, completed by D.C.-based Lock 7 Development, is dubbed The Lindsay, and for investors, it provided a quick buck. For a minimum investment of $5,000—-as opposed to the typical minimum of at least $100,000—-they received a 12 percent annualized rate of return on their contributions in just nine months. In total, the approximately 30 investors provided $310,000 for the project.

Lock 7 had guaranteed the investment, meaning that even in the event of a default, the investors would get back their principal plus interest. But when the luxury units sold for an average of $730 per square foot, the investors took a 12 percent annualized return—-in line with what Fundrise had projected. The condos aren’t exactly the micro-units that comprise much of the Florida Avenue project: The upper unit is 1,600 square feet, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a roof deck.

Now, the company is embarking on more projects. According to Dan Miller, there are about 10 more crowdfunded condo conversions in the pipeline, including properties in Georgetown, Columbia Heights, and the H Street NE corridor.

“It broadens the investor base for people who don’t have the capital to buy an entire building,” Miller says, noting too that the investors get their money back much more quickly than with typical real estate projects.

This crowdfunded condo boom is good news for D.C. residents with moderate disposable income who want to invest in the real estate market. But it could be trouble for neighbors who just want to see their streets remain as they are.

Photo via Fundrise