Re-inventing second home ownership across Europe and the Middle East & North Africa with Fractal
By Eric Martineau-Fortin, Managing Partner, & Alex Wilson, Principal
TLDR: We’re excited to announce that we are partnering with Fractal, leading their $30m funding round to change second home ownership. This blog explains why we invested.
For consumers, property has long been regarded as a great investment option. It provides a steady and passive source of income. It can act as an inflationary hedge due to its correlation with consumer prices, while its low volatility and role as a basic necessity makes it a great recessionary refuge.
More importantly however, it is also a tangible asset tied to an intangible but critical aspect of our lives. It can be our home. A place that we own, where we feel safe and accepted. A place where we raise families and create memories. A place where we can holiday, and in the last few years, a place of work. We develop emotional connections to our homes, and they become a physical manifestation of our identities.
It is therefore no surprise that having access to a secondary property has become just as desirable as owning a primary property. Today, there are 100 million second homes globally. Following the pandemic we are seeing the number of secondary home transactions grow at a double-digit pace yearly, as new remote working trends and new modes of living begin to settle in. We are already well versed on the problems related to discovering, buying, maintaining and selling a primary home, evidenced by the numerous start-ups today trying to solve these issues. But, if we consider the problems associated with owning a second home, in many ways the pain points are even worse:
- If the home is abroad, the discovery phase is hampered significantly by distance
- Buyers also often need to access cross-border financing which can be difficult due to the fragmentation of credit profiling globally
- Properties can be bought outright, but the price point can make this difficult and inefficient. This together with the ongoing costs (e.g.mortgage payments, maintenance fees, insurance) do not align with the amount of time they are actually used, which is on average 6–9 weeks per year
- Access to cross-border legal and tax advice poses a problem too, which is further compounded by language barriers
In the mid-1970s, timeshares became an attractive solution to many of these obstacles in accessing a second home compared to buying. Timeshares were one of the first forms of fractionalisation in real estate, where one could purchase 1/52 of a unit, giving them the exclusive right to use the property for a specific week every year. The quality of properties acquired through timeshares, as well as some of the historical practices in the industry, are at times questionable. Timeshares, aside from having high maintenance fees and being highly illiquid, are first and foremost depreciating assets. They only entitle their owners to a share of time and not a share of the real estate, with no benefit from any potential property value appreciation or from renting out the property when not in use.
Labib Kaddoura and Wadih Abou Bechara, co-founders of a successful debt advisory boutique in the Middle East, identified many of these problems but also the specific difficulties that arise for consumers from the Middle East and Africa when trying to purchase property overseas:
- They are keen to diversify away from assets in their home countries, but have limited access to cross-border financing
- They are far more attracted to cities for both work and leisure, rather than mountain regions or beaches
Bringing onboard Ronny Shibley, ex-CTO of Gorillas, one of Europe’s leading quick commerce platforms, they have launched Fractal, a fractional ownership real estate platform that makes it easy for consumers from the Middle Eastern, North Africa and other high-growth markets to purchase homes in major European cities.
Fractal offers consumers the opportunity to purchase anywhere between ⅛ and ½ of a unit, with this interest representing true ownership in the property, rather than simply the time to use it, a key difference to timeshares. Owners will also pay a monthly fee for administration, management and additional services. Both the initial capital and operational outlays required to buy the property and the high cost of running it is reduced substantially through the co-ownership model. Fractal fully manages the property, takes care of cleaning, maintenance and all operational aspects that come with the running of a home, providing a hotel-like experience.
We met the team in the Spring of 2022 and were immediately impressed with the progress they had achieved, having already received commitments for debt financing despite their stage, and the team they were building. The core Fractal team of Labib, Wadih and Ronny, together with their key hires, encompass decades of experience across the areas crucial to the success of this solution, i.e. real estate know-how, capital markets expertise, an acute understanding of consumer technology and a deep network in the Middle East and Africa.
We estimate this to be a $57bn market opportunity, and coupled with our track record in backing category-defining consumer businesses such as Dollar Shave Club, Butternut Box, Freshly and FINN, we believe Fractal is in a fantastic position to follow suit.
We are delighted to announce our first cross-border consumer deal between Europe and the Middle East & North Africa, leading the equity portion of Fractal’s $30m funding round. This is just the start for Fractal, and we could not be more excited to support Labib and Wadih in realising their vision.
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