Yield Street: Comprehensive Review and Ranking
#10 (out of 100+) Last year ranking: NONE
Investor complaints probation (1 out of 10 stars)
What is YieldStreet?
2020-03-27 due to a large number of investor alleging complaints with the site, the star ranking of Yield Street has been reduced from 3 to 1 star (out of 10).
IMPORTANT COVID-19 UPDATE: this info was posted before anyone knew we would be facing a global pandemic in the spring of 2020. So it may be missing crucial information necessary to making an effective investment today. Some of the information in it may be dated, no longer accurate and/or irrelevant. For information on analyzing investments in this new era, see: "How will Covid-19 / Coronavirus Affect my Alternative Investment Portfolio?"
YieldStreet offers asset-based lending investments with projected yields from 8-20%. Asset-based loans can provide an extra margin of protection against borrower defaults that unsecured loans (like LendingClub and FundingCircle) don't have.
YieldStreet has the typical real estate/hard money loans, and also some difficult-to-find alternative-finance loan types like litigation finance and marine finance. Many of the offerings claim to have unusual or creative risk mitigation. Additionally it's one of the only platforms that pays interest on undeployed cash, which is a nice plus.
On the other hand, the platform has low volume, and the few deals that are available tend to fill up extraordinarily quickly (some are gone in minutes or seconds!). This can be exciting to some and a turnoff to others.
Conservative investors who require thorough due diligence on every deal will almost certainly conclude the platform is not worth the effort (since there's a good chance of not getting in to the deal after putting in all the work). A deal-breaker for these is also that arguably it's not possible to do a true due diligence on deals (see more below).
Some investors claim that support is slow, due diligence materials are sparse/inadequate, and communication can be poor.
Also the site deals do not have full protection if the platform goes into bankruptcy, which can put investor's money at risk. For more info, see "Pros and Cons" below.
How does YieldStreet work?
YieldStreet sources deals from third party sponsors, and then makes them available on its site. They wrap every deal in a legal entity that provides for payment to the investor and to YieldStreet for its fees and expenses. Currently the entities are either a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) or Buyer Payment Dependent Note (BPDN).
Their management fees range from 1 to 3% annually, and on some deals there can be an extra originator fee of 0.5%. There is an also a first year expense fee ($150 for SPV and $100 for BPDN) and subsequent year expense fees ($70 per year for SPV and $30 per year for BPDN).
Unlike some other platforms, Yield Street does not allow the investor to interact directly with the sponsor. And some investors have complained that inadequate information is passed along (more about this in the "Pros and Cons" section below). In this set-up, there's also a risk of a game of "telephone" where information is not accurately relayed by the extra middleman. And there's a risk that it can be difficult to get information about a deal when it's urgent or things go wrong (which was another complaint about the platform). Platforms like CrowdStreet and RealCrowd allow direct interaction and do not suffer from this dynamic.
What are YieldStreet Pros and Cons?
Advantages: Collateral-backed lending asset classes (including some that are hard to find like litigation finance and marine finance). Pre-funding of every investment. Interest paid on cash through Yield Street Wallet.
Disadvantages: Low volume. Video-game-like subscription atmosphere may be a turnoff to some. May be unsuitable for investors who require thorough due diligence. Can't talk directly to sponsor. Investor complaints about inadequate due diligence materials, slow customer service, and poor communication. Sometimes high fees (up to 3x higher than competitors). Does not have full bankruptcy protection.
YieldStreet offers collateral-based lending. This means that if things go wrong and a borrower defaults, the lender has the right to take possession of something (real estate, company assets, etc.) and sell it to recoup losses. This can provide an extra level of protection that is missing from un-collateralized lending sites like Lending Club and Funding Circle.
Like PeerStreet, FundThatFlip and others, YieldStreet offers hard money loans (loans to investors flipping houses and properties). It also occasionally offers deals in more difficult-to-access asset classes like litigation finance and marine finance. These deals were mentioned by investors as the platform's greatest drawing point.
In all cases, there is some sort of collateral that provides some protection against default. (Although, this protection is only as good as the implementation and there have been reports of deals on YieldStreet where this protection has allegedly broken down. See "YieldStreet Problem Deals" for more information).
Investors holding cash with the platform will like the fact that the platform pays them 2.2% interest, via YieldStreet Wallet. This is something no other platform does, to my knowledge, and is a very nice perk.
YieldStreet suffers from low volume compared with competitors like PeerStreet, and is more similar to low-volume sites like FundThatFlip. They perhaps put a new deal out about every month or so. As such, it's not a one-stop shop for any investor who needs to consistently deploy lots of idle cash.
On the other hand, high-quality deal flow can be difficult to find these days since we're so late in the cycle. And some high-quality sites suffer a lot from this problem. So in my opinion, low volume is frustrating but is not always a significant negative on its own.
The low volume is connected with one of the other common complaints about the platform: that deals often fill up too quickly to get into them. Investors said that some deals fill up completely in minutes or seconds which is kind of crazy.
On one hand, I can't criticize a platform for being popular. On the other hand, many told stories about the frustration of missing numerous investments and deciding to take time out of their day to wait by their computers for the moment a new deal would open. Even after doing that and clicking furiously, some were still too slow to invest on popular deals.
Intentionally or not, YieldStreet has become the only site that often requires videogame-like reflexes and luck to invest. This may be appealing to some who enjoy the atmosphere. And it may also be a turnoff for others who don't have the time or inclination to participate.
Another consequence of the frenzied bidding, is that it can make the site unusable for conservative investors. It takes days or weeks of hard due diligence to thoroughly vet a deal. So its hard to do all that work, when there's a good chance you can't get into the deal at the end. For me personally, I vet about a hundred deals a month, and then invest in only five or six over the course of the year. So my return on investment with YieldStreet after vetting costs would probably be negative.
On the other hand, more aggressive investors who do little or no due diligence, shouldn't have a problem with this kind of dynamic. If you're not married to the particulars of any particular deal and have free time, you can afford to keep trying. Eventually you will get into something you'll like.
Unlike some competitors, YieldStreet prevents the investor from talking directly to the sponsor. This is part of how it justifies its fees as a middleman. However, it also means that the investor is relying on secondhand information to invest their money. If that info is inaccurate or incomplete, then it can lead to problems, and there is really no way to know in advance.
There were multiple complaints that the information YieldStreet provides is incomplete and not enough for a full due diligence and/or meaningful stress tests. Some did give them credit for improving their documents somewhat over previous years. However, YieldStreet reportedly still does not provide fundamental info such as the property address for real estate deals, the portfolio makeup of litigation deals (type of legal cases, which have defaulted, how they are underwritten), etc..
Investors complain that YieldStreet doesn't provide much detailed information on the sponsors (other than praising their claimed impeccable track record)
Another common complaint is that investor relations is extraordinarily slow in answering even basic questions which can make it difficult to do an adequate due diligence before the deal closes.
Here's feedback from one investor who claims to have put money into many deals on the site:
"YS investor relations is probably the worst I've dealt with compared to other crowdfunding sites and sponsors. Not only is there usually a delay with responses (which makes vetting deals challenging since you're only given a few days prior to deals going live), the depth of answers is insufficient and incredibly shallow. Many times the IR person has to follow up with the investment team on very basic questions. I tried using LinkedIn to gauge the experience level of some of the IR folks and they appear to be fresh college grads."
Here's my own personal experience with Yield Street customer service. I was interested in a litigation finance deal in late 2018 and asked for the sponsor's complete, detailed track record. This would be a very simple question on a top-tier site like CrowdStreet and is typically answered within 24 to 48 hours.
The YieldStreet customer service person said they "would have to connect with the investment team" to get the answer and would respond back. They never did. After waiting 15 days, I wrote back to remind them of my question. I got no response for another 8 days. When they finally responded (without an apology), the representative said: "I spoke with my investment team and this is not ultimately information that we are able to provide." As a conservative investor, the inability to view basic info and the painfully slow process was a dealbreaker. And at that point, the deal had already closed anyway.
Another complaint about YieldStreet is that when a deal runs into issues or goes bad, the communication is very poor. One investor provided an example of a claimed status report:
"some legal cases have resulted in unfavorable result the higher than expected result from larger cases will overall result in the targeted yield."
He said he was not able to get any more information than this, and thus had no idea what the effect may or may not have been on his investment.
The fees vary from deal to deal at 1 to 3% annually. When they are at the higher range of 2-3%, they are up to 3 times higher than the industry average of 1-1.5%.
YieldStreet bankruptcy protection is also incomplete and can expose the investor to losses if they go bankrupt. I had to piece together this information, because YieldStreet customer service never responded to my last email question about it (no response after more than a month). Previously they did inform me that all the entities are bankruptcy remote, kept separate from the company in a bankruptcy.
However, I suspect they may not have understood my question, because my later research found risk disclosures in the YieldStreet legal docs, warning that investors in the Buyer Dependent Notes can lose their money to creditors in a bankruptcy. See more under "What does a Yield Street deal look like"?)
Customer service also never answered whether there is a backup administrator or if investors can vote on a new administrator if they go bankrupt. This is important to protecting investors in bankruptcy. With iFunding, RealtyShares and many other platforms going bankrupt or exiting the industry, this is not a hypothetical issue and something that an investor interested in the platform may wish to try to get them to answer.
These communication issues make it hard to recommend YieldStreet for sophisticated investors.
Minimums are $10,000+ which can be within the industry average ($5,000 to $10,000 minimum).
For more raw data on the site (including investor and sponsor fees, legal structure etc.), or to easily compare it with the data of competitors, see the feature by feature comparison matrix.
Is Investing In YieldStreet Legal?
YieldStreet markets to investors under 506C, meaning that it's only available to accredited investors. Since it is not using 506B, new investors are able to view investments immediately and there's no 30-day waiting period. Since it is 506c, it also requires investors to prove their accredited status (and update it periodically).
What does a YieldStreet deal look like?
Here is my step-by-step due-diligence on a random YieldStreet investment. So it may or may not be a typical investment. Also I'm a very conservative investor, so something that's way too risky for me might be the perfect fit for someone else who is more aggressive. Finally, I'm not a financial advisor, attorney or accountant. So this is just my personal opinion and always consult your own financial professionals before making any financial decisions.
This is a construction bridge loan (sometimes called a hard money loan) on a Los Angeles residential property for $7.5 million. It pays the investor 8.49% annual interest over a term of nine months and has a minimum investment of $10,000.
The first step is to make sure that the asset class and strategy even make sense for my portfolio. (If you don't know how to do this, please see The Conservative Investor's Guide to Due Diligence). Let's assumes it does and go on.
At this stage of the cycle, I'm concerned about a possible downturn and don't like to take a gamble on an inexperienced sponsor who might learn expensive lessons with my money. Unlike multifamily investments, construction bridge loans are not a mainstream asset class, and it's difficult to find a sponsor that has gone full cycle. So for these I relax my usual requirement of real estate cycle experience with no money lost.
In this case, YieldStreet claims that the sponsor has originated 80 loans totaling over $730 million. There have been 2 defaults (which I assume were foreclosures) and they claim there has been no principal loss. That comes out to a 2.5% uncured default rate. In comparison, best-of-breed construction loan funds typically have a 1 to 2% uncured default rate. So this is higher than competing options, and this to me is a yellow flag. A more aggressive investor who is not as concerned about default may not have an issue with this.
YieldStreet does not indicate how long the lender has been in business. Personally I would like to see at least five or six years. If I were interested in this deal, I would contact YieldStreet to find out exactly how long it is. If it is five or more than I would consider that fine. Anything less I would consider to be a yellow to a red flag and would probably pass. An investor who is more aggressive, might be fine with less of a track record than I am.
Again as a conservative investor at this stage of the cycle, I want to keep my leverage conservative and not go more than 65% LTV. In this case the leverage is 66%. This is a tad bit higher than what I would typically require, but not significantly so. So if I were okay with the rest of this deal that I would be fine with that.
I also only want to be in a first position loan, because anything lower has a chance of not getting paid if things go wrong. This is indeed a first position loan, which to me is a strong positive for this deal.
At this stage of the cycle, I want the flexibility to adjust if the economic situation deteriorates, so I don't want to be tied into long-term debt. This loan is short-term (under a year and nine months). So I consider this to be a plus.
Judicial versus nonjudicial:
The state in which a loan is made makes a huge difference if things go wrong. If the state has a judicial-only foreclosure process, and things go wrong, it may take a year or more to get back the property and it may be destructively expensive to do so in court. On the other hand, states with a non-judicial process usually take only a few months and are very inexpensive. So personally, I only lend in states that have a nonjudicial process. In this case, the loan is being made in Los Angeles, California, which has a nonjudicial process. So I consider this to be a good sign.
Single investment risk:
Personally, I don't like to invest in individual notes because any single property can have unexpected problems (such as more permitting required, construction doesn't work, environmental issues). These can cause the investment to use up its equity cushion and take a loss.
On the other hand, a fund of notes diversifies my investment across hundreds of properties. So when the inevitable does happen, it's unlikely to affect me much at all.
For that reason, this deal is not a fit for me personally. However, someone who is not as concerned about that risk (or willing to build a large portfolio of single notes) may be fine with it.
This returns 8.49%. In comparison, Broadmark has a first position construction bridge loan fund that lends in the Pacific Northwest. It's diversified across hundreds of loans, LTV's never exceed more than 65% and the investor directly owns the notes (which is not the case here, as will be talked about below). This returns 10 to 11%. So it would be hard for me to choose this deal at 8.49% over an alternative like that. However, an investor who really likes this deal for other reasons, might feel differently.
"Borrower Payment Dependent Notes":
Whether an investor purchases a note directly or through a fund, typically the note is structured so that the property is direct collateral, should things go wrong. However, these are structured as "borrower payment dependent notes" and are not directly tied to the collateral/property. What this means is that if YieldStreet were to go bankrupt, these notes could get sucked into bankruptcy and investors may not get paid. So this is an additional risk, which for me is not worth taking when there are other options. But again an investor who really likes this deal might be okay with this.
From the YieldStreet legal agreement:
Bankruptcy of the Company, Noteholders may Receive less than the Principal Amount of their Investment
The Notes represent debt obligations of the Company, and as such, would entail risks for the Noteholders
that are customary for creditors, including (without limitation) risk of default and/or non-payment by the
borrower. In the event of any liquidation or bankruptcy or similar event of the Company, Noteholders may
receive less than the principal amount of their investment. Noteholders will generally have limited to no
control in the management and operation of the Company’s business and its decisions. Other individuals
and constituencies (such as shareholders of the Company) may have greater control and rights (including, without limitation, approval or blocking rights with respect to business decisions of the Company) than the Noteholders possess. Noteholders should understand that other participants in the Company may have interests that are substantially different than, and directly adverse to, the interests of Noteholders.
As a conservative investor, I'm concerned about the possibility of severe downturn. So, I like some of the risk mitigation features that YieldStreet has put into this deal. At the same time, other features don't appeal to me much.
For example, there is a full recourse personal guarantee on the borrower for $17.6 million excluding the property and $3.3 million in liquid cash. On the surface, that sounds very impressive. If the loan defaults, it sounds like the borrower has plenty of cash to at least soften the blow.
However, the pitch says that these numbers were self-reported by the borrower, not verified independently. In those circumstances, sometimes people will exaggerate and/or even make up assets that don't exist. That could be a possibility here.
On top of that, personal guarantees didn't stop numerous loans in the Great Recession from going bust. Typically, developers will have many projects going on at once and can quickly deplete all their assets in a severe recession scenario. Also, many developers realized that they could postpone payment indefinitely or permanently by declaring bankruptcy and/or using other tricks. So for this reason, the personal guarantee isn't something I would personally hang my whole hat on if things go badly south. On the other hand, an investor who's not as worried about a severe recession scenario, might be okay with this.
If the investment had passed all my initial checks, I would have dived in further to check out the sponsor, the property itself, the projections, etc. To learn how I do those things, check out The Conservative Investors Guide to Due Diligence.
Where can I discuss other YieldStreet deals?
You can do this with thousands of other investors in the private investor club. While the club is free, membership is restricted to investors who have no business connections to sponsors or platforms. Also, all members must agree to keep all club info confidential by signing a nondisclosure agreement. Click here to join or get more info.
What are Some of the Alleged YieldStreet problem deals?
These are YieldStreet deals that investors allege are having problems due to defaults or being past due. Note that I am not invested in any of these deals myself so this is all secondhand through them.
Defaults/past due deals:
Ridesharing Fleet Expansion: In default for two years. At 12 months into the investment, the borrower stopped making payments and defaulted (there were 10 good months, 2 months below expectations and then a default). Initially, YieldStreet made it sound like the repossession process would be straightforward, but it has not been so. The sponsor has been cooperative, but other creditors also want the collateral (cars). Despite being first in line for collateral, it has been expensive to litigate. The original marketing had claimed protection from this scenario because "anticipated vehicle auction values greater than the outstanding loan at all times."
Quest Livery Leasing was a prior deal with the same sponsor. Since the borrower is now out of business, it's possible that this deal also defaulted (unless it got luckier on timing).
Commercial Financial I: In default.
Multi-Use Real Estate Portfolio IV: Past maturity date, went into default. Missed balloon payment (no principal payback) but still paying interest. One of the three loans did not make its balloon payment. Yield Street is allowing them to make interest-only payments in hopes that they pay off the full loan sometime soon.
Multi-Use Real Estate Portfolio VII Behind schedule since 2 of the 5 underlying loans are in delinquency.
Nationally Recognized Law Firm Financing : 3 year deal that is now 3 months past due. No principal payback and only half of accrued interest. Was pitched as a "nationally recognized law firm specializing in mass tort litigation" and now a large number of the law firms are disputing the terms of the contract and not paying. The law firm was pitched as having "amassed an inventory of approximately 31,000 cases, before discount," but apparently a large number of them were never full-fledged finally-accepted cases.
Louisiana Oil & Gas Financing :Borrower violated covenant test regarding debt, and platform has initiated foreclosure.
Deals from 2 to 3 years ago that appear to be having problems, because their "term remaining" is listed as "ongoing," where normally an active deal shows an estimate of the number of months until maturity. Since the amounts repaid are less or way less than what they should be at the age of the deal, they appear to be problem deals.
Who are YieldStreet Competitors?
Here are the reviews and rankings for other residential debt sites:
To compare this site directly with competitors, see the
feature by feature comparison matrix.
OR...if you're looking for more volume and/or more conservative LTV's than most crowdfunding sites provide, then a fund might be a better choice for you. If so, here is our Guide to the Top 15 Hard Money Loan Funds (and honors).
How do I invest in debt?
Looking to learn more about investing in debt (hard money loan investing)? Here's our 4-part step-by-step series.
How to pick? Check out our step-by-step guide.
Top 100+ accredited investor sites (ranked and reviewed)
Code of Ethics: To maintain objectivity, I do not accept any money from any sponsor or platform for anything (including affiliate ads, advertising etc.). See code of ethics for more.
Personal opinion only: All info is my personal opinion only as an investor. I am not a registered financial advisor, attorney or accountant. Always do your own due diligence and consult with your own licensed professionals before making any investment decision. Information is believed to be correct but may have errors, so use at your own risk. If you find an error, please let me know.
Rankings/rating are general: In my opinion, every investor comes from a different risk tolerance and financial situation, so there's no such thing as a single investment or platform that's great for everyone. There are many deals that aggressive investors love, which I won't touch, and vice versa. And every investor has their own way of doing due diligence. I believe there's no one right way to do it.
So, the site rankings/ratings are based on criteria which I feel are important to the broadest range of investors (transparency, volume, bankruptcy protection, etc). And even though I have my own personal, conservative, due diligence method (and talk about how the site's deals measure up in the "deep dive section"), I don't use my personal criteria as a factor in the rankings. So for example, a high ranking/rating doesn't mean that I would personally invest in a site (and vice versa). Click here to see what's in my own portfolio.
About Ian Ippolito
Ian Ippolito is an investor and serial entrepreneur. He has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Forbes, TIME, Fast Company, TechCrunch, CBS News, FOX News, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Realtor.com, CoStar News, Curbed and more.
Ian was impressed by the potential of real estate crowdfunding, but frustrated by the lack of quality site reviews and investment analysis. He created The Real Estate Crowdfunding Review to fill that gap.
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This site has been ranked and reviewed as part of our in-depth, 100+ site industry review. All data is believed to be correct, but may have mistakes. Please contact us if you notice one. All non-data (including rankings, investor comment summaries, etc.) are my opinion only. I'm just an investor and not an attorney, accountant, or certified financial advisor. To maintain neutrality: I do not own a portion of any of the companies reviewed.