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低信用客户房贷平台Divvy Homes获A16Z领投3000万美元融资

科技初创公司已经找到了各种各样的方法来借钱给那些因信贷太少或不太好而受到阻碍的人。

一家已拥有近两年历史、员工15人的旧金山初创公司Divvy Homes的做法是我们见过的最有创意的做法之一,尽管我们(目前)质疑这种做法对潜在客户来说是否长期有效。

它的原理是:在克利夫兰、亚特兰大和孟菲斯,Zillow估计的房价中位数分别为5.2万美元、8200美元和24.2万美元,而Divvy可以使一个人或家庭能够选择他们希望拥有的房子,然后在Divvy的帮助下买下那栋房子。这个家庭需要预付至少2%的首付。Divvy则支付其余的费用,然后每月收取一笔金额,包括市场租金和股权支付。

他们会这样收取,直到新住户积累了住宅10%的股份。该公司说,这样做的原因是:通过与Divvy合作,租户——其中一些人的信用评分低至550分,消费者信用评级机构Experian认为这是“非常差的”——可以建立他们的信用评分,最终获得联邦住房管理局的抵押贷款,而要想获得这一贷款,要求信用评分至少为580分。

据首席执行官Brian Ma说,这个想法可以在三年内实现,届时Divvy将出售财产并转让给租户。Brain Ma在公司孵化工作室HVF Labs联合创办了这家创企。

很容易理解为什么这对那些在当前市场上无法获得传统抵押贷款的潜在购房者有吸引力——并非所有人都信用不佳,但他们有时是合同工和自由职业者,没有几个月的工资存根来向紧张的银行家展示。例如,Divvy说,随着买方股权的增加,它收取的租金会减少。它坚持认为,这种股权可以在以后变成个人或家庭的第一笔抵押贷款。

出于可能存在自私自利的原因,Divvy将竭尽全力确保房子也不会被废弃。正如Ma所描述的那样,Divvy使用数据科学和算法来确保房产在财务上有意义,这意味着它很可能会升值,并且租户不会支付太多,以至于他们不能同时在自己的房子里建立产权。

Ma说:“Divvy还与检查员合作,确保每栋房子都已经准备好搬进去,并且在租赁期间不会有大的意外开支,比如主要的屋顶、结构、害虫或地基问题。”他以前共同创办了三家初创公司,并在Zillow担任了几年的项目经理。

尽管如此,也很容易想象Divvy的一些有抱负的房主永远不会真正拥有自己的房子。比如说,虽然Divvy可能会帮助他们中的一些人提高信用评分,但信用评分低于579分的消费者中,大约62%的人“将来可能会严重拖欠债务(即拖欠债务超过90天),”Experian说。

自然,就像其他财产所有者一样,Divvy会驱逐不付款的房客,即使他们不情愿这样做。

“如果拖欠租金,我们会跟进,看看我们能如何帮忙,”Ma说。“大多数时候,它可以在几天内解决。如果已经超过一周了,并且我们认为房客正在经历一些困难,我们将尽最大努力提供替代方案,包括允许他们通过减少股权支付来降低每月支付额,来实现纯粹的租赁房产。如果我们找不到解决这种情况的方法,我们将通过驱逐程序进行。”

Divvy还在购买房子的时候就确定了买断价格——这对希望有朝一日拥有房子的租户来说有利,也可以对他们不利。

Divvy的另一位联合创始人Adena Hefets最近向我们解释说,Divvy有一个后端模型,该模型预测未来三年房子的价格,并允许租户“随时以这个价格买断”。Adena曾在风投公司和私人股权公司工作过。然而,提前买断它总是意味着多付了钱。此外,在Divvy经营的城市,房价不会变动太多,所以房客可能会以任何买断价格,从而多付了一些钱。(截至去年春天,俄亥俄州东北部的房价一直在上涨,但仍处于2004年的水平。)

随着更广阔的住房市场即将放缓,想要买房的租户可能会决定搬出去找更便宜的房产。那这会令Divvy如何呢?我们想这会让它看起来更像是一个现代住宅房地产投资信托,而不是一个“出租给自己的创新者”。

对Divvy来说,这不是一件可怕的事情,即使听起来不那么迷人。事实上,该公司声称它已经每天购买一套房子,但今天披露它已经从A16Z和一家名为Cross River Bank的商业银行那里获得了3000万美元的股权和债务融资。

Ma拒绝透露这轮交易中有多少是股权,多少是债务。但是他说,A16Z投资者Alex Rampell已经加入了公司董事会,Alex Rampell的其他房地产相关赌注包括不同部分所有权创企Point。

Tech startups have found all kinds of ways to lend money to those hampered by either too little or not very good credit.

The approach of a nearly two-year-old, 15-person San Francisco-based startup called Divvy Homes is among the more creative we’ve seen, even while we question (for now) whether it’s good over the long term for potential customers.

How it works: In Cleveland, Memphis, and Atlanta, where Zillow estimates median home prices are $52,000, $82,000, and $242,000, respectively, Divvy will enable a person or family to select a home they’d like to someday own, then to buy that home with Divvy’s help. The family chips in at least two percent for a down payment. Divvy pays for the rest, then it collects a monthly amount that includes both market-rate rent and an equity payment.

It does this until the newly installed residents have amassed a 10 percent stake in the home. The reason, says the company: By partnering with Divvy, tenants — some of whom have credit scores as low as 550, which is considered “very poor” by the consumer credit ratings agency Experian — can build their credit scores and eventually land a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which requires a credit score of at least 580.

According to CEO Brian Ma — who co-founded the startup at the company creation studio HVF Labs — the idea is for this to happen within three years, at which point Divvy will sell and transfer the property over to them.

It’s easy to appreciate why this might be attractive to potential homebuyers who can’t secure a traditional mortgage in the current market — not all of whom suffer from poor credit but who are sometimes contract and self-employed workers without months of salary stubs to show nervous bankers. For example, Divvy says that it charges less in rent as a buyer’s equity begins to add up. That equity, it insists, can later turn into the person or family’s first mortgage payment.

For largely self-serving reasons, Divvy does what it can to ensure that the house isn’t a dud, too. As Ma describes it, Divvy uses data science and algorithms to ensure that a property makes sense financially, meaning that it will likely appreciate and that the tenants aren’t paying so much that they can’t simultaneously build equity in their homes.

Divvy also works with inspectors to make doubly certain each home is “move-in ready and won’t have large unforeseen expenses during the lease, like major roof, structural, pest, or foundation issues,” says Ma, who previously co-founded three startups, as well as spent several years as a program manager with Zillow.

Still, it’s also easy to imagine that some of Divvy’s aspiring homeowners will never actually own their homes. Consider: While Divvy may help some percentage of them improve their credit score, roughly 62 percent of consumers with credit scores under 579 are “likely to become seriously delinquent (i.e. go more than 90 days past due on a debt payment) in the future,” says Experian.

Naturally, like any other property owner, Divvy will evict tenants who don’t pay, even if it does so reluctantly.

“If a rent payment is missed, we will follow up to see how we can help,” says Ma. “Most of the time, it’s immediately curable or curable within a couple days. If it’s been longer than a week and we believe the tenant is going through some hardship, we will work our best to offer alternatives, including allowing them to purely rent the property by dropping the equity payments to lower their monthly payment. If we can’t find a way to cure the situation, we will go through an eviction procedure.”

Divvy also establishes the buyback price at the time that it’s buying the home — which can work for, or against, the tenants who hope to own it someday.

Adena Hefets, another Divvy co-founder who worked previously in both VC and private equity, recently explained to us that Divvy has a back-end model that projects where the house would price three years down the line and it allows tenants to “buy it back at that price at any time.” Yet buying it back early would invariably mean overpaying. Moreover, in the cities where Divvy is operating, housing prices don’t move around a lot, so a tenant could be overpaying at any buyback price that’s north of where the home sells today. (Home prices in Northeast Ohio were rising as of last spring, but they were still at 2004 levels.)

With the broader housing market poised for a slowdown, tenants wanting to buy their homes might decide it’s cheaper in the end to just move out of them and find something else. They’d still get 10 percent of the sale of the home, even if they overpaid for it over their three-year commitment. But where would that leave Divvy? We’d guess it would leave it looking more like a modern residential real estate investment trust than a “rent-to-own innovator.”

That’s not a terrible thing for Divvy, even if it sounds a little less glamorous. In fact, the company — which says it’s already buying one home a day — is today disclosing that it has raised $30 million in equity and debt from Andreessen Horowitz  (a16z) and a commercial bank called Cross River Bank that notably is backed by a16z.

Ma declines to say how much of the round is equity and how much is debt. But he says that Alex Rampell, an a16z investor whose other real estate-related bets include a different fractional ownership startup, Point, has joined the company’s board.


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