Homeownership may not be such a distant dream for renters hoping to buy one day. Seattle-based startup Loftium has devised an alternative approach to obtaining a down payment on a house: Airbnb a bedroom in the house for up to three years.
For buyers who have been pre-approved by a lender, Loftium will pay up to $50,000 on a down payment on a house.
The home must be the primary residence of the homeowner, so Loftium is not available for purchase as an investment property, per their eligibility FAQ.
In exchange for the dough, Loftium requires home buyers to sign a service contract agreeing to list a spare room on airbnb.com for 12-36 months, depending on the loan amount and rental price, and split the profits 70/30 with Loftium. The idea is to generate a passive income stream for the homeowner to help with monthly payments on the home.
While Loftium does take a cut of the Airbnb profits, they are in no way a co-owner of the home. If you purchased a home through them, it’s yours and yours alone – “like it should be,” the website declares.
There are a couple of caveats, and I mean, if someone is handing you $50,000 to help you buy a house, it would make sense to look into the conditions of ownership.
For instance, the Loftium home owner must be a good Airbnb host. So no sabotaging the listing by making the space sound like Shawshank, no making guests feel awkward or unwelcome, and listed rooms must be furnished with at minimum: a queen-sized bed (or larger) with mattress and frame, a chair, a desk or bedside table, and a lamp.
All other stipulations would be the same for any other Airbnb host.
This may sound a little insane, maybe even a little desperate to anyone who has successfully managed a down payment on a house to share the space with strangers for an agreed upon time, but this is exactly the boost many renters need to overcome the down payment hurdle. And Millennials are already primed for this sharing economy and are open minded to the arrangement.
Loftium co-founder Yifan Zhang believes that within the next five to ten years, prospective home buyers will have three standard options for coming up with a down payment: save, ask the parents to help out, or sign up for Loftium. Based on early interest, likely from those signing up for quotes and votes for their city (more on that), Zhang expects business to scale quickly.
So far, Loftium is only available in Seattle as a beta test for the service. There have already been successful homeowners in this brand new program, one of which had the clever idea of finding a place with a mother-in-law quarters to rent out as her listed space/bedroom, and Loftium is currently offering 50 down payments initially this fall in the Seattle area.
The plan is to eventually expand into Chicago and Washington D.C., but interested renters have the option of submitting votes for their city. As of publication, Austin is currently sitting around 4,000+ votes.
There will be some obstacles for particular cities that will prevent Loftium from setting up shop, such as city legislation that prevents people from renting out rooms in their homes, but I suspect that with the rise in popularity of alternative approaches to homeownership coupled with the demand of travelers seeking to rent out a shared space, this could absolutely change over time.
The service sounds almost too good to be true, and it will be very interesting to hear the success, or even horror stories, of how these contracts will play out, but I believe others will jump on board to offer something similar.
Take heed millennials, homeownership is within reach!