Homeowners today are sitting on a record amount of equity, thanks to the recent run-up in home prices, but a lot of them can't access that cash. They don't have the credit scores to qualify for a home equity loan or a cash-out refinance.
Enter EasyKnock, a barely 2-year-old company that will give you cash for your home and then let you stay on as a renter for up to five years. At anytime during that lease, you can buy your home back. At the end of the lease, you choose if you want to stay or go.
"EasyKnock is a company that is allowing people to access equity in their home that have been shut out by the traditional lending market," said Jarred Kessler, CEO of EasyKnock. "Around 23 percent of the housing market has built up equity in their home and they can't release it. That's due to FICO score, about 15 million small-business owners who have been shut out by the credit markets, or people who have missed a credit card payment or mortgage payment."
EasyKnock's model is not, however, a traditional investor purchase. The company gives the homeowner about 70 percent of the appraised value of the home. This protects EasyKnock from any depreciation in the home over the term of the lease and simultaneously gives the homeowner a future stake in any appreciation in the home's value. That is because at the end of the lease term the former homeowner must either buy the home back or sell it to someone else. If they choose to have EasyKnock sell, they get the full value of the sale, including appreciation, minus the 70 percent EasyKnock paid and minus a 1.5 percent commission on the final sale price.
EasyKnock makes money through monthly rent, which is negotiated as part of the sale, and through the extra fees tied to the purchase and to the inevitable sale of the home to someone else at the end of the lease term. Since it is not a lender, it does not need to consider FICO credit scores. Kessler said once the lease is up, the tenant has to decide whether or not to sell to a third party or buy the home back.
"We are not in the business of continuing to own homes," he added.