Equity sharing provides fast track to home ownership

But watch out for scams that could leave you penniless

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It seems some misguided souls would rather turn the concept of equity sharing into equity skimming and bilk thousands of dollars from consumers. Equity sharing first got its legs more than two decades ago when home loans rates were high and going higher. Conventional lenders had not generally taken the time to explore unconventional options, and adjustable-rate mortgages were unrefined and unacceptable. Some potential home buyers, seeking all possible methods of getting in the door to a longed-for primary residence, found private investors willing to share the cost of the home in return for future appreciation. This initial idea, known as equity sharing or shared equity, has slowed for one basic reason: Lenders are now readily making no-down-payment or low-down-payment mortgages. Consumers now are able to borrow so much more that there's less need for a partner. Why share the pie when a lender is willing to lend you most of the cost of the home? The answer is some people are forced to...