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New down payment option could boost homeownership

This is the first time a 'shared-equity' program with no interest payments has been approved by a federal mortgage agency
  • Freddie Mac is piloting a program that lets homebuyers get half of a 20 percent down payment covered by a financial firm (Unison Home Ownership Investors) in exchange for home equity.
  • Twenty Unison-boosted loans have closed so far, with 10 going to first-time buyers, but lenders expect to generate "thousands" over the next few years.

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New down payment assistance is putting homeownership within reach of more consumers and boosting the buying power of others, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Federal mortgage guarantor Freddie Mac is piloting a groundbreaking program that lets homebuyers get half of a 20 percent down payment covered by a financial firm in exchange for home equity. The down payment assistance comes from Unison Home Ownership Investors (formerly First Rex) -- a San Francisco-based firm that invests in homes alongside owner-occupant buyers and lets homeowners sell home equity for cash. How the program works Participating borrowers can fork over a 10-percent down payment and end up with the same monthly mortgage bill as borrowers who use their own money to cover the full 20 percent for the same loan but don’t use the program. In exchange for covering half of a down payment, Unison Home Ownership Investors will realize part of the gain or loss of a home's value -- with th...