A new Bay Area startup is offering prospective homebuyers a path to ownership without having to put any money down. ZeroDown, the rent-to-buy service launched Tuesday wants to give people that can’t save up for a big downpayment a chance to buy, but still, it’s not going to come cheap.

“Ask anyone in the Bay Area and they aren’t sure they can afford to buy a home,” Abhijeet Dwivedi, CEO and co-founder of ZeroDown said in a statement. “Now we’re giving buyers the power and flexibility they need to purchase the home of their dreams. We are the first real estate company to directly address the San Francisco housing market and are excited to see the impact we can make.”

ZeroDown buys the home and the renter moves in, accumulating purchase credits that represent a percentage of the home’s value each month. As long as the renter stays in a ZeroDown home for two years – and are current on all payments – they can use the purchase credits toward a down payment on that house or move and cash out by redeeming those credits.

ZeroDown’s purchase-credit schedule

With the Bay Area being the priciest metro area in the nation, the rent – which includes the cost of tax and any HOA fees – isn’t going to come cheap.

The company displays a few recent purchases on its main page. For a $900,000 home in San Jose, the cost is $6,030 per month. For a $650,000 home, the monthly cost is $4,355.

To get approval, prospective applicants need to link their bank account to give the company a picture of their finances and see how much they can afford – ZeroDown will only do a soft credit pull.

That applicant will then be connected to a partner real estate agent – the company currently has a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties – which will help them find and tour properties for sale in their preferred neighborhoods.

Once the applicant and agent have worked together to choose the home, ZeroDown will close on the home.

”We feel very passionate about making homeownership more attainable for more people and about giving our customers true white glove service,” Gretchen Pearson, brokerage president and CEO at Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Drysdale Properties, said in a statement. “ZeroDown couldn’t be more aligned with this approach, and we look forward to our ongoing partnership.”

ZeroDown has raised $30 million in funding from Sam Altman and Goodwater Capital.

Email Patrick Kearns

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