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Frequently Asked Questions

Unison HomeBuyer does not change the amount of time that it normally takes to buy a home. It just depends on when you have an accepted offer on a property and how quickly your lender can process your mortgage loan. The loan process typically takes 4-6 weeks.

With Unison HomeOwner, you can close in as little as 15 days, depending upon appraisal time.

Yes, you can. The Special Termination feature is designed to give you the flexibility to end your agreement with Unison without selling your home. You can request a Special Termination any time after the third anniversary. We obtain a third-party appraisal to determine the value of your home, and you pay us an amount equal to what we originally invested in your home, plus any profit we would have made if you were to sell your home at that time for the appraised value. This amount is called the Special Termination Price. Note that the Special Termination Price can never be less than the amount we invested in your home.
We look at information about you (including credit history, income and assets), and separately we look at information about the property you wish to purchase or draw equity from.

Information About You

For Unison HomeBuyer

Typically, if you are approved by a mortgage lender based on your credit history and income, you will qualify for Unison HomeBuyer as well. Generally, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio should be no more than 43 percent, and your FICO score should be at least 680. There are a few disqualifiers, including a felony conviction, 60-day late mortgage payments in the last 12 months, or any foreclosure history.

Information About The Property

To start the home needs to be located in an area that we serve. Next, the type of home you are looking for (Unison HomeBuyer) or own (Unison HomeOwner) matters. Unison generally co-invests in primary residence, single-family homes that will be occupied by the owner (you). Most townhouses, planned unit developments, and condominiums qualify. Additionally, Unison looks at certain criteria when making an investment decision including property condition and geological factors. Multi-unit properties, rental properties and properties that are not typical for the neighborhood do not qualify.

Yes, we will need to check your credit as part of our qualification process. That typically occurs right after you submit an application but can sometimes occur sooner.
Unison generally co-invests in primary residence, owner-occupied, single-family homes. Most townhouses, planned unit developments, and condominiums also qualify. Some owner-occupied second homes may qualify but rental properties do not. In general, the property must be typical for its area with regard to lot size, characteristics and value. For example, if all the homes in the neighborhood are 3 bedroom houses on standard lot sizes, we won’t want to invest in an 8 bedroom 10-acre mansion. Additionally, Unison looks at other property factors when making an investment decision, including property condition and geological factors. Maximum lot size is typically 10 acres.
There is no application fee, but there are reasonable costs paid at closing through escrow. You will pay certain third party expenses, such as closing services and credit reporting charges. There is a transaction fee payable to Unison equal to 2.5% of the amount we invest in your home. The transaction fee helps offset a portion of the costs we incur to process your application. There is no processing fee. In your application package, you will receive a list of the estimated costs associated with the Unison HomeBuyer Agreement. We will provide exact amounts as they become known.
No, that equity is yours. We only share in the change in value of the home over time. For example, if you purchase the home for $500,000 and sell it ten years later for $600,000, we will share only in the $100,000 of appreciation.
As the home owner, you have the right to sell your home whenever you want. The process of selling your property is straightforward.
You will need to notify us when you decide to sell your home, and provide us with copies of all listing agreements and offers to purchase your home, along with copies of any documents related to the sale, such as inspections, appraisals, financing documents, title reports, and escrow instructions.

At closing, we will receive the payment due to us out of escrow. By receiving this payment and releasing our lien on your home, we conclude our business together.

If you sell your home during the first 3 years, special provisions will apply which may improve the economic outcome for Unison. This is because our return on investment depends entirely on the change in value of your home, and in order for home prices to change, time must pass. Therefore, the Unison Agreement is not intended to be used as short term financing. If you intend to remain in your home for less than three years, you should carefully consider these special provisions. If you remain in your home for at least three years, these provisions will not impact you. More detail about these special provisions can be found in the Unison HomeBuyer and Unison HomeOwner Program Guides.

If you make improvements to your home that increase its value, like adding another bedroom or bathroom, you can apply for what is called a Remodeling Adjustment, which allocates 100 percent the value attributable to your home improvement project to you, so that we don’t share in that value. The amount of the Remodeling Adjustment is determined by a third party appraisal. To qualify for a Remodeling Adjustment, you must hire licensed contractors to do the work, obtain any required permits, and fully document the condition of your home before making the improvements by taking lots of “before” photos, so that in the future an appraiser will be able to make a determination of the value of your home improvements at the time you sell the property.

The Remodeling Adjustment is equal to the gain in value caused by your remodeling, determined at the end of the Unison Agreement by an independent appraiser. It is not based on the amount you spent on the remodeling project. The appraiser will be specifically instructed not to review the costs of your improvements, but only to determine what, if any, actual market value has been added to the property.

Unison is committed to a fair process to determine the amount of the Remodeling Adjustment. In a rare instance in which we are unable to agree in good faith on the amount, the issue will be determined through arbitration.

More detail about the Remodeling Adjustment can be found in the Unison HomeBuyer and Unison HomeOwner Program Guides.

During the term your agreement with Unison, you are required to maintain your property in good condition, subject to normal wear-and-tear. If you do not, when the agreement ends the value of your property will most likely be less than it would have been if it had been properly maintained, and this would not be fair to Unison. When this is the case, a Deferred Maintenance Adjustment may apply when performing the settlement calculations. Since the loss in value would be due to your failure to maintain the property, the Deferred Maintenance Adjustment allocates all of the loss in value due to improper maintenance to you, so that Unison does not share in it. Typically, no Deferred Maintenance Adjustment will apply unless the aggregate cost of the required repairs is at least $5,000. One or more appraisals, inspections or repair estimates obtained from independent third-party providers are used to determine the amount of the Deferred Maintenance Adjustment.

Unison is committed to a fair process to determine the amount of the Deferred Maintenance Adjustment. In a rare instance in which we are unable to agree in good faith on the amount, the issue will be determined through arbitration.

More detail about the Deferred Maintenance Adjustment can be found in the Unison HomeBuyer and Unison HomeOwner Program Guides.

You are the home owner. That means you control the property and receive the benefits of home ownership, such as occupancy rights and income tax deductions. We are not an owner and we have no rights of occupancy. We share only in the change in value of the property.
Falling behind on your mortgage payments, property taxes, or otherwise putting your property in jeopardy puts you in default under your agreement with Unison. This means Unison technically has the right to foreclose on your property to protect its investment, in the same way that a lender would have the right to protect its investment. But foreclosure is a last-resort scenario. Unison would much rather see you stay in your home. That’s why Unison will always give you opportunities to cure any default. As an investor in your property, Unison shares your wish to preserve the equity in the home. Our interests are inherently aligned with yours. In certain circumstances, if you are facing foreclosure by your lender, Unison may offer you a remedy called “Option Exercise and Orderly Sale”. This can help you avoid the foreclosure and allow you to sell your property in an orderly “non-distressed” fashion, maximize the sale price, protect the equity in the home, and preserve your credit.
90 percent mortgage with private mortgage insurance

The monthly payment on an 80 percent loan with a 10 percent Unison HomeBuyer investment is typically about 15-20 percent lower than the monthly payment on a 90 percent loan with mortgage insurance. So you’ll either have much more cash in your pocket every month, or you’ll be able to income-qualify for 15-20 percent more home.

80 percent first mortgage with a 10 percent second mortgage or Home Equity Line Of Credit

It is typically more difficult to qualify for an 80 percent first mortgage plus a 10 percent second or a Home Equity Line Of Credit. If you do qualify, the combined monthly payment on an 80 percent loan plus a 10 percent loan might typically be about 10 percent higher than the monthly payment on an 80 percent loan with a 10 percent Unison HomeBuyer investment. So you’ll either have more cash in your pocket every month, or you’ll be able to income-qualify for 10 percent more home.

FHA loan or another loan where only a small down payment is required

Mortgage loans with down payments as low as 1 percent are available, but not everyone can qualify for them, and the higher interest rates and insurance charges on these loans will result in a monthly payment that is significantly higher than the monthly payment on an 80 percent mortgage loan with a 10 percent Unison HomeBuyer investment. With Unison HomeBuyer you’ll either have a lot more cash in your pocket every month, or you’ll be able to income-qualify for a lot more home.

Getting gift funds from my family

If you have access to a large gift for your down payment, maybe you don’t need Unison HomeBuyer, but Unison HomeBuyer can allow you to buy the home you want without putting a burden on your family. And you can use our money for up to 30 years with no questions and no family complications. It is also sometimes possible to use both gift funds and Unison HomeBuyer. Call us to find out how.

Pulling funds out of my retirement account

Please understand that Unison is not a financial advisor and does not provide financial advice. We recommend you consult with your financial advisor directly. That said, liquidating or borrowing from a retirement account for your down payment can have a substantial impact on your future finances. Many people have found Unison HomeBuyer to be an attractive alternative to pulling funds from a retirement account. We would be happy to speak with your financial advisor to make sure that they understand the Unison HomeBuyer Agreement and can give you informed advice.

Settling for a less expensive home

In the end, you’re the one who will decide what is best for your family and how much home you want to buy. Unison HomeBuyer has helped many others get the home they really want and avoid compromising on the location, or size, or school district. We’re here to provide the information you need so you can determine if Unison HomeBuyer is right for you.

In order to qualify for Unison HomeBuyer you typically must have enough cash to provide at least half of the down payment, cash needed for closing costs and our transaction fee, and any cash reserves required by the lender. It may be possible for you to obtain some of this cash in the form of a gift from your family. If you don’t have the required amount, we may still be able to help you purchase a home. Call us to find out how.
Your agreement with Unison typically ends whenever you decide to sell your home, or it can end by you choosing to buy us out at any time after the third year.

There is a maximum term of 30 years, so at year 30 if you still own the property and your agreement with Unison remains in place, it must be settled through property sale or by cash payment.

Our funding comes from institutional investors, including pension funds and university endowments.
We are here to help you purchase the home you really want, however, all of our clients must work with one of our partner lenders.

These lenders have approved the use of Unison HomeBuyer in conjunction with their lending products.

We are actively working to grow our partnerships and we are regularly adding partner lenders.

If the lender with whom you are working is not yet one of our partners, we would be happy to introduce you to a few who are.

There is a maximum term of 30 years, so at year 30 if you still own the property and your agreement with Unison remains in place, it must be settled through property sale or by cash payment.

If you do not settle with us you will be in default under the agreement.

This means Unison technically has the right to foreclose on your property to protect its investment, in the same way that a lender would have the right to protect its investment.

But foreclosure is a last-resort scenario, so Unison will always give you an opportunity to cure the default before taking any action.

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The next step is to fill out an application. You can do this online, and we can help you if needed. Unison HomeBuyer is only available in combination with mortgage loans from lenders that partner with us. We will send you a list of our participating lenders and you can contact one or more of them to inquire about your mortgage loan. There is obviously no such requirement with Unison HomeOwner.

While we process your application, you will need to read our Program Guide and watch our QuickStart video, which explain all the details of your agreement with Unison. We will be happy to answer any questions you have. Then we will follow up with something we call a Product Knowledge Review. This is a short questionnaire to ensure you are fully educated on the agreement. After you fill out this questionnaire we will review it together. With Unison HomeBuyer you will sign a simple one-page form that authorizes your lender to share their underwriting file with us.

With Unison HomeBuyer we will coordinate with your lender, your realtor, the seller’s realtor and a title/escrow service provider to obtain all necessary documentation (such as disclosures, inspection records, etc.) and close your home purchase transaction. With Unison HomeOwner we will coordinate with a title/escrow service provider to close the transaction.

That’s a great question. We spent years developing the Unison programs, and we incorporated extensive feedback from homeowner clients as part of that development. All of the lenders we work with conducted extensive due diligence on our company before deciding to partner with us. We are licensed or registered to do business in all states where we offer the Unison programs and we are rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. We encourage you to view some of the video testimonials from clients, realtors and loan officers available on this website.
We’re an investment, not a loan, so we don’t receive any interest or monthly payments. Instead, we hope to earn a return when you sell your home at a profit in the future, up to 30 years from now. If your home’s value goes up, we receive a share of the increase. If your home’s value goes down, we will typically share in the loss.

Unison HomeBuyer examples:
If you are getting an 80 percent mortgage loan, we typically provide 50 percent of the 20 percent down payment in exchange for 35 percent of the future change in value.

If you are getting a 75 percent mortgage loan, we typically provide 50 percent of the 25 percent down payment in exchange for 43.75 percent of the future change in value.

Note that we share only in the change in value, not all of the equity in your home. Home equity you create by paying down your mortgage is all yours.

Two basic HomeBuyer examples:

Let’s assume you buy a home for $500,000. You borrow 80 percent, or $400,000, from a mortgage lender, and you and we each invest $50,000 towards the down payment. In exchange for providing 50 percent of the 20 percent down payment, we will receive 35 percent of the home’s change in value as our investment return. If you sell the home in the future for $600,000, there is an increase in value of $100,000. Our return will equal 35 percent of that $100,000 increase, or $35,000. Our payment when you sell will equal $85,000, which is our original investment of $50,000 plus our return on investment of $35,000.

Let’s assume you buy a home for $1,000,000. You borrow 75 percent, or $750,000, from a mortgage lender, and you and we each invest $125,000 towards the down payment. In exchange for providing 50 percent of the 25 percent down payment, we will receive 43.75 percent of the home’s change in value as our investment return. If you sell the home in the future for $1,200,000, there is an increase in value of $200,000. Our return will equal 43.75 percent of that $200,000 increase, or $87,500. Our payment when you sell will equal $212,500, which is our original investment of $125,000 plus our return on investment of $87,500.

Our maximum is typically half of the total down payment, but in some cases it can be greater. We also do not typically invest more than $500,000 in a single transaction.
The minimum we will contribute is 5 percent of the home value.
The amount of funding available is primarily based on two things: 1) the value of your home. The greater the value, the more cash available; 2) the amount of Unison’s future share in the change in value of your home. You decide what sharing percentage you are comfortable with. The larger the percentage, the more cash available. Our maximum investment is typically 17.5% of the home value, but in some cases it can be 20%.
Links to the websites of our partner lenders can be found here. We would be happy to introduce you to a few of them.
If you are simply trading one mortgage for another, and not pulling cash out of your home, that is typically fine with us; your agreement with Unison simply remains in place. We subordinate to your new mortgage, and you end up with a lower monthly payment. If you are talking about refinancing to pull cash out of your home, you will be subject to the Maximum Authorized Debt limit under your agreement with Unison, which is a fixed dollar amount typically equal to the amount you will borrow from your lender to purchase your home. For example, if you buy a $500,000 home with an 80 percent, $400,000 mortgage, and Unison provides a portion of the down payment, in the future you will not be able to have more than $400,000 in debt outstanding on your home. If you pay your loan down over time, and build up some additional equity, you may be able to borrow against that additional equity, as long as you do not exceed the Maximum Authorized Debt limit.

If you refinance, a small processing fee will apply to cover the expense that Unison incurs to review and subordinate to your new mortgage.

While Unison will typically subordinate to new loans you get in an amount up to the Maximum Authorized Debt limit, we cannot guarantee whether mortgage lenders will agree to lend on a property with a Unison Agreement to the same extent or on the same terms as they would for a property without a Unison Agreement.

You may be able to do this, subject to the Maximum Authorized Debt limit under your agreement with Unison, which is a fixed dollar debt limit typically equal to the amount you will borrow from your lender to purchase your home. For example, if you buy a $500,000 home with an 80 percent, $400,000 mortgage, and Unison provides a portion of the down payment, in the future you will not be able to have more than $400,000 in debt outstanding on your home. If you pay your loan down over time, and build up some additional equity, you may be able to borrow against that additional equity, as long as you do not exceed the Maximum Authorized Debt limit. If you refinance, a small processing fee will apply to cover the expense that Unison incurs to review and subordinate to your new mortgage.

While Unison will typically subordinate to new loans you get in an amount up to the Maximum Authorized Debt limit, we cannot guarantee whether mortgage lenders will agree to lend on a property with a Unison Agreement to the same extent or on the same terms as they would for a property without a Unison Agreement.

Unison’s programs are not intended for use with rental properties, as it is widely understood that rental properties are typically not maintained as well as owner-occupied properties. This can have a very real negative impact on the future value of the property. If you want to rent your property in the future, you will need to buy Unison out before doing so.
The Unison HomeBuyer and Unison HomeOwner Agreements each consist of four related legal documents. You’ll receive a draft copy of our contract set for review when you submit your application, and you will sign final versions at closing. If you have any questions about the contract, we can set up a time to go over it with you by phone. If you have the contract reviewed by a lawyer, we would be happy to speak with them to make sure that they understand the agreement and can give you informed advice. The four documents are:

Option Agreement
This contains the basic financial terms.

Covenant Agreement
This outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties under the agreement throughout its term.

Recorded Memorandum
This highlights specific features of the agreement for public notice, and is recorded in the jurisdiction where your property is located.

Security Instrument
This creates a lien on your home during the term of the agreement, and is recorded in the jurisdiction where your property is located.

We place a second lien on your property, behind your first mortgage lien. The document we use for this lien is very similar to what a second lien lender would use to secure its investment in your home. We also record what’s called a Memorandum of Agreement which gives public notice of our interest in and lien on the property.
Please understand that Unison is not a tax advisor and does not provide tax advice. Since each homeowner’s tax situation is unique, we recommend you consult with your tax advisor directly. That said, Unison believes that, under current tax law, a homeowner entering into a Unison HomeBuyer or Unison HomeOwner Agreement should not have to pay taxes on the cash we provide at the time we enter into our agreement. You may be subject to taxes when you sell your home. We would be happy to speak with your tax advisor to make sure that they understand the Unison HomeBuyer or Unison HomeOwner Agreement and can give you informed advice.
We completely understand that. Ultimately, you are the only one who can determine whether this program makes sense for your family. Many of our customers use Unison HomeBuyer to seize opportunities that would be unattainable without additional down payment funds, like:

  • Getting into a certain school district and avoiding paying private school tuition.
  • Getting more bedrooms and additional space for a growing family.
  • Making everyday life more comfortable.
  • Having enough space for aging parents to be comfortable.
  • Being able to afford a reasonably comfortable home in a competitive market.
  • Starting to build equity instead of paying rent each month.
  • Getting the desired home with the lowest monthly payment.

We are committed to helping explain how our program works so you can make an informed decision about whether it adds value in your particular situation.

That is a question we get a lot, in part because Unison’s programs are fairly new. The simple answer is: There is no catch. What you see is what you get. With Unison HomeBuyer we contribute part of the down payment to help you buy the home you want. With Unison HomeOwner we allow you to access your home equity without borrowing. You don’t pay us anything until you sell your home or buy us out. We both hope your home is going to increase in value, and we hope to earn a fair return on our investment by sharing in that. If you sell your home at a loss, we will also share in that loss. The part that might seem mysterious is how we can go for up to 30 years without receiving any payments on our investment. The answer is that our investors are pensions and endowments, and they have a very long time horizon for their investments.

We are proud to provide you with what we believe is an unmatched consumer education process to make sure you understand all of the program features and potential outcomes.

We have been in business since 2004. In recent years we have been focused on developing our programs in a small number of markets and ensuring their value for homebuyers, homeowners and investors. We are now significantly expanding the number of markets where we offer our programs so many more people are beginning to hear about us.

From our Clients

  • “When you have the option of keeping a large portion of cash in an expensive market like this one, not knowing down the road what next year might be like for my business or personal life, it makes more sense to have a partner in the transaction.”

    Ivo L.
    San Francisco, CA

  • “When I found out that there was a way to partner with Unison through the HomeBuyer program and not have to make the monthly payments but share only in the equity that we all expect the house to eventually produce, it was very attractive.”

    Jay H.
    Laguna Beach, CA

  • “We wanted to put down the least amount as possible, like most homeowners, to leverage our capital. I really didn’t want to put in a complete 20 percent. When I analyzed your product, it turned out to be the right thing.”

    Jeff U.
    Yorba Linda, CA

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