Unison is one of a growing number of companies offering alternatives to home equity loans. In Unison’s case, it can fund you for up to $500,000 in exchange for you allowing it to invest in up to 17.5% of the value of your home. The best thing about the Unison business model is that there are no monthly payments. Unison gives you the funds now but you only have to pay back the investment in one payment within 30 years.
The Unison business model sounds complex, but it’s really very simple. When you partner with Unison, it becomes an investor in your property – and gives you cash for its stake. Unison never actually takes ownership over your property. All it does is place a lien (a legal right or claim to your property), the same as would a mortgage lender or home equity lender. When you settle, the lien is lifted.
Here’s how Unison works in 6 steps:
1.Pre-approval. Fill out a quick online form to find out if you get approved. This takes seconds and doesn’t affect your credit.
2.Complete your application. Following pre-approval, fill out a complete application on the Unison website or by calling Unison directly.
3.Schedule an appraisal. Following formal approval, Unison will work with you to inspect the property and schedule an independent appraisal.
4.Signing. The next step is to sign your offer letter and closing package.
5.Funding. Unison will wire you the funds within as little as 3 days of signing.
6.Settlement. With Unison, you have up 30 years to sell or settle. If you don’t wish to sell your home within the 30-year period, you can settle it from your own funds (with Unison’s share calculated from an updated appraisal of your home’s market value).
The biggest advantage to partnering with Unison is that it doesn’t involve the biggest risk/downside involved with a traditional home equity loan, i.e. a monthly repayment. Giving up equity in your home obviously has consequences for your future wealth, and you may want to consult a financial advisor before going ahead with such a move. However, it is built on a solid principle: the more your home is worth when you sell/settle, the more you will owe Unison; the less it is worth when you sell/settle, the less you will owe Unison.
Aside from giving up equity in your home, the other downside to Unison is the strict eligibility criteria. To qualify, you’ll need to have at least 25% equity in your home (compared to 15-20% for a home equity loan) and a credit score of at least 650 (compared to 620 with most home equity lenders). Also, Unison currently only serves homeowners in 28 states (as of March 2021). The full, updated list of states can be seen on the Unison website.
Unison can take up to a 17.5% equity stake in your home and fund you for up to $500,000. Here’s a breakdown of some of the other ways Unison is different from a traditional home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC).
|Unison||Home equity loan||HELOC|
|Max. equity stake||17.5%||N/A||N/A|
|Max. funding||$500,000||$1 million||$1 million|
|Min. credit score||650+||620||620|
Unlike traditional home equity lenders, Unison doesn’t have any interest rates or monthly payments. It calculates what you owe at settlement by taking the original agreed value (your home’s appraised value minus a 2.5% risk adjustment, (e.g. if your home is worth $500,000 the agreed value is set at $487,500) and taking a 40% share of any change in the value (i.e. if your home appreciates, Unison earns more than it invested; if your home depreciates, Unison earns less than it invested).
For hypothetical’s sake, let’s say the estimated appraised value of your home is $500,000 (making the original agreed value $487,500) and Unison pays you $50,000 for a 10% stake. Here are a few different scenarios showing what you might pay at settlement.
|Sale price||Change in value||Change in Unison share||Unison receives||You receive|
|$587,500||+ $100,000||+ $40,000||$90,000||$497,500|
|$537,500||+ $50,000||+ $20,000||$70,000||$467,500|
|$437,500||- $50,000||- $20,000||$30,000||$407,500|
|$387,500||- $100,000||- $40,000||$10,000||$377,500|
Unison offers a fully digital application process with phone communication with a dedicated agent to fill in the gaps. Unison was founded in San Francisco in 2004 and is owned by Real Estate Equity Exchange, Inc.
Phone – for applicants: 800-330-9400 (business hours)
HQ: 650 California St., San Francisco, CA 94108
If you own your own home and find yourself in need of funds, then Unison offers a superior alternative to traditional home equity loans. The Unison business model does involve giving up some of the profits of the potential future appreciation of your home. However, the fact that it offers the main benefit of a home equity loan (instant funds) without the main risk (monthly payments) makes it an option well worth consideration.