Unlock Review

Get a deeper look with our review on Unlock, the company that gives homeowners cash for future equity. Get the information need to know if Unlock is the right lender for your home renovation project or ADU.

Unlock is a smart alternative to a traditional loan that helps homeowners get cash by tapping into their home's future value. It's one of the best options for paying off large purchases, debt, or funding home improvements.

With average household debt (and debt to income ratios) on the rise, fewer homeowners are able to qualify for a home improvement loan. What if you could tap into your home’s future value to get a loan? Now you can with a new financing product that gives you cash in exchange for a small share of your future home appreciation. No monthly rates. No need for immaculate borrower requirements.

Home Equity Investments are an emerging method of financing that folks use to renovate their home, finance an ADU, or just pay off other debt. While there are plenty of companies in the home equity investment space, like Hometap, Unison, Point, and Splitero, today we’ll be focusing on Unlock, and everything you need to know about their product.

For an overview of all of the other top Home Equity Investment lenders, take a look at our article that reviews the best home equity investment lenders.

Why use a Home Equity Investment Instead of a Loan For Your ADU?

Since there are so many means of traditional financing for your ADU, you may ask yourself, “Why use a Home Equity Investment?”.

No monthly payments

The short answer is, because there aren’t any monthly payments that come along with a Home Equity Investment. How it works is you pay the lender back at the end of your investment’s term (10-30 years), or once you sell or refinance the property.

No risks on a variable interest rate

Conventional loans like HELOCs or cash-out refis aren’t as borrower friendly. HELOC’s often come with variable interest rates, and all bank loans have monthly payments. Whereas home equity investments are paid back in a lump sum at the end of your loan, and payment amount is calculated by how much you refinance or sell for.

Easy to qualify

Debt based financing can also come with pesky hoops to jump through. You need a debt-to-income ratio of 45% or less. This is hard when your mortgage is high and you are paying 30-50% of your income on a mortgage payment.

To get a great interest rate, you need a 720+ credit score and a low loan-to-value ratio.

Home Equity Investments are based on the property, not the person, so there are less rigid requirements and more cash to pull from.

More cash for your project

Conventional loans allow you to pull out a percentage of your home equity to use on your home improvement. For example, if you need $100k for a remodel, you’ll typically need at least $110k worth of home equity. This could take years to build up.

If you use a renovation loan like Fannie Mae Homestyle Renovation Loan, you’ll be able to get more cash to pull out. This is because these loans calculate the home's post-renovation value instead of its current home value.

One of the hidden downsides with renovation loans is that they lend out the cash in draw schedules that can often dissuade contractors from taking on your project. Contractors can be resistant to the idea of getting reimbursed for materials and other high upfront costs. This limits the talent pool of contractors you can draw from.

No money wasted on high interest rates

Lastly, as of the time this article is being written, interest rates are on the rise. If you are financing home improvements with an interest based loan, chances are your interest rate is quite high. With a Home Equity Investment, you can simply buy out the investor with a cash-out refinance when interest rates come back down. This flexibility allows you to lock into a traditional product at a better rate.

Unlock Home Equity Investment Highlights

When comparing Home Equity Investment companies, there are specific numbers to help you gauge which one is best. In order to make the process dead simple, we’ve put together some of the most important information you need to know about Unlock below:

Origination Fee 3%
Unlock’s Share of Home Value 5% - 43.5%
Loan Amount $30,000-$500,000
Maximum LTV 80%
Unlock’s Annualized Profit Limit 18% APR
States Available AZ, CA, CO, FL, MI, MN, NV, NJ, NC, OR, SC, TN, UT, VA, WA

Use our Home Equity Investment Calculator to see the financing options across 5 of the top lenders.

Unlock Pros & Cons

Although Home Equity Investments are a great option for some, it’s important to understand the downsides to inform your decision. To help you get a better grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of Unlock, we’ve put together some pros and cons below:

Pros

  • There aren’t any high fees for “risk adjustments” with Unlock.
  • Unlock offers a Maximum loan amount of 43.75% of your home’s value (capped at $500,000).
  • Their 500 minimum credit score requirement makes it easy for most to qualify.
  • Unlock does not share in the added value of improvements, meaning the equity gained from your ADU is yours to keep!
  • Unlock invests in most residential real estate (single family, condominiums, 2-4 unit properties and townhomes) and rental properties.
  • No long period of lock-in. You can buy them out after 6 months. You can also do a partial buyout.

Cons

  • Investments are only offered in 15 states but they are expanding.
  • Unlock will not invest in properties raw land, co-ops, prefabricated homes, or properties owned by multiple investors.
  • Unlock shares in your total home value as opposed to just the appreciation. Their share percentage is lower but they share in the total home value.
  • Typically Unlock only offers 10-year term investments, which makes them a less desirable option for those looking for a long-term investment. This could also be a “Pro” depending on your goals.

Real-Life Scenarios

Below we’ve run through a couple of potential real life scenarios to help you understand how Home Equity Investments work.

To make things simple, we’ll assume that $100,000 is lent based on a $1,000,000 home, with Unlock receiving 17% of the homes future value in all scenarios.  Below, we’ve put together a table that shows how much you might pay if said home increases/decreases in value by 20%, and if the value remains stagnant.

Home Value Increases by 20% Home Value Remains the Same Home Value Decreases by 20%
New Home Price $1,200,000 $1,000,000 $800,000
Unlock’s Share of Home Value $204,000 $170,000 $136,000
Your share of the Home Value $996,000 $830,000 $664,000

How to Qualify for an Unlock Home Equity Investment

According to Unlock’s website, there are no income requirements to receive a home equity investment. They only require homeowners to have at least 20% equity in their home, and a minimum credit score of 500.

When it comes to credit score, so long as there aren’t any defaults/bankruptcies on your credit report, obtaining a 500 credit score can be possible.

Summary: Is Unlock Worth It?

To make a decision whether Unlock is right for you, consider the following points.

Unlock makes it easy to qualify, and they don’t have any risk adjustments on their investments.  This means that they are truly being paid based on your house's rising value, not on a steeply discounted cost basis.

Unlock can be a great option for homeowners who are adding an ADU to their property since they don’t share in improvement-based appreciation. If you want to refinance after your ADU is built, you won’t have to worry about paying a percentage of the value created by your ADU. Remember, this isn’t the case with all Home Equity Investment lenders; some share in improvement appreciation too.

A couple of areas to consider are their investment term length, their 20% home equity requirement, the total home value percent they share in, and if you live in a city that they serve.

Lastly, one of the most helpful resources to help inform your decision is our handy Home Equity Investment Calculator. If you’d like to further explore the possibilities and compare multiple lenders, be sure to run the numbers.

Highlights

Investment Range

$30,000 - $500,000

Share Model

Home Share

Loan-to-value

85

Min Credit Score

500

Capped APR

18%

States available

Arizona
California
Colorado
Florida
Michigan
Minnesota
North Carolina
New Jersey
Nevada
Oregon
South Carolina
Tennessee
Utah
Virginia
Washington

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