Finding Harmony in Unison

Ever since the woebegone days of Greenpoint Mortgage’s 400+ page rate sheet (and those who remember are laughing right now…) we in the mortgage lending industry have become accustomed to recognizing that not every borrower and not every scenario will fit exactly in the credit box. That’s just been a reality of the post-Dodd-Frank era. Lending solutions rarely “check all the boxes” and I hear myself reminding clients, not infrequently, to “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

So you can imagine that when we start talking about jumbo loans and lower down payments AND add in the element of a credit blemish or two, things can get really imperfect. How can we achieve just that perfect level of harmony for the buyer? How can we create a mortgage masterpiece for the 10% down payment borrower who may not have a 720+ FICO score? The answer is the Unison program, which was formerly known as FirstREX.

Let’s cover some basics first. Unison is not a loan. It is down payment “enhancement” that typically matches a buyer’s investment. So in the classic example, the borrower will get an 80% mortgage from us, they will bring in a 10% down payment, and Unison will then match their 10% down payment for a total of 20% down. Unison’s investment comes with no monthly payments and does not need to be repaid for 30 years. When you end the Unison agreement, by purchase, refinance or buyout, you agree to pay them their initial investment plus a percentage of the value change. It’s a shift of the paradigm — instead of servicing debt each month, you are partnering with them long-term and with the understanding that sharing a fraction of tomorrow’s value is much better than not owning at all today. And to serve as a stark reminder, “today” means coming up with the full 20% down payment and bringing the credit profile to the stellar levels it would otherwise take to get a competitive loan alternative.

Now of course, the push back on the Unison program has always been, “No way! I don’t want someone else sharing in MY appreciation.” OK, fine. I hear you. But first, let’s accept that YOU don’t have any chance of appreciation if you can’t buy, and YOU are not in a position to buy without Unison’s help. And secondly, recall that I mentioned that Unison was formerly known as REX. I used to drop this line on potential REX candidates: “I understand you do not want FirstREX partnering in your purchase and potentially getting a share of your appreciation, but what if we called FirstREX ‘Uncle Rex’ instead? How would you feel then?” I didn’t usually need to wait for the answer. I could see the expressions on their faces change. It was evident that if a family member could cut them the very same bargain, most would accept. So why the resistance when we supplant a company that has the capital and wherewithal and has diligently structured such a mutually beneficial agreement? Again, it may take a more visionary mind to come to peace with how this program works. True, it’s not DaVinci’s mortgage. It’s very much the product of a new approach to an increasingly high barrier of entry to home ownership in many desirable areas.

So if you find yourself looking to buy a home with a jumbo mortgage and less than 20% down. If you find that your FICO score is 680, 700 or under 720. If you find that desirable homes in your area continue to fall just out of the reach of your buying power, it may be time to find the harmony in Unison. Call me if I can help today.

Cracking the code, 



Robert J. Spinosa
Vice President of Mortgage Lending
Guaranteed Rate
NMLS: 22343
Cell/Text: 415-367-5959

Marin Office: 324 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., San Anselmo, CA 94960
Berkeley Office: 1400 Shattuck Ave., Suite 1, Berkeley, CA 94709

*The views and opinions expressed on this site about work-related matters are my own, have not been reviewed or approved by Guaranteed Rate and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Guaranteed Rate. In no way do I commit Guaranteed Rate to any position on any matter or issue without the express prior written consent of Guaranteed Rate’s Human Resources Department.

Guaranteed Rate. Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee NMLS License #2611 3940 N. Ravenswood Chicago, IL 60613 – (866) 934-7283

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