Amazon has struck a deal with embattled online mortgage lender Better.com to offer up a new benefit to employees.
Better.com is launching Equity Unlocker, a program that allows employees to use their vested equity as collateral for a down payment when trying to buy homes. Amazon employees in Florida, New York and Washington state will be the first to try the tool. Unique about the program, according to Better.com, is that employees will have the ability to finance their homes without actually selling their shares, only needing to pledge vested equity.
Even former Amazon employees with vested equity can use the service, according to Better.com, and there are many, following Amazon’s companywide layoffs. Current and ex-workers can also use the mortgage tool for secondary vacation homes or investment properties. The closing cost, when the loan is secured, ranges between 2% to 5% of the loan, Better said on its website. There is a catch, however. As reported earlier today by the WSJ: “To protect itself from a continued slide in Amazon’s stock price, Better.com will charge a higher rate on the mortgages of employees pledging stock—between 0.25 and 2.5 percentage points above the market rate, depending on how the down payment is structured.”
It’s a creative, but also surprising, partnership. Better has been an Amazon Web Services customer since 2015 and its loan origination system is powered entirely by the software, according to a statement. Still, Better has been through its fair share of struggles that has cast doubt on its future. Last May, TechCrunch reported on a filing that revealed that Better.com had swung to a loss of more than $300 million in 2021 after a rapid-fire decline in business brought on largely by a slowdown in the housing market and a surge in mortgage interest rates.
The company’s reputation also took a huge hit over the manner in which it conducted numerous rounds of mass layoffs, which also resulted in an executive exodus. Better.com also made headlines last July, when it appeared to still be moving forward with its SPAC filing despite lackluster performance of blank-check combination debuts. (On the same day of the updated SPAC filing, the WSJ reported that the SEC is examining whether Better.com violated federal securities laws, per a disclosure from the company.)
While Amazon may be its test guinea pig, Better is aiming to make Equity Unlocker available nationwide for employees of public and private companies. TechCrunch reached out to Better.com and Amazon and will update the story upon comment.
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