MortgageReal Estate

Orchard provides cash offers for first-time homebuyers

Buy with Orchard tries to level the playing field with equity-rich homeowners, investors

Orchard, which operates a home-buying and selling platform, wants to expand its customer base of first-time homebuyers by helping them to make a cash-backed offer. 

Buy with Orchard is the firm’s first product targeted to first-time buyers that provides home shoppers with the cash needed to compete with equity-rich homeowners and investors, the company said. 

Cash buyers made up 28% of all home purchases in March, a rise of five percentage points from the same month in 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

“It has never been more difficult for first-time buyers to purchase a home,” said Court Cunningham, chief executive officer of Orchard. “People are dealing with soaring interest rates and low inventory of affordable homes for sale, and competing with equity-rich homeowners and investors vying for the same properties.” 

Once customers find a home using Orchard’s home search tool, the firm prepares a cash offer and helps buyers negotiate an offer backed by Orchard’s cash. If there’s a closing delay, Orchard buys the home for the user so they can move in. Orchard then sells it back to the customer at no cost. The company’s commission is paid by the seller and buyers don’t pay any additional fees to use Orchard’s cash. 

Cunningham says the goal is to reduce the “friction and cost” of the home-buying process similar to what Amazon did for eCommerce. The firm’s Move First product provides buyers with an all-cash offer and move in before they sold their original home. 

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Customers first complete an intake process to tell Orchard about their home and goals. Orchard prepares a cash offer and a contingency-free cash offer is made by Orchard. Then customers can move in after closing. The company offers a minimum backstop price on their previous home, which it uses a machine learning algorithm to determine. 

Homebuyers are prequalified for a mortgage and can work with any lender of their choice. The customer uses the mortgage to finalize the purchase of their new home. When their old home sells, homeowners then start paying the mortgage on their new property. 

Orchard then transfers the new home to the customer’s name and charges a one-time 6% fee on the sale of the previous home. 

In September 2021, the New York City-headquartered firm raised $100 million in series D funding at over $1 billion valuation reaching unicorn status. Since then, Orchard said it has doubled its geographic footprint offering services in nine states including Colorado, Texas, and Virginia. 

Lenders have also taken notice of cash-backed products to originate more home loans in the hot housing market. In May, Homepoint rolled out “Homepoint Cash Compete” to provide shoppers with cash to help them lock in lower wholesale mortgage rates. 

After the cash purchase is complete, the homebuyer will refinance. He or she will apply for a conventional loan and complete the underwriting process with their loan originator — turning the cash home purchase loan into a permanent traditional mortgage loan, according to Homepoint. 

At the time of the rollout, the firm said borrowers can save an average of $8,000 over the life of their loan with the Homepoint offer compared to big banks or direct-to-consumer lenders.

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