Jay Z and will smith

Jay-Z and Will Smith Invest in Company to Help Low-Income Folks Go From Renters to Homeowners

A startup called Landis Technologies raised $165 million from investors that include Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Will Smith’s Dreamers VC, and Sequoia Capital. The startup — founded by Cyril Berdugo and Tom Petit — helps people go from renters to homeowners. This is how: The company buys a house and rents it to a client until they can get a mortgage. Then the client buys the house back at a price they determined up within two years.

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In short, it’s a new strategy of turning renters to homeowners seen before by companies like Home Partners of America. Additionally, Landis will teach clients how to manage finances, improve their credit, and help save for a down payment. 

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Financial inclusion is really important to us,” said Berdugo. “An aspect of Landis that we’re very proud to be a part of is wealth creation for low-income Americans.” [1]

Turning Renters to Homeowners

Homeownership rates have decreased by 5% over the last 15 years. That’s 16 million more Americans who are paying rent rather than a mortgage,” explained Tom Petit. “In the cities we operate in, mortgages are often half the price of rent. So instead of paying a $700 mortgage towards owning their home, renters are paying $1,400 to their landlord. Landis is all about changing that and allowing people to build their future.” [2]

Landis is based in New York, but it also operates in 10 other states, including Kentucky, Alabama, and South Carolina. The company opened during a period where real-estate prices are soaring, making more people renters than homeowners. According to Landis, a typical client is buying their first home and has a budget of $110,000 to $400,000. The investors’ initial purchases included about a thousand homes in that range. 

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As for the rent prices, Landis sets them according to the carrying costs of the home. If the client is unable to buy it after two years, the company may give them more time or sell the home. “We make money when our client buys the house back,” said Berdugo. “If we leave money on the table, that’s our problem.

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Landis’s Controversy 

However, the company was met with controversy when Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones called it “predatory”. In a tweet, she wrote, “Credit counseling is not what will take low-income renters to homeowners, wealth will. All this program does is charge struggling people additional fees for being poor, which is what every other predatory lender does.”

Meanwhile, Berdugo responded saying her claims were false. “A lot of the things that were said are not true. We don’t charge additional fees, we don’t charge credit counseling fees,” and “we’re not a lender and we are not predatory.” 

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He continued, “We really care about financial literacy and financial inclusion for our clients … we are the company that makes people reach homeownership.” He added that Landis “made the decision to never charge for coaching or counseling or anything like that.” He said they reached out to Hannah-Jones but she has not responded. [3]

Read: Jaden Smith to Open Restaurant Where Homeless People Can Eat for Free

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Partnering with The National Association of Realtors

Since then, Landis had partnered with The National Association of Realtors (NAR) to help the clients and the real estate agents. “We’re thrilled to be working with the team at NAR,” said Berdugo and Petit. “Having access to their industry expertise and vast network of real estate professionals is something that we know will help drive our business forward. We look forward to working closely with NAR and reaching more real estate agents, who have been our best allies when it comes to supporting our clients’ transitions to homeownership.”

“Referring clients to Landis is a win-win given the full commissions agents earn upfront when Landis purchases a home, and we have the confidence that their client will benefit from the Landis homeownership program,” said Tyler Thompson, Managing Partner, Second Century Ventures. “We’re honored to provide opportunities and exposure to the global real estate marketplace for Landis as they continue to work toward financial equality in America.”

As Landis closes the $165 million in debt from the celebrity funding, they hope to “help more Americans on their path to homeownership by expanding to new states and cities, hiring talent nationwide and overall providing a better experience to clients, partner agents, and lenders,” according to Business Wire. [4]

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How to Apply For Renters to Become Homeowners

In order to apply, potential clients fill out a short form on their website. The company promises a response within 24 hours, telling them if they’re eligible or not. Their screening helps them identify who will likely be able to buy the home within two years. After the clients select a house, it takes about 2–5 weeks to move in. After that, Landis provides advice and referrals to credit specialists to help the clients’ finances. Within the two years, the renters could become homeowners at any time they choose. [5]

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On their website, Landis also reaches out to lenders, homebuilders, and real estate agents who’d like to work with their company. For more information, see the question and answer section here

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Keep Reading: Man’s Dream Of A Bright Pink Home Is Upsetting His Neighbors

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Sources

  1. “Jay-Z and Will Smith Back Rent-to-Own Firm in $165 Million Round.Bloomberg. Patrick Clark. July 27, 2021
  2. Landis, A Stanford Real Estate Startup, Raises $15M To Put Americans On The Path To Homeownership.Forbes. Frederick Daso.August 16, 2021
  3. . “Nikole Hannah-Jones slams Jay-Z and Will Smith’s rent-to-own housing startup as ‘predatory’.Business Insider. Natalie Musumeci. August 10, 2021
  4. “Homeownership Company Landis Expands U.S. Presence as Member of the National Association of Realtors’ REACH Program.” Business Wire. Shira Berg. August 12, 2021
  5. Landis. FAQ
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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