Landed is a referral fee network designed to collect fees by matching consumers with local real estate agents willing to participate. Landed operates as a licensed real estate brokerage in California under BRE License #01988003, but it does not produce any services that are typically offered by real estate agents and does not represent consumers when buying or selling real estate in any State.
Landed targets financially constrained consumer groups (teachers for now, but it soon plans to expand services to other professionals such as registered nurses, etc.) with a 10% down payment assistance option to co-invest when buying a home in expensive cities like San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
The origination price of using the program, however, is hidden in referral fees that the company receives from each transaction when consumers work with agents referred by Landed.
Instead of working with Laded referred agents, consumers can pay an origination fee equal to what the agent referral fee would have been: 0.75% of the total cost of the home.
For example, if a consumer were to purchase a $1 million home, the origination fee equal to $7,500 would have to be paid in order to secure $100,000 down payment assistance. If the required down payment assistance amount is less, the fee would still remain the same. For example, if a consumer only wants to secure $50,000 in assistance, the origination fee still equals to $7,500 because this fee is based on the overall home value.
Landed also uses a select group of mortgage lenders who are specifically approved by the program. It is unclear what incentives are provided to Landed by these providers, or if consumers are able to use their own mortgage lender.
Landed revenue comes from either an estimated 30% broker referral fees, or origination fees set at 0.75% of purchased home value.
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) provides cash funds to run the program. The 25% of the appreciation (or loss) in the price of the home upon sale is returned to Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and re-invested back into a down payment support fund.
On paper Landed seems to have a great idea – to help essential professionals (starting with educators) build financial security near the communities they serve. Digging deeper into the actual model turns out to be much less effective - Landed is a California licensed real estate broker that collects an estimated 30% referral fee from all real estate agents that participate. This fee makes it hardly a free service for anyone since referral fees are inevitably passed down to consumers. More importantly, Landed drives consumers toward agents who systematically price their services to accommodate such fees, this process is known as kickbacks.
Landed assistance program itself may be beneficial, but the costs of origination are certainly real. Landed uses excessive referral fees as a way to hide origination fees. Why? Simply because having to pay $7,500 to secure $100,000 down payment assistance (that comes with many strings attached, as well as a lien) seems a lot less attractive, especially when this fee remains the same, regardless of the assistance amount actually required.
By charging this fee as a form of commission kickbacks, the company hopes that most consumers won’t realize that this fee even exists – it is just a referral fee, who cares? In this review, we will show you how this fee very much exists and why it matters. Consumers can save tens of thousands by avoiding non-competitive real estate commissions, even if the buyer (teacher) decides to opt-in into Landed assistance program and pay the origination fee out-of-pocket.
Buyer’s refunds are available in all areas Landed currently offers an assistance program. The only way to take advantage of these savings is by negotiating with highly competitive real estate professionals without any referral fee agreements in place.
Buyer’s agents never work for free, instead, they can financially compete for consumers by offering refunds in 40 States. This is a legal incentive that helps to lower the cost of owning a home and is a growing trend in the industry.
Real estate agents only sign-up with Landed referral network because the price of the referral fee can be easily incorporated into their client’s agreement with excessive commissions. Landed either requires the use of their network, or it requires an origination fee to be paid, there is no third option.
As a licensed real estate agent that doesn’t perform any real estate services or takes any responsibility for the transaction, it is not entirely clear how Landed is able to operate under the Business and Professions Code and RESPA.
Nonetheless, funds from Chan Zuckerberg Initiative fund is a real incentive that consumers are able to utilize in exchange for a 25% share of the investment gain or loss with Landed (if Landed contributes less than 10% down, the future appreciation/depreciation sharing also changes proportionally. For every 1% Landed contributes, Landed shares in 2.5% of the appreciation (or depreciation, if any.)
In order to place benefits and costs of the program into perspective, we ran local results against HomeOpenly to see who offers buyer’s refunds in one of the areas Landed serves – San Francisco, CA.
We used a random home valued at around $1 Million to generate these results (as of April 2019.) Among various savings offers from local agents, we found two highly reputable agents (including a VC-backed flat fee agent that aims to deliver savings to consumers.)
Among these results, one agent offers 65% rebate that yields a buyer’s refund amount estimated at $19,500 and another offers $9,950 flat representation fee that yields buyer’s refund amount estimated at $20,050.
For the purpose of this discussion, these competitive saving, in the form of a refund, are about $20,000 (assuming 3% buyer’s agent commission split offered by the seller’s agent.) Home buyers do not pay any taxes on the amount, the refund is always tax-free, similar to any other service refund.
Now, the buyer can take this refund check of $20,000 pay the Landed origination fee out-of-pocket set at $7,500 and still walk away with $12,500 in cash savings. Why? These savings agents are highly competitive and advertise their rates subject to 0% referral fees.
HomeOpenly works with real estate agents that genuinely lower the cost of homeownership. The fact is, if the buyer doesn’t do this, the total expense of using Landed referral network plus the commission is $30,000 ($7,500 referral fee paid to Landed, plus $22,500 of the remaining commissions buyer’s agent actually keeps).
Using Landed referral network, in this case, means leaving $12,500 on the table. Instead, a teacher can easily engage a great competitive agent, receive $20,000 amount as a refund, and only pay origination fee out-of-pocket set at $7,500.
In this review, we separate issue to secure down payment assistance with an ability to negotiate a competitive refund with your agent subject to 0% referral fees. We bring this origination fee to full transparency so that there no illusion on how Landed service actually operates and why it steers consumers toward their referral network.
You, the teacher, have to take into account the fact that you pay all homeownership expenses, county taxes, maintenance, insurance, interest and closing costs (you pay the costs of ownership, but you don’t make any monthly payments to Landed.) As such, home appreciation you gain comes at a very high price, while the origination fee is something that you pay upfront, either out-of-pocket or with excessive commissions.
Is $7,500 origination fee a worthy expense to secure down payment assistance? You have to decide this.
This simple test aims to point out that $20,000 in buyers refund is available to buyers in this situation when working with the right local agents. When using Landed referral fee network agents, the refund amount is likely to be zero.
Moreover, non-competitive fees offered by Landed referred agents will become incorporated into a mortgage payment, and instead of the consumer getting a tax-free refund, these fees further incur mortgage interest for the duration of the mortgage.
Landed receives the second lowest score because this service is clearly biased toward high-priced real estate agents, as it aims to brush off the true costs of origination fees set at 0.75% of purchased home value, typically hidden in referral fee agreements.
Landed was presented the following questions prior to the review getting published, but Landed has not responded with any comments.
Landed must be well aware of these issues, but continues to operate on pay-to-play methodology in order to collect origination and referral fees that needlessly make home buying and selling more expensive, while claiming that it makes homeownership more affordable.
Teachers should certainly not ignore Landed as an option, but with a full understanding that there may better terms available to them elsewhere for buyer’s representation, and that this program comes with high fees attached.
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