Loftium’s Host to Own Program Review: Can You Really House Hack with Almost No Money Down?
Can you buy a house in Denver even if you’re struggling to set aside money for a down payment? Loftium’s new Host to Own program allows buyers to move into their handpicked dream home today and build up a down payment to purchase the house by hosting Airbnb guests. Loftium co-founder and CEO Yifan Zhang joins us to talk about how the program works, and why it’s a great alternative for would-be homeowners in an expensive and competitive market.

Today, we have the privilege of having Loftium co-founder and CEO Yifan Zhang join us to talk about Loftium’s new Host to Own program.  This program is a great way for people to save up for a down payment on their dream home by hosting an Airbnb. 

Three Learning Options!
  1. Listen to the podcast “#375: Loftium’s Host to Own Program Review: Can You Really House Hack with Almost No Money Down?” on the Denver Real Estate Investing Podcast
  2. Watch the YouTube video (at the bottom).
  3. Read the blog post. Note, the blog is an executive summary. Get the in-depth breakdown from the podcast or video.

What Is Loftium?

Yifan came up with the idea for Loftium based on her own experience as an Airbnb guest and host.  While staying in a lot of Airbnb’s, she found that many hosts were trying to save up a down payment but hosting under the table because their landlords did not allow Airbnb.  She knew there had to be a better way that followed regulations and benefited everyone. From hosting her own Airbnb, she also knew how helpful it was to generate income that helped cover the mortgage.

Now, Loftium operates in 10 markets around the country, including Denver, Seattle, and Portland.  They work with landlords who own single family homes that they want to turn into Airbnb’s.  As most of our audience knows, Denver and other cities have strict regulations about Airbnb’s.  One of the stipulations is that the host must be the primary resident of the property. 

Loftium works with landlords and their tenants to convert part of the property into an Airbnb guest suite.  The suite is completely separated from the rest of the home, so guests have their own entrances and bathrooms.  Tenants get a steep rent discount for hosting the Airbnb in their home, up to $1000 per month. 

To make hosting easier, Loftium handles the automations and technical aspects while also providing a furniture package.  Loftium knows how to optimize the Airbnb suite to ensure it’s revenue positive and minimizes the manual time it takes to run it.  Hosts are there to provide on-site assistance, handle turnovers, and give the guests local recommendations. 

What Is the Host to Own Program?

The Host to Own Program is Loftium’s newest product.  It launched in 2022 in Denver and now operates in Portland, too.  Their goal is to create an affordable path to home ownership through hosting. 

Loftium's Host to Own Program Review: Can You Really House Hack with Almost No Money Down?: How Loftium Helps You Save for a Down Payment

Like Loftium’s original model, this program carves out part of a single family home to create an Airbnb guest suite.  They give qualifying participants a housing budget to use on a house they want to live in long-term.  Once they verify the home’s layout works for creating a guest suite, Loftium purchases the home and participants move in. 

Participants in the program host Airbnb guests for one to three years, saving a portion of the proceeds for a down payment on the home.  Once they have enough saved up for the down payment, they purchase the home from Loftium.  This allows people who would otherwise struggle to set aside a sizable amount of money to save up through a new income stream.

How Does the Host to Own Program Work?

First, participants need to qualify for the program.  Loftium has its own pre-approval process they use to assess applicants.  Applicants don’t need to be able to get approved for a mortgage on day one—they have up to three years to get mortgage-ready.  This means that they have time to improve their credit score, pay off debts, and save up the cash needed for the down payment.

Loftium requires that participants have 1% of the home’s purchase price on hand.  They do this so that both parties have skin in the game and ensure that participants in this program are actually able to purchase the home at the end of the three-year period.  They want participants to spend time thinking about the house they want to live in and truly buy into it. 

Once the participants find the house and Loftium verifies that there’s space for a guest suite, they make an all-cash offer on the home.  The all-cash offer gives Loftium an edge in competitive markets

After going under contract, they go through the inspection process.  Loftium has the final say after getting the inspection report to ensure the house is in good condition overall.  They have in-house experts who review the inspection report and make the determination.  Typically, a house that needs light renovations, such as new carpets, egress windows, and paint will get approved. 

What Happens After Closing?

Once they close on the house, Loftium arranges the renovations needed to get the home ready for an Airbnb guest suite.  They’ll add drywall to separate off the guest suite and spruce up the area.  The typical floor plan that best suits a guest suite is a master bedroom with a private bathroom that has outside access, such as a patio door.  A common layout in Denver is a basement bedroom with a bathroom that has its own entrance and can be separated from the main floor with a door. 

Since these are short term rentals, they don’t need much work to be made comfortable for guests.  A mini fridge and microwave are all guests need for the time they’ll be at the Airbnb.  Loftium provides a furniture package that’s anywhere from $4K-6K, paid for out of the down payment fund.  Hosts are encouraged to add their own personal touches, such as handwritten notes or guest books. 

The typical turnaround time is a 15-day onboarding process.  The Operations team knows when closing is and ships the furniture so it arrives on time.  Loftium arranges a professional photographer to take pictures of the space so that it looks its best in the listing. 

What’s the Difference between Rent to Own and Host to Own?                                                                                              

The biggest complaint from rent to own customers is that they have to pay above market rent while trying to save up for a down payment.  From a monthly payment perspective, Loftium’s Host to Own program is much more affordable.  Compared with other rent to own models, Loftium’s customers pay about $1000 less per month. 

Loftium's Host to Own Program Review: Can You Really House Hack with Almost No Money Down?  Why Loftium's Host to Own model is more affordable than traditional rent to own

The Host to Own program gives the opportunity of home ownership to a demographic of people who thought it was out of their reach.  Loftium works with a lot of people who want a single family home but don’t want to pay the high monthly payments, or would struggle to be able to set aside a down payment. 

How Does the Revenue Split Work?

Loftium splits the revenue generated from the Airbnb with the host.  Hosts receive 60% of the income for saving up their down payment and have the option to use some of the revenue towards reducing their rent.  However, they have to set enough income aside to fund at least a 5% down payment at the end of 3 years.  Typically, hosts will have saved between $30K-50K by the end of the 3-year period.  

If hosts hit that point before three years, they can go ahead and buy the property then.  They also have the option of focusing on lowering their monthly payment, paying off other debts, or accruing the down payment. 

What about Appreciation?

We all know the Denver market has been absolutely wild over the last year, and homeowners have seen intense 20%+ appreciation.  Loftium’s model assumes a 3% appreciation of the home’s value every year, which is considerably lower than what we’ve been seeing in the Denver market.  This allows Loftium to make money, but ensures that participants aren’t being priced out of the market. 

Loftium's Host to Own Program Review: Can You Really House Hack with Almost No Money Down?  How to buy the home within 3 years

Annual appreciation is the reality of the market, but Loftium wants to ensure that their prices are fair.  Their goal is for participants to purchase the home at the end of the three-year period.

How Do I Get Started with Loftium?

Go to their website for more details.  Sign up, go through the initial questionnaire, and find out your home budget.  You can start shopping with your own agent, or work with Loftium directly. 

Connect with Us

Need an agent to help you find a property?  Reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to sit down with you and create a strategy.

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Loftium’s Host to Own Program Review: Can You Really House Hack with Almost No Money Down?

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Authors
Chris Lopez
Chris Lopez is a Denver area real estate entrepreneur and investor, as well as the host of Bigger Pockets’ House Hackerz and the Denver Real Estate Investing Podcast.
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