Proptech start-ups vie to create ‘private Help to Buy’ market by making ‘smarter’ lending decisions

Competition among start-ups vying to create a ‘private Help to Buy’ market, which uses technology to marry wealthy investors’ cash with first-time buyers, is heating up.

Help to Buy, the Government scheme lending first-time buyers a bigger deposit (primarily for new-build homes) has been widely touted as fuelling property price rises and underwriting the profits of housebuilders.

But now a number of start-ups are trying to use technology to make smarter lending decisions.

Ahauz.com and Proportunity.co will look to lend the money of high net worth investors to help first-time buyers bulk up their deposit.

While it isn’t clear how Ahauz will structure the loan, it looks like Proportunity will take a second charge on the home – meaning a homeowner will be the last to get their money back on a sale.

Ahauz has taken £300,000 from Forward Partners, a venture fund backed by Blackrock – in addition to a £3m from private high net worth investors to fund the loans, according to a report in City AM.

It aims to raise £10m from investors by March.

Proportunity is also venture funded, having taken money from experienced Proptech investor Oliver Samwer and his Rocket Internet Group. He is joined on Proportunity’s capitalisation table by Matt Robinson, founder of guaranteed sale estate agent Nested.com, and JLL, the global property services group.

While Ahauz does not state an ‘investment strategy’ on its website, Proportunity is very clear on how it intends to choose between who to lend to: setting artificial intelligence loose on property data to predict which areas and properties are likely to go up in price.

Proportunity’s hope is by lending in areas where prices are likely to rise, the risk of a negative equity situation is mitigated.

There are a number of companies in this space, including Habitate – backed by Anthemis, the Fintech VC (who happen to be investors in my company) and founded by Mark Roberton, a former strategic advisor to Yorkshire Building Society.

The timing of these products is interesting as the original Government-backed Help to Buy fuelled the property price boom; commentators could see these products being released just as the market cools off as a fuel for a further price boom.

Whether the market is ready for riskier lending against property is yet to be seen – especially considering the tightening of regulations after the Mortgage Market Review.

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