When Money's Tight, Crowd Fund the Down Payment

PHOTO: Some people have gone to crowd funding to help pay the down payment of their home.Getty Images
Some people have gone to crowd funding to help pay the down payment of their home.

It's a common conundrum. You want to buy a house or make improvements on your current one, but there's just no money in the bank to make your dream home dreams a reality. If only you could ask your friends or family for money.

Is that too awkward? Maybe not.

Enter Feather the Nest, the latest in a line of real estate crowd funding sites designed to allow "nesters" to set a financial goal online and ask friends and family to contribute. It's certainly an option at traditional gift-giving times of life -- like a wedding for a couple already fully stocked with kitchen gadgets -- but increasingly, couples whose weddings were many years and several kids ago are using the site as a way to ask for funds without, you know, asking for funds.

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"It's embarrassing to ask family for money," said Alicia Figueroa, who joined Feather the Nest when it launched in the spring.

The mom of two and her husband set a goal of $12,000 hoping to fund the down payment on a new house in Indiana, where they recently relocated to from Florida in hopes of finding more affordable housing and a job for her husband. Figueroa had been in a car accident in Florida when she was pregnant with her second child and lost her job, resulting in a depletion of their savings in a matter of months.

Figueroa, who runs the blog Jack of All Trades, Master of Mom, has raised only $250 so far towards her goal. But she plans to include information about her nest in this year's Christmas cards, suggesting that in lieu of gifts people donate to her dream of home ownership.

"I don't want to ask people for $5-$10," the amount she expects people might spend on a gift, she said. "You end up getting a lot of stuff you don't want. It's more classy to set it up as a gift registry."

Lindsay Oparowski, CEO of the Pennsylvania-based company, said the site aims to take the awkwardness out of asking for money surrounding real estate needs -- whether down payment, closing costs, home improvement project or even furnishing new digs. The first completed "nest," she said, was a graduate student looking for money to furnish a new apartment.

The company grew out of a personal need. Oparowski was having her second daughter, and didn't need any more baby gear. What she needed was funding for a new nursery for the baby on the way.

"This about family and friends contributing to a dream," she said.

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