When Money's Tight, Crowd Fund the Down Payment

Have your friends and family pay for that home improvement project.

— -- 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.

"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.