BELLEVUE, Wash. - The American dream of buying a home can feel more like a fantasy when you live in the Puget Sound.
According to Zillow, a median-income household will have to save almost 12 years to build a 20 percent down payment in the Seattle metro area.
But one company with local ties is trying to combat high home prices by giving school employees money for that down payment.
Q13 News sat down with Alex Lofton who is the co-founder of Landed. The Stanford graduate was back visiting his childhood home in Bellevue on Tuesday.
Lofton’s mom Susan is a former Bellevue teacher who inherited her home from her own mother two decades ago.
“It signified security,” Susan Tochterman said.
Home ownership for the family meant financial stability for the first time. It’s a lifeline Alex wants to give to others.
“We’ve already helped a 100 home buyers ,” Lofton said.
His company is helping school employees in four expensive cities including San Francisco buy homes, and now he’s bringing his down payment assistance program to the Seattle area.
“We like to think of ourselves as the bank of mom and dad,” Lofton said.
Lofton says Landed will provide half of the down payment of a home. If you sell that home in an upturn, then you pay them back the down payment and 25% of the profit. If your home depreciates, then Landed will share in your loss.
“Stanford University offers something very similar to their staff,” Lofton said. Lofton pitched the idea to his former school district, and Bellevue School District became the first in Washington state to offer Landed. They say about 100 school employees have signed up to learn more.
“Sixty-five percent of our employees live outside the Bellevue school district,” Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jeff Thomas said.
Thomas says many employees have long commutes.
“Some of them have to commute an hour and half to two hours,” Thomas said.
The district says their employees can buy a home anywhere - not just Bellevue - to qualify for Landed.
Thomas says the goal is to shorten commute times and raise the quality of life for their employees. That quality of life for teachers Thomas says will also translate in the classroom.
“I would love to not spend 45 minutes every morning and afternoon at minimum fighting traffic,” educator Allison Snow said.
Snow is the Bellevue Education Association President and she commutes from Issaquah.
She says at 38 years old, home ownership finally feels possible.
“It’s very exciting to me that there is one more piece that could make that a reality,” Snow said.
“This is not a silver bullet," Lofton said. "Landed is supposed to be a tool in a toolkit."
But until Landed, it’s something that has never been done before on a wide scale. Needless to say Alex's mom is proud.
“A big source of my pride that he wants to give back not to just his family, but his community,” Tochterman said.
Lofton says he is not stopping at Bellevue. Right now he is talking to more school districts across Puget Sound.
His long term goal is to provide the program to other professions like hospital workers and first responders.