a16z Podcast: Real Estate — Ownership, Asset, Economy

The largest asset class in the United States is owner-occupied real estate, yet options for homeowners accessing this are very binary right now: either own 100% of your home (with a mortgage), or own nothing. And when people do “own”, that ownership is often skewed by debt. Of course, debt works out great for some, given their risk profiles and potential upside (if the house keeps appreciating); but the downside risk and costs are disproportionately borne by the homeowner. And millennials can’t even enter the housing market in the first place.

So how can technology help address a system skewed by debt financing, by letting homeowners sell fractions of equity to unlock wealth without necessarily borrowing against their homes? How can such new approaches help homeowners and financers better align risk and incentives, and unlock a whole new asset class for all kinds of investors? How can they help avoid mortgage crises around the world, and the macroeconomic impact of reduced spending, lost jobs, and more? And finally, what is the role of policy here … especially since the government is de facto subsidizer of certain home finance products over others.

We discuss all this and more in this episode of the a16z Podcast, featuring general partner Alex Rampell; CEO & co-founder of Point, Eddie Lim; and Atif Mian, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University who also co-authored (with Amir Sufi) the book House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again — in conversation with deal and investing team partner Angela Strange.