He launched a company that can help renters save for a down payment, but when Ankur Jain’s own rent shot up last year, he didn’t know how to begin the process of buying.
“Everyone kept telling me, ‘This is why you should own,’ and I had no idea where to even start,” said Jain, the founder and CEO of Bilt Rewards. “I just kept asking around for someone to explain this to me and show me where I could figure out what I should buy.”
That led the company to develop Bilt Homes, a platform that lets tenants input their rent payment and credit score and shows them listings of homes they can afford. It factors in such data as interest rates, taxes, personal income and credit profile to determine what mortgage a customer can get.
“You solve the great problems by asking the dumb questions sometimes,” Jain said, explaining how the idea was born out of his personal dilemma.
The launch comes as Bilt Rewards achieves a milestone: A recent $150 million fundraising round put its valuation at $1.5 billion, making it a unicorn — a privately owned startup valued at $1 billion or more.
Participants in the round included a who’s who of proptech investors: Smash Capital, Wells Fargo, Greystar, Invitation Homes, Camber Creek, Fifth Wall and Prosus Ventures. Thirteen months ago Bilt announced $60 million in growth funding that valued the startup at $350 million.
Bilt Rewards is a credit card offering and a loyalty program launched in June 2021 by Jain’s venture fund, Kairos. In paying their rent, tenants collect points, which they can use toward a downpayment or redeem for travel, fitness or shopping.
The company says it has already processed more than $3 billion in annualized rent payments and $1.6 billion in annualized card purchases. Its partners in New York include Related Companies, the LeFrak Organization and AvalonBay.
For disciplined consumers, Bilt points are like free money, but others run the risk of overspending to qualify for the rewards. Jain said to his surprise, more than 50 people have already redeemed their points toward down payments.
“We didn’t expect anyone to use Bilt for homeownership this early in the business because people rent for a lot of reasons, including flexibility,” he said, estimating that most members are five to eight years out from buying a home.
The CEO called Bilt Homes a logical evolution of its business.
“We think about it as ‘How do we stay with consumers through their housing journey?’” he said. “Can we demystify that process and also give you the tools you need to make that a reality?”