Acre featured on "Mastering Your Money with Ed Fulbright"

Genie Ko
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Acre CEO Mike Schneider and Acre Head of Marketing Genie Ko speak with Ed Fulbright on, “Mastering Your Money,” a weekly 30-minute educational radio program designed to give individuals and business owners directions to boost their journey to financial freedom. Together they discuss Acre as a product, and how we are bringing a “unique financing model” to market in the North Carolina Triangle.

Ed Fulbright, CPA, PFS is a seasoned financial professional and educator. In this episode, he explores how Acre gives individuals a way to pursue their financial goals by enabling them to “participate” in the wealth-building potential of real estate without the debt.

“Mastering Your Money” is recorded in the studio of WNCU, licensed to North Carolina Central University, in Durham, North Carolina. This episode aired on WNCU at 6pm on Sun March 17, 2024.

Ed Fulbright   00:00
Welcome to “Mastering Your Money” where your personal and business finances meet your independence plan. I'm your host, Ed Fulbright CPA, PFS. Today we're going to talk about unique financing. We're going to have Mike Schneider and Genie Ko. Mike is the CEO and founder of Acre Homes,, and their unique way of buying your home. During this half an hour we’ll talk about why I think it's unique and why you may want to consider it.

I want to introduce Mike Schneider. He's the CEO of And Genie Ko who leads marketing for  

Mike Schneider   01:26
Ed. Thanks, it's great to be here.

Genie Ko   01:27
Thanks so much.

Ed Fulbright   01:28
Good, thank you very much.  Genie, you're welcome too. 

Genie Ko   01:29
Thanks for having us.

Ed Fulbright   01:30
Great great. Would you mind taking a few minutes and explaining to us what Acre Homes is? 

Mike Schneider   01:48
Yeah, happy to. And maybe I'll take one step back and talk about why we started the company.

Ed Fulbright   01:52
Yeah, that might be a great idea.

Mike Schneider   01:54
Ed, you've been doing this podcast for a long time and I love your focus on helping people build wealth. We really care about that as well. One of the things we realized was that, you know, the mortgage was created in the 1950s and how people live today is very different. And in fact, 30 percent of people that do buy homes, when they move, have lived in it for less than five years.

Ed Fulbright   02:19

Mike Schneider   02:20
So, you know, as housing prices have continued to go up and now people are getting hit with higher and higher mortgage rates on top of that…

Mike Schneider   02:29
It's really tough… if you add up all the transaction costs and all the friction, when you need to move in three or five years, [it’s tough] for that to be the huge windfall that it used to be. You know, people used to get mortgages for 15 or 30 years and stay in their job for 15 or 30 years and pay off their mortgage. Most people [today] are not planning to pay off their mortgage. So we built the company because we wanted to actually build something that was a better financial deal than a mortgage for a big chunk of Americans. If someone knows they're not going to be in a home for 10 years, we would say well, over that amount of time, you should go get a mortgage. But for about 30% of people that are looking to buy right now, this is a much lower cost way to buy a home, share in the appreciation and have some ownership, but not have to pay all the transaction costs that come with buying and selling. So it's a much more flexible option for, you know, people that are looking to buy a great home in a great neighborhood. For them, it may just be that the mortgage is not the best product for a lot of people anymore. 

Ed Fulbright   03:31
Sure. I think everybody should consider this. You're just in the greater [NC] Triangle area. So that means you're in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill. I think you go to Mooresville and Clayton. I saw some of the properties on [your website], and they're nice looking homes, I'm going to be honest with you.

Mike Schneider   04:06
Well, you're exactly right. We are homegrown, founded in Raleigh-Durham. And so you’re right, it’s the greater [NC] Triangle area right now. But we are launching Atlanta next month. So we're starting to expand.  We'll be expanding the southeast.

Ed Fulbright   04:23
And that's great. I think it's a great opportunity. So people are probably like, “Ed - Let the man explain what this really is.” Because it's not a mortgage and you're not renting. So now you've made yourself a noun - “Acre.”

Mike Schneider   04:43
We have some agents and customers using it as a verb. They're going, “Hey, I'm going to Acre this house for a few years. And if I love it, I'll get a mortgage. Or if rates come down to five, maybe I'll get a mortgage.” So you're exactly right. It is not renting and it is not a mortgage. And what's fun with that is we’ve gotten to create something that has the best of both worlds. Again focused on people that just aren't planning to be in the home for the long haul or are unsure if they're going to be in the home for a long haul. And so, we got to, you know, take parts of both, “the best of both worlds.” You have a fixed monthly payment for three years, it doesn't change, it doesn't go up. Which is a big deal. Especially here in Raleigh-Durham. We've had people have 20-30% increases in their [rental] rates or just their lease not even being extended, which is terrifying. I think that's horrible. If you have your kids in school and all of a sudden, you find out you’re going to have to find another place to live,

Ed Fulbright   05:45
Right. And they do increase it quite a bit. They create challenges. So people have to look out for themselves or are trying to figure out, “what are their options?” So let's keep talking about how this really works. Now your website said something about five years. So, do they have a choice about the term length?

Mike Schneider   06:15
Let me give the two-minute overview of the nuts and bolts. What it is, since it's not a mortgage, there's no debt. So you're not taking on a loan and you're not renting. What you're doing is you're buying in, and then you're going to share in the value creation, the appreciation of the home. So our residents put in five percent of the home's value as a “value share.” That's their buy-in. And they don't lose that. That's their portion. So if you buy a $500,000 house here in Raleigh-Durham, you would put in $25,000. There are no other closing costs that you pay. So our average customer is saving five to seven thousand dollars right up front, right out of the gates when they close on that home. 

Mike Schneider   06:58
So they just put in $25,000 on that $500,000 home. They have a lower monthly payment than if they had gotten a mortgage. And then when they move out, they don't pay any transaction costs. Along the way, they're sharing in the appreciation. I cringe at a lot of the programs that have come out in the past where people were paying extra for some kind of rent-to-own, but then if they didn't convert, they just lost it all. So what we’ve created is the opposite of that. You have a smaller buy-in than if you were saving up to put about five or twenty percent down. You just put five percent in, you can share up to 50 percent of the appreciation. So let's say that $500,000 house goes up to $600,000. When you move, you can cash-out your initial $25,000 PLUS the $50,000 of the $100,000 appreciation. 

Mike Schneider   07:50
You gave up some of the appreciation to your investor partner [Acre], but you didn’t have to take on any debt. And that same customer on that $500,000, that now is a $600,000 home, is going to save twenty to thirty thousand dollars in transaction costs just because they don't have to pay all the fees to sell and get out. So that's the basic structure.

Genie Ko   08:05
One beautiful way that one of our residents described Acre, is that you're buying with Acre instead of a bank. And along the way, Acre is also covering maintenance, major maintenance systems. We're there to support you through the rest of the living experience, whatever questions you may have. So it really - there are many ways to kind of position what Acre is and make that comparison. But I think that one quote from our resident - that you're buying with Acre instead of a bank - is a great way to highlight that this is an alternative to a mortgage, but at the same time, it's a bit of a deeper relationship than that.

Ed Fulbright   08:44
Well, you have ownership. And let me just clarify something, or at least in my mind. When you sell, or when you leave that home, does that mean that you have to go through the traditional selling process? Or do we just let you know, “well it’s been three years. I'm ready to move to another place,” a nicer one, or whatever. How does that work, when you exit? 

Mike Schneider   09:21
We're trying to create a more flexible ownership option. So we actually give people the optionality, and they can do this during the three years as well, but as they get to the end of that three-year term, they have three options. We'll give them the price of the home. At that point, they can either choose to get a mortgage and buy the whole thing outright. They moved here and you know they landed in Cary, and they weren't sure if they were going to move to Durham or Raleigh, but they fell in love with the neighborhood. They're gonna be there long term. They can always get a mortgage and buy the whole thing if they wanted to. That's option A. They can transfer to another home. We've had customers do this where they were in the home for two years, they loved it. But they wanted to be across town. They said, we want to go and transfer and “Acre” this other home that we like that's closer to our community, etc. So we were able to go buy that home, transfer their “value share” over to that [home], along with their share of the appreciation and they didn't pay any transaction costs on either side of it. 

Ed Fulbright   10:15
Oh wow.

Mike Schneider   10:17
It was a seamless way for them to move and continue building wealth, there was no taxable event. You’re a CPA so you appreciate this, right? 

Ed Fulbright   10:22
Yes, yes.

Mike Schneider   10:24
We just just transferred their share over, so that's option two. So option, three: Maybe they're moving to Alaska. Or, you know, they decide they want out. They can always just cash out. So at that point, again, they get their initial five percent, plus their share of the appreciation, less any damages if they damage the home, then that would come out of that. But yeah, that's how it works. Those are the three options at the end of three years and during the term as well. 

Ed Fulbright   10:49
So they are responsible for normal maintenance and keeping the place looking great. Do they have to do anything with painting or anything like that?

Genie Ko   11:10
That's actually up to them. They have a choice to make it their own. This is kind of referencing back to what Mike described about we're taking the best of both worlds. You're able to really “nest” and make the home your own. So that includes, paint, renovation you would discuss with us as well. But those are the pieces of home ownership that I think we get excited about, in terms of making it your own place, that is all maintained within the Acre ecosystem.

Ed Fulbright   11:41
That makes a lot of sense. I just want to make sure that our listeners are understanding this because this is a real unique situation. And I just want to make sure that the listeners are able to understand. How good does your credit have to be?

Mike Schneider   12:13
Yeah, that's a really good question. Right now it's Prime credit so it's 660 and above.

Ed Fulbright   12:18
Okay, 660 above, okay. Well that's pretty reasonable.

Genie Ko   12:29
It's an interesting topic because it is different from a traditional lending approval process. We have folks who have finished in under four minutes.

Mike Schneider   12:41
In four minutes and 30-some seconds. That's right.

Genie Ko   12:44
So very different from your traditional kind of lending process. And it takes a bit of a more holistic view in terms of the applicant.  There can be gift funds that get contributed towards that initial “Value Share.” We look at non-traditional income differently, so we have quite a few small business owners and entrepreneurs. It's just a little bit of a more evolved way to think about completing an application.   

Ed Fulbright   13:11
Genie, let me come back to this. For those of you who've just joined us, the name of the program is “Mastering your Money.” I'm Ed Fulbright, CPA, PFS. We've been discussing unique financing with Mike Schneider and Genie Ko. And we've been discussing So you have questions on your finances? You may email them to info For more information about mastering your money shows visit for business and personal finance ideas. Sign up for our free e-newsletter and check out our mastering your money online section for old old. Back in a few to teach you more lessons on strengthening your Independence plan.

Ed Fulbright   14:14
Welcome back to “Mastering your Money.” I'm Ed Fulbright CPA, PFS. And we've been discussing unique financing with Mike Schneider and Genie Ko with the company called We were talking about their unique financing company and one of the things that really, really attracted it to me is that they have a way that you can share in the equity but not have all the responsibilities of ownership. And I think that's just marvelous. Now, they're not nationwide yet, but they will be one day. So, if you're in the Triangle. Check them out. They're going to Atlanta, they'll probably be somewhere else in the near future, but just focus on what it can do. Because if you think about that, you could buy a nice house, 5% down, you're participating in the house and the equity in the house, and then it can turn around. First of all, Mike, I need to ask, or Genie, what happens if the house - if we fall into a depression type situation? And the value of the house goes down? What happens to my five percent down. 

Mike Schneider   15:51
I think that's one of my favorite parts of this. You know, we looked at the fact that people are taking bigger and bigger and bigger bets on their home. And we just talked about earlier, how it might only be for a three to five year stay, and you're levering up your family with, you know, $450,000 of debt to get into that home in that neighborhood. With our product, there's no debt. You didn't change your debt to income at all. So some people are using this to go, like I said, get into a great home and rent out their old place, or buy something else, but there's no debt. So what that means in the downside: let's say you bought a $500,000 house and you put five percent in with a traditional 95% mortgage, and the market went down 10%. You owe more than the house is worth, you’re stuck.

Ed Fulbright   16:38

Mike Schneider   16:38
And you're wiped out, right? Your $25,000 is gone. So with Acre, you did not take out a loan. You put five percent into what we call a “value share.” And you have a share of the appreciation, but you lost 10% of your initial investment. So you could cash out at the end of those three years, if it was down 10%. Let's say you put $25,000 into a $500,000 house. You could cash out $22,500, and go to your next, and move on. So you're protected on the downside.

Ed Fulbright   17:05
Okay. And if you did the bigger percentage - the 50% [of the appreciation], you would have lost 50% of the [initial] value share. 

Mike Schneider   17:18
But you're not wiped out.

Ed Fulbright   17:19
You're not wiped out, okay. All right, that's a reasonable situation. Maybe there's an opportunity for them to negotiate and maybe purchase the home if the value is right, if they're willing to take that on. Now, how does this differ from FHA financing?

Mike Schneider   17:39
Good question. First off again, it's not a loan. So you are not using up your FHA eligibility. So you could Acre a home and then use FHA to buy a home.

Ed Fulbright   17:50
Or VA. 

Mike Schneider   17:51
Or VA. One of the big advantages of using Acre is that we actually help our residents get great prices on homes because we turn them into an all-cash buyer. We go and buy things with cash, so we can be aggressive. So it's kind of the opposite with FHA or VA. Oftentimes it’s a little bit harder to win the bid because there are additional hurdles. And it's maybe not the most compelling offer. A seller will get. In our case, you become the most compelling offer in town. We buy with all cash, so those are some of the key differentiators.

Ed Fulbright   18:27
So they come to the bank of Acre.

Mike Schneider   18:32
Yeah it’s like Genie said, you've got a partner instead of a bank and you get to throw down an all cash offer and get the best price on the home.

Ed Fulbright   18:40
Okay, it sounds pretty good to me. It's uh, maybe not for me, but if I was just starting out and I was in a home, or I was looking to be in a home. Versus if you had to come up with more than 5% or get to that 20%, or that could take you several years to get to that level. You're missing out on that appreciation and in a rapidly appreciating area. 

Genie Ko   19:18
And Ed, I think you've been in the triangle for quite some time, right?

Ed Fulbright   19:21
Yes. Yeah.

Genie Ko   19:22
I think, what's really interesting is that when the company originally started, the original thesis was actually that this was for, what we were calling, the “Mobile Millennial” or the first time home buyer. This was really enabling that situation that you were just describing. And so we do have a few of those folks on our customer group right now as active residents. But what's really interesting is that the big surprise was that we actually had so many experienced homeowners just really understand the product quickly. Because a lot of the pain points that we saw that Mike described, right, those transaction costs, particularly on the sell side, or just the less glamorous side of ownership, right? Like, if Hvac system goes out completely or your roof needs to be Replaced, right?

Ed Fulbright   20:13
[laughter] Yeah none of that’s fun.

Genie Ko   20:16
Yeah, and that's, that's something that you're not necessarily going to understand right away, how painful that is, if you're a “Mobile Millennial,” if you're a newer homeowner. So it's been really fascinating to see that, the actual majority of our residents right now are experienced homeowners who see this as just a better option for their current scenario. We have quite a few folks who are in family transitions. So maybe they just want to see their kid finish high school and, you know, so three years and then they want to move to where they want to be. We have folks that are relocating for a job and they don't know if they're going to stay in the Triangle in the long term, but there's a very good chance they might. This gives them the flexibility of choice in that shorter time frame. So it's really for those who aren't sure this is going to be their forever home. I think what's really neat about Acre as a company is that one of our values is about having integrity and doing what's right for the customer. If they know this is going to be their forever home, we'll actually tell them that a mortgage is a better option for them because they can capture all that - have all the equity and ride out the changing market dynamics.

Ed Fulbright   21:35
Okay. That's a beautiful thing. Go ahead, Mike. Were you going to add something? 

Mike Schneider   21:41
I think she nailed it. We discovered there was a much broader market. It's not only first-time homeowners that have been renting for longer than any other generation, that are a little daunted by all the homeownership things they would have to take on to go buy a home, but it's also the 55+ folks that want to be close to the grandkids. They love the fact that they have a phone number to call and they're not going to have an HVAC expense like Genie mentioned. But we also were “financial advisor approved,” I like to say. We have folks that were looking at buying a house with all cash because they didn't want to deal with the bank, or they just wanted to buy it outright, and then they run the numbers with their financial advisor and go, “actually Acre is a better deal for us, let's do this instead of just buying it outright.” So it's been really encouraging to see how broad -  there just has never been an alternative to a mortgage. And so when you give people an alternative that is actually a better financial outcome and a way better experience. Home Ownership is as an experience - when you add up the mortgage underwriting process to Genie's point, which we can take down the minutes rather than days of misery - when you can make it a better experience and a better financial outcome, we've just found that people are really hungry for this. There's never been a real alternative.

Ed Fulbright   22:55
Sure. And one of the things that was really attractive to me, was that it gives you choice. It could free up your money. I'm not sure you want to be moving every five years, but that's only because I never move. I barely moved, you know, it's usually like 10 or 20 years. That wouldn't work for me, but I could see it being an alternative to a reverse mortgage as long as you don't mind moving. 

Mike Schneider   23:31
I think you're right. There is a lot of movement now. The average Millennial stays in their job for between two and three years on average. I moved four times in 11 years, part of that was, you know, career changes as well as just having kids. So I think we're getting into that demographic where people often think they might be in a home for five or ten years, right? But then life happens and you end up trading up and needing to move. So, this just creates a better option for that. 

Ed Fulbright   24:01
Right. Right. You're talking about the young couple. They start off with, they have one kid, so a three bedroom. Sounds pretty good. Then all of a sudden they got lucky and got twins. 

Mike Schneider   24:18
You've got it

Mike Schneider   24:22
And then they want to move for “The Great High School.” And we see the same now with 55+, “we want to be close to the grandkids but we’re not sure how long we're going to be here.” There are a lot of scenarios where people appreciate flexibility, and it's not a bad decision if they decide to stay longer. So if you've given up some of the appreciation for three years and then you decide, “you know what? Rates are below five and we're gonna be here. Let's switch to a mortgage.” You really haven't missed out on very much. Okay, so, it's a good option for that too. 

Ed Fulbright   24:50
It sounds like you're always calculating what the value is. As people's jobs improve, then they may now be able to buy the home. They know that they're going to be there for a longer period of time, but now they've been participating in the mortgage and they have been - well, not the mortgage.

Mike Schneider   25:17
Yeah, [participating] in the appreciation.

Ed Fulbright   25:20
Right. That's really the most important part.

Mike Schneider   25:24
It really is.

Ed Fulbright   25:25
When they decide that they're going to buy you out, tell me a little bit more about how that works. 

Mike Schneider   25:32
I grew up with brothers. And if you had a cookie that had to be split, the best way to do it is one one kid cuts and the other picks. We don't want our residents to be surprised. We're telling them, “Hey, your $500,000 house is now worth $560,000. And then, when it comes to the time that they want to make a decision, they tell us, “Hey, we're thinking about moving or buying.” We just say, “Great. Here's the value, we've run the comps.” And then they have the option: Do they want to buy it? Do they want to just cash out and leave? Since they can choose either side, we're just here to price it fairly and give them that optionality.

Ed Fulbright   26:08
Okay. All right. So they might be able to take care of it in a week or maybe it takes a little bit more. But in closing, what do you want our listeners to remember?

Mike Schneider   26:22
I think that it is really important for people to realize that we built this company to provide more consumer value than the current options. That was our North Star. We want this to be a better financial outcome for folks over that three to five year time horizon, and that's never existed before. So it really is worth running the numbers. It's really worth running the numbers just to see if this is a good fit that might unlock that next move that you make with your family.    I also worry that we're going to have a generation that ends up renting for 10 years, 20 years longer and realizes they missed out on building a few hundred thousand dollars of wealth in their homes. We've got a solution for that.

Ed Fulbright   27:07
All right. Well, Mike, Genie, I would like to thank both of you for your time and effort. 

Mastering Your Money” is recorded in the studio of WNCU, licensed to North Carolina Central University, in Durham, North Carolina. This episode aired on WNCU at 6pm on Sun March 17, 2024.

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