(CBS) - Economists say the amount of people planning to buy homes is at a record high this season but rising prices and interest rates can make it more challenging.
One company is helping buyers overcome the down payment hurdle in exchange for a piece of the property's value down the road.
Brian Hardy knew this was the perfect home for his family the first time he saw it. A promotion prompted a move to Southern California from San Francisco, both areas experiencing skyrocketing real estate prices.
"The promotion came with a bump in pay but not a sack of money to go put on a down payment," Hardy said.
So, Brian turned to an investment company called Unison for help with the hefty down payment. Their program gave him more buying power.
"It's additional cash in the transaction that can be used to better qualify for a loan, have a stronger offer, get a fourth bedroom instead of a three bedroom," he said.
Here's how it works: the buyer typically comes up with a 10 percent down payment and Unison matches it with another 10 percent. Making a 20 percent down payment helps reduce the monthly mortgage and avoids extra insurance costs known as PMI.
When the homeowner sells, Unison gets 35 percent in any increase in property value. If prices fall, Unison pays the same 35 percent stake in the value decrease.
"That could be two years from now, 30 years from now, it's a time that they choose."
Unison's homeownership investment program is for owner-occupied residences, not property flippers.
"There was pluses and minuses and when I added it all up, it was a fit for us."
The extra help allowed Brian to buy his California dream home, complete with a pool.
Unison said buyers must go through a detailed training to understand how the program works before they can take part.
Their program is currently available in 22 states, including Missouri and Illinois.