Nikhita and Anirudh Koul both work as data scientists in Silicon Valley. They bought their first home in May 2015 — but not in the city they had previously planned to live in.
San Jose, not San Francisco, turned out to be the better fit for the couple, who is originally from Canada.
“When we thought about our dream home, we really loved the modern feel of many San Francisco properties,” says Anirudh.“But San Jose was so much more affordable — so we knew we’d have to redesign our apartment to bring that San Francisco-modern vibe to San Jose.”
An Unexpected Credit Crunch
Having used all of their savings to make a down payment, the Kouls didn’t have much cash left over for home improvements. And getting another line of credit proved nearly impossible.
Their pre-existing mortgage, the fact that they both hold H-1B visas, and their lack of equity in their new home added up to “extra risk” in the eyes of traditional lenders.
The loans the couple did get approved for had an APR of 20 percent and higher and the absolute best they could find was still around 10 percent. Even at those rates, some of the lenders wouldn’t approve a loan for $30,000, the full amount the Koul’s needed.
“It was so much harder to get a loan than to purchase the house,” Anirudh says. But the home improvement loan was essential to moving into their new place; they had already signed a contractor and the clock was running to get their renovation started.
Finding a Well-Rounded Solution
Anirudh recalled reading about Earnest when the company launched, and he loved the idea of a lender taking factors beyond credit score into account. “We had the means to pay it back, just didn’t have the money in hand,” he says.
The Kouls applied and were approved for an Earnest home improvement loan in just three days, with a rate of less than 6 percent APR, and for the full amount requested.
“Everything was totally transparent, and helped me make a decision without having to do my own math,” he says. Now they were ready to get to work with their contractor and turn their dream into a reality: having a home that felt as comfortable as the nicest of hotels.
Living the Dream
However, the Kouls also knew that they were better at data science than design — and they turned to another online solution, Houzz, to find a designer. They went with Rati Mishra of Dekorati Interiors.
“Without Rati, the results would probably have been one-tenth of what they are now,” says Anirudh. The couple opted for simple modern decor — a nod to the “San Francisco-vibe” they wanted — and picked a grayscale color scheme, but with splashes of color and unique objects to add a spark. “Now our living room is the hotel room that I just want to stay in all the time. It’s gorgeous.”
“When you buy something, you want to make it your own, and Earnest allowed us to do that.”