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Getting a mortgage can seem daunting for many homebuyers. It could be your credit history is less than stellar. Or you’re saddled with student debt and can’t piece together enough money for a down payment.

You may have heard of crowdsourcing — sometimes referred to as crowdfunding — used for sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where you can make a case for people to make small investments in the early stages of a project or idea. If you raise enough money and your project is successful, you get to launch your business, typically at a much lower cost and with less hassle than with a traditional bank loan. Your investors in return, earn rewards in the form of equity in the project or one of the items being produced.

Crowdsourcing to own real estate is a relatively new phenomenon, primarily used for large-scale or commercial investments. Only in the past few months has it become an available option in the U.S. for individual homebuyers. If you’re considering crowdfunding to help you become a homeowner, here’s what you need to know.

How does it work?

“In the past, the only way to get to a mortgage was to go to the bank. The idea of crowdfunding is, take away the bank, and instead of having one bank give you money, there’s a whole bunch of investors giving you money,” says Ian Ippolito, editor and founder of The Real Estate Crowdfunding Review.

Only a small handful of companies currently offer mortgages through this method. One of most well-established, SoFi, offers mortgages in 29 states and the District of Columbia. SoFi allows individual investors to contribute through a lending platform, and in return earn interest on their investment, paid for by the borrower.

The advantages to the borrower include lower overall costs, as there are fewer fees than with traditional brick-and-mortar banks.

Other ways to crowdsource

It’s not just the financing that can deter people from making the plunge into homeownership. Coughing up the dough for a down payment can also be a deterrent.

“Most folks will tell you that the No. 1 impediment to buying a home is the down payment,” says Chris George, president and CEO of CMG Financial. The company launched an online platform, called HomeFundMe, to let buyers crowdfund for the down payment on a home purchase. Currently, it’s the only fee-free way to crowdfund for a down payment, although this method also requires using CMG for a Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed mortgage loan, which means you can’t compare lenders.

Feather the Nest offers a crowdfunding registry, where friends and family can donate toward your real estate goals. Every donation to your registry is charged a percentage of the amount given as a transaction fee.

Is crowdsourcing right for you?

Crowdsourcing to help buy a home isn’t for everyone. There are only a few options that currently exist for homebuyers, and not being able to shop around could be a drawback for some.

But, if you’re looking for a way to help pad your existing savings to get you closer to your dream of homeownership, it might be worth considering.