ANVC Alum Safe Rate Launches New ‘Coffee Chat’ and Closes Total $3 Million in Mortgage Loans

University of Chicago Booth School of Business alums Dylan Hall, MBA ’13, and Shima Rayej, MBA ’13, launched Safe Rate in 2018. The company offers a mortgage that doesn’t require the traditional 20% down payment – and reduces monthly payments when home values fall, which protects the borrower, as well as the neighborhood, because it eliminates foreclosures.

The company’s offering is based on the work of Booth Professors Amir Sufi and Atif Mian, and their book House of Debt, for which Hall provided research assistance while at Booth. The book, published in 2014, examines the connection between the 2008 financial crisis and household debt, and outlines a mortgage designed to protect borrowers. It was this product that the duo decided to commercialize.

“Shima and I just felt like, how many things in life are you going to do,” said Hall, “where the idea has that much potential to change the world?”

Over the next four years, the co-founders researched the mortgage space and increased their knowledge until they felt they had a viable product. In 2018, they participated in the George Shultz Innovation Fund, which helps researchers turn their innovations into ventures by investing in promising startups from the wider UChicago ecosystem. By the end of the process, Hall said he and Rayej, “had a product that we felt could be scaled to the capital markets.” Safe Rate left the Shultz Innovation Fund with a $200,000 investment from the Polsky Center. The next year, the company participated in the Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC), through which they were able to reconnect with the Booth ecosystem.

Today, the pandemic has seen the company receive more referrals and consultations as people try to navigate changes in the mortgage market.  This inspired Hall and Rayej to launch Mortgage Coffee Chats, where a client can book a 15 minute slot to talk to either of the co-founders. “We want our first interaction with customers to be more of an educational or counseling approach, just to help them understand the products and their options,” Hall said.

In September, Safe Rate closed $1 million in mortgage loans and then $2 million more in October – and the company continues to grow. As part of this, they are building the Safe Rate Savers Club, a program for those saving for a mortgage. With Safe Rate Savers Club, users can invest directly into Safe Rate mortgages or high yielding bank notes in order to increase their savings rates faster. Safe Rate will also track the user’s saved down payment goal and notify them when they reach it. Said Rayej, “It’s just being able to help them, nudge them in a way where they’re able to accelerate that savings.”

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