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Citi-backed mortgage startup takes space at New York's World Trade Center

New York

BETTER.COM, the home-financing startup backed by Citigroup and other major financial firms, plans to move into 3 World Trade Center as it looks to grow beyond its current office in a neighbouring downtown Manhattan skyscraper.

The company, founded in New York City in 2016, signed a lease for 44,000 square feet on the tower's 59th storey and has the option to expand on two more floors, according to a statement from landlord Silverstein Properties. The firm plans to move in by the end of the year.

Better.com works to make securing a mortgage cheaper and more efficient, moving the process online and getting borrowers pre-approved faster.

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It recently closed a US$75 million Series C round, with funding from Citigroup's new financial technology investment arm, American Express Ventures and Goldman Sachs.

In the past year, the firm hired 480 new employees and moved from Manhattan's Soho neighbourhood to 7 World Trade Center. It's licensed in 35 states and expects to be open in the remainder, including New York, by the end of the year.

Owners of office buildings in lower Manhattan have faced competition from glassy new skyscrapers in Midtown East and Hudson Yards, the US$25 billion development on the far west side that has lured high-profile tenants such as BlackRock and KKR.

"Park Avenue or Hudson Yards are for people who have already made it," Better.com chief executive officer Vishal Garg said in an interview. "Downtown is for people who are making it."

At 3 World Trade Center, Better.com will join tenants including advertising company GroupM, consulting giant McKinsey & Co and stock-exchange operator IEX Group.

Silverstein also recently signed leases with mattress startup Casper, quantitative-trading firm Hudson River Trading and beverage company Diageo. The 80-storey, 2.8 million-sq-ft tower opened in June and is more than 50 per cent leased.

Silverstein chairman Larry Silverstein said in February that he may consider starting construction on 2 World Trade Center, the final skyscraper at the downtown site, without a committed tenant if the developer makes leasing progress in the other towers. BLOOMBERG