This realtor created a Tinder for property co-ownership
Since becoming a real estate agent in 2015, Lesli Gaynor has specialized in co-ownership. She sees it as a model of housing that addresses the problems of affordability, lack of density and social isolation. Co-purchasers are often family members or friends, but that doesn’t have to be the case. She and her business partner, Parimal Gosai, started talking about how they could help and, in 2021, they launched Husmates: a real estate platform that works like a dating app by matching buyers looking to purchase property together. Sharing a mortgage with a stranger may sound like a risky proposition, but Gaynor says it’s all about doing the right work in advance. Here, she talks about why it’s a good idea to keep kitchens and bathrooms separate and what happens if your co-owner lands their dream job in Timbuktu.
Husmates sounds like Tinder for real estate. Where did the idea come from?
Co-ownership is the reason I got into real estate. I purchased a property with two friends back in the ’90s and I saw a lot of potential in the model, both as a way for people to break into the market and as a force for positive social change. That’s been my focus since I became a real estate agent in 2015. I’ve been helping prospective owners co-purchase properties since then. In 2019, I met my business partner, Parimal. He was the listing agent on a deal I was doing and we got to talking and realized we were both passionate about co-ownership. During the pandemic, we kept getting calls from potential clients who wanted to co-purchase and had their finances in order, but didn’t have someone to buy with. Parimal and I started talking about how we could help these clients, and that’s when this idea of a real estate dating app came up. Tinder for real estate is our elevator pitch, but you shouldn’t meet someone online and jump into a purchase any more than you would go on one Tinder date and agree to get married.
How exactly do people match on Husmates? And what happens then?
You create a profile and fill in details about everything from your finances to your location preferences to your social life and diet. (If you’re vegan, you probably don’t want to be with someone who barbecues every weekend.) Currently we have about 450 users on the app, which is focused on properties in Toronto and the GTHA. A match is when you “like” someone’s profile for any reason: maybe you’re both based in the area where you’re looking to purchase, or maybe you might both love dogs. It’s not always two people: we sometimes have groups of three or more who connect on the app. If parties are interested in meeting, they can do that with our help or arrange it on their own. After that initial match, the hard work starts to make sure everyone is on the same page and, if it gets to that point, to create the terms of an agreement: What happens if I want to exit? How will we value the property? Who will we use for mediation if we hit a snag? These are the conversations that anyone buying real estate together should be having—whether it’s with a spouse, a friend, a family member—but they often don’t. We have a lawyer to help draft those agreements.
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Do you discuss common pressure points like playing loud music, parties, pets, smoking weed indoors?
That’s what we refer to as the culture of the house, and those questions definitely come up. At the same time, these issues aren’t unique to co-ownership. If you live in a condo or rent in a multi-unit property, you’re going to have to follow some rules. Co-ownership also doesn’t necessarily mean cohabitation. For the most part, we advocate for hybrid spaces where you have separate living spaces with maybe a shared backyard or living room. We had two families co-purchase a detached three-storey home with two separate units in the west end of Toronto, and they left a finished basement as a shared social space. I matched two women in a single home outside the city, and now they’re renovating to create two separate units. I recently started working with a group of four women in their 60s who met on Husmates. They all own their own homes, but they’re starting to have conversations about aging in place and how they might be able to do that together in one property.
So you don’t get a lot of people wanting to co-own a single home?
We’ve had some people looking into that, but our advice is “Don’t do it.” Shared spaces are hard. Sharing kitchens and bathrooms are especially hard, even with people you love. You end up having conflicts because one person thinks the kitchen should be spotless and the other piles dishes in the sink.
Ontario’s Bill 23, a provincial act that loosens existing rules to allow for more residential development, will make it easier to get approval for laneway homes, auxiliary apartments and multi-unit properties. What will that do for co-ownership?
We worked with a client who bought a larger lot with a single home so he could build a laneway home and live in it, while the original owners lived in the main house. We’re seeing more interest in that kind of set-up. I have other issues with Bill 23 because it favours developers—if it costs $350 a square foot to develop a laneway home, that’s not going to be affordable for most people. We need to get creative about how these things can be financed. One idea is that we have separate mortgages on the same property or we mortgage pre-construction.
What about people who are interested in co-purchasing an investment property?
We aren’t in the business of turning clients away, but investment properties aren’t our focus. Co-ownership is a way for people to buy property in an increasingly unaffordable housing market, but it’s also a socially progressive approach to real estate. Before I became a real estate agent, I was a social worker focused on health policy. I know how important it is to have secure housing. I’m not saying co-ownership is going to solve our housing crisis—you have to have money to co-own. But I do think it’s a way to address a number of social concerns: isolation has been a big issue since the pandemic, and we can build neighbourhoods the way they were meant to be built, so both elderly and young people are part of a community. White picket fences were ideal at one point, but they have a way of keeping people apart.
It seems no one can afford to buy property anymore, at least in Toronto. Is there a specific demographic you’re dealing with?
With the Husmates app, it’s mostly millennials—people in their 30s who are starting to realize that this may be their only way into the market. So maybe there will be two or three people buying property together or just two co-owners along with a silent investor, a.k.a Mom or Dad. I’ve had scenarios with three buyers who are going to live in the property, and then you have a fourth silent investor—someone’s parents—putting down a big chunk of the down payment. In that case, we set up an equalization agreement, so that the silent party is eventually paid out. It’s not complicated, but if you don’t have those terms in place, it can be a nightmare.
What are some other common pitfalls you can avoid via the right paperwork?
We’ve had cases where two people co-purchase a home and then one of them gets into a relationship and their partner moves in. If you live in separate units, that’s not a problem, except when you’re dealing with a matrimonial property situation where the new partner can claim ownership. Maybe both buyers are single when I meet them, but thinking about the future is my job. What if one person gets their dream job in Timbuktu that starts tomorrow? When both parties sign a document stipulating what happens in different circumstances before buying property together, it’s less hassle for everyone involved.
What happens if your co-owner moves to Timbuktu?
You would decide in advance who pays the penalties if the mortgage is broken. Sharing a mortgage is probably the biggest pressure point in co-ownership: you’re going into debt with another person, and both of you are equally responsible. You may have paid your share, but if the full mortgage payment isn’t in on the due date, the bank doesn’t care who owes it. I always advise people to have employment insurance and also a slush fund that covers three months of payments. We call it the anti-tsunami clause.
Have you ever met with prospective co-owners and told them they were not a good match?
Definitely. It’s happened a few times. It’s what you would think: one person is saying how much they appreciate the quiet, and the other person wants to make sure there’s enough room to host parties.
So there’s no “opposites attract” in co-ownership?
I think there can be, but that’s when you really want to make sure people have their own space.
Openn NA Launches with the Canadian Real Estate Association, Advancing Transparency in Real Estate
IRVINE, Calif. — Openn North America (“Openn”), a property technology company, is excited to announce its official launch in Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Real Estate Association (“CREA”). The partnership brings Openn’s ground-breaking offer management software, which adds transparency and confidence to the offer process, to Canadian homebuyers, sellers and real estate professionals through REALTOR.ca.
“As our first entry into Canada, we are thrilled to launch in partnership with CREA, to help Canadians navigate the challenges of the property transaction process through near real-time data tracking and feedback,” said Duncan Anderson, President of Openn NA. “Now, more than ever, we are seeing the significant impact and disadvantages that blind bidding creates due to lack of transparency throughout the entire bidding process. By partnering with CREA and leveraging their online platform, it marks an exciting step toward a more efficient and equitable real estate landscape.”
Through the partnership, Openn will be available to Realtor.ca users, bringing unparalleled visibility of data to buyers and sellers on participating property listings, while supporting agents in managing the end-to-end transaction process and client communications with greater ease. The platform offers the unique ability for buyers and sellers to track other offers in near real-time, optimizing the entire offer and acceptance process through greater equality and transparency.
The Openn and CREA partnership follows a successful pilot program in 2022 in select Canadian markets.
About The Canadian Real Estate Association:
The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is one of Canada’s largest single-industry associations. CREA works on behalf of more than 160,000 REALTORS® who contribute to the economic and social well-being of communities across Canada. Together they advocate for property owners, buyers, and sellers, and maintain REALTOR.ca, Canada’s most prominent online property listings platform. According to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), REALTOR.ca is the 6th most visited .ca site and one of Canada’s leading platforms by usage across all categories.
About Openn North America
Openn North America Inc. is a property technology company offering a proprietary cloud-based software platform to support the offer and acceptance process in a real estate transaction with greater transparency. The Openn platform facilitates the negotiation process, featuring streamlined digital contracting and automated communication tools, which enhances a property transaction. The solution can provide buyers with real-time feedback through their device on how much competition exists and where their price stands in the negotiation.
Real estate: Home sales expected to pick up in spring
With two kids under the age of six living in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom household, Jacquelin Forsey and her husband have long known it would only be a matter of time before their family outgrew their beloved home.
Long hours in the small space while Forsey was pregnant and toiling away from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a visit to a neighbour who was selling their “beautiful” place that was “the perfect size,” convinced the couple to start their new home hunt recently.
“If there was any way to make this place bigger, we would never leave,” said Forsey, a PhD student, of the home her family owns in the Leslieville area of Toronto.
“We love it. We love the neighbourhood, we love our house, but we just can’t all be in this tiny house forever.”
The couple has spent recent months scouring listings and put in at least one failed bid, but Forsey has her fingers crossed that their fortunes will change this spring as economists and brokers predict activity to return to Canada’s housing market.
The market has been sluggish since last year, when prospective buyers started putting off plans to purchase homes as the Bank of Canada aggressively hiked interest rates eight consecutive times.
The quick succession of increases eroded buying power as borrowing costs rose and sent prices falling, discouraging sellers from listing their homes.
With Canadian Real Estate Association data showing average prices have dropped 19 per cent from their February 2022 peak of $816,578 to $662,437 last month and BMO Capital Markets’ chief economist predicting they will bottom out after falling 20 to 25 per cent, realtors see many edging toward a purchase once more.
“We got a flood of buyers in January, in February and we still are getting more and more and we started seeing multiple offers return and bully offers return,” said Michelle Gilbert, a Toronto broker with Sage Real Estate Ltd.
“We’ve started getting calls where buyers are just like ‘I think I’ll just adjust what I want, but I don’t want to miss my opportunity.”
These clients are a mix of people who have to move because they are relocating for work or growing their families and also first-time homebuyers keen to not let lower prices pass them by.
Many first-time buyers are finding it harder to qualify for mortgages, but still want to make a purchase, so they are compensating by adjusting their expectations, said Gilbert.
“Maybe they can’t get the square footage they thought they could get because they can’t qualify for as much but they still really want to get a good deal,” she said.
Over in Vancouver, Coldwell Banker Prestige Realty agent Tirajeh Mazaheri has also seen a resurgence in buyers.
Weeks after the Bank of Canada signalled further interest rate hikes were unlikely, she said properties started selling quickly and with multiple offers.
She spotted a condo listed for $699,000 garner 11 offers and a house listed for $2.8 million snag five bids last month.
Others aren’t wading into the market just yet but are preparing to do so soon.
“Everyone who wasn’t pre-approved is getting themselves pre-approved because people want to jump on buying something because they’re worried that prices are going to start going way too high again,” said Mazaheri.
Despite such sentiment, she doesn’t see the market returning to the frenzied pace of 2021, largely because of the lack of properties available.
February’s new listings totalled 51,366, down 26 per cent from a year ago, the Canadian Real Estate Association recently revealed. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, they hit 57,535, down nearly eight per cent from January.
If a sharp drop in new listings continues along with tightening demand-supply conditions, a moderation in prices will materialize over the coming months, RBC Economics’ assistant chief economist Robert Hogue said in a recent report.
If those conditions are sustained, he forecasts prices will bottom sometime in the summer or shortly thereafter.
Sellers will be watching what direction prices move in closely.
“A lot of sellers are beginning to want to list, but most of them, I am noticing, are a little bit cautious,” Mazaheri said.
“They’re noticing the shift in the market as well and they want to get top dollar for their property, so they’re thinking maybe let’s wait until the spring or the summer.”
For Forsey, there is no rush to buy a home, but she admits the pause on interest rates is giving her family some confidence in its decision to look for a new place.
While her engineer husband has been crafting spreadsheets calculating what they can afford, their amortization and the effects of potential interest rates, she said they’ve accepted “that we can’t time the market and we just have to do the best we can do and what we’re comfortable with and then hope it works out.”
“We can stay here until the right opportunity comes and we don’t have to rush out and we don’t have to make a rash decision,” she said.
“And if it doesn’t work out for a long time for us, that’s OK because what we’ve got is pretty great.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
Home sales in Lethbridge see a significant drop: report
The Alberta Real Estate Association has published its data from several cities across the province.
And its report on Lethbridge shows home sales fell over the past year.
But Ann-Marie Lurie, chief economist at for the Alberta Real Estate Association, says the data isn’t very alarming.
“What we’re really seeing is a return to something a little bit more normal. We have to keep in mind over the last couple of years sales have been exceptionally strong and far stronger than what we traditionally see in our market because of the low interest rate environment,” Lurie said.
Year-over-year home sales in Lethbridge dropped 37.8 per cent to 107 units sold.
New listings followed a similar trend, dropping 33.6 per cent to 140.
Inventory of available properties jumped 13.9 per cent to 402, but that’s still about 30 per cent short of long-term trends.
“I think it’s a combination of quite a few different things,” said Jennifer Brodoway, Team View Lethbridge Realtor.
“The last couple years have been a little bit crazy and a lot of people got moving and that’s slowed down a little bit.”
New home builds have also experienced a decline, down 251 housing starts year to date.
“We can see that inventory is up over last year, we can see that sales are down and not surprisingly, we can see that housing sales are also down. They’re all correlated and work together,” said Bridget Mearns, executive officer of BILD Lethbridge.
Despite the slowdown in home sales, Lethbridge experts are still feeling optimistic about the market.
Cathy Maxwell, CEO of Lethbridge and District Association of Realtors, points to Lethbridge’s diversified economy and the flat interest rate after it had been raised several times this year as reasons to be hopeful for the future.
“In talking to realtors out in the field, they’re busy. And you know, the other thing we have to consider is that Lethbridge is a very strong and diversified city. And I know that we say that all the time but it’s so true,” Maxwell said.
Home prices in Lethbridge have seen a slight increase.
The total residential average price increased 1.1 per cent year over year to $351,783.
Sharp drop in inflation suggests interest rates have peaked: ING – Mortgage Rates & Mortgage Broker News in Canada – Canadian Mortgage Trends
Canada housing market: What to expect this spring as prices drop – Global News
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