As many Millennials are coming to learn, home ownership may not be a viable option in urban centres. Instead, some property seekers are turning to co-ownership as a solution, sharing their mortgage with a partner or multiple partners. But finding a trustworthy person to partner with isn’t easy. That’s where Husmates comes in.
Described as the Tinder of the real estate world, the platform created by Toronto realtors Lesli Gaynor and Parimal Gosai matches people looking to co-own property. The idea came from Gaynor’s tenuous relationship with tenancy.
In the early ’90s, Gaynor, a single mom working as a social worker in Toronto, was renting from an unreliable landlord. “Every day, it was like I could have been evicted. I could have been kicked out,” she says. “My landlord, she would tell me that her brother was coming back to town, that she might need my unit. It just never felt really safe or secure.”
Gaynor and two friends decided to buy a duplex together to find some stability. They held onto the house for seven years, with Gaynor’s friends living upstairs and her living downstairs. “It was probably one of the best decisions I ever made,” she says.
Gaynor says that co-ownership is the direction real estate needs to head, especially in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), where prices continue to skyrocket. She foresees the rise of multi-unit homes, modelled on the condo framework but without the box-in-the-sky feel. Instead, they’ll be low-rise buildings where multiple families have their own units but might share a communal space, such as a living room or backyard. “I believe that co-ownership provides more access to build generational wealth and community,” she says.
Once Gaynor got her real estate license, she started using her social services background to help people buy property together. During this period, she met Gosai, who worked opposite her on a real estate deal. The two hit it off.
“We chatted, and we courted for a little while,” Gaynor says. “I realized that his passion aligned with mine. I didn’t want to work with a real estate agent who was looking to do real estate for the sake of making money. I wanted somebody who really understood why I was doing what I was doing. And Parimal really understood it.”
In 2019, Gaynor and Gosai launched Husmates. The platform, which is free to use, allows people to sign up and fill out details about themselves, such as their financial situation, hobbies, pets, and location preferences. Users can scroll through other profiles and “like” the ones they think would be a good match. Sometimes it’s two people matching; sometimes, it can be a group of people, Gaynor says.
“If you love dogs, you probably don’t want somebody who hates dogs. Or someone who’s a vegan, you don’t want to be with someone who puts a smoker in the backyard and uses it every day,” she says. “We’re not asking you to be best friends. We’re not saying you’ve got to hang out every Sunday, but you’ve got to have some synergy.”
Once people match, they tend to reach out to Gaynor and Gosai to facilitate the first meeting. This way, the two realtors can walk the prospective buyers through the mechanics of co-ownership. “We help them start the conversation, and then we let them go off on their own,” Gaynor says.
As with all real estate scenarios, co-ownership comes with complications. That’s why Gaynor stresses the need for an ironclad co-ownership agreement written by a real estate lawyer. To help the process go smoothly, she suggests setting up an anti-tsunami clause. This clause dictates that any major decisions require a three-month window to process. For instance, if one partner gets a job in another city and wants to sell their share, the other partner has three months to figure out their finances or find another co-owner.
Gaynor also suggests setting up a reserve fund with three months’ worth of mortgage payments in case something happens, such as one of the partners dies. That way, the other partner isn’t left scrambling to cover the mortgage.
“We spend a lot of time having conversations about what you need to be putting in place to make this work well,” Gaynor says.
For now, the platform is focused on properties in the GTHA, but there are plans to expand Husmates, possibly as far as Ontario’s cottage country. “ReMax does real estate all over,” Gaynor says. “Why not Husmates?”
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