A Calgary-based social enterprise that helps families attain homeownership using the rent-to-own model has arrived in the GTA, where affordability has reached crisis level.
Homeowners Now purchases homes its clients choose, rents it to them, and then gives them exclusive rights to purchase it if they choose at the conclusion of the agreement’s terms. According to Dale Monette, Homeowners
Now’s managing director, the organization works on its clients’ behalf to help them save for eventual ownership and augment their credit scores.
“Our mission is to help as many Canadians get into homeownership as possible by using the rent-to-own transaction structure, which allows them to rent a property for a certain amount of time with the option to buy at the end, kind of like leasing a car,” he said, adding that the company did its due diligence before entering the Toronto market, where its services are badly needed.
Homeowners Now is partnered with the North American Private Assets Corporation (NAPAC), which provides financing. NAPAC is regularly approached by real estate investors who use similar rent-to-own structures, but regularly turns them down. However, it approached Homeowners Now because it believes that the nascent company – which was registered in 2015 but investing with this structure since 2011 – is in it for the right reasons.
Moreover, Homeowners Now has a 100% success rate in helping renters achieve homeownership.
“NAPAC got in touch with us,” said Monette. “They’ve been approached by two dozen rent-to-own companies over the years, but they noticed these companies weren’t in it for the right reasons. We mostly deal with people who don’t have major credit issues – although we deal with them too – and that have good incomes but need that extra boost. Most of the time they’re young families.”
Entrepreneurs are particularly maligned by the current mortgage rules, and Monette says they also comprise part of Homeowners Now’s clientele.
But families for whom money is precarious receive particular care and attention by Homeowners Now. Monette recounted a story in which a client’s gas bill was mixed up and unpaid for to no fault of their own. Homeowners Now stepped in and lent them around $2,500 interest-free to be repaid in 25 installments. Another client had a broken dishwasher, washer and dryer, and Homeowners Now granted them half of the money to replace the appliances.
“Because we’re a social enterprise, whenever a client gets into strife, we help,” continued Monette. “If this client misses a rent payment, they default, but we genuinely want to help.”
GTA residents, specifically, could benefit from this rent-to-own structure. Homeowners Now only entered the market a month ago, but it already has three clients and about 75 applicants. Its goal is to oversee 15 projects a month by the end of 2018.
“What we’re seeing in the Greater Golden Horseshoe is a lot of people are moving further out while a lot of newcomers are arriving,” said Monette. “A lot of people might only have $15-20,000 in savings and that usually falls short of a down payment. There’s a huge need for individuals to get into the market as quickly as possible before being priced out of the market.”