Real estate buying with near-strangers gaining interest

The idea of buying a home with someone you only recently met may seem strange, but there are lots of potential benefits. (

The desire to buy your own little slice of Toronto can price many out of the market, so it’s no surprise some would consider buying a home with a friend, or even a virtual stranger.

That’s the thinking behind GoCo Solutions, a startup that supports the concept of co-ownership among non-intimate partners and it’s the brainchild of Toronto realtor Lesli Gaynor. Her website GoCo Solutions offers advice on everything from getting started and finding partners to securing financing.

Earlier this month, Gaynor staged a speed-dating-style event in Yorkville in which prospective house hunters were invited to meet up with other like-minded potentials. About two dozen attended, and Gaynor is planning another for June 29.

While Gaynor is aware that her speed-dating event garnered much attention, she’s also the first to describe the concept as a “tongue-and-cheek” way to get people talking about different paths to home ownership.

“The fun part is it gets us thinking differently about property ownership,” says Gaynor. “People are living differently and they don’t have to love each other to live together. There are benefits: you walk my dog and I walk yours, and you save 50 bucks a month. No one’s expecting dinner to be served or your laundry to be done, but there are also social benefits.”

Learning from experience

Gaynor fully understands the concept as she co-purchased a home in Parkdale 26 years ago with a girlfriend. A single mother at the time, Gaynor lived downstairs with her baby while her friend lived upstairs. The pair lived in the home seven years. Having an on-the-spot babysitter and not facing the scary and costly prospect of home ownership alone were two huge benefits for Gaynor.

“I’ve always believed in this communal approach,” says the former social worker and restaurateur. “Living that way made our lives better for that period of time. We had our moments and probably needed clarity around big financial issues like when the roof leaked, but all in all, it was amicable and it was fine. We’re still close friends.”

Since taking on the role of real estate matchmaker, Gaynor has teamed up a few home-buying partnerships. There is the 70-year-old woman who no longer wants to live alone and has teamed up with a young couple who don’t have enough capital to buy a house on their own. The woman wants the family to check in on her every once in a while, while the couple likes the idea of having a grandmother figure for their young children.

Matt Michels attended Gaynor’s speed-dating event because he’s interested in the notion of co-owning a home one day. For the marketing manager at a real estate startup, he’d rather sacrifice privacy and space for living in the city within walking distance to work.

“You’re not likely to meet someone at the event you will likely buy a house with,” he says “But you learn about what you are not willing to compromise on and these conversations help you learn about yourself. I think it’s important for people to explore alternative ownership models if the North American dream of owning a house is fundamental to their notion of success.”

Communal or co-op living arrangements have existed in one form or another for years. Alternative living arrangements are what many single, divorced or widowed baby boomers seek as they grow old and reject the notion of large institutional retirement and nursing homes.

Thank you for being a friend

Caledon realtor Dorothy Mazeau plans to launch a type of service that matches like-minded folks looking for housing — think Golden Girls minus Miami. The 69-year-old has lived in five different situations with both female or male friends and couples in the past 35 years since her divorce.

“My motivation to live this way was not primarily financial,” Mazeau says. “It was companionship. Even when I was in university, I shared accommodations with three other women. I think people depend too much on their spouse for everything. But community is so important also.”

Gaynor thinks buying with like-minded strangers is feasible given the prohibitive costs of housing in today’s real estate market and our innate human need for interdependence. It’s a concept that needs to be normalized, she says, adding that the finance and legal industries are starting to catch on. Meridian Credit Union, for example, recently launched its friends and family mortgage, which allows up to four people to be placed on a title at no extra cost. And DUCA Financial Services Credit Union launched its More Together mortgage on Monday, which allows up to six individuals on a title.

Yahoo Canada readers, would you purchase a home with a friend or stranger? Tell us in the comments!