How this Toronto start-up is making home ownership possible

How this Toronto start-up is making home ownership possible

New opportunities for those without the bank of mom and dad

Vivian Nunes and her family outside the home she co-bought with Ourboro.

The easiest way to make buying a home more affordable used to be to move out of the city. And while the cost of a home in places like Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo may still clock in below Toronto prices, these areas aren’t the bargains they once were.

According to Statistics Canada, 64,000 people moved from Toronto to other parts of Ontario from mid-2020 to mid-2021, sending home prices in those districts surging. Though rising interest rates have dented recent record highs, the cost of a single-family home in Waterloo, for example, now averages $825,000—up $529,937 from five years ago, according to the Waterloo Region Association of Realtors.

“It’s becoming really unaffordable,” says mortgage specialist and Toronto-area realtor Viviane Nunes. “If you only have five per cent to put down, with mortgage insurance, that’s like financing the whole cost of a house. When interest was low, that was doable. Now it’s making monthly payments unaffordable.”

Putting a home within reach

It’s with this perfect storm in mind that Toronto startup Ourboro has expanded to help make the dream of homeownership a reality for those looking to buy outside the GTA.

Publicly launched in 2022, the company helps cover a portion of the down payment to help buyers meet the 20 per cent threshold and avoid substantial mortgage insurance costs.

“Insurance can be up to four per cent on top of your mortgage,” says Alex Kjorven, Ourboro’s chief product officer. “By helping people meet the 20 per cent down payment, we’re not only helping them save money upfront—we’re significantly reducing their debt load.”

Since launching in the GTA last year, Ourboro has invested over $5 million in down payment contributions, helping families become homeowners an average of nine years earlier than if they saved the 20 per cent on their own. Now, they’re assisting prospective homebuyers in Hamilton, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and London, too. 

Finding your home sweet home

Ourboro’s model is a unique one. Rather than acting as a lender, they are a co-owner, contributing toward the down payment in return for a share of the appreciation of your home.

“It’s definitely a novel concept,” Kjorven says. “When we say co-owner, we don’t mean we live in your home or tell you how to paint it. You have absolute freedom to do what you want as long as you’re living in the house and honouring our co-ownership agreement. You can sell at any time, and if you realize this is going to be your forever home, you can offer to buy our share.”

The process is simple: buyers submit an application form online, and once they’re approved, they can receive up to 15 per cent of the purchase price—to a maximum of $250,000.

Buyers also have access to Ourboro’s network of vetted service partners, and when they find a house they love, analysts assess the value so Ourboro too can feel confident in the purchase.

For realtor Nunes, the model is so appealing that she not only recommends Ourboro to clients, she has also used them to buy her own home. “The whole experience is so streamlined,” she says. “They held my hand from beginning to end—it was phenomenal. I have clients who are working with Ourboro now, and they’re loving it.”