Co-owning a home with strangers on the rise in Vancouver, says realtor

Click to play video: 'Families turn to co-ownership as the dream of owning a Vancouver home soars out of reach'
Families turn to co-ownership as the dream of owning a Vancouver home soars out of reach
With the cost of owning a single-family home well beyond the reach of middle-income families, some are turning to buying properties with strangers. Kamil Karamali introduces us to one family who bought their East Vancouver home with strangers they met through a classified ad – Jul 10, 2023

While a one-bedroom condo with a den worked for Vancouver couple Elizabeth Wilcox and Tom Kehler, they outgrew the space quickly when their little ones, Graham and Nathan, came along in the past five years.

Sleeping together all in one bedroom, the family sought a bigger space, but like thousands who live in Canada’s second-most expensive city, they couldn’t come up with well over $1 million to buy one.

“Pretty much what we had was probably around $1 million and there was really nothing — it was just another condo, like two-bed, two-bath condo with a bigger strata fee,” Wilcox said in an interview with Global News.

“When we started looking at townhomes or duplexes, it was up from there.”

Fast-forward two years from the time they began their search, and the Wilcox-Kehler family now lives in a four-storey house in East Vancouver with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a recreational room, and a backyard.

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The catch is, it’s co-owned with another family who were complete strangers when they bought it.

Click to play video: 'Multiple offer disclosure form coming to B.C. real estate'
Multiple offer disclosure form coming to B.C. real estate

According to Noam Dolgin, a realtor and co-founder of CoHo BC, collaborative home ownership is on the rise in Vancouver’s sizzling housing market.

“Definitely co-ownership has become a more viable pathway for more people,” he told Global News.

“I think people have realized that it is doable, and with the escalation in housing prices and the increase in social isolation that we’re seeing in general, and specifically post-COVID, we’ve seen a real coming together of people.”

It was on Dolgin’s website that the Wilcox-Kehler family posted an ad in 2021 seeking “like-minded” people to buy house with, having grown “desperate about moving” and exhausted their pool of family and friends, Wilcox said.

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Through Dolgin, the family met Chris Nichols, Ashley Pullman and their kids. They clicked and in a short while, took the plunge together on a $1.85-million home.

“We chatted about everything and they seemed similar to us — same interests — and it kind of took off from there,” said Kehler.

“Everything moved pretty quickly after that.”

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Vancouver housing advocates urge permanent solutions to modular units

One family lives on the main floor, while the other owns the second floor and the attic. Kehler said he thinks of it as a similar process to choosing one’s roommates.

While Wilcox said while overcoming the hurdle of trust with their savings on the line was difficult, the process has been fruitful for everyone.

“We got more together than we could do on our own,” she said. “While, yes, we do have to work with someone, we have to collaborate, we have to communicate … you have that added sense of community.”

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Dolgin said traffic on the collaborative home ownership page of his website has steadily risen in the past seven years, while surveys show increased interest in the concept.

“Five to 10 years, 10 to 15 per cent of people said they’d be interested in co-ownership and now we’re seeing those numbers between 35 and 75 per cent depending on the age demographic of the people,” he said.

“I think people have really realized that they need more community in their lives. They need better housing that sustains them socially as well as economically.”

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the MLS Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently around $1.2 million — $760,800 for an apartment home and $1.1 million for an attached home.

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