By Connie Adair
Who doesn’t love a new idea, especially when it creates an additional income stream for agents and lets them help people, primarily millennials, build equity so they can get into the housing market sooner.
A new model, created by Key Living, promises to do just that. Company vice president Mark McLean says Key Living has built a co-equity financial model to help consumers buy shares in a condominium for a minimum of $25,000 and build equity while paying a monthly all-inclusive payment to live in a suite of their choice as long as they want. The payments are linked to (but less than) market rents.
“Our job as Realtors is to help solve people’s No. 1 crisis: needing a place to live,” says McLean, a 30-year industry veteran. He started Sotheby’s International Realty Canada in Ontario, was on the management team at Bosley Real Estate and was president and broker of record for Property.ca Realty. He is also a past president of the Toronto Real Estate Board and director-at-large at the Ontario Real Estate Association.
Until now there have been two options: buy or rent, and with the upward pressure on house prices in many cities, affordability is an issue. What do you do when you can’t qualify for a mortgage? And how do you break out of the cycle of renting (high rents make it a challenge to save enough for a down payment)?
These are problems many millennials face. Agents are now able to help these individuals by referring them to Key (and receiving a referral fee). “We believe enabling more people to own in downtown Toronto years earlier is good for consumers as well as our society,” McLean says. “By bringing consumers and institutional investors together, we’ve created a truly unique model.”
Key Living has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from the likes of pension funds, insurance companies and banks looking to park their money for the long term, he says.
The company says, “Unlike traditional models, in which condo owners take title to individual units, Key buys whole projects and blocks of units. Key is the owner and property manager, retaining title and operational control. Would-be owner/residents can purchase shares in the corporation, with an entry point for ownership of just $25,000 in digital shares (keys). These shares are pledged to Key to get occupancy and lower monthly carrying costs…Owners/residents benefit from lifetime tenancy and investment appreciation.”
The concept means there’s no mortgage or title transfer, and land transfer tax doesn’t apply because buyers own a share (although they may have to pay capital gains on any profit).
Consumers (be they those who want to buy for themselves or for parents who want to help their children) can buy a “keychain” for $1,000. That holds their position on a waiting list. When suites become available, they are offered to keychain holders in order of priority. If they like the suite, they pay $25,000 for a share, become an owner and move in. McLean says key owners have full ownership rights and investment appreciation. A bonus is that 100 per cent of occupants are owners, who will have pride of ownership and take care of their unit and building.
McLean offers a couple of examples of people who have ready bought in. One moved from Dubai to Toronto and had a good job but didn’t qualify for a mortgage. Another person was looking at condos and kept losing out on multiple offers. He had given into thinking he’d be “renting forever,” McLean says. However, an agent referred him to Key Living and he immediately bought a keychain. To date, more than 60 keychains of 150 currently available have been sold.
Key Living is investing in a number of prime downtown locations where millennials want to live. These sites range from the company’s smallest building (15 storeys at Spadina and Queen) to two 40- to 50-storey towers at King and Spadina. Blocks of units are also being purchased in newer buildings on Queen West and in the Entertainment District. They are being upgraded, then offered to shareholders.
Plans are to offer amenities in new community/tech-oriented buildings that will be second to none. Apps will offer residents everything from dog walking to meal delivery services. Community managers will bring people together, McLean says. The pay-as-you-play offerings will include everything from lunch and learn, to yoga on the roof to co-working spaces.
Another plus is liquidity. The shares offer instant redemption. If owners want to move, the corporation buys the shares back and deposits the funds into the seller’s bank account in 30 days.
Some units may be available in three to six months, while the new buildings are expected to come on stream in three to five years.
It creates another income stream for agents and gives them a chance to unlock people they weren’t able to help before, McLean says.