Startup offers $1 way into B.C. real estate

Vancouver-based company aims to give people cheaper ways to invest in the market

As real estate prices continue to skyrocket across the Lower Mainland, a Vancouver-based startup is trying to redefine the way people look at homeownership.

IMBY – which stands for In My Backyard – started up last December, after its founders became increasingly frustrated with buying into the region’s real estate market.

It was hearing about a past employee’s struggle that made CEO Mike Stephenson think up a different approach.

The employee wanted to invest in a development, but the minimum buy-in, $50,000, was much too pricey. “Distrust and frustrations are running really high,” he said.

He eventually developed IMBY, a company that allows people to invest as much, or as little, as they want in real estate in exchange for shares of a property. Then, they reap the returns.

“Real estate has been proven to be the best asset class to invest in, but so many people are locked out,” said Stephenson. “And of the people who are in… they’re so stressed out because they’re not in a prudent amount. They’re beyond all in.”

READ MORE: Two-thirds of renters want to see a housing crash in Metro Vancouver: poll

IMBY allows its users to buy in starting at $1.

“Our median is $2,000, but the majority of people are testing the waters with $100 to $500,” said Stephenson. “Where we’re getting most of our requests is the underserved millennial group.”

Millennials want IMBY to take $100 or $200 from their bank account and help them invest it in real estate, Stephenson said.

READ MORE: Average millennial could wait 150+ years to buy home in one B.C. city: report

He calls it a low-risk way to become a landlord.

“If there is a month where a mortgage payment needs to be made and there’s no funds… let’s say it’s $1,000. We would just put on the platform an additional 1,000 shares as $1 per share,” said Stephenson.

“When a tenant doesn’t pay, that’s a very stressful month. But when you’re sharing this property with 100, 200, 300 other owners and your portion is $1, there’s no stress.”

READ MORE: Housing tops worry list for more than half in Metro Vancouver: poll

The company has more than 1,000 users on the platform so far, and while many of those are in Metro Vancouver’s saturated market, buyers are out as far as Vernon and Victoria.

With stricter mortgage rules in place this year, Stephenson said some users are coming to IMBY as a creative way to afford a home when the bank won’t help.

He pointed to the case of a single mom with a $1-million profit from selling her Richmond townhouse.

“She wants to live on the east side of Vancouver. She’s found a house that’s $1.5-million,” Stephenson said. “But the bank will not finance the remaining $500,000.”

She turns to IMBY, puts in her $1 million, and shareholders put in the other $500,000, he said.

“She’s then going to move into this house and pay $3,000 a month in rent,” said Stephenson. “Since she owns two-thirds of this house, she gets $2,000 back a month.”

When the house is someday rezoned or renovated both she and the shareholders benefit from the hike in value.

Though Stephenson said he’s buoyed by the success stories so far, he doesn’t think his company will solve the housing crisis.

“We feel like this is a way to make it fairer,” he said. “It’s a stab at it.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey couple donates $250K to students in honour of late son

Joseph Chung Scholarship Fund helps out 100 post-secondary students

Surrey RCMP investigate report of explosion at home

‘Emotionally elevated’ person taken ‘safely’ into custody: police

Surrey tells Uber to cease operations in city, but company ‘respectfully’ declines

Ridesharing company told to stop operating within the city by 9 p.m. Jan. 24

Plans for apartments on Strawberry Hill shopping site coming to Surrey council

It would be near the library, and include 123 rental units

Man killed in fall from 3 Civic Plaza balcony in Surrey

Heavy emergency services presence in plaza at the skyscraper, at 13475 Central Ave.

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

People knowingly take fentanyl so make policy changes to reduce harm: B.C. study

Dr. Jane Buxton, an epidemiologist at the centre, says drug users need more resources,

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

Coronavirus concerns cause cancellation of Langley Lunar New Year celebration

Close to 1,000 were expected to attend the annual Live In Langley event on Saturday

Second earthquake in two days strikes near Agassiz

A 2.6-magnitude recorded Saturday morning

BCLC opens novelty bet on Harry and Meghan moving to the west coast

Meanwhile, real estate agency points to four possible homes for the family

Canada slips in global corruption ranking in aftermath of SNC-Lavalin scandal

The country obtained a score of 77, which places it at the top in the Americas

Most Read