TORONTO -- About 30 people gaze into each other's eyes in the basement of a Toronto pub. But none of them are here in the hopes of falling in love.
At a recent speed-dating event for potential co-homeowners, guests who range from millennials to seniors have come to find The One -- a match made in real estate heaven.
They're given a list of questions to ask each other. They take a seat at the long table, where they have a few minutes to chat before the bell rings and it's time to move on to their next "date."
"I'm an investor," one man with multiple properties in Canada and Asia declares to the young woman sitting across from him. He doesn't want to live here full-time. It's too cold.
"I haven't seen many co-ownership deals," she responds, adding that she would like to find a home in the Beaches area. Her other criteria: "Close to transit," which she writes on her name tag.
Some are cheekier. "Walls," reads someone else's badge.
The housing matchmaker behind this event is Lesli Gaynor, a social worker-turned-Royal LePage realtor who launched a company called GoCo Solutions to help people get into Toronto's red-hot real estate market through co-ownership. The average selling price in the Greater Toronto Area in May was $863,910, up from $752,100 the same month last year. The average detached selling price was more than $1.1 million.
Gaynor said she's had the idea for a long time because she herself co-owned a home with a friend in the early 90s. "I couldn't afford it on my own. I was a single mom," she said.
When they sold their duplex for more than double the price nearly a decade later, they used the profit to go their separate ways and buy their own properties.
More recently, the speed-dating element came to Gaynor when she was joking with her three sons about how they can now use apps like Tinder to find a date, then it hit her: "Why couldn't we use something similar to hook people up -- to buy a property together?"
"It helps people increase their net worth, and it's not just about a landlord making money off of your rent," she said.
Karen Turner and Kelly Wilk just co-purchased a home in the upper Beaches area of Toronto. Both in their late 30s, they have been friends since they were roommates during first year university. It is split into three separate apartments, one for Turner, one for Wilk and her six-year-old son and one for a live-in child caregiver Wilk hopes to move into the basement.
Turner, a first-time homeowner with student loans to pay off, has a full-time job, so she would be able to get a mortgage on her own, and Wilk already owned a home.
But the two women are looking forward to the mutual benefits of their co-purchase. Wilk's son will be able to play with Turner's dog. When she needs a break from child rearing, she can send him to spend time with
Turner, who also wants to have kids eventually. Wilk likes knowing that there will be someone around to help.
Pooling financial resources is not the only reason strangers flocked to Gaynor's speed-dating night. For both the young and the old, it's about community and feeling more connected.
Michael Weirich, 25, won't be in a financial position to co-purchase a home for another few years, but he's considering it. He said he likes co-ownership because it gives him more buying power and access to larger spaces, as well as better amenities and locations that he otherwise wouldn't be able to afford on his own.
A sustainability consultant in the building industry, Weirich is a renter who shares a semi-detached house with three 20-something roommates, one of whom is the landlord. He would like to buy a downtown home in a neighbourhood with a lot of trees and nature. He doesn't mind sharing the kitchen as long as the other co-owners are tidy, but he wants his own living room, in addition to a communal living room.
Weirich said he's "big" on community.
"Co-owning a (home) with somebody or a few other people is a good way to have a community around you that you trust and you know will support you," he said.
Actor Sherry McLaughlin, whose family is not in Toronto, has similar motivations.
"It would be nice to have someone nearby that I can trust and lean on," McLaughlin said. Apart from friendship, the 54-year-old could see herself needing a hand with any heavy lifting and gardening.
Young families might want to share childcare and dog walking responsibilities, Gaynor said. Older potential buyers might need help shovelling the driveway.
Toronto as a whole would benefit from co-ownership, Gaynor said, making one last argument for it.
"We can reduce our carbon footprint," she said. "I think we are over-housed."