Local newcomers using the Alternative Housing Scheme

Local newcomers using the Alternative Housing Scheme

Requity Homes offers a rent-to-own program for families who don’t qualify for a mortgage

It’s no secret that in today’s housing market, owning your own home is a distant dream for many.

But a young couple who moved from Columbia to the Sault in 2021 are less than two years away from owning their dream home — and they’re already living there.

Last September, the couple joined Requity Homes, a real estate start-up in Northern Ontario that offers an alternative route to home ownership for those who don’t qualify for a mortgage.

Jose and Maria Andrade are like many younger couples in the Sault: he works in the hospitality and automotive sectors, she is a student at Sault College and together – they still pay monthly rent, but with a catch.

Requity Homes is a rent-to-own program where a company buys a home for their clientele to move into immediately. Requity will hold it for two or three years while residents build the infrastructure they need to traditional finance the house.

Clients like Andrades will be able to buy the house back later after saving for a down payment for one month at a time.

Despite having no Canadian credit scores before arriving in the Sault last year, the couple find themselves on track to be mortgage ready by the summer of 2024.

“We haven’t tried a traditional mortgage because we’re temporary residents, so we’re a risk for the banks,” says Maria Andrade. “We’re working on our credit scores so we can apply for a mortgage, and hopefully we’ll be permanent residents by then.”

Requity Homes CEO Amy Ding says their target demographic is the self-employed or new business owners, as well as immigrants and newcomers who have a steady income like the Andrades.

“If you’re self-employed in Canada, you usually need two years of operating history to qualify for a traditional mortgage,” he says. “And if you’re new to the country, forget about getting a mortgage because you don’t have a Canadian credit history and it takes time to build that history.”

Requity is in four northern cities: Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay and Thunder Bay. The program has also recently expanded to Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan, with plans to continue expanding across the country.

Jonathan Mogg, president of the Sault Ste. Marie Real Estate Board, says it’s challenging to save for a down payment while paying rent, and explains that a program like Requity helps eliminate that problem.

“This gives people an opportunity to save for a deposit when you rent,” he says.

“When you qualify for that traditional financing in two or three years, you have both the down payment and the history that is needed to traditionally finance a home,” he adds.

Mogg notes that the solution is temporary and not as affordable as dealing with the bank, but he’s glad locals have another option to own their dream home.

“Programs like this haven’t been widespread,” he says. “It’s good to see people thinking outside the box. It opens up home ownership to a wider demographic, and that’s the most important thing for us.”

While the Andrades are still adjusting to the Sault, the couple is incredibly grateful for this kind of opportunity in a housing market that has made it so difficult for new home buyers.

“As immigrants, we have fewer options to buy a house, but this program is perfect for people like us or people who are starting to build a credit life,” says Maria Andrade. “I encourage everyone to follow their dreams because there is nothing better than having and living in your own home.”

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