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Meet the Founder: Matt Holmes from CoBuy

In our latest real estate tech interview, I’m talking to Matt Holmes from CoBuy, a company based in Seattle that helps groups of people jointly purchase homes (I first came across them via GeekWire).

cobuy-logo-blue@5x

What do you do?

Matt HolmesI am a co-founder at CoBuy, a company we founded to help small groups of people jointly purchase homes.  The premise isn’t new – people have been pooling resources to deal with constraints for thousands of years – but our approach is new.  We have distilled the rather complex process of buying a home with friends, family, or a loved one into a manageable workflow. Buying a home isn’t exactly straightforward, and buying a home with someone who isn’t your spouse adds to the complexity and the risks, of which many co-buyers aren’t aware. Folks are doing this, but they aren’t calling it “co-buying” and there are a lot of question marks.  How does joint financing work?  What determines eligibility for a “co-buy” group, whether that’s two people or four?  What happens when someone wants to exit the arrangement?  What if one co-owner goes bankrupt or dies?  What are the tax implications?  Should the co-buy group form an LLC?  There’s a lot to consider, and the implications are serious when you’re dealing with an asset that’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  We simplify the process, and help people approach co-buying intelligently to maximize the benefits, both personally and financially.

CoBuy Screenshot

Why do you do it?

Great question. To be honest, after nearly a decade working in finance I craved a new challenge and I wanted to do something that makes a difference.  I decided to leave London to join my family here on the East Side.  My parents have real estate backgrounds, making it a natural choice. I was dumbfounded when I arrived that Seattle property prices are so high, as are rents. Post Great Recession, the “recovery” has been tepid at best.  Real wages are lower than 15 years ago yet property prices have sky rocketed. 50% of American renters are cost-burdened. Homeownership, that tenant of the American Dream with a proven correlation to wealth creation, is an increasingly distant notion for many Americans. With proper planning, co-buying a home is a way for some people to start building equity, taking advantage of tax deductions, and benefitting from economies of scale to live in a home they own. With the breakeven horizon at 1.5 years in Seattle, if you have even a little bit of money in your savings account and one or two friends or family members to team up with, co-buying can be an incredibly compelling alternative to renting (aka funding your landlord’s mortgage). We developed CoBuy to help improve access to homeownership.

What are you most excited about right now?

Growing our company and having an impact on people’s lives. We quit our jobs and spent 14 months on R&D in order to make sure that the service we bring to market is commensurate with the task: helping people get on the property ladder. The startup mantra of “fail fast” is silly and needs to be taken in context. If you’re a pharmaceutical company producing life-saving treatments, do you want to “fail fast”? Neither do we. All that to say that we’ve put a lot into our business and building CoBuy has entailed substantial personal sacrifice, so to start to see validation has been incredibly rewarding.  We’re hearing from people all over the country who are interested in our service, and it’s great. Getting up in the morning I honestly have a buzz.

What’s next for you?

We’re focused on growing our footprint to cover major metropolitan areas across the U.S., and even further afield. To do this, we are growing the team and securing strategic partnerships across the real estate value chain. Over the coming months, we will also be rolling out new features aimed at further improving the experience of anyone looking to co-buy a home.

What’s a cause you’re passionate about and why?

Wealth creation. When I say that, what I really mean is helping people to better their lot in life, in a dignified manner. Post crisis, conditions for a lot of folks are pretty grim.  Regardless of your political affiliation I think it’s fairly clear from the recent election season that many people are disenchanted with the status quo. There’s a growing gap between the haves and the have nots, and the middle class is shrinking. The global economy has experienced some turbulent times over the past decade and America is clearly in the midst of transition. Housing is most people’s single largest expense, and there’s a lot of change that needs to take place. I’m staunchly of the opinion that rent control isn’t an effective, lasting remedy (most renowned economists agree). We need more policies and tools to address the crisis of housing affordability, which is wreaking havoc on financial stability of tens of millions of Americans. CoBuy isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but we hope it can help some people who choose to co-buy to realize the goal of homeownership, and in turn, hopefully improving their financial situation.

Are you a founder and interested in sharing your story? Email me at drew@horizonapp.co

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Sep Niakan

    Does this also jump into the realm of time share at all? Being in Miami I can imagine some people might consider co-buying in order to share a vacation property. Also are you optimized for people be know each other typically? Or strangers too?

    • CoBuy

      Hi Sep, thanks for the questions. I’ll reach out directly.

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