Ourboro’s Story: Meet Norm Tasevski, Co-Founder

Norm Tasevski - Ourboro

Today, Ourboro helps homebuyers in the Greater Toronto Area get into the home they want by contributing towards the down payment. Even with a strong and stable income, buying a home in the current market is nearly impossible without receiving financial help, especially as home prices rise faster than you can save. 

The original idea for what would become Ourboro has been something I’ve had in the back of my mind, whether I knew it or not, since I was a teenager. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Getting There

I’m the son of parents that immigrated to Canada from the former Yugoslavia. I grew up in poverty and struggled throughout my childhood. I really didn’t understand what poverty was when I was living through it – I only really felt poor when I was exposed to those better off than me, and when I realized that I couldn’t actually afford things that they took for granted. 

Through a series of miracles (and by borrowing heavily with high-interest credit cards and student loans), I paid my way through university, graduating with a degree in political sciences and philosophy. I got my first “professional” job as a policy analyst with the provincial government. I had always aspired to make the world a better place, and hoped that I could achieve this by influencing government policy. 

Though I enjoyed my time there, I learned a few things about myself. First, I had a knack for numbers. Second, I loved being a sponge for knowledge, learning as much as I could from my boss and my colleagues on how to think and act strategically. 

Third, and most critically, I realized that I was terrible at being an employee! Perhaps more accurately, I could not envision how I could affect real change in the world unless I did my own thing. So as is my way, I decide to pile on yet more crushing debt to get a business degree, and to eventually start my very first company.  

My first business (Venture Deli) focused on helping socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurs launch their own businesses. The learnings from that business (both good and bad) led me to start my second company, Purpose Capital (now called Rally Assets). Purpose Capital was focused on helping grow the field of impact investing. The idea was to help investors of all types (wealthy people, philanthropic foundations, even government agencies) leverage all forms of capital – human, intellectual, physical, and financial – to advance human potential. 

My days at Purpose Capital really opened my eyes to how the world of finance and investing actually worked. I was exposed to the power and influence that wealth could have (again, both good and bad) in how individuals, communities, and governments make decisions, and how those with wealth relate to those without. I would often reflect on just how different that reality was to my own, or to the lives of my friends and family. 

I also saw that those with wealth simply have more options than those in the rest of society. They can build businesses with other wealthy people, they can pool together to invest in assets like real estate, and they can use their assets as collateral for personal or business loans. The average person, on the other hand, only has one tool available to them – borrowing money. The only real form of asset they have is a savings account or if lucky, an RRSP or TFSA. With today’s cost of living, it can be nearly impossible to put away the money they need to get ahead. 

With all of these learnings in hand, I wanted to find a way that the remaining 99% of society can somehow have their share of the assets, power, and influence of those in the 1%. 

Creating Ourboro

At that critical moment, I met Nick Pope, my partner in creating Ourboro. He told me about a company in the US that was helping people buy homes by co-investing in the property with them. We wondered why no one was doing this in Canada.

Together, we wanted to create a company that treated its customers as peers, one that’s built around fairness with people getting out what they put in. 

We set out to reimagine how the modern-day real estate industry works in Canada. We questioned every step of the process, every relationship structure. How people finance homes. How they pay for them. Who makes money across the system. How mortgage brokers work. How real estate agents work. The list went on and on. 

Innovating on something is often the hardest path, especially in the real estate world that is stuck in very traditional ways of doing business. What we were proposing was a fundamental rethink of the entire homeownership journey, and we had to get every stakeholder on board. 

Homebuyers needed to shift their thinking from owning 100% of a home, to sharing ownership with a company. Investors needed to reimage tenants as co-owners, and cede day-to-day control over the home’s major decisions. Lenders and their regulators needed to navigate policy hurdles, allowing homeowners to form a co-owning partnership with a company. And lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents needed to put effort into re-engineering their own systems and offerings to accommodate our solution. 

Over time, we found the right champions within the real estate industry. People that saw the benefits that our model would make available to them. Instead of real estate investors and homebuyers competing against each other to buy homes, they could actually work together as partners to own a home together. All of these groups were ready to work with us to make it all come to life! 

Along with all of the roadblocks, we had many, many successes. We built a great team, found investors willing to pilot-test the idea, worked with forward-thinking people in the lending community to mortgage co-owned properties, and helped our first few buyers move into their new homes. Our latest win was forming a true partnership with Peerage Realty, who shared in our vision and who could enable us to reimagine the entire real estate industry. Each step was a small note of validation that we were headed in the right direction. 

Looking forward

Ultimately, Ourboro isn’t solving an affordability problem. We’re solving a wealth problem. Instead of buyers being renters for life, or being forced to buy a home they don’t really want just because it’s all they can afford, buyers have the ability to build wealth passively through their investment. They can borrow against the home if they need to, or earn revenue by renting out the basement. Homeownership gives people options, opportunity, and resilience.

Today, Ourboro is focused on building out our product in the GTA. We want to make sure it works here first and iterate with our homebuyers and investors to strengthen our product. 

As we continue to grow, we will expand our products and services, allowing everyone even more ways to own and co-own real estate. New geographies, different types of real estate, and ways of participating are things we are always thinking about and working towards. 

Meet Tina

Meet Tina, Ourboro’s favourite Finance and Operations Manager!

Tina grew up in Southeast Asia. She spent time living in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore, and even Australia before moving to Canada after graduating high school.

From budgeting, to fundraising, to payroll, to legal, Tina makes sure everything is working behind the scenes.

How long have you been with Ourboro?

I joined the Ourboro team in January 2020, so I was in the office for only 2 and a half months before we started working from home due to COVID.

As the Finance and Operations Manager, what does your day-to-day look like? 

Before I do anything else, I have to start each morning with a cup of coffee. Then, I’ll take Leo, my 8-year-old toy poodle, for a walk before coming home for a second cup of coffee. On a typical day, I have around seven cups of coffee!

I usually get a few emails overnight from auditors or accountants so I’ll start my day by responding to those and then checking my to-do list. The rest of my day changes based on what is going on at Ourboro. Each month I complete our monthly reporting for investors. We also have our budget planning and projections done annually.

How did you get started in Finance and Operations?

My career in Finance started with an internship at an online brokerage and wealth management firm. From there I moved into various roles in different areas of the financial industry like wealth management, investor relations, fund operations, and financial reporting.

What brought you to Ourboro?

I’ve changed roles within the financial industry a few times, spending time in different areas to try new things and discover what I really like. When I saw the Finance and Operations Manager role open up, it felt like all those career paths converged at Ourboro. 

The idea behind Ourboro also really spoke to me on a personal level. Many of us are told to go to university, work hard to get a good paying job, and you should be able to buy a home once you’ve done all that. But it’s no longer possible in our generation. I felt like something had to change. 

I bought my first home, a 400 sq ft condo, a few years ago and I remember moving in and feeling lost. I asked myself  “is this it? Is this what the ‘homeownership’ dream is supposed to be?”. After working so hard to become a homeowner, it still didn’t quite feel like home because it wasn’t what I truly wanted, it was the only thing I could stretch to afford. 

I sold that condo two years later and was able to make a return on my investment. It was actually the best investment I’ve ever made, and I think others should be able to have the same opportunity. I knew that Ourboro could make a big impact and I wanted to be a part of it.

Where could we usually find you when you’re not working?

When I’m not working you can usually find me at the dog park with Leo. He loves spending time there, finding all the dog toys he can, and it makes me happy to see him happy.

What book is on your bedside table right now?

I just finished The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest. It’s a great book about turning your self-doubt into a strength and how to look within yourself for answers. 

I can’t read fiction, it just doesn’t resonate with me. But I love reading to learn from authors. Often it’s years of their life and learning, all compacted into one book. I’m also listening to more audiobooks lately, I find they help me retain the information better.

What’s something that people often find surprising about you?

People are often surprised to hear that I love Jazz, prior to COVID you could find me at Jazz clubs in the city. I find it really relaxing. 

I’m also a big UFC fan! I grew up watching Muay Thai. I find the background stories inspiring and love the anticipation and excitement going into the main events.

What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Toronto or the GTA?

Yonge and Shepherd. There are lots of good restaurants, especially authentic Asian restaurants, along with pubs and patios. It feels like you’re downtown but it’s actually uptown and close to home, I’m only five minutes away.

Meet Preya

Ourboro is excited to introduce Preya, our Homebuyer Relationship Lead!

Preya grew up in Singapore and moved to the Toronto area to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce, with a specialization in Finance. 

As our Homebuyer Relationship Lead, Preya is a resource and support for new homebuyers. She works closely with each of our co-buyers, leading them through the home buying and owning journey.

How long have you been with Ourboro?

I joined the Product team at Ourboro in May 2021.

As a Homebuyer Relationship Lead, what does your day-to-day look like? 

Most mornings I start my day with a walk around the neighborhood. I’m not really a caffeine person, but I’ll sometimes grab an iced tea on the way home!

Once I’m in front of my computer I do a quick check of my email and then join the rest of the company for our daily morning standup meeting. 

From there, my days can vary depending on where individual homebuyers are in the process. I may spend some time reviewing new applications, get to know homebuyers during a discovery call, or touch base with real estate agents and buyers that have started looking for a home.

If I’m not communicating with homebuyers or any of our partners, I am probably researching market stats and conducting analysis, drafting internal documents, or looking at homebuyer data to help strengthen our offering. 

How did you get started in real estate?

I started working in a real estate office while completing my university degree. I fell in love with helping people through the journey of shopping for and buying their home. Since graduating I have wanted to find something relating to real estate, but with a closer relationship to homebuyers, and helping them get past the barriers to homeownership.

What brought you to Ourboro?

I heard about Ourboro through one of our partner real estate agents. I loved the concept of co-ownership and it sounded like a great fit, connecting my passion for real estate and helping people. 

Even in my personal life, I have a lot of conversations with people and have heard from immigrants and Canadians alike how hard it can be to buy a home in today’s market. As a new immigrant myself, the solution Ourboro offers made sense to me. 

I also really resonated with the people on the Ourboro team. Once I met them I was even more excited to work with them on solving such a major problem for homebuyers. 

Where could we usually find you when you’re not working?

I would love to say that you could find me in some fancy library reading a complex book, but recently my post-5pm ritual has involved relaxing on the couch with a guilty pleasure reality tv show.

On the weekends I focus on traveling through the GTA on any “mini-adventure” I can find. Last weekend I visited a lavender farm and would highly recommend it! 

Speaking of libraries and books, what book would you say has made a significant impact on your life?

I love anything by Khaled Hosseini and books with cultural context, especially if it’s connected to South Asian roots. 

What’s something that people often find surprising about you?

I have been playing the harmonium since I was 11 and am currently teaching myself to play the rabab! 

What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Toronto or the GTA?

I love exploring the Casa Loma neighbourhood. It’s such a cute area with lovely homes. 

I also really like the Yonge and Eglinton area. It’s close to downtown but doesn’t feel like you’re right downtown, but you still have all the benefits of the big city.

Introducing Ourboro

White house

For many of us, our life plan has always included owning our own home. Not only was it a sound financial investment, but it was a place to lay our roots. A space to call our own and connect us to our community. 

Even though this dream has not changed, the reality for many of us has.

We’ve all seen it – especially in the Greater Toronto Area. Home prices continue to rise faster than Canadians can save. Even with the income to support a mortgage, many first-time homebuyers feel like they are watching their homeownership goals slip further and further away. And, while some buyers have families that can help close the down payment gap, many don’t have this option.

Breaking into the housing market, and fulfilling the dream of homeownership, has always been a challenge. Now, especially in a hot market like Toronto, it feels nearly impossible. 

That’s why we created Ourboro, to bring the goal of homeownership back into reach.

Living room with a couch and side table

Who is Ourboro?

The Ourboro team personally and intimately understands the struggles homebuyers face. We have all experienced it ourselves or are currently experiencing it in today’s market. We are committed to offering a way to remove the down payment hurdle without increasing homebuyer debt. 

Now, we are introducing a co-ownership model that will fundamentally change the way people buy and own their homes, by turning homebuyers and real estate investors from competitors to partners. 

In October 2020, we launched our Limited Release Pilot Program to a waitlist of over 500 homebuyers. We used our pilot launch to learn, build, break, and ultimately strengthen many aspects of our product. After closing on our first homes with some of these early co-buyers, we are excited to share our offering with the broader public and move into the next stage of our corporate journey. 

The market needs more creative approaches to homeownership. We’re rising to the challenge.

How does Ourboro help?

Put simply, we invest in your home with you by contributing toward the down payment. It’s not a loan so there is no interest or additional debt. Instead, we buy a share in the future value of your home.

Like any good partner, once you move in we’ll work with you to help preserve and increase the home’s value. When you decide to sell, we each receive our fair share of the gains or losses.

We are now accepting applications for anyone looking to purchase a home in the GTA. If you have the income to support a mortgage, and at least 5% saved for your down payment, get an estimate to find out how much home you can afford with Ourboro.

Have questions? Visit our how it works or FAQ pages to learn more about Ourboro.