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OwnHome - CBA backs two Aussies solving housing affordability

  • Written by News Co

James Bowe and Tim Harley, the ambitious founders of OwnHome, believe that “every young Australian deserves the opportunity to build a life and family in the security of their own home. But sadly, that dream is moving further out of reach for most.”

OwnHome’s mission is to help young Australians realize their dream of homeownership faster by allowing them to build equity while they live in their dream home. In short, OwnHome turns renters, into homeowners.

OwnHome was recently awarded $150,000 after being declared the winner of x15’s Xccelerate2020 - a fast-tracked program for experienced entrepreneurs and start-up teams looking to achieve rapid growth through funding and support. Mr Bowe said: “The Xccelerate program has been a great experience and it was fascinating to see how x15 is thinking about the many different elements of the customer journey. Finding like-minded partners with the capital and innovation expertise of the Commonwealth Bank is a dream come true, and it means we can achieve our mission sooner.”

OwnHome’s business model is simple for consumers:

  1. Customers choose their home

  2. OwnHome takes care of all the complex legal and conveyancing work and purchases the home

  3. OwnHome customers move in straight away and simply make a monthly payment to OwnHome.

  4. Then, anytime between two to five years, the customer is able to buy the property off OwnHome at a pre-arranged price (no nasty surprises or run away property market).

OwnHome is helmed by co-founders James Bowe and Tim Harley, who both have a wealth of international experience in the fintech industry. James has been based in San Francisco for the last 6 years, part of the investor practice of Bain & Company, a global strategy consulting firm. As Head of Middle East for TransferWise, Tim was responsible for the strategy and regional expansion of one of the world’s fastest growing Fintechs.

“What finally brought us both home was the desire to dedicate ourselves to solving housing affordability - a problem that played no small part in driving us overseas to begin with. It’s clear that the timing is right with a raft of open-banking laws levelling the playing field for ambitious fintechs; the recent commitment of the NSW government to abolish stamp duty to address housing affordability; and the wave of changing consumer habits with the ascendence of the with buy-now-pay-later model,” James clarified.

For the two young founders, they’ve long contemplated building a mission-driven business in Australia, dating back to their days living together during Law School at Sydney University.

OwnHome covers its costs via the monthly payments and few percentage point increase in annual property prices. As Mr. Harley explained: “The last 50 years of Australian property have seen price growth averaging 8% a year, so the goal posts have been consistently moving further out of reach for Australians looking to get onto the property ladder. One benefit OwnHome delivers is certainty, now more important than ever. By locking in the rate that the property price grows at, customers are protected from a runaway market and can plan their life with certainty.

We commit to young Australians: if you make these monthly payments on the home you’re living in, you’ll be a homeowner. Our customers are able to feel and act like home owners”.

“For us, it’s not surprising to us that 27% of Australian Millennials are putting off having children so that they can afford their own home. James and I were driven to build OwnHome after bearing witness to countless examples of the sacrifices made by people we love in pursuit of the Australian dream”

Mr Bowe continued: “Many of the customers on OwnHome’s waitlist are excited to bring forward their path to homeownership by a number of years. Others are excited to redirect the savings they had made for a deposit towards renovations to create their ultimate home. We’re also seeing that some customers are excited to be able to skip ahead to a home more suitable for their young family, with the extra bedroom or study.”

The Bank of Mum and Dad has become, by some estimates, the 5th largest lender in Australia - a testament to structural inequality in accessing what has been one of the largest drivers of wealth creation in Australia - the family home.

As Mr Harley explained: “What we’ve seen consistently from those joining our waitlist are young, hard working Australians with great jobs who meticulously save what they can every month. But with house prices and deposits getting larger every year you’re off the property ladder, many fear becoming lifelong renters, unless they have access to the Bank of Mum and Dad. That’s where OwnHome steps in - we’re on a mission to create an equal playing field in getting into your dream home sooner.”

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