Wecasa brings a vacation home within reach
The newly launched company has developed a solution for tech-enabled co-ownership of properties in Canada.
The company’s first property in Whistler, a seven-bedroom detached home. Photo: Wecasa
Whether you’re a skier, wine connoisseur, mountain biker, hiker, or hang-out-by-the-pool-er, Canada has activities to suit all tastes. And, unsurprisingly, there’s a big market for those looking for second homes where owners can take advantage of everything the country has to offer. There’s a catch, though. Muskoka, for example, only has so much waterfront. The Okanagan has a limited number of lake-view houses. Whistler properties are impossible to find.
Vancouver-based company Wecasa, however, thinks it’s hit on the solution. The new real-estate tech business launched last week, and aims to make luxury home-ownership accessible to Canadians with its new co-owning model.
“What we set out to do was make second-home ownership affordable and effortless,” Mark Proudfoot, CEO and co-founder of Wecasa, tells Vancouver Tech Journal. “[Our co-ownership model] removes all the frictions of traditional co-ownership. We call it tech-enabled co-ownership, which essentially means that you can right-size your ownership interest to the amount of time that you use at the home. As an owner, you book your time through the Wecasa app. You share the home with other co-owners that you don't need to interact with at all, [as] we’ve built a system for more equitable scheduling.”
If you think that sounds like a timeshare, you’d be wrong. Timeshares permit owners the right to use the property for a set number of weeks – and since buyers don’t own the property and the market can be saturated, timeshares can be difficult to sell and tend to depreciate. Wecasa, by contrast, has buyers share ownership of the home, and owners can sell their stake and receive any appreciation in value. Proudfoot also points out that Wecasa is exclusive. Art-designed as distinct luxury properties with modern features, its homes stand apart from low-quality timeshare spaces (read: hotel rooms). And because it’s accessible only to the co-owners (a maximum of eight), it has far fewer people using and wearing out the property – and every owner has a stake in maintaining its quality and cleanliness.
The concept of tech-enabled co-ownership itself isn’t new. In countries like the U.S., businesses like Pacaso offer a similar model filling the demand for leisure properties for remote workers and retiring boomers. Wecasa, though, is the first to bring the idea to Canada.
“Everything is bespoke for Canadians owning the property,” said Proudfoot. “So on the surface, the ownership experience will look very similar to other models that are proven in other countries – co-ownership and modern tech-enabled co-ownership has become a pretty big category. What we've done is that we've solved all the legal and regulatory issues for the Canadian owner. And so in every province, it looks different. In every country, it looks different. As a Canadian buyer, you know that you're gonna have that standardized way of owning this property that is straightforward, and that there is a standardized and simple way to resell the property.”
Proudfoot and his co-founder Alex Conconi have started with B.C. The company launched with two properties available: a seven-bedroom detached house nestled in the Whistler mountains, and a luxury townhome between vineyards and orchards in Naramata. Each ownership stake entitles the buyer to a minimum of six weeks a year, which – because of the location of both of these properties – provides access to activities as diverse as skiing, mountain biking, wine tasting, hot tubbing, and more.
“There's just a lot of spectacular real estate in Whistler – they’re ski-in-ski-out, or on golf courses,” said Proudfoot. “And [there’s] also the problem of the nicest homes sitting empty in Whistler. It’s visibly observable when you drive around [...] Naramata is an interesting one because the Okanagan is obviously a popular spot for British Columbians to vacation. It’s a unique property that came up and we had some initial interest from buyers. It’s in a very specific area.”
Wecasa co-founder, Alex Conconi. Photo: supplied.
As well as being good for owners, Conconi suggests that a Wecasa benefits the surrounding area. Instead of a stream of endless AirBnB-ers, Wecasa’s ownership model allows buyers to establish roots and relationships in a location, and to contribute to local businesses like restaurants and coffee shops, instead of letting housing stock sit empty.
“It’s good for the environment, because you’re basically multiplying housing supply by eight, without having to build new homes,” Conconi said. “It’s good for communities, because it’s bringing real owners who have a vested interest in the community. They’re returning to the same property – that same street. Rather than having these empty houses or these rental houses, we think it’s a modern way to enable second homeownership.”
The business has been a long time in the making. Proudfoot’s MBA included a capstone project on a real estate co-ownership model, and he’d been iterating on various ideas related to it. Conconi already had proven success in the property business, having founded and sold Lendesk Technologies – a fintech company that connects mortgage brokers and lenders – as well as helming Conconi Growth Partners, which helps companies to leverage capital, expertise, and their network to excel. When the time came for fundraising, the pair found it easy.
“Everybody that we'd reached out to was really excited about the idea,” Conconi said. “It’s a hard money market to raise money in right now. But we didn't experience that. We just had a lot of people very excited to invest. So I came back from 10 days of delirium after the birth of my child. And we closed the round quite quickly. And then we got to work building a team out.”
“The timing was right,” Proudfoot agrees. “We think this is a long-term trend. There's a finite amount of real estate in these markets, and [with developments like remote work], people now have way more flexibility to spend time in them. And there's not room to build more. There's not more waterfront to build on. And there are tons of people who want it.”