Solving the deposit gap

Entrepreneur Evan Thornley tackles housing problems

Without the "bank of mum and dad", first homebuyers can find accumulating sufficient funds for a deposit to be almost impossible.

Evan Thornley in Kakadu. Photo by his daughter Daisy
Evan Thornley in Kakadu. Photo by his daughter Daisy

First homebuyers can find accumulating sufficient funds for a deposit to be almost impossible. Traditionally family members helped make up the balance needed.

Evan Thornley, a pioneering technology and social entrepreneur, and property investor for 30 years in Australia and the USA, recently launched an innovative solution – LongView, an integrated residential property business working to provide property buying, advisory and management services, and investment funds.

According to LongView, it solves the “deposit gap” for the one-third of a generation who don’t have the “bank of mum and dad”.

Family offices and individuals are the expected investors in the fund at this stage of its evolution, with the likelihood of 200 transactions over its first year of business. If achieved this could lead to the launch of a larger fund aimed at institutional and retail investors.

When asked if his inspirations come from a “lightbulb” moment, Thornley replied, “I get my inspiration from reading and from people I meet.

“But we all understand how we think the world works. Then you talk to people about their lives and experience and your ideas get challenged by reality,” he said. “Reading gives us mental models; conversations give us reality and the lightbulb moments connect the two. Talmud, which I’ve only begun to do some study with, does both.”

LongView co-invests with homebuyers to help them purchase high-capital growth properties. Its investors share in the levered equity returns and preferential tax treatments of homeowners.

The fund will only finance equity on homes that it has approved. Thornley and his team focus on capital growth, not yield; subsequently, they only assist with the purchase of existing properties. The fund does not take on the liability of the loan the property owner secures with its mortgage lender.

LongView said it does not finance new builds because “land appreciates, buildings depreciate”. Its aim is twofold: first, to establish ongoing answers to Australia’s housing problems, and second to deliver investors liquidity, diversity and superior returns, with positive effects on society and the environment.

This is achievable by the fund’s real-estate experts, assisted with data science information, sourcing and purchasing solid older buildings on well-located land primarily located in Melbourne’s well-established outer eastern suburbs.

Serial investor Thornley is co-founder of Goodstart Consortium and was a founding director of GetUp, and together with his wife started LookSmart, the first Australian company.

When Thornley, who recently converted to Judaism, speaks to young adult Jews about why they should stay Jewish, he says, “When you grow up in a palace, you don’t know you grew up in a palace, but let me tell you, when you walk in from the outside, you know a palace when you see one.”

Inside his palace is “Community – incredibly deep, rich, vibrant, and caring. Continuity – 500 years across 100 countries like a ‘letter in the scroll’ as Rabbi Sacks says.

“And code for living – Judaism gives my life structure. Believe me, I could do with the help. I’m an ‘artistic personality’ so structure, discipline and routine are hard for me. As I explain to others: ‘Any part of the system in isolation looks like it doesn’t make sense, but as a total system it’s genius,'” he continued.

“Finally, and most importantly, the God part. Judaism gave me an understanding of God I never had before – a God that I could believe in – and that makes everything else make sense.”

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