BuyProperly’s Khushboo Jha on Uplifting Women in Canadian Real Estate
Are you hoping to invest in the Canadian real estate market but not sure how you’d find the financing? It’s a common question in an exceptionally competitive market, and despite housing prices lowering in recent weeks, rising interest rates are sure to leave people with the same concerns as months before. These are precisely the questions that Khushboo Jha set out to answer in 2019 when she founded BuyProperly.
After talking last year for our “Women of the Year” issue, Bay Street Bull sat down with Jha again to learn more about the changing tech and Canadian real estate investment industry, and why it’s so crucial to promote women and BIPOC professionals in tech.
“We are a platform for fractional investing […] [like] a stock exchange. […] My role is CEO. The most important thing for me as leader of the company is to ensure that everybody is motivated and excited about what we are doing.”
Since we last spoke to Jha, BuyProperly has shifted to include commercial and global real estate.
“Institutions invest a lot in storage or industrial warehouses, regular people have no access – we are also bringing asset classes that are outside of Canada,” Jha says. “There is a 7 percent guaranteed return. There may be an upside [on top of that].”
When discussing why women don’t typically earn as prominent roles in the investment space as their male counterparts, Jha recognizes it is more than the gender wealth gap at play. It also comes down to the support they’re given (or not given).
“It’s a lack of confidence – women are thinking about a [potential] career break, maternity leave, a loss. […] It’s not as if they have less knowledge, they need the nudge or somebody to think through and help plan.”
In terms of artificial intelligence, Jha maintains that the technology is a vital part of her business’ success, but that it’s important to realize the limitations of such developments.
“It’s a very, very powerful tool that can help you solve a lot of problems, but it’s important to be cognizant of what you cannot do. […] AI is only as good as the data available. If your data is garbage, the output will be garbage.”
Agencies for curating clean and understandable data are essential – this makes the information more accessible, which is becoming a bigger part of BuyProperly as it expands its AI-powered estimator tool from valuing properties internally to consumer use in Canadian real estate.
“What AI does is allows customization. […] It can help people find a custom way of fulfilling their needs,” says Jha.
Despite the leaps in AI technology, it’s still a challenge to integrate with industry partners who are unfamiliar with BuyProperly’s business model.
“We are not [investing in] the standard way. We won the ‘CX Top 20’ last year, which has helped [these companies consider us].”
For Jha, interpreting the data is also important for weeding out unconscious bias. “If I ask my AI engine what a typical investor looks like over the last 20 years, it’ll tell me the investor is male because there are significantly fewer women investors,” she explains. “AI can have biases.”
BuyProperly considers recognizing these biases crucial to reading data properly. “It’s not a tool I’ll create and then use it for the rest of the company’s life, it’s something that evolves […] over time,” she continues.
Biases persist, but the industry is slowly changing. “It’s been way slower than I would have liked, but it is evolving. […] Sometimes 50 to 60 percent of our applicant pool is women or BIPOC. […] Representation matters so much. Our Chief Marketing Officer, our COO, and CEO are all women.”
As for being taken seriously as a woman in the corporate tech world, she recognizes how outstanding role as a BIPOC woman in the C-suite and how crucial it is to bring others up alongside her – and underpinning all of Jha’s success is some good advice.
“If you are a woman trying to break into an area that is not women dominated, […] you’ll be going against the tide. First, having that confident mental framework from the beginning is super important – it’s going to be difficult. Second, find mentors and people who have gone through similar experiences. [BIPOC and women entrepreneurs] experience a different set of problems than other founders, which is closer to what you will experience.”
Her last piece of advice is more personal: “Always have a support system. […] You need somebody who’s not going to judge you, but who can call you out […] and have an honest conversation.”