Is real estate investment for you?

A lot of folks have the financial know-how to become savvy investors, however, the skills necessary for managing day-to-day finances do not always translate.

In 1999, I had my start as an auditor with PwC in Toronto. A combination of good grades from university and landing my ideal job at a prominent accounting firm filled me with confidence. The dot-com craze was in full flight and I, like many of my colleagues, got caught up in the excitement of it all. It was a time when promises were made about companies being a “sure thing” and a “no-brainer” to invest in. Many of these companies seemed to be good investments, but those predictions proved to be wrong when one after another they either went bankrupt or were bought for pennies on the dollar.

Like many others, I suffered financial losses, but the lessons I gained paid dividends. Down on my luck and wanting nothing to do with the stock market, I started to look for other ways to make my money work for me. A chance discussion with a neighbour piqued my interest in real estate. We have all heard about people who have had great success in real estate. As a young accountant, I knew I had the financial knowledge and the benefit of time on my side.

Over the last 20 years, I have invested in all types of properties (condominiums, detached and semi-detached homes, student properties, etc.) and they all come with their own interesting problems and advantages. I’ve learned quite a bit along the way.

HERE ARE TEN POINTERS TO GET YOU STARTED:

  1. People will always need a place to live (including you!).
  2. Real estate has the power of leverage:
    a) For example, rising prices of 3 per cent per annum on an investment property with a mortgage versus stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. is far greater. A property purchased for $800,000 with a $160,000 down payment (20 per cent) and a mortgage that is paid by a tenant appreciates 3 per cent or $24,000 versus investing that same $160,000 with an investment professional and earning a return of 3 per cent or $4,800.
  3. Investing imposes additional demands on your time, but it is manageable:
    a) Investing in real estate is a long-term project, a long-term side-hustle that must be managed carefully on top of your day-to-day responsibilities.
  4. Partnering or joint venturing with someone can be beneficial, both for reducing personal involvement and growing a portfolio at a quicker rate. Be sure to have agreements signed and written down concerning how your portfolio will be managed.
  5. While pursuing a career simultaneously, you can have someone else pay off your mortgage(s) and earn money while you sleep.
  6. Increase the return on investment if you own your own home by applying a legal Canadian wealth strategy to allow mortgage interest to be deductible. Stay tuned for more on this topic in my next blog.
  7. Invest in local real estate in an area that you are familiar with, preferably within easy travelling distance.
  8. Start small (both in property size and cost) to gain confidence and scale up over time.
  9. Consult your CPA and/or financial planner before making any major financial move and seriously consider their advice.
  10. Collecting rent is a simple way to earn supplemental income in retirement.

Real estate investment can be daunting, especially when you are unfamiliar with the process, but, as the great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take.” While caution is key, it’s important to take initiative with your finances and build up an investment portfolio.

KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING

What is keeping you from developing your skill set as a real estate investor? Post a comment below.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Mike Rosenthall, CPA, CA

Mike is a volunteer with a passion for real estate investment, working in ethics and compliance.