The Other Side of Real Estate Investing Nobody Talks About

We are real estate investors and coaches.  

As coaches, we tell our clients to hire property managers.  As a minimum, we tell them to budget for property management fees.

Both Erwin and I are entrepreneurs, we have different businesses, together with 2 young kids.  We rely heavily on our property managers to help us managing our portfolio.

In some cases, this means that we have never met our tenants.

Truth to be told, I haven’t had the time to see the property that we closed in July.  

We divide and conquer.  

Erwin found the property and had been monitoring the reno.  I have been communicating with the tenants exclusively in Chinese via phone and text messaging.  They are new immigrants and can barely speak English to communicate with our property manager.

We finally visited them for the very first time this week.  We met two sets of tenants.  They both moved in recently.

One tenant is a single mom with two sets of twins.  Being a mom of two young children, I can always appreciate how tough it is for her to stay in school and raise 3 boys and one girl all under age of 6.

She is especially appreciative that our house is down the street from the daycare that her youngest set of twins have been enrolled in.

She’s also happy that it is within walking distance to Walmart and Mohawk College, where she’s pursuing her paralegal certificate.

The soon-to-be legal secondary suites also worked out perfectly for her.  Her mother, who works nearby and helps with taking care of her kids all the time, will be moving into the lower unit when the renovation is completed.

This short encounter puts a unique perspective to our rental business.  

Like all other businesses, we are in it to make money.  We analyze the tenants’ application, we look at the return on our investments.

Like all other businesses, we encounter many problems.  

This house was vacant for half a year with a contractor working on it on and off.  The original property manager wasn’t working out.  Contractors aren’t available.  The list can go on and on.

Seeing that our house can make a difference in other people’s lives, especially those that hold a special place in my heart, makes our business much more meaningful than numbers.

We also visited our Chinese tenants.

They recently arrived in Hamilton.  Dad is a full-time student at Mohawk College.  He lives with his 8 year old son and 71 year old mother.  

Grandma was there to take care of the 8-year-old son.  Mom still has a job in Beijing that she has not left yet.

They only have three mattresses and one dining table.  No other furniture.

In case you don’t know, not all Chinese are wealthy.

They are also growing a pot of green onions.  Grandma told me that green onion here are expensive.  She decided to grow them instead.

They reminded me so much of my family, when we first arrived in Canada almost 20 years ago.

We rented a condo in North York, thinking that the address would get us to the best high school in the area.  Turned out that our place was just on the wrong side of Finch Ave and we ended up in the worst high school in the area.  

We didn’t come with furniture from Hong Kong.  We ordered them and waited a month for them to arrive.  Thankfully my mom got some bed sheets we use to sleep on.

We struggled with the weather.  We struggled with the language.  We struggled with making a phone call.  

Cell phones weren’t popular back then. The closest public phone available was a 10 min walk away.

Even today, if you want to have a cell phone in your name as a new immigrant, you probably will be asked for few hundred dollars as deposit before you can have a proper cell phone plan.

The 8-year-old boy didn’t complain.  He’s mostly shy hiding behind his dad.  The entire house does not have any toys for him to play with.  He doesn’t have an iPad.  He can barely speak English.

They’re again, very appreciative of the house, being a five min walk away from the son’s school.

It isn’t easy for them, but you still see their smiles.

This is the other side of our business that we don’t see every day.  Something we don’t see behind the numbers and computer.

We, as real estate investors, are making a difference in other people’s lives.

We are grateful for the ability to do so.  

One of my clients is in the process of selling his Burlington property.  In exchange, he’s going to use the funds to buy a couple more houses in Brantford.  I asked him why.  

He is connecting with a local women’s shelter in Brantford.  He’s offering accommodation to women who have left abusive relationships.  

He collects the rent directly from this charitable organization.

Building a rental portfolio was always about money to him initially.  Until he connected with this local organization, he found a different level of meaning to his business.

Now he’s going all in.  

P.S. We already ordered Christmas presents for our tenants’ kids.

Until next time, happy Canadian Real Estate Investing.

Cherry Chan, CPA, CA

Your Real Estate Accountant

2 replies
  1. G W Conrod
    G W Conrod says:

    Great story Cherry. A reminder that those of us who have been blessed should remain mindful of those less fortunate. Good for you. You are an inspiration

    Reply

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