Updated: Aug 22, 2018
At 26 years old, I didn't know what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to do it. But I did know one thing - I wanted rental security for myself and my little love, my fluffy and sassy golden retriever, Stella.
Welcome to Women in Real Estate | The Investing Blog You've Been Waiting For. In this blog I'll be describing my experience in real estate - how I got into it, how I've progressed with it, tips and tricks I've learned along the way and, towards the end, how women I call best friends (and mentors!) helped to fuel my passion for real estate and inspire me to build a career out of it.
Not your typical real estate mogul...
“Why did I want to buy a house at 26? So I wouldn't have to struggle for months on end to find a half-decent pet-friendly home.”
That's not a typical reason to start investing in real estate, is it? Usually it's about making money and building an empire. I'm going to get real personal real quick with you. These are details that I've only shared with a couple of people before, but somehow behind the confines of my screen, it seems okay.
Before I bought my house, I spent 2 months secretly looking for a pet-friendly apartment that would accept my 'large' 65 lb dog. I say secretly, because it was probably the second biggest secret I was hiding at the time - The first being that my boyfriend was abusing me. So my second biggest secret was my search for a way out of that relationship. Him and I were living together at the time and the biggest barrier to me leaving him was that no apartments would accept my dog, even when they advertised as being pet friendly. For months, I would have to leave work early in secret to attend apartment viewings in the hopes that I could find a place to live where he wouldn't find me. I applied to 10-15 places that were advertised as being "pet-friendly", however those place were consistently rented to people without pets. On paper, I was an 'ideal' tenant - Masters degree, full-time job as a Researcher at the local University, and with aspirations to start my PhD. But, I had a dog.
And nothing ever came of those 10-15 rental applications.
I had never been so stressed in my entire life. I was living with an abusive partner, who was not only abusive to me but was abusive to Stella as well. I knew I needed to get out of there but even staying with friends was difficult as their apartments weren't pet-friendly either. Finally, I realized that 1-bedroom apartments were never going to take Stella and I on, and so I started looking at renting a full house with a yard. Luckily, one of my best friends, Robyn, said she would move into a house with me if we could find a couple of extra roommates. With her help, we were able to find a 4 bedroom house with 2 extra roommates that would allow Stella and I to live there.
We were finally free.
I don't think I have ever verbalized to Robyn how thankful I was that she agreed to move in with Stella and I, but writing this now, I realize even more how important that decision was to me. She was probably the biggest reason I was able to get out of there. Another friend, Emma, played a huge role as well. These are strong, amazing women I will never forget. Anyway, back to point of this post.
Stella, Robyn, Emma, and I lived together in a cute little house that I loved. It had a small yard for Stella, decent sized rooms for everyone, and best of all, I was free of my abusive ex-partner. (There were loads of extra details I skipped between leaving him and getting into my new house, that involved multiple police visits and exit plans and the judicial system, but if you want those details, please send me an email). I was just happy to be starting over.
So, new rental house, great friends, low stress, and a new lease on life. I was working my first ever "big girl job" as a Research Associate at the Canadian Institute of Substance Use Research (CISUR), and I was finally loving life. I have always been a pretty strict saver and so when I got this salaried job I knew I could save some big bucks. And to be completely transparent, I was making approximately $51,000/year. Which to me, was BIG BUCKS. My only other jobs up to that point had been serving/bartending jobs at restaurants as I worked my way through school, so to finally have a salary and (are you kidding me?!) paid vacation, was a dream. Each of us in the house were paying approximately $600/month for our room, + split bills, so I was able to keep my expenses low while making a good salary.
So what did I do? I began saving money. I don't know about you guys, but every time I got a pay cheque and was able to move about $1,000 to my savings account, that was a real high. And mind you, I still went out for dinners, drinks, and fun events. I never felt like my saving impacted my ability to have fun, and I am all about having fun. But living in a place like Victoria, BC, there are lots of ways to have 'free fun' and enjoy what the beautiful city has to offer. (Sidenote - Been to Vic? It remains one of my favourite places in the world. Check out this long (but on point) list of top things to do in Victoria.
Anyway, my biggest expense at the time (besides rent) was probably my pooch, with random vet bills and high-end food, so here I was, finally in a good spot, saving some money, but not really knowing what I was going to do with it.
Then one day, I had REALLY bad anxiety.
I thought, "What if this all comes to an end? What if I end up in another situation where I can't find a place for Stella and I to live? I can't go through that again."
That thought got my wheels turning. I realized that I needed to create a long-term plan for us. So I started looking at buying a condo. Why a condo? Well, it wasn't my top choice but it was all I could really get approved for by the bank. I was approved for about $225,000, which at the time would have gotten me a decent 2-bedroom condo in Victoria. However, add condo fees on top of that, plus no yard for Stella, and it wasn't my ideal situation. But I couldn't afford a single family home by myself, as those were going for about $450,000 at the time.
But then a partnership happened.
One of my best friends at the time was also looking to buy a condo or house. He had just finished his CPA (Chartered Professional Accounting) degree, and had a great job at a local accounting firm. We started talking about buying, and what made sense. While he did have a great job, he had terrible credit. Luckily I had great credit. So we teamed up and started talking about buying a house together. He knew I wanted a yard for Stella, and I knew we needed my credit to get approved for a loan. He started to teach me about rental suites and how they could supplement (or completely cover!) an entire mortgage, and my money savvy (re: cheap) thread was hooked. Together we created a simple Excel spreadsheet of property income and expenses so that we could evaluate every multi-family property that popped up on the market. The deal was that we would live in one of the units, acting as landlords, and then we could rent out the other unit (or 2!) if we were lucky. Those rental units would serve to completely cover the mortgage so that we could live essentially rent free. How can it get much better than that!?
What happened next?
We purchased the house below! But since this first blog is getting INCREDIBLY long, check out the next blog to learn all of the details of how we got into the market with this first deal (and a lost deal before this one). I promise you, it's worth the read.