In 1996, after 25 years of very hard work in two careers with the benefit of the guidance of 3 mentors, I sold out of the business I was in and made my big move. And within 18 months, at a point when I thought we were ‘that close’ to reaching our FIL, my business went bust, and with that all the capital we had was gone, which left me feeling like I had completely blown it – that we could never recover from that to any significant level. After all, I was 43 years old. So after a period of woe is me and then a couple of years working for others, in 2002 I started my 3rd career by making a (scary to us) move into owning, developing and operating investment real estate, something I always wanted to do but knew nothing at all about.
There are many ways to invest in real estate, from active to arm-chair and everything in between. And I did them all. We purchased 90 residential properties, renovating most of them. Our strategy was to operate on a 2 to 1 ratio - we flipped 60 properties and kept 30 as long-term rentals. During that time, with partners, we also purchased 7 apartment buildings which we then renovated substantially and converted to condos and sold the individual units. In 2004 my wife joined the effort full-time and in 6 years (2007) we reached our goals, and that was because we worked at it full-time plus, and because we were lucky enough to be in boom times in Alberta. In doing this we transacted well over $25 million in real estate along with another $5 million in property improvements. Now what we did was done a hyper-speed with two people working full-time at it, and it is certainly not what many or indeed most people would do. Normally to build a property portfolio that would sustain one’s cost of living would likely take more like 20-25 years, assuming one approached it as a part-time endeavour, meaning that it would swallow up about as much time as people spend on an active hobby. So it’s really not that big a job, and it is certainly within reach of just about anyone who is prepared to embark on a learning curve that I found to be much less steep that I had envisioned what I got started. There are good groups of investors out there who are all well able to share what they know, and that is just such a good way to grow into something like this.