Hi! We are Jessica and Tony Vanderveen, and we have become accidental real estate investors in Ontario, Canada. If you want to know more about real estate investing for beginners in Ontario, but don’t know where to begin, you’ve come to the right place. Find out how you too can create long term wealth, while maintaining your work life balance, by reading about our real estate investing journey.
1. Who are we?
My name is Jessica Vanderveen. My husband Tony and I, along with our four children, live in a small town south of Ottawa, Ontario. Why do I say we are accidental real estate investors? In our spare time Tony and I enjoy renovating our home, re-doing furniture, painting and decorating, and learning new skills as we go. When we first entered into real estate, we could not afford anything other than a fixer upper. We put a lot of sweat equity into that house and ended up increasing our equity by a lot. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s start at the beginning and figure out exactly what it means to be a real estate investor.
2. What is a real estate investing?
Put simply, a real estate investor buys and typically renovates property in order to sell it, or keep it to rent out. There are many many strategies to invest in real estate. If you are a beginner real estate investor, you probably are already familiar with the fix and flip and buy and hold strategies. These are the simplest ways to get started in real estate, and the ones that we are the most familiar with.
2.1 FIX AND FLIP REAL ESTATE INVESTING
Fix and flip investments are those where you buy a house at a lower price with the intention of fixing it up and selling it at a higher price. There are several ways you can approach a fix and flip. It can be a straight flip, where live elsewhere and hire out contractors to renovate the property as soon as possible. Another approach is to do a live in flip, where you purchase your house, live in it, and slowly renovate it over time. This is a great way to enter the real estate market if you don’t have a down payment large enough for your forever home. We have done both these types of fix and flip strategies with our first house, second house, and a pure flip house:
- First House
Our first house we bought soon after we were married in 2008. It was a small bungalow that was in rough shape and we treated it as a live in fix and flip. This was when we both realized we liked doing renovations and liked the satisfaction of doing the work ourselves. We lived there for a little over three years, then felt we had built up enough sweat equity that we could upgrade our house. Some of the major work we did at this house was a new kitchen, new hardwood flooring, and finishing off the basement.
- Second House
Our second house was a brand new home on a beautiful lot near Winchester, Ontario. We loved that house, but because of job changes we sold it after living there for two and a half years. For this house we mostly just painted and decorated, and did a lot of landscaping outside. This was also somewhat of a live-in flip, but there was not enough room for improvement and was not the best purchase for long term wealth building. In hindsight, I think we (or maybe it was just me) were bored living here. I realized that I like working on my home and needed something with a little more to fix up. Which was why we chose our next house…
- Flip House
And in between our second house and third house, we also flipped a house along with my in-laws. At this time, we did not know a whole lot about flipping houses. We found a cheap house, then did all the work ourselves, and sold it for a profit. All-in-all it was a profitable project, and we also learned a fair bit about flipping houses.
- Third House
Our third home was a 90s split-level that needed plenty of updating and TLC. We did a lot of renovations including taking down a wall, painting the kitchen cabinets, refinishing hardwood floors and stairs, redoing a bathroom. And of course there was lots of painting. I learned a lot about myself in this house. I realized that I am capable of doing many different types of renovations. We lived there for two and a half years, then with bittersweet feelings we sold it to start building our new house, again making a profit and adding to our nest egg.
2.2 BUY AND HOLD REAL ESTATE INVESTING
Another strategy for real estate investing for beginners in Ontario is the buy-and hold strategy. The buy and hold strategy is a longer term investment, with generally lower risk. Often there is the intention of selling the property after a longer period of time, but rent it out to increase the appreciate and generate some cash flow. If you’re planning to renovate as rental property, you will want to do your research of the numbers first. For buy and holds, we built our own “forever” home acting as our own general contractor, bought a rental property, and built a short term vacation rental on our property.
- Forever Home
In early spring 2016 we started building a three bedroom raised bungalow on 30 acres of land near Lunenburg, ON. We were our own general contractors in order to save some money, but this meant endless hours of organizing, ordering supplies, hiring sub-contractors, and working at the house any spare time we had. Yes, we were busy. But now that we are finished the bulk of the work we are looking forward to the future and raising our children in our dream house in the country. Here is the full house tour.
- RENTAL PROPERTY
In the summer of 2019 we bought our first actual rental property. It is a small 900 square foot slab on grade house in Morrisburg, Ontario. We spent four months renovating it ourselves, but also hiring some contractors to help us. We ended up with an amazing tenant and *fingers crossed* this has turned into an excellent long term investment.
- CABIN SHORT TERM RENTAL
At one point we had planned to buy a rental property every few years to add to our portfolio. But a lot of things changed in 2020. We wanted another project, but decided the risk was too great to purchase another rental property. So we decided to build a cabin in our backyard and rent it out as a short term-vacation rental. We started building the cabin in October 2020, and it was finished and ready to rent by July 2021. We did all the work ourselves, in between our actual jobs and taking care of our four children at home.
3. How did we learn how to invest in real estate?
Experience! And time. And talking to people in our lives who knew more than us. When we started we did not know anything about real estate. We bought what we could afford and learned skills to add sweat equity. As time went on we realized we loved renovating and improving our homes, but also loved the idea of increasing long-term wealth. I started listening to podcasts and reading books. This totally opened my eyes to the possibility of investing in real estate in Ontario.
4. What’s next for us?
I don’t know! Generally we seem to be on a two year rotation of when we get the itch to do something. We kind of go with whatever ideas we have at the moment. We talk about building a second cabin or campsite on our property, but we’d also love to renovate or build a cottage on the water. Only time will tell. When we don’t have a major project on the go, we often work on smaller projects around our house. A lot of my website is about real estate investing in Ontario for beginners. However, you will also find a lot of DIY projects, furniture makeovers, gardening ideas, and crafts. If there’s anything you’d love to see, please feel free to get in touch!