Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Landlord Toilet Story with Numbers

When a tenant calls, I expect an issue

It's been almost five years since we acquired our first rental property. Still, every time a tenant calls, I hesitate before picking up the phone. I know that they wouldn't call me if everything was going smoothly. 

Tenants only call for two reasons:

1) They can't pay the rent on time
2) There is a repair or maintenance issue

Either way it's not a happy call. So I dread picking up the phone. I look at the phone display with the tenant's name. I count down in my mind.

Five, four, three, two, one. Then, I pick up the phone.

My skin is getting thicker.

After five years, I know that whether I pick up the phone now or listen to the voice message a bit later, the issue will need to be addressed. I also know that the sooner I resolve it, the least costly it will be. Rarely, I see issues resolving themselves. Unfortunately, most of the issues not only stick around but also worsen rapidly whenever I procrastinate.

However, I also learned that there are always different ways to resolve an issue. The easiest way is often the most costly.

Let me give you an example.

What's the Issue? 

O-oh! Hard water, ruined tap
A couple of weeks ago, my tenant called and let me know that they have a few problems: the shower tap is broken, kitchen and laundry room faucet leak.
I scheduled a local plumbing company. They visited and gave me a quote....

I always expect the worst. So I wasn't even in complete shock. But still... this specific quote made me nauseous.

It's January - the first month of the new year - and the cost of this repair basically wipes out most of my profit for the entire year. 

Any future maintenance issues at this place would eat away cash flow from other properties.

How is this possible? All it takes is a broken tap and two leaking faucets?

I reviewed the quote:

Service Charge   $49.99
Kitchen Faucet   $599.45
Laundry Faucet  $368.31
Shower Valve Remodeling Plate $192.33
Handle Wall Mount Tub & Shower w/ Valve $911.50
Become an Advantage Plan Member $99.99 and get 15% off
Member Discount ($248.60)
Tax $256.49

Grand Total: $2,229.46

We thought we could
handle the easy stuff 
That was the worst case. The best case quote was for $1,420.13. Better, but still bad.

The quote seemed high. I just got my own new bathroom faucet for $47 off Amazon. $599.45 for a new kitchen faucet seemed absurd in comparison!

I checked with my property manager. Does the price seem reasonable? He'd quote around $1,200 for the worst case. I called a different local plumbing company. They quoted $1,500 for the worst case.

My husband and I went to our favourite store. You guessed it right - The Home Depot.

We decided that we'd at least be able to get the easy stuff done on our own. Then, call the plumber for the hard stuff and save that way.

We showed the tap picture to a Home Depot staff member.

How do we go about it? 

In the best case, they told us, we'd be able to buy the parts and replace what's been broken. We just had to know exactly the brand and type of the faucet and taps.

In the worst case, we'd have to call a licensed plumber. They didn't recommend that we'd attempt to cut the tile on our own. We didn't look handy enough...

This time we were lucky!

My husband was able to replace just the broken parts. We decided not to worry about the laundry faucet for now as the issue seemed to be very minor when we examined it up close. So my husband fixed the kitchen faucet and the shower tap.

Actual Costs

My husband fixes our tenants faucet

Manor faucet    $79.98
HANDLE         $13.49
FLANGE          $5.92
FLANGE          $5.92
WASHERS       $3.94

Tax: $15.45

Grand-total: $134.26

Problem Solved!

All I can say is: Tenants are happy! We are happy! 

Forced Appreciation for Noobs

You know those customers at Home Depot, who point their finger and call everything "Thing" or "Thingy" when seeking advice. 

They have no idea what any of the tools are called in English. They just show up and trust the Home Depot staff will understand their mumbling and point out a way to resolve the issue.

Well. That's me. And trust me - the approach works!

Ever since I started 50Doors, I mostly point my finger, gesture, mumble and draw the best I can whenever it comes to building, renovating, and fixing things and thingies.

And people around me not only understand me but also gladly help me out!

To my big relief, I realized that not knowing can be advantageous.

Through lack of knowledge and skills, I learned how to trust people who know better, how to tell experts from talkers, and how to create real value from simple ideas.

Here is an example.

I had an idea of renting a property, which was never rented out before, but I was unsure because cash flow wouldn't be good enough. I talked my idea over with a friend who is a lot more experienced. He suggested that I renovate, split the place into two units and double my cash flow. My gross annual rent will increase by $14,400 and result in positive cash flow.

I loved the suggestions, but I was unsure that I could split the unit into two apartments. I talked it over with my husband who is a lot handier. My husband thought the concept was feasible and explained to me how the unit could be split. Together we made these drawings:

I loved our discussion and the drawings, but I wasn't sure how this could actually be accomplished and what it would take.

So I sent our drawings to my friend, who runs an on-demand property management company. Within a week, I had several quotes and a start-to-finish renovation project plan. I now knew that a $25,000 investment will be required. The work could be finished within about three weeks.

Wow! That's a 57.5% return on investment!

ROI is $14,400 / $25,000 = 57.5%

It's been almost three weeks since the start. The work is nearly complete. Two separate units are now a reality.

I am starting to look for tenants! It seems surreal that the ideas came to life so fast and soon there will be two families moving into their new homes and starting to build their memories.

Simple ideas turned into real value, which will positively affect the lives of many people for many years to come.

I am extremely grateful to the amazing property management company that actually got the job done!

Fortune Property Management 

converted my mumbling into 

two beautiful apartments 

within a couple of weeks.

Thank you!

When You Thought You Could Fly and Then... Got Stuck

When you thought you could fly
but then got stuck
and are really afraid!
Sometimes, the moment you think that you've figured out how to become financially free, the situation changes and you have to adjust your plan.

Approaching the Financing Wall

In the past five years, my strategy was to get a new property using expensive private money, renovate it, get a great tenant, then re-finance with more affordable money.

The refinance step is critical. It improves my cash flow. In addition, after the refinance, equity starts to build up within the asset because my mortgage is interest-plus-principal-paydown, rather than interest-only.

Without refinancing, holding on to the property is pointless. The property doesn't bring much positive cash flow. It doesn't accumulate equity over time either. The downpayment money is getting lazy. It's stuck inside of the property, not doing much.

This strategy worked for me five times.

With five different properties, I got a private interest-only loan to acquire a vacant asset. Renovated. Advertised. Got a great tenant. Enjoyed my skinny cash flow for a few months. Then, qualified for a traditional mortgage at a better rate. Refinanced.

Voila! Much better cash flow and principal paid down by my tenants. How nice!

The process worked like a clock. Over and over again. Until it failed.

Slammed Against The Financing Wall

At the end of 2017, I acquired three properties with private money. My plan was to replace the expensive interest-only loan with a more affordable conventional loan in a few months. Like previously, this would lead to improved cash flow and principal paid down by tenants.

Except, this time I couldn't qualify for a conventional mortgage!

The problem was that I no longer met the bank's underwriting criteria. In simple language, the lenders concluded that it was too much risk to give me another mortgage.

In the past, I had a job. My salary looked great from a lender standpoint.

Today, I am self-employed. My rental income is considered risky. Even though it is supported by 17 families working at 17 different jobs, lenders believe it's riskier than relying on my old one-woman paycheque.

In the past, I had one property. It looked great from a lender standpoint, as having a mortgage was so typical.

Today, I have a bunch of assets. Yet, most lenders don't approve more than five mortgages. They consider it risky because a borrower with more than five assets doesn't match their typical good borrower profile. Having more than five mortgages is not typical.

Investors call it the Financing Wall.

When you just gained the momentum, then slam - no more money for you!

Through and Beyond The Financing Wall

Long story short, let me jump to the conclusion of the story:

Don't give up when you don't qualify for a mortgage four times in a row. 
Don't give up when your credit score went from Excellent to Good to Fair. 
Don't give up when your situation doesn't fit a conventional good borrower profile.
Don't give up when your credit card payments give you creeps.


  • Make sure your mortgage broker is as awesome as mine! See their contact info below
  • Eliminate liabilities! read through my prior blog post on how eliminating liabilities can decrease the burden of expenses and expedite your financial freedom
  • Make sure you have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C and you do just fine with or without better financing
  • If your profile doesn't match the characteristics of a good borrower, learn what those characteristics look like and tweak your profile to change your financial future, so you can qualify down the road. Here is a link to an Excel template that I use to help me stay as organized as possible and make a very good impression on potential lenders
  • Keep learning, so you can adjust your strategy or start using new strategies! There are infinite number of different ways to accomplish a goal.
  • Ask! What I didn't realize far too long is that no matter what your situation is, chances are someone has been there and will gladly help you find a way out. Email me at

Here's the info for my broker, who has helped me with financing many-many times when I doubted there was a path forward. In fact, he shared this quotes with me when we broke through the Financial Wall after a few unsuccessful attempts:

"Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense." 
-- Winston Churchill
If you need a mortgage in GTA, check out these guys

PS Did you know that a $300,000 mortgage with 3% rate will cost upwards of $575,000.00 and you could save 10 years and $90,000 of interest if you were to pay just $200 more per month? Here's an Excel tool that I use to do all my numbers when it comes to planning accelerated mortgage pay down and tracking my results

How to Become 22% Financially Free

Most of my girlfriends think that
living with my parents is
a horrific idea :)
Over the Christmas break, my family made a very big decision. We all finally agreed that it's time to eliminate one of our biggest liabilities - our home! 

We decided to join efforts cross generations and consolidate two residences: my family moved in with my parents.

This is not only because we love each other to pieces, but also because we saw a great opportunity to optimize our spending. This is a step towards our financial freedom goal and a part of the following chain reaction:

  • Spending goes hand in hand with saving.
  • Saving goes hand in hand with investing. 
  • Investing goes hand in hand with multiple streams of income.
  • Multiple streams of income go hand in hand with financial freedom.

I understand if you think it's a crazy move. Even my nine-year-old jokes:

My son: Mom, how do you feel about living with your Mom when you are almost 40?
Leaving 16 years of memories behind
Me: I like it
My son: Why? [Pauses] Free food?!?
Then, he bursts into laughing loudly at his own black humour.

All joking aside, this is a big change for our family. Kids had to change schools, karate dojo, pack
and move all of their stuff, and try to make new friends. My husband and I packed 16 years of life into boxes and garbage bags and piled it in my parents' basement. My parents now have to observe our semi-chaotic living in their previously idyllically quiet home.

Why? Because this change takes us closer to achieving our financial freedom goal. Now, our upcoming year-long Sailing Trip in a couple of years is more real than we've ever imagined.

Myth: Home is an Asset

Most people consider the home that they live in to be an asset.

There is a lot of evidence all around us in favour of this myth. For example, real estate agents will tell us that home is the most expensive asset we will purchase in our lifetime.

A creditor will ask us to put the market value of our principal residence at the top of the Assets column on their credit application.

Our personal financial advisor will ask about the value of our home and enter it on the first line of the assets section of our Personal Financial Information form.

Let's be pragmatic about facts:

A real estate agent will get paid a commission based on the purchase price you pay for your home. 

A creditor will collect thousands of dollars of interest payments when you borrow from them and secure a loan against your home.

A financial planner will help you in many ways:
a mortgage, insurance, a secured loan, an investment portfolio, and a repeating annual financial plan update, all of which is based on the market value of your home; all of which comes with a price tag.

Please keep in mind that I am a grateful customer to a few amazing real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, and financial planners. Knowledgeable advisors help me tremendously on my way to financial freedom! The value of the products and services they provide to me greatly outweigh the associated costs and propel me forward. In fact, I wouldn't be able to achieve what I've done so far without their help. If you are reading this - Thank you!

The trick to appreciating the value of these services is to know exactly what you are after.

The advisors, especially great ones, will give you the advice that you'd like to hear. This is because a huge part of their job is to help you achieve your dreams. They will cater services to your tastes and help you make the decisions to achieve your desires.

Therefore, if you go with conventional definitions and believe your home to be an asset, you will inevitably purchase an expensive home and spend a lot of money on it! Your advisors will help you do it to the maximum.

Your Decisions are Yours to Sponsor

Since my goal is financial freedom, I make it my highest priority to fully understand the costs of each of my liabilities, including my home.

I am fully and solely responsible for all the associated home expenses such as:
Mortgage Interest and principal 
Mortgage insurance 
Life and disability insurance premiums 
Property taxes 
Property insurance 
Maintenance and repair costs 
Snow and grass care costs 
Phone line 
Security alarm system 
Furnace lease 
Water tank lease 
Interest on the furniture bought on credit card 
Interest on the car as fancy as my neighbour's
Amazon Prime 
Cleaning lady (I notice that the trend is more bathrooms than people in a house!)
A second car if the house is far from work 

Given my personal goal, I choose to disagree with the conventional definitions and concur with Robert Kiyosaki, who insists that we put our home on the liabilities side of the equation.

In order for me to balance my personal budget, I have to face the harsh reality and be ready to pay the bills that I signed up for. There's definitely a lot of bills to pay when it comes to home ownership!

Consequently, my advisors strive to help me find the best bang for the buck, save every penny possible, and use my personal home to the fullest.

Abundant Opportunities

Homeownership combined with the home being classified as a liability (as opposed to being an asset) gives you tremendous opportunities.

First and foremost, I bet you can save two to three hundred dollars a month, if you carefully revisit all of your regular expenses, decide which of them you no longer need, and stop paying for them.

Keep in mind that small savings add up.

For example, over the past couple of months I shaved off the following on little things:

- Replaced mortgage and loan protector insurance with whole life and disability insurance +$100
- Stopped paying for a home thermostat rental +$15
- Cancelled Netflix +$12

Sub-Total: $127 per month = $1,524 per year = $1,836 before tax.

After moving to my parents, I've also added the following savings:
- Cancelled internet +$65
- Cancelled home insurance +$40
- Cut utilities and property taxes in half +$500

Sub-Total: $605 per month = $7,260 per year = $8,746 before tax.

Adding $656 monthly saving I shared last month, grand total becomes:

$127 + $605 + 656 = $1,388 per month = $16,656 per year.

At 17% tax rate, that is $20,067 of pre-tax salary.

An average family with 73.7K annual household income has to work for over eleven weeks to earn enough money to cover these expenses.

Given the recurring nature of these expenses, it's not just a one-time eleven-week long work project. You'd have to work for eleven weeks every year to pay for all these obligations.

For me personally, getting rid of these liabilities means that my husband can be on vacation for 11 weeks out of 52 every year. 

This alone makes us 


Sailing Trip Awaits!
Not bad, eh?

PS Saving and being frugal around your home-related expenses is just one side of the coin. Being a homeowner can open many investment opportunities and become the basis of your future wealth and financial freedom. Email me at if you'd like to learn more