Best Investing Books for Canadian Real Estate Investors in 2018

Top five must-read books for Canadian Real Estate Investors in 2018

Want to learn about the best investing books for real estate? Read this!

Reading is one of the best ways to learn how to do something. You can get how-to advice right from the horse’s (or in this case world-class expert’s) mouth. It’s also really cheap! For about ten bucks a pop, you can have access to what the world’s experts have to say on any topic. There’s so much you can learn about real estate investing just by reading a few books!

Not sure where to start?

I’ve put together a list of the top five books you should read if you’re interested in real estate investing in Canada. Below, you’ll also find a summary of one of the main ideas in each one. Just in case you’re feeling too lazy to read the whole book, I don’t want to leave you with no take-away after reading this article.

So if you want to learn about real estate investing, before you spend all kinds of money on online courses or seminars, please please read these books!

 

  • Book no. 5 : The Wealthy Renter by Alex Avery

People assume that buying a principal residence makes good financial sense. Why throw money away on rent, right?  Not so fast, says Alex Avery. Investing is all about leverage, so the question should be: what else could you do with that money? Avery thinks you can find better ways to leverage your down-payment money, instead of plunking it into a single-family-home.

Some Numbers

Let’s take a simple example. Suppose you want to buy a condo or cottage for 300k. Let’s assume you put down 20% (60k). At 4% interest, these payments will run you 1250$ / month. Add 200$/month property taxes and the same in condo fees or, in the case of a home, 250$ in maintenance (no upgrades!!), and you’re running 1950$ in monthly payments. None of these expenses is tax deductible. You’re building equity at a rate of about 500$/month. Your ROI in terms of building equity is 6000$/60,000$ or 1%. Sound like a good investment? I’m thinking, Meh.

“What about market appreciation?” you say.

Okay. Let’s assume 3% appreciation per year. (We’re not accounting for the ups-and-downs of real estate cycles). You’re now making 4% on your money. Still sound like a good investment? Remember: your payments are made with after-tax dollars. None of the work or maintenance you do is tax deductible, neither is your mortgage interest. Sure, you won’t have the capital gains hit when you sell. But still, 4%?

Let’s consider what happens if you put the same money down on a rental property. Your cost structure is the same (1950$ / month), but now you’re making 1950$ in rent. Also, you expense all sorts of things to help create a loss in the early years of ownership, creating a tax advantage. You can also expense your mortgage interest.

What about my rent? you say. You need a place to live.

Sure! Let’s make your rent 1000$/month. In this case, your out of pocket is half the amount it would cost you to own.

Now, let’s say you’re still making 3% appreciation like in scenario 1, but you’re also saving 1000$ per month because your tenants are paying your mortgage and building expenses. Add 12k to the initial 6k being capitalized. You’re now making a 30% return, plus the 3% market appreciation. That’s 33% return versus 4% as a homeowner. See Avery’s point?

I Hate My Landlord’s Kitchen

But wait, you say. There are other blah things about renting. I can’t upgrade or really customize my place, right?

Says who?

I’ll tell you right now, if one of my tenants offers to redo a kitchen for me, I’d happily reduce the rent a bit. Consider what happens if you spend 5k redoing your landlord’s kitchen in scenario two.

Suppose you negotiate a 100$ rent reduction in exchange for 5k of renovations. You now save 13,200$ on your living expenses in comparison with scenario one. Subtract 5k for the kitchen renos from your savings, and you’re still ahead by 8,200$ over the person who bought their home. Now add the 6000$ of equity. That’s a 24% return! Still think becoming a landlord and redoing someone else’s kitchen is such a bad idea?

The key idea in Avery’s book is this: you need to understand the cost-structure and opportunity cost of plunking down-payment capital and after-tax dollars into a principal residence. His calculations are sometimes a bit hard to follow (maybe like mine where in this summary?), but the reflections these two financial scenarios is really important before making investment decisions.

That’s why I put his book in position number five on my list.

 

  • Book no. 4 : Secrets of the Canadian Real Estate Cycle

It may sound a bit silly, but the main idea in Secrets is that there are real estate cycles in Canadian markets and that we, as investors, should be mindful of these cycles in our purchasing decisions. Amazing, right? In all our excitement about investing, we sometimes forget to assess where our particular market may be in it’s inevitable up-and-down price cycle.

Influencing Factors

The authors point out that real estate markets in Canadian cities are influenced by a very specific factors. Because real estate cycles are long (usually many years in depth), and because the media give us all sorts of conflicting information, we sometimes forget that there are a limited set of elements that come together to determine real estate prices and the availability of housing both for renters and owners.

Authors Don R. Campbell, Greg Head, and Kieran Trass do their best to name these influencing pressures in Secrets. For example, net incoming migration, economic patterns and industry concentrations, amount and quality of available rental housing, as well as possibility for geographic expansion are all factors that impact local markets. Rent control, for example, like in Montreal, or lack thereof (like in Calgary) can also greatly affect building profitability. Macro- factors such as interest rate trends and government regulations (especially in Canada’s regulated banking industry) also impact both local and national markets. (Think of the Bank of Canada’s lending laws or Vancouver’s foreign buyer tax as a few examples).  

Case Studies

The authors carry out case studies of each of Canada’s major markets (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary). They present some of the different forces that led to boom-and-bust cycles in each of these cities in the last decade. The cases studies are super valuable in terms of illustrating how different markets respond to different types of pressures. (For example Toronto has an incredible rate of growth due to immigration, whereas Montreal has limited on-island space. Calgary has a very resource-based economy, and so on.)

The one weak point I found in reading is that the authors spend a lot of time stating and re-stating that there are wise investors, and lemming-investors who tend to jump over a cliff because of frenzied information in the media. There’s obviously truth in this. That being said, at times I found this detracted a bit from space that could have been used to elaborate on more tangible and practical tips for understanding real estate cycles.

Still, this book is a must-read for any Canadian investor looking to make a buck and capitalize on the up-and-downs in his or her local market. That’s why I make this book my no.4 pick.

 

 

  • Book no. 3 : More Than Cash-Flow by Julie Broad

Julie Broad is not a happy camper. Her book begins by voicing her (intense) disappointment with some of the (very expensive) real estate seminars she attended. Despite her level of anger, there are two really great things about this book. First, Broad really puts into perspective the realities of owning rental property.

Crackheads & Roaches

From crack-head tenants to the challenges of owning rental property in far-away places, she gives the would-be investor an up-close-and-personal set of impressions of what it means to be a landlord. This is valuable because so few authors and speakers who deal with investment property are really clear about the weird, wonderful and wicked realities that come with tenants and rental buildings. Broad pulls no punches here!

Bigger, Better, Bust

The second very important thing she does is question how the real estate coaching industry celebrates more deals, less money down, better numbers, a bigger portfolio. A lot of educational material on real estate investing celebrates high-risk leveraging practices. Workshop presenters often tell stories of investors doing fifty, eighty, one hundred deals in a year. What they don’t tell us, Broad suggests (and I agree), is about all the heart-attacks and bankruptcies that happen because newbie investors go to far too fast. Depending on your profile and ambitions, slow-and-steady may be a better idea than fast and furious.

#Landlordlife

Overall, what I like about Julie’s book is that she paints a very realistic picture of what it means to landlord, exploring what happens when real estate investment is a key part of your financial picture. This is rare in the industry, and it’s valuable. I appreciated her anger a little less. But, sit tight, read past this, and you stand to gain some valuable insight into what life as a landlord may be like.

 

  • Book no. 4 : It’s Not About Money by Brent Kessel

    This book is not specifically about investing in real estate. So what’s it doing in a top-5 list of real estate books?

    Well, so far no one has written a real estate investing book that so cleanly addresses the practice of living a financially free and fulfilling life. Kessel’s book is ultimately about money management and financial planning. I highly highly recommend reading this as you’re looking at ways of making more money, because in trying to make ourselves financially richer, it’s very very very important not to lose sight of the true prize of wealth, which is – of course not a bigger bank account – but a better, more fulfilling life. Real estate investing is, at it’s base, a vehicle for building wealth, and so it fits neatly under the umbrella of what Kessel is talking about.

    Better Not Bigger

    Kessel’s book makes a great case against the our society’s drive for bigger, better, faster. His goal is to push the reader to reconsider his or her relationship to money, thereby increasing both financial stability and contentment. Kessel takes inspiration from Buddhist thinkers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, as he asks us to evaluate what he calls the “desires of the wanting mind.” He goes on to point out eight archetypal relationships people have to money and suggests ways of working within our archetype

    His book is persuasive and intelligently written. He takes us on a voyage of self-evaluation, encouraging us to pinpoint our financial acts of self-sabotage. Overall, his goal is paradoxically, to get us to realize that financial planning and investing is “not about the money”. Building wealth at it’s best should be a practice of cultivating a better life that suits our individual needs and desires, not some sort of competitive sport, or a place to let our neuroses run rampant.

Money and Mindfulness

The other thing that’s cool about Kessel’s book is that it’s a great counter-weight to Julie Broad’s anger in More Than Cashflow. While Broad is (justifiably) unhappy with the level of charletanry and exaggerated claims made in the real estate coaching industry, her anger is sometimes not terribly constructive for someone hoping to develop a mindful and healthy relationship with wealth. Until someone writes a real estate investing book on how to build an empire without trading in your peace of mind, read Brent Kessel.

 

  • Book no. 1 : Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kyosaki

If you’re consider investing in real estate and you haven’t read this book: shame on you! Rich Dad, Poor Dad is the bible for real estate investors. While Kiyosaki’s book offers many insights and inspirational words for the new investor, the essential take-away is being able to recognize the mindset that separates the wealthy from everyone else.

Don’t Trade Your Time For Money

Kiyosaki defines three money mindsets. The working class, for him, have expenses and liabilities. Cars, rent, TVs, food, vacations – these are all expenses or consumer goods that lose value with time. Spend on these things and you’ll be subject to the law of diminishing returns.

The middle class, on the other hand, usually own a family home and believes it to be an asset. While it is true that real estate tends to appreciate over time, once you factor in that mortgage-, maintenance- and upgrade payments are made with after-tax dollars, plus the fact that neither interest nor work on the property is tax-deductible, you’ve basically only contributing to a forced-savings plan (see Alex Avery in Wealthy Renter for a more detailed explanation of this).

So, working-class families tend to have no assets, only expenses. Middle class families tend to have liabilities (a single family home) that they consider an asset. But the true defining factor in creating wealthy has to do with cash flow and passive income.

The real trap, according to Kiyosaki, is to tie the number of hours you work to the ceiling on your salary. Anyone who’s main source of income is dependent on the numbers of hours they have to sell with forever bump against the fact that their number of “billable” hours are limited. If you get paid by the hour, your revenue depends on how much time you have to sell. Worse, the only real way to increase your income is to sell more hours. See where this little trap leads?

Wealth Mindset

“Passive income”, of which rental income is one source, is Kiyosaki’s answer to this problem. For him, cash flow is the defining marker of what separates the wealthy from everyone else. The wealthy set up systems – businesses or investments – that generate cash flow while they sleep, go on vacation, or work at their other jobs. In this analysis, real estate becomes an easy vehicle for creating a revenue stream that doesn’t require a specific amount of work-hours to produce fruit. In addition, there are all sorts of tax-breaks and deductions that come with real estate investment. Kiyosaki mentions this as a further advantage to owning property. The middle class, for him (and I am inclined to agree), is burdened with the largest tax burden vs. income structure, as the wealthy tend to have all sorts of strategies for paying less tax. Real estate is one such vehicle.

It’s Time

So, if you’re looking at investing in real estate and you haven’t yet read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, it’s time.

 

Can You Afford Not to Read These Books?

I’ll leave you with this closing thought: real estate gurus and coaches sell education packages that usually start with five-figures. These five books combined will run you fifty Canadian dollars if you buy the Kindle version or perhaps seventy-five bucks if you opt for paperback. The amount of time it’ll take you to read them is probably comparable to a three-day weekend seminar.

If you’re potentially becoming a landlord, can you afford not to spend this money and take this time to get similar value? On your path to building a cash-flow empire and a mindset that will slowly lift you from the ranks of the middle- or working-class, I’m hoping that the answer to this question will come easily.

 

 

 

 

 

Mail boxes in expensive building

Wealthy Landlord, Wealthy Renter: Should You Really Buy Your Home?

Spring has been a weird one in Montreal. House- and condo prices have jumped in leaps and bounds. Ten offers, bids 50k over asking price, and my clients still don’t get the house. People in Toronto or Vancouver may laugh: prices in Montreal are pretty reasonable. But for the city that real estate forgot, this is all new for us.
It’s an opportune time, I think, to examine just how conditioned we are to believe in owning our homes. I’m a bit horrified when I watch buyers add extra tens of thousands in bidding wars without pulling out their calculators!Alex Avery might say one word to this: opportunity cost.Before laying down large sums for a plex, condo or home that you plan to live in, I highly suggest you run some financial projections. You should probably also read Alex Avery’s book, The Wealthy Renter.

People assume that buying a principal residence makes sense from an investment standpoint. Why throw money away on rent, right?  

Not so fast. Investing is all about leverage.
The question should be, what else could you do with that money?

In The Wealth Renter, Avery argues that your down-payment money may be better leveraged in other ways.

Let’s take a simple example. Suppose you want to buy a condo or cottage for 300k. Let’s assume you put down 20% (60k). At 4% interest, these payments will run you 1250$ / month. Add 200$/month property taxes and the same in condo fees or, in the case of a home, 250$ in maintenance (no upgrades!!), and you’re running 1950$ in monthly payments. None of these expenses is tax deductible. You’re building equity at a rate of about 500$/month. Your ROI in terms of building equity is 6000$/60,000$ or 1%. Sound like a good investment?

“What about market appreciation?” you say.

Okay, let’s assume 3% appreciation per year. (This takes the ups-and-downs of real estate cycles out of the picture). You’re now making 4% on your money. Still sound like a good investment? Remember: your payments are made with after-tax dollars. None of the work or maintenance you do is tax deductible, and neither is your mortgage interest. Sure, you won’t have the capital gains hit when you sell. But still, 4%?

Let’s consider the same scenario, but with a rental property. Your cost structure is the same (1950$ / month), but now you’re making 1950$ in rent. Also, you expense all sorts of things to help create a loss in the early years of ownership, creating tax advantages. You can also expense your mortgage interest.

What about paying rent?
Sure. We all agree you need to live someplace. Let’s make your rent 1000$/month.

Your out of pocket is half the amount it would cost you to own.

Now, let’s say you’re still making 3% appreciation like in scenario one, but you’re also saving 1000$ per month because your tenants are paying your mortgage and building expenses. Add 12k to the initial 6k being capitalized. You’re now making a 30% return, plus the 3% market appreciation. 33% return. Versus 4% as a homeowner. See Avery’s point?

People may argue that there are drawbacks to renting. You can’t upgrade or really customize the place you live.

Says who?

I’ll tell you right now, if one of my tenants offers to redo a kitchen for me, I’d happily agree to reduce his or her rent a bit. Consider what happens if you spend 5k redoing your landlord’s kitchen in scenario two.

Suppose you negotiate a 100$ rent reduction in exchange for 5k of renovations. You now save 13,200$ on your living expenses in comparison with scenario one. Subtract 5k for the kitchen renos from your savings, and you’re still ahead by 8,200$ over the person who bought their home. Now add the 6000$ of equity. That’s a 24% return!

Still think becoming a landlord redoing someone else’ kitchen is such a bad idea?

I don’t want to bash home-ownership. I live in a house that I own, and if I took out my calculator, I expect I’d be horrified at my cost structure. That said, before succumbing to current market nuttiness and tying up vast amounts of capital in a project with a questionable return, you may want to reconsider renting, and save your first purchase for a rental property. This is especially if you prefer to live in a more expensive, trendy area, where the ratios and prices are right now out of whack.

Good luck and play smart!
Yours in investing,

Terrie

BOOK REVIEW : MILLIONAIRE IN 90 DAYS – WORKING OUT AT THE GYM

Book by Karate School Owner Ben Stewart

I got my hands on this book a bit randomly. Coming back from an international kickboxing tournament, my coaches got handed a few copies of Millionaire in 90 Days in Schipol airport by Ben Stewart. They decided two copies were too many for their apartment, and upon our return to Montreal, the book found its way into my gym bag and finally onto my nightstand.

I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. The title and cover made me wonder what sort of writing could be inside. Once I opened the book (over Christmas break, on a transatlantic flight), I wasn’t sure about the simple and un-poetic writing style.

After the first half of page one, however, these things stopped mattering and I actually started reading Stewart’s book for the ideas and information inside. Stewart has had an unusual and quite successful go of things. 9-time world Karate/Kickboxing champion, millionaire business owner, and Karate teacher- and school-owner, Stewart has obviously done a few things right.

Millionaire in 90 Days, transmits some of Stewart’s ideas about how living with a millionaire’s mindset, lifestyle and attitude is the first step to success. He presents his game-plan for taking control of your time, finances and weight/fitness. Depending on where you sit on the spectrum with how well you control these areas of your life, Stewart’s advice may or may not be new information. As a holistic strategy, however, he does a good job of covering most of the bases and giving an overview of what a winning lifestyle could look like.

On leveraging time, he has some particularly valuable things to say. If you earn 30$ an hour, for example, why spend your time doing tasks that you can pay someone else 10$ an hour to do (for example groceries, dishes, and household chores)? Work one extra hour and this will effectively buy you 2 hours more of free time since the ratio of your time to minimum wage is 3:1.

For the small business owner as well, Stewart has some good advice. He advises moving from the position of doer to manager and coordinator. Systematize, he argues. You want to get your business to the point where it can function without you! This is how you will truly be able to take advantage of the time and lifestyle that wealth- and business ownership should afford you.

I enjoyed this book, and I believe just about anyone starting out in business or looking for practical, no-nonsense ways to gain control of their lives will find at least a few useful kernels in Millionaire in 90 Days.

It’s now been 10 days since I began reading the book (I finished it 2 days ago). By applying its lessons, I now have 80 more days to become a millionaire… 😉 Let’s see if it works!

You can check out Ben Stewart’s motivation businesses at:
www.ben-stewart.com

BOOK REVIEW : THE SEQUOIA SEED

BOOK REVIEW : THE SEQUOIA SEED

“It is not what happens to you that determines your fate. It is what you do next.”
– Karen Wright, The Sequoia Seed

Karen Wright’s book, The Sequoia Seed, begins with an explanation of how the magnificent Sequoia tree reproduces itself. Its tiny seeds may lie dormant on the forest floor for many, many years before a fire comes along. The extreme heat of the fire activates the seed, allowing it to sprout. No intense, burning heat, no Sequoia!
This is the metaphor that guides Karen’s spiritual book. Here thesis: as humans beings, we are also forged in the fires of the challenges that we face. No searing wounds or challenges, no re-birth and no growth.

In this way, Karen dissects numerous issues that may hold us human beings back from living life to its fullest. She discusses, among other themes, the ability to accept the end of things, or a loss, as a new beginning. She explains how and why it is so essential to living for ourselves, and not for others. She sheds light on why so many of us have trouble with this. She argues also for the importance of taking stock once in a while, in order that we might accurately and honestly know where we stand.

Her books are simply written, and full of sound, easy-to-use spiritual advice. I would recommend it to anyone who is beginning or already on the warrior’s path!

Check out her website for more information:
http://www.wrightminded.com/

Incrementality : The Slowness of Success

Incrementality : The Slowness of Success

It’s not news that we’re a quick fix, instant results kind of culture. We want it all. Now.


Advertising and “overnight” success stories have us believing that change is something that has to happen with a bang. It should be as easy starting a new, crash- initiative, right?
 
Why do so many ambitious New Years resolutions fail? 
 
When after a few days of effort, immediate success doesn’t show up, we declare defeat. Disenchantment shows up. Whatever we’re doing must not be working, because we didn’t get what we wanted in three days of dieting. So we revert to our old habits. Boom! No change happens.
 
I’ve made my share of such attempts. After making small, rational changes to my diet and not immediately losing 5lbs, I’m the first to reach for the chocolate. 
 
That’s why we need a dose of Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect. This book is really awesome for illustrating how powerful incremental changes can be. Huge results are both more and less easy to come by than we think. Small lifestyle changes are easier to make than a giant, life-altering crash- initiatives. They also require a different kind of long-range discipline to carry out. 
 
The first step to this kind of discipline though is the understanding that you can’t always expect results overnight. Powerful, lasting change is a question of inches, if not millimetres. You have to give these small changes a chance to add up before dismissing them. Makes sense. But it’s good to be reminded!
 
Another key point: the compound effect can work for you as well as against you. Make small, successive bad decisions – and yes I am talking about the piece of chocolate every day after dinner – and you will reap incremental drag that pulls you away from where you want can go. 
It’s that easy, and that insidious. 
 
Apply these principles wherever you like: diet, investment, exercise, relationships. This is the power of incrementality. 

BOOK REVIEW - THE BONE CAGE

BOOK REVIEW – THE BONE CAGE By Angie Abdou 

Angie Abdou’s The Bone Cage is not only entertaining and well-written, but it gives a great snapshot of the daily life of elite athletes.

Featuring the Olympic training camps of wrestler Digger and swimmer Sadie, the book traces the highs, lows and grinding fatigue that is part of these athletes’ lives. The book opens with a scene in which Digger and his teammates sweat to cut weight, and anyone who’s struggled with the psychological drain of sweating off pounds will relate.

Beyond Abdou’s story-telling, the book has two particularly interesting themes that relate to elite amateur sport. First, The Bone Cage explores how the practice of sport at the National and International level can become a self-centred way of life. Because they are required to give4 so much to better performance, elite athletes spend most of their time and energy in practice. This leaves little else for a family- or romantic life. At the amateur level, where athletes are usually living on very little while they train and compete, many individuals also give their careers a back seat. It’s interesting to follow the lives of Digger and Sadie as they negotiate family tragedy and financial stress.

For me, however, the most interesting aspect of the book, is the theme of retirement from the sport. Both of the protagonists are at the end of their competitive careers. The Bone Cage gives real insight into what it feels like to be so unfocused–with all your and your family and community’s energies and efforts directed at one goal. It highlights what it must feel like when, from one day to the next, you lose this focus because it is time to move on, and you go back to being a ‘civilian’. From a Buddhist point of view, it’s a great story about letting go.

Anyone who is or has been seriously involved in sport will relate to this story about what happens the day after your last fight. It’s also just a good read though. I recommended the book to my brother, who’s not involved in the serious competitive sport. After he asked me: “Why would you ever want to cut weight ?”, he told me he really enjoyed the book.

So it seems you don’t have to be an athlete to enjoy The Bone Cage.