You’re listening to Your Happy Place Podcast. Each week we will be bring you interviews with real estate experts and investors. The show features interviews and discussions on real estate investing, property management and inspirations. With your host Jenna Ross.
Jenna: Today on the podcast we have Michael Currie, he is the author of Landlord By Design and he is also a real estate investor. Welcome to the podcast Mike.
Mike: Thank you.
Jenna: What got you started into real estate investing initially?
Mike: I think it goes way, way back and for some reason I was always intrigued with houses and housing and my mother use to get into flipping some houses but never got into the buy and hold style investing so that is sort of how I got into it was the flipping house side. In our area at the time back in early 2000 there was a big market correction in our city that I happen to be in. You could literally buy a place hang on to if for a year or so and do a little bit of a cosmetic upgrade and sell it in a rising market so it was really really great. Then when the financial crisis hit we kind of got into the buy and hold at that time and that was in 2009. That is when we really got into the buy and hold side of the business.
Jenna: That is so cool that your mom was flipping houses. You don’t hear that so often and that is really neat. The other thing is and I think we knew this before but we got started right around the same time so that is also really cool because we both have similar age children. You have the boys and we have the girls. That is really nice when it’s a family affair they kinda grow in the business with real estate investing around them. What do you do for your day job?
Mike: My day job I am a general manager at a car dealership Steele Hyundai. It’s kind of interesting because with my customer service background with being in the car business it’s a pretty demanding field dealing with cars, money, repairs all those sort of things and we negotiate like crazy. My whole world is small negotiations which has helped out significantly with the real estate investing in just making deals all that sort of stuff. And dealing with customers, same with tenants, if I have tough tenants it’s like I don’t know nothing too much fazes me. To rattle me it would have to be something pretty serious. I think being in the car business and being in the conflict resolution business for such a long time has really helped me the property management side of the business in a big way because the two business are really people orientated.
Jenna: They can be both emotional. There are emotional aspects to either one. You have a bad day when your car breaks down, and your also not really happy when the house you live in floods or what have you so there are a lot of similarities between the two. How is the market and the uptake for purchasing cars right now that you are seeing at the dealership?
Mike: We are not too bad right now. We fared ok now mind you we are in the Hyundai brand so we are kind of commodity brand to some degree. Our services stayed busy, our sales have dropped off we are down like 40% and we have had to readjust some staff, it hasn’t been a real fun and pleasant time but right now as we are into April being our toughest month after a strong first quarter so we are really coming out of this. May it is starting to get busy now and into June and July I just feel it’s momentum seems to be building right now. It will be ok.
Jenna: I can see it’s similar to renting houses and selling houses that when the sun comes out people are feeling more optimistic and maybe wanting to purchase a car so that is good too. Hopefully the late spring/summer goes well for it. Can you tell us about your Landlord ByDesign your blog?
Mike: Back in 2105, and I am very passionate about it which might sound a little half ways crazy perhaps but I have gone to a lot of real estate seminars and read lots and lots of books but it always seems like no one really focuses on property management. What got me into it was, I wouldn’t say I was angry but it was just like nobody writes about this stuff and I was like people need to know if they get into real estate investing, it has nothing to do with the razzle and dazzle path to riches stuff you saw at the seminar on the weekend. This is like you are going to have to interact and negotiate and being in the customer service business. And I was like everyone’s just trying to sell the sizzle so I figured for me, at the time I am managing my own property so I wasn’t trying to sell property management or books at the time or anything like that. So I can just write the truth. People might not want to hear the truth but I can write the truth about what it is really like to be a real estate investor without any ulterior motive, selling a property or anything else. That is how I got into blogging. It kind of blew up from there because people would reach out and I was in a money sense magazine, so some crazy opportunities came up and what I found unique being a Canadian, cause my biggest audience is in the United States because I suppose they are a much bigger population but my third biggest audience is the UK. And I started to realize that you can change the accent or the location of the country but basically, essentially in the western world it’s like the same tenants. The same stories, everything. It’s exactly the same and the same issues so then I just became obsessed with sort of helping people. To this day I get questions all the time and the other thing I found with the blog is a little bit of therapy because at times I would be in a real tough situation and I would come home and talk to my wife Shelly that manages some of the properties with me and I would be like you know what this really sucks but man it’s going to be a good post.
Jenna: That is pretty cool and I love that you say that. You are not selling anything but you have such a fascination with it and I can certainly say for myself, I have reached out to you just feeling completely desperate just needing to talk to somebody who has been down that alley with me just to talk through the situation because there are stories you can put in a book. I feel like that some days myself. But it helps to talk to somebody that has been through it. And after reading your book and hearing you speak a couple of times you definitely have been through a few different things so you know your way around certain situations and have some great advice so I really appreciate that and I know their are a whole bunch of investors that feel the same way. Thank you for that. What advice would you give to real estate investors who are just getting started?
Mike: I would say number one find a local real estate group, so where ever you are find one. You can use meetup.com, there are various sites you can use to find these groups. Pretty much all the connections that I have made and I still use today from back in 2009 especially there was a little group we met and we are still very close and then you are all kind of in it together. When you are in those groups, try to look around the room and see if there are some strengths and you could bring a couple of people together because sometimes I feel like people feel that they have to go about it alone but you really don’t have to and sometimes if you are a risked opposed and you have some money maybe you could get together with a guy that is contractor or he doesn’t have a lot of money but has lots of skills or maybe you get together with somebody who is really passionate about property management or something that they may be bring to the table. Just don’t over think it and take action.
Some of the other real estate groups, I have seen people come for years, years and years and never do anything because of fear. I hate to say this as it may sound mean but if plan on having a relationship and being a real estate investor, it’s a team effort and it doesn’t necessarily mean the spouse has to be involved but they have to support it. If they are not supporting it you can’t do it. You can do it, you just will never be happy or find any peaks.
Jenna: It is really nice to see when there’s real estate investors and have their spouses involved. I also try to reach out to the wives of the investors that I work with as well. If they are not involved it can be difficult as things are going to go side ways some times and if you are sharing that with your spouse and they didn’t want to be involved in the beginning it’s just not going to go well. It can be difficult on your relationship. You kinda have to go in it together so I think that is the most successful real estate investors if they are in a relationship to have somebody like you guys do and like Greg and I do and a lot of investors I know it’s very important for the longevity of it. Cause other wise you will just have your hands up in the air when things go bad and just decide to sell it off. I do like the tip you gave about people getting together because a lot of people get started like we did in single family and your thinking ok like your focused on door count and thinking ok I want 100% of this but realistically if you get together with a couple joint venture partners you can go further together. You can get more doors and like you said you can kinda share the load of the different responsibilities across a couple of people so it’s not so stressful on your back alone. It’s a great tip for sure. And do you have other than your book, your book is absolutely excellent it was a great resource and I do check back on it from time to time, but do you have another book that you would recommend to other real estate investors as well?
Mike: The first real estate group that I joined, it was based on, there is an author Don Campbell out of Alberta and Real Estate Investing in Canada is an amazing book. It is very much a little bit raw, raw they are not telling you the downside of the property management side but it is pretty motivational and a logic based book and I definitely that that short of Rich Dad, Poor Dad which is probably something you would read before getting into real estate investing on that personal development journey and the other author who is not so much into investing any more but Julie Broad and she has a book More Than Cashflow and she inspired me to write the truth about property management because she writes the truth about real estate investing. It’s a fantastic book and an easy read, it’s written by real estate investors and they write about some of their investing circumstances and I mean they had joint adventure partners go bad, a lot of things kinda went wrong but at the end of the day it made for great writing and she wrote the truth. She was one of the first authors that I read in real estate investing that actually wrote the truth without any premise of trying to sell anything. This is what it is, like it or not I could care less but this is what your life is going to look like if you go down this path.
Jenna: I love that book and I have met Julie Broad at the seminar when she use to come to the Canadian Real Estate Wealth seminars and I completely agree. It was nice to see a female speaker at the event as well and she has a funny sense of humour. What kind of trends do you see in real estate investing at the moment?
Mike: I see a couple of things happening. Number One, furnished rentals has been on the rise like friggin wild fire. We have got involved a little bit and there is no turning back it is awesome. Some of the trends from the insurance industry is there are a lot more bigger claims and longer claims where people are out of homes and a lot of the insurance adjustors have shortage of furnished regular houses in regular communities that a family might be able to if they got put out for a fire or flood or something like that to move into. So there is opportunity and there is a tent leaning towards that. There are a lot more people buying those type of houses in the suburbs sort of thing so if there are problems there they can put them in. The other side is that there is a huge transfer of, there are a lot of old landlords that have kind of run down properties and I have worked with a few investors lately that have inherited some pretty sketchy portfolios that were just owned by a parent or what have you, everyone in the financial services business talks about the big wealth transfer because of the boomer stuff dying and transferring of and that is happening in the real estate as well. I think some of these properties are getting snapped up by big developers but there is opportunities, I think they call it in real estate dialing for dollars to knock on some doors and to chase some of the older landlords portfolios where a guy might own a building for the last forty years, it’s a little bit run down, doesn’t really cares, owns it out right and there could be opportunities for either joint adventure, complete buyouts, you know all that sort of stuff. I see some of that stuff around coming on the market now, well the hidden market I guess you could say. I have some investor friends knocking on some doors and finding some stuff like that.
Jenna: That’s awesome and I think like you said that the investors who have been at it for a long time, if you are creative and figure out what they would like and what would work well for them because a lot of them aren’t probably aren’t structured through their capitol gains then they are probably open to different things if you presented it in the right way.
I think to what I am hearing across Canada, there is a lot of people with the COVID 19 pandemic that they are kind of like enough is enough. I just don’t want to go through this, they just want to wash their hands from it a little bit. I think it will be a good year or coming into the fall/winter that some people might be more interested in selling if they weren’t quite there coming into the spring. It might make them want to move things along. It will be interesting. It seems like we’ve been started at the same time you know a decade and there didn’t seem to be and maybe because we are looking at more multi family now but it just didn’t seem like the deals were there. Maybe we weren’t looking or knocking. I don’t know. Do you feel that too?
Mike: Absolutely. When I first started out and it was bad it was more to my own detriment but I was more into quantity over quality. My bulk is basically based on a couple of properties they were that bad and I was just trying to buy everything. From 2009-2014, I had on average every six months I had either a property under renovation or under contract so it was just like one to the next, to the next, to the next. In late 2014 I pretty much wanted to jump off the bridge because it just got to be too much. It consumed my whole life. I don’t know if I would change it if I went back in time cause I learned a lot of valuable lessons and it made me tough but I did sell off some properties, life is a little easier now. I think a lot of people don’t realize that, everyone talks about cash flow but a lot of properties only cash flow a few hundred bucks or whatever. People don’t realize that you either have to put down giant down payments or you really increase the value of a property or raise the rent that sort of stuff. It’s a low margin highly leverage business but after the ten year mark on some of the properties we are doing ok on. I would be very fussy when I am buying now I am very very picky where as before I was looking for the opportunity to buy which lead me to some zero down buys and some of them I still have right now. It was just a different mindset and I think now some of the joint venture partner opportunities that I have been presented with they have to be really good for me to want to participate because maybe I am old or worn out or something but it’s almost like no it’s not worth it. Where as before if I could get a property with zero down and pull out five thousand dollars in cash I would be like yeah I will stay up to midnight painting for the next six months to do that. Now I just wouldn’t do it. So there has to be enough to hire the contractors, get property managers, get proper staff and team in place, or I’m just not going to do it. Maybe that’s the phase of my life I have a twelve year old and eight year old. There’s just different priorities I guess.
Jenna: Sounds like you went through your door chasing phase. I have to say, like we kinda discussed I have been through some things and it is stressful. When I read about landlords who are kind of on their own and their getting the short end of the stick and are losing rent money, losing their properties and all this kind of stuff I feel so bad. There’s nothing, I guess by time these stories are written it’s bad. I am thinking about it cause I know what it is like but just the stress and sleepless nights and the fear for your safety in some circumstances. It’s tough so yes I can see why the stress is just not worth it. If you can just kind of do a little bit less and have the doors be profitable and able to sleep easy at nights and spend time with your family, that is important. My question was going to be, Are you actively investing in real estate right now? It sounds like you are open but more selective right now
Mike: Right now if I had to say what my next venture would be, would be in an ideal best case scenario would be sort of like a hotel without a front desk. Turn in suites but have it all automated. Airbnb theme. Have it absolutely furnished and shorter term but in the four month rental. I find four month minimal furnished rentals that type of stuff is what I would consider ideal for me looking at right now. But that type of property just because it’s lucrative and a little bit easier I wouldn’t say easier there is a lot of managing, and cleaning and maintenance so I don’t want to say easy I don’t think there is any easy real estate investing but that is the type of thing that I would be looking at but I am just a little more selective on my areas and that sort of stuff.
Jenna: What is your “Why” for investing in real estate?
Mike:For me it’s my family and providing a good life for my family because at the end of the day as hard I work, I always joke and say really at the core I am lazy and yes I went hard at it for those five years but you know what, right now, I like it easy. Now that I have been in over ten years, now I am making some money and it’s like and I always joke because people often look now but they didn’t see me grinding it out and negotiating with gangsters, baseball bats swarming at me by kids at 12:00 at night and having police involved and all that sort of stuff they just see the other side. Now we can take some trips and I wouldn’t have the lifestyle I have without the real estate investing and so it’s provided for my family very, very well. It’s definitely not an easy path. The way I look at it is like what would your alternative be? Grind away at some 9-5 job you hate and do nothing as a side hussle. Yes there were some long nights but now it’s like I really enjoy what I do in my day job, as my career cars are sort of like my real estate, or cars are my first real love and real estate. I don’t know which on is over which but it has allowed me to live that life where I can provide for my family, supplement my income, provide to get out of jail free card if all of a sudden I hate doing the car business which I can’t see any time soon I will probably work till I am a hundred but it gives me choice. And that is what I like about it. I like the fact that it gives me choice and absolutely providing an epic life for my children because they only have one childhood is what I always say.
Jenna: That is really cool Mike. Our final question that I will ask you is Where is your happy place:
Mike: My happy place, you know what I enjoy is that spending time with my family and I am a real it may be old school but I am a work hard, play hard type person and I can shut off the world at any point of time and just zone out and spend time with my family, playing basketball in the yard with my boys after work, that is my ideal happy place.
Jenna: That is so nice. Where can our listeners go to learn more about you?
Mike: If you go to landlordbydesign.com and that is my blog but I also have a bunch of free resources, you can click over to Amazon of course if you want buy my book Landlord By Design. My book reads like it’s a series of stories, sort of like scenarios. I tried to look at every problem from several different angles. It’s not just a book on property management like the fundamentals of property management it’s stories that have some sort of resolutions but sometimes there are three resolutions to one problem. And in my blog I do right the truth. Like I said a lot of people reach out and and say “do you think you should have said that” and I’m like it is what it is. Truth by opinion. It’s all in my thoughts right or wrong but working with so many investors, property managers from Canada, United States, UK, Australia and New Zealand. Ireland, Scotland it seems to be all the same scenarios. Talking out a problem with a guy in Scotland as easily as talking to a guy from here in Halifax, NS.
Jenna: Certainly you have had so many valuable solutions to problems that I have thrown your way. I really appreciate that and I really appreciate you coming on the podcast. Thank you so much.
Mike: Thank you for having me as a guest. I really appreciate it.
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