Pro advice from expert analyst Don Campbell

by Jared Gardner

When it comes to Real Estate Investing there is one individual whom I have always looked up to, which is why I am honoured to have our next Ask The Expert blog with Don Campbell—real estate educator, researcher, and investor. In our opinion, Don is the best real estate researcher and analyst in Canada.

If it was not for Don Campbell’s advice, many of us may have stopped investing in real estate. I am honoured to interview Don and have made a donation on his behalf to Habitat for Humanity.

Don, from your experience in owning investment properties, what type of property do you recommend for first-time investors?

It is not particularly a “type” of property; it is a management style of property. In each region and city, there is a different demand curve for properties. In some areas it is for condos, while in others it is in single family homes. So first off you must determine what type has the strongest demand. Then you must determine whether, by being strategic, you can find, buy, and manage that type of property. It is that simple. Just like in any business, you must first determine demand, then fill that demand most effectively.

Don, you were correct when you recommended investing in Barrie, Hamilton, and the Tech Triangle, and individuals like myself who have followed your suggestions have done very well. What cities do you feel still have great potential for 2017 – 2020.

This next phase of real estate gains will occur where transportation improves. For instance, the Niagara and Grimsby area will begin to benefit from the new Go Train service, although the real impact will not be felt until 2 years post train launch. Tech Triangle will still continue to do well. Ottawa market will continue to be a strong performer, especially along the new LRT routes.

When looking at investment properties, what are the main characteristics you look for and what one particular item that you look at which most people forget about?

The number 1 characteristic is “demand” because no matter how nice the property looks, or the location seems, if there is no strong demand increase for that particular property type, then all the renovations in the world won’t help.

That being said, curb appeal is critical; if the curb appeal is not strong, then prospective renters may not even show up to see all of the hard work you completed inside. Door handles, that first interaction with the property by your prospect must look and feel good, no giggling of key to get in and no loose handles. Secondly, the oft forgotten/ignored closet doors are a deal breaker for many. If your closet doors, such as bi-folds, look terrible, you’re done…but even worse if they don’t slide open and closed easily, then you are double-done. Your client (renter) doesn’t want additional frustration; they want ease.

How many investment properties do you think an average investor can handle or should look to acquire before going into real estate full time?

There is no magic number. I suggest that “Full Time Investor” is a misnomer. Real Estate should FUND your life, not BE your life. For instance, once you quit your job, how do you think the banks will look at you for future financing? Not favorable. If you are having to spend all-day (full-time) on your portfolio you definitely aren’t doing it well, or very efficiently. It is not supposed to become another job that fills your time.

Don, you just finished an ACRE course. What are the top 3 things you hope each REIN member took away from the event?
  1. Be strategic in all that you do.
  1. The properties you own do NOT have to be in your city. They should be in the city that provides you the best economic chance to come out ahead.
  1. Real estate is not for everyone, but if done correctly it is a great addition to their long term financial plans.

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