How to build a real estate empire in Toronto - Nicola Wealth

How to build a real estate empire in Toronto


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It’s hard to overlook the opportunity that the real estate market is presenting across Canada.  If you’re in the position to create wealth by investing in real estate, Nicola Wealth, who has been managing investments for affluent families, takes a strategic approach to real estate investments and shares many lessons that have resulted in a steadfast investing strategy.

What does it take to build a personal real estate empire?

Building wealth through private hard asset real estate requires financial expectations, investing acumen, and risk tolerance. Let’s assess your position and preparedness to participate in direct ownership real estate by asking a few key questions.

Do you have the expertise and real estate knowledge base to know you’re purchasing a good property?

If you don’t have the expertise, leverage your network and find an advisor whose real estate knowledge, expertise, and judgment is assuring. Otherwise, it’s not called “risk,” it’s called “gambling.”

Do you have the time available to perform research, due diligence, and ongoing maintenance?

This is probably the least considered aspect of direct ownership real estate.  After due diligence is complete and the deal is finalized, you are officially a landlord.  You are responsible for the direct or contracted property management of your new asset.  This includes securing the right tenants, lest you risk losing your cash flow for extended periods.

Do you have sufficient capital / liquidity and access to appropriate leverage?

Undoubtedly, purchasing real estate is not for the faint of wallet.  Having access to capital and maintaining enough liquidity to support the ongoing maintenance of your investment property is important.

Do you have a network of potential partners who share your investment values, philosophy, and time horizon? 

It is unlikely you will purchase an asset entirely on your own; you will likely invest alongside others.  Even if you have the capital to be a sole purchaser, why would you want to?  Diversification is crucial to mitigating risk.

Are you comfortable with cash flow over capital appreciation?

The property value of real estate is often the “sexy” part of wanting to invest.  But cash flow from rent is the reason to keep it. This is the payoff for conducting painstaking due diligence and meticulous deal structuring – to ensure that long-term profitability comes not only from potential appreciation of the asset, but also from the net rental income, or the capitalization rate.

What it boils down to is: are you prepared to do the work yourself or pay fees to have someone else do all of the above?

Building your own real estate portfolio is not easy.  At Nicola Wealth, our in-house team of commercial real estate experts diligently seek out cash-flowing, investment-grade properties to provide our clients with real estate exposure in both the Canadian and U.S. markets through our Nicola Real Estate Limited Partnerships. Nicola Wealth clients collectively enjoy the benefits of owning hard asset real estate in a diversified portfolio.

Acquiring real estate: the DIY checklist

  • Develop a list of investment criteria to evaluate potential opportunities.
  • Assemble a team that can help to evaluate available properties.  Access reliable consultants, advisors, and managers with real estate experience.  NWRE’s team typically includes lawyers, realtors, property managers, mortgage brokers, appraisers, and engineers.
  • Put the property under contract, usually with a refundable “good faith” deposit while you conduct your evaluation of the property.
  • Complete your “due diligence”– which usually involves spending money.   In conjunction with your key advisors and team members, know the right questions to ask.
  • Source the proper financing with a lender.  Ensure you have the appropriate leverage and suitable terms that meet investment objectives.  Set up appropriate reserves for capital expenses, including ongoing repairs and maintenance.
  • Remove subject conditions and complete purchase. Once the due diligence is complete and you ready to commit to the purchase with a non-refundable deposit.
  • Finalize post-closing details including arranging insurance (both on the property and for your own liability) and complete transfer of ownership. Source appropriate property management and leasing agents to ensure the investment is maintained, kept fully leased, and is properly positioned in the marketplace over the longer term.

Historically, real estate has proved to be a significant portion of many wealthy investors’ portfolios but investing successfully is no easy task.   While privately owned real estate has the potential to reap generous rewards, remember: its price tag also comes with a need for hard work, sound judgment, and smart decisions.

Building a real estate portfolio that may one day become an empire is not impossible. If you desire to do it yourself, then we hope this has given you the tools to take that important first step with confidence. If you would like to explore a professionally managed and diversified portfolio, click here to learn more about our well-diversified portfolio across regions, industries, building types, and tenancy.