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This content is provided in partnership with Georges El Masri and the Well Off Podcast.
George El-Masri [00:00:00] Hello, and thanks for tuning in today to the Well Off Podcast. Today, I interviewed Gillian Irving, who is an awesome person, actually had a really good time with her. She is full time real estate investor, focuses on student rentals. She’s got some rent to own projects. Now she’s spending a little bit, but she told me that for many years all she did was just put her head down and focus on acquiring student rentals. She loves the cash flow that they provide. So we discuss some of the things that some of the pros and cons of them and also some of the things to look out for some of the mistakes she’s made. She’s also a part owner of a sky zone trampoline park in Whitby. Her sister has the what is it, the master franchise rights in the GTA. So it was really cool to find out a little bit about that. I hope you’ll enjoy listening and let me know what you think. And as always, if you come across someone who’s looking to get into some investment real estate, I’d love to help them out. Reach out to me George at well off Nazia and I’ll be sure to take great care of them. Enjoy the show. Welcome to the War podcast, where the goal is to motivate, inspire and share success principles. I’m here with Gillian Irving. She is a full time investor. She likes to see that she was an accidental investor at first because she bought her first home, was a duplex in downtown Toronto and Leslieville in two thousand nine. She wasn’t really prepared, didn’t really plan for it. It just kind of happened. And at that time, she was looking to possibly leave her job and provide long term financial security for her disabled son and three other children. And over 18 months, you managed to buy thirty five doors in Ontario. And as I mentioned to you just a few seconds ago, at this time, she’s a full time investor, an entrepreneur, a coach. She does many other things we will discuss soon. She’s also look, she focuses on student rentals for the most part, but has she does things like rent to own and several other strategies. So, Gillian, welcome. Thank you for coming today.
Gillian Irving [00:02:00] Thanks so much for having me. It’s really nice to be here, right?
George El-Masri [00:02:03] Yeah. I look forward to speaking to you because as we were just kind of chatting before we got started, you mentioned something really cool that your sister is involved in, which is the Sky Zone Trampoline Park. So I’m really excited to talk to you about that. But before we get there, I want to ask you about your childhood. That’s how I normally start. So I want you to kind of tell me where you grew up, what you remember from your childhood, just a little bit about yourself.
Gillian Irving [00:02:32] Well, I was born and raised in Montreal. I used to be a perfect French speaker, but alas, I’m not so good anymore. If you don’t practice, it doesn’t stay with you too long. But I’m born and raised in Montreal, absolutely loved it there, then went to Queen’s University and then settled in Toronto after I graduated. So I’ve got an older sister. I’ve got a brother who’s ten months older and I think we got up to regular kid shenanigans.
George El-Masri [00:02:59] Cool. When did you so how old were you when you moved from Montreal?
Gillian Irving [00:03:03] Um, I lived there until I went to Queens. So I was there, I guess, until I was eighteen or nineteen. And then after graduating, all of my friends came to Toronto. So I followed them in search of gainful employment where I didn’t have to be bilingual.
George El-Masri [00:03:17] OK, do you. Well, I’m sure you were forced to learn French really
Gillian Irving [00:03:23] well, and it came easily, right? As a kid. That’s easy stuff.
George El-Masri [00:03:26] Interesting. And why do you think that so many of your friends left Montreal?
Gillian Irving [00:03:30] Well, I mean, I’ve got a good I’ve got a good number who did stay? Uh, you know, I think I graduated from Queens in ninety two. I think I think there was more opportunity here in Toronto. Most people migrated this way.
George El-Masri [00:03:44] OK, yeah, I so I went to a French school in my high school, was in Mississauga and actually have some friends that went to Montreal for university and a lot of them came back after. So not a lot of them stayed there. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like people just don’t like to stay for some reason.
Gillian Irving [00:04:04] Well, politically, things were still pretty unsettled for a while there. So I think Ontario just seemed like a safer bet after university for many.
George El-Masri [00:04:13] Yeah, but I have some friends like family, friends that are there and they love Montreal
Gillian Irving [00:04:17] is a great city. It’s, you know, I think there it’s got such a European flair and, um, it just seems more liberal somehow. Funner, cooler.
George El-Masri [00:04:26] Yeah, I agree. Yeah. It is really fun. It just seems like people enjoy, enjoy life there. It’s not as crazy as it is here.
Gillian Irving [00:04:34] Yeah. There’s just a way sort of free or feeling people are are less conservative, easier with their time. I don’t know, there’s just a real it’s it’s got a real European flair to it.
George El-Masri [00:04:46] Does do you think of people from Montreal have an attitude.
Gillian Irving [00:04:50] Yeah, I think they kind of know they’re cooler.
George El-Masri [00:04:53] Yeah. Good point. OK, so you go to Queens. What did you study?
Gillian Irving [00:04:59] Well, it’s funny that I ended up being an entrepreneur because I took I took history. My dad was always really clear to me that you should take stuff that you like at university, that it wasn’t on the job training, that you’d be spending your whole life doing work and getting better at work. That university was really a time just to expand your mind. So I took that quite seriously. So I took history. But I did take all my electives where business courses cool.
George El-Masri [00:05:24] I was kind of in the same boat. I did a specialist in international relations. I didn’t follow your dad’s advice, though. I just did it to do it just to have a degree. And if I can go back, I would definitely tell myself to study things that I enjoy. For example, when I was getting licensed in real estate, there was an investment analysis course which was an elective. And I love that course. I studied to front to back the whole the whole book. I got a 98 percent on the exam. So it’s
Gillian Irving [00:05:55] easy. It’s easy to do well and things that you like.
George El-Masri [00:05:58] Yeah, exactly. So much better. Like, have you ever read anything about Steve Jobs? Yeah, yeah, so you probably know that he dropped out of college, but he would drop in on some of the classes that he liked. One of them was a calligraphy class. Amazing. Yeah. And he took all that and put it into the Mac. So I think that’s so cool. Like the different fonts. I think the Mac was the first computer that let you select fonts, different songs. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s interesting how things end up working out. All right. So can you walk me through after you graduated, what was your life like at that point?
Gillian Irving [00:06:33] So after I graduated from Queens, I actually got I mean, I’d always loved math and stuff in high school. I didn’t take it at university, but I ended up becoming a market research analyst after university and did that for years. And it was quite a slog. It really was. It was hard, hard work. Um, you know, being on supply side of any business where your clients pay lots of money to produce results for you. Yeah, the days never really ended. Right. So if a report was due the next day, it didn’t matter. Like you stayed until it was done. And often it was really, really long hours. So any kind of consulting work like that, which is what I started in, was super, super long hours. But I you know, I liked it. It was interesting, was with great people. I worked at a great firm, but I certainly put my hours in as a as a young employee and doing that also having kids. Right. I when I got I got married when I was twenty eight, I did travel for a year, quit my job and went traveling. But when I came back I took the market research analysis and took it to an advertising agency where as a strategic planner and life in an ad agency was also crazy busy like no one ever slept. There was like Mad Men, right? Yeah. And so I had my first two kids when I was working the ad agency. And then I knew something had to change in terms of my work life balance and what I wanted. And so my mind started spinning way back then.
George El-Masri [00:07:56] OK, has your life changed in that regard today?
Gillian Irving [00:07:59] Well, yeah. I mean, I work for myself now entirely. So I am the creator of my own day, which I love. Yeah. I mean, there’s pros and cons, right? There’s a you give up the steady paycheck, but you get a paycheck that comes from yourself instead. So that could be good or bad, depending on where you are in your cycle or your, you know, your sort of growth pattern. Yeah. So I, I love it. I can’t imagine getting up and going to work every single day at eight thirty and coming home at 9:00 at night or whatever or even going every day to work.
George El-Masri [00:08:31] Yeah. Yeah. That is a very difficult thought to have like for me too because I’m kind of in the same thing where I create my own schedule. I produce as much as I get what I put in. Right. And then to think going back to like a nine to five, that would be so difficult. I don’t know how I don’t think I’d ever be able to do that.
Gillian Irving [00:08:51] Yeah. Yeah, it’s a tough one. So I feel really glad that I took the leap into entrepreneurship, even with all the rocky, bumpy bits there.
George El-Masri [00:09:00] Sure. I’m sure there is a lots. Right, yeah. With your student rentals. So I know you bought your first duplex accidentally. You still have that today.
Gillian Irving [00:09:09] I do. I will never sell that. That is that it was turned out to be such a great asset for us and I bought it without really knowing anything at all. Right. So it just goes to show that even with a little bit of knowledge, you can action something and. Yeah. And grow something pretty big from not knowing too much. So people hesitate getting started because I don’t feel like they know much. But often all you need to do is pull the trigger and then sort it out after a.
George El-Masri [00:09:35] Well, yeah. Well the thing is, if you know, if you feel like you know everything, then either you just waited way too long to buy your first one or you’re sadly mistaken and you’re going to come across some very unexpected things. So everyone kind of doesn’t know what to expect when they buy their first one unless they have a family member or someone very close to them who was guiding them along.
Gillian Irving [00:10:00] Right. When the truth matter is, this stuff will happen no matter what anyway. Even if you do, I mean, I still have stuff happen where, you know, like, wow, what was that? Yeah. When you always have to recalibrate and keep going. But I’m really glad I bought that house back in twenty nine. I just I’d gone for a run one day. I just finished reading that book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which changes a lot of people’s thinking about money and how to make money. And all I knew in my heart was that that book made sense to me that I wasn’t going to get more money. Like there’s no more hours in the day for me to make money at work. Right. Everyone had the same amount of hours. I couldn’t work more. Yeah. And even if I did a salaried right, I wasn’t going to get much more out of work. So I knew I had to take kind of things into my own hands. And I just love that idea of buying a house and someone else pays down the debt for you and that you’ve got an appreciating asset. And so that’s all I knew. Like, that’s it. That’s all I knew was that you wanted a place where someone could pay the mortgage for you and you weren’t out of pocket every month to make it an asset, not a liability. And I went for a run one day and. Was his house for sale and I came back from my run and I said to my husband, guess what, we’re buying a house. And he said, What are you talking about? I thought you just went for a jog. And we bought it. And it turned out that it was the probably the greatest financial decision we ever we ever made, that just because Tronto house values have been going up, we’ve refinanced it, we’ve taken all the money out that we ever put in and bought and then we bought student rentals and said,
George El-Masri [00:11:24] OK, tell me what your student rentals, where do you invest. So.
Gillian Irving [00:11:29] So again I didn’t know anything back then when I first started so I got a coach that to me was my the first money I invested in myself and my knowledge around real estate. And that also turned out to be pretty smart because, you know, I bought that house in Toronto not knowing anything. And I thought, well, what if I actually became a real student of real estate? I mean, I did well without knowing much what would happen if I really applied myself and became a true student of this. So I got a coach and they introduced this idea that you don’t have to invest where you live and in fact, some of the best investments won’t be anywhere near where you live. And I learned about economic fundamentals and finding a town that was growing and had good migration and all of those things. And so I ended up investing in Hamilton to start a great, great market back in the day as well. Still is. So I started off there and then I went to St. Catharines and I followed some like university towns in southern Ontario. So I had some Brock and Welwyn and Niagara College. So most of my student rentals are still out. Sort of. Hamilton, way
George El-Masri [00:12:36] out west and
Gillian Irving [00:12:37] south west of Toronto, for sure.
George El-Masri [00:12:39] OK, did you know some of the rules around owning student rentals and the rental rules and things like that when you got started, or did you just figure it out?
Gillian Irving [00:12:48] No, I mean, a little bit. Again, I was trying to inform myself as much as possible. But you have to kind of be flexible. And, you know, I was a mother myself back then. So the idea of having a safe, clean place where I’d be happy sending my own kids was always a guiding principle to me. So, yeah, I just want to make sure that, you know, while I was thinking with my my business lens and how can I maximize rental income and also thinking like a mother, you know, keeping these kids safe and giving them an environment where they’d be happy to live. And it’s clean and looks good. Right. So that’s what I was so and so you’d have to figure out the rules in order to make those two things match up.
George El-Masri [00:13:29] Yeah. And what drew you to student rentals as opposed to more duplexes or what?
Gillian Irving [00:13:34] Well, I just you know, I love the idea of cash flow of great cash flow, where you could have an asset like a house appreciating, but you also get really good cash flow every month. So, you know, student rentals, you charge by the room, not by the house. And and so when you chop up a property like that into like six different rooms or seven different rooms like I have in some of my places, then your rental income every month is is quite big. Right. So you have good cash flow as well. So you can use that as an income supplement if you wanted sometimes or now it’s harder to, you know, to rely on a cash flow from houses just because prices are going up so much. But student rentals are one of those strategies where you actually get good cash flow at the end of the day.
George El-Masri [00:14:11] Do you actually use that cash flow?
Gillian Irving [00:14:14] No. Well, I did and I have. But now now I tend to take the excess money at the end of the year and put it towards mortgage pay down,
George El-Masri [00:14:25] towards more pay down,
Gillian Irving [00:14:27] or I will aggregate the funds from the different houses and put it towards a different investment. So I’m not spending it on consumption. Yeah. Shoes, which I went to, but I try to take those funds and reinvest as much as possible.
George El-Masri [00:14:43] OK, maybe what I was getting at is like the maintenance that’s required in the homes. Are you are you setting aside that cash flow, that surplus in order to take care of those units in the management as well?
Gillian Irving [00:14:55] Oh, no, no, absolutely. So so I, I, I thought you’re talking about in excess of that. I mean, student rentals because there’s so many bodies. Do you have pretty high maintenance fees, so to speak. There’s more wear and tear because there’s so many people in their kids. Right.
George El-Masri [00:15:06] So yeah.
Gillian Irving [00:15:08] Part of their. Yeah. I mean, I’m not too worried about too much damage, but, you know, things get swept up and worn down. So, yes, absolutely. You have to take some of that juicy cash flow and put it back into the house so that the standard of the home you have stays elevated and you keep attracting great tenants who want a house that look good.
George El-Masri [00:15:25] That looks good. OK, so you’re accounting for all of that in your calculations and then the excess beyond that, you’re saying that you could technically use for investment. Yeah. Or yeah. For reinvestment for yourself or whatever. Shoes, whatever. Yeah. Yeah.
Gillian Irving [00:15:40] Or travel better. Whatever.
George El-Masri [00:15:43] OK, what are some of the things that you look out for in a student rental. What are like some of the key components that you that you search
Gillian Irving [00:15:49] for in terms of the layout of the house. Do you mean or.
George El-Masri [00:15:52] Yeah, it could be the layout of the house, maybe a number of rooms that you look for.
Gillian Irving [00:15:55] So when I first started buying student rentals, I bought the houses that were single family homes and converted them myself into student rentals.
George El-Masri [00:16:02] So how did you do that?
Gillian Irving [00:16:04] Yeah, I would I would just look for a house. So first of all, the first thing you’re always starting with is location. It’s always about location, location, location. So where is this house relative to the university or the college? Where are they relative to, you know, the amenities like the library, the pubs, the probably more the pubs, the library, but the bus routes, all those things. And so once you feel like you’ve got a good location, then you’re looking for a layout of the house that will allow you to maximize rooms without stuffing the kids in like sardines. So that just you just have to look you have to look for that. And then you need a good construction team to help you execute on that.
George El-Masri [00:16:44] OK, so what kind of construction, where you where you’re getting done or.
Gillian Irving [00:16:49] It was more just it was more just creation of rooms. Right. And making sure they were big enough that there was egress like, you know, basement rooms all have to have windows had to be compliant with safety safety standards. Yeah. So it’s it’s really just about again, maximizing, maximizing number of rooms, but not overcrowding, no stuffing them in there because the more rooms the better. Right. And so it used to be that like for me, the sweet spot with six rooms or seven rooms, some people have eight rooms. I mean, honestly, you can it’s as big as you can go.
George El-Masri [00:17:24] What about, like the legal secondary suites that have extra rooms down there with an extra kitchen? All that.
Gillian Irving [00:17:33] So I have. Some rentals that have second kitchens in the basement, I have some that just have like a fridge and a microwave. Again, it’s about providing amenities in the house that would be appealing to the student population. So you need to have enough bathrooms. You need to have at least two refrigerators if you’ve got more than, you know, six kids living there. Yeah. So it’s more just about making sure that it’s like it’s like any other business where you want to be competitive. So you have to look and see what people down the street have versus what you have and make sure you are at least at least have at least what they have and then more if necessary, right? Yeah. You want to stand out as a product. You’re competing with lots of other landlords who have nice houses as well. So dishwashers, some don’t have dishwashers, like I’ve never rent a place that didn’t have an issue for sure.
George El-Masri [00:18:25] Well, these students even do their dishes. Exactly.
Gillian Irving [00:18:28] I mean, um. Yeah, and air conditioning and just basic stuff like that. You have to make sure that you are competitive and have a product that that people want to live in, let alone look good. And now they want it’s funny, when I went to university, I mean, we sat on milk crates and we bought our you know, like we got our couches from I don’t know where we got our couches from. But the level of expectation now among kids is is way higher. They want renovated kitchens with stainless steel appliances. It’s it’s interesting.
George El-Masri [00:18:59] Yeah, for sure. Things are definitely a lot different now.
Gillian Irving [00:19:02] Yeah. They’re they’re happy. They’re a parking lot and in fact, they’re not really your clients. Their parents are right. Their parents are the ones coming through the house looking at things, making sure it’s suitable for their kids. I don’t think my parents ever came to my university house ever. I don’t even think they ever saw it. I mean, they came to visit me, but they certainly were not involved in me signing the lease or helping me pick. And now parents are the ones who are cosigning the leases. They’re the ones making the payments. They’re the ones approving the house. And they want their kids living in places that are decent and well maintained and well kept and stuff. So you have to bear that in mind, too, as you’re renovating or purchasing a house for students that you’re dealing with. A lot of parents now, too, of course.
George El-Masri [00:19:42] And speaking of the leases, what are some of the things to look out for when you are when you are getting the leases signed up? Some of the must haves, things of that sort?
Gillian Irving [00:19:54] You know, the thing I always worry most about as a parent is just the safety stuff. I mean, like there’s all the standard clauses you would have for any renters. But I’m just so insistent on them not tampering with the fire alarms and the smoke detectors. And because they do like if they burn the toast, they take the smoke detectors and then they don’t put them back up again. And, you know, that would not only with the loss of life, if there’s a fire or something like you’d never be able to live with yourself, but you also might get put in jail like it is such a huge like for me, that’s the biggest thing, is making sure that you have all the safety equipment in place and that they don’t mess around with it.
George El-Masri [00:20:35] And how do you do that? Do you do, let’s say, quarterly inspections or have somebody do that?
Gillian Irving [00:20:40] We do. We do quarterly. We have a property manager. They’re always doing quarterly inspections on the lease. We make sure that key clauses like that are initialed by every right next to it, like they can’t pretend like they didn’t know. And then you have to have sort of photographic proof of the installation of everything and the maintenance of them as well. Like, you have to kind of protect yourself that way and then really wrap their knuckles. If they don’t like if they if they
George El-Masri [00:21:07] fiddle with those. Well, what can you do? Let’s see. Somebody pulls out the batteries from the smoke alarms or just connects them.
Gillian Irving [00:21:13] Well, anyway, code is changing now to where everything has to be interconnected. We haven’t upgraded everything yet, but we’d call their parents like Eickhoff parents. I really would like. Well, no, but you also want to and it sounds ridiculous like you find the parents of the twenty year old, but that that’s a letter where the property manager and me and all the students in the house and their parents would be be on like we’ve noticed that the fire alarms have been tampered with, you know.
George El-Masri [00:21:38] Well, now you have proof as well that you’re right. Yeah. And everyone knows it’s not just the students. The parents know.
Gillian Irving [00:21:43] Everyone knows this is so there’s there’s not there’s hardly anything that I’d get super involved in except for that. That’s my that’s my personal one. One thing, just because I’m a mom myself and I have a son who’s at university and and I just know that they can be irresponsible and so forth. So that’s really the one thing that I really, really worry about. The rest, I feel like anything, anything it’s fixable except for that.
George El-Masri [00:22:05] OK, well, of course that’s a serious issue because people don’t care and they don’t. You hear stories about homes burning down because of the whatever. There’s no smoke alarm, but at the end of the day, that’s going to come back to you as a landlord. As the owner. Yeah. Yeah.
Gillian Irving [00:22:20] So you have to be careful for maintenance, stuff like that.
George El-Masri [00:22:23] What about the who’s on the. Yeah, so sorry. Now who’s the students are on the lease but you’re putting them all on to one lease,
Gillian Irving [00:22:29] you put them all into one lease and then we have the parents be the guarantors sort of I guarantee you. And it’s funny because parents are happy to do that now, they fully expect that that they would have to pay in a pinch, though mostly mostly I have found that my university tenants pay. I mean, university or college is the destination of so many years worth of work. Right. I have been working hard to achieve and to arrive at a student rental. So you’re not going to not pay your rent.
George El-Masri [00:22:58] Well, how do you manage all those payments? Because let’s say you have like five student rentals with 60 shots, 30, 30 different tenants.
Gillian Irving [00:23:05] Right. So so I so I don’t manage any of my houses personally. So I have property managers. They all have a variety of different sort of auto pay methods. So almost everyone is on automatic payment checks that are. I have a couple of parents who still insist on paying tax. I mean, you can’t force anyone to pay any way. But we push people very, very strongly to either tenant pay or rent Mulawa or whatever it is, whatever the mechanism is, you use violence, auto payment, and you’re just there. Just the money is coming from their account into my bank account for me automatically every month.
George El-Masri [00:23:42] Have you had any tenants, maybe not necessarily with your students, but with others where they were on, say, check payments or transfers and you tried to convert them to the pre authorized debit?
Gillian Irving [00:23:54] No, I just I use rent left for my stuff and it’s automatic.
George El-Masri [00:23:59] But I mean, did you ever did you ever have to convince or maybe give someone incentive to know which one message I like?
Gillian Irving [00:24:09] Most people want to simplify their lives. Yes. I’ve always presented as a this is easier for you. It’s easier for me to set it and forget it. You know, why would you have to want to ever have to do anything?
George El-Masri [00:24:18] Well, yeah, I like for the reason I say that, I have tenants where I’ve I’ve it was my first property, so they were on E transfer, which I realize now is a big mistake because they they forget often to pay on time. And then I have to do the floors and this and that and I don’t feel like doing that. So I tried to tell them to go to pre authorized to make their lives easier, but they just don’t seem convinced to they’re not very motivated to do that. So I was just trying to figure out
Gillian Irving [00:24:48] maybe an incentive know everyone. I mean, I’m really lucky my tenants are are as busy as I am, like my my um and they just want to they just want an easy thing that you don’t think about.
George El-Masri [00:25:03] You don’t think about just I just happens which is ideal. That would be the best thing for everyone I think. Yeah.
Gillian Irving [00:25:08] Or even even I mean it’s not as good but even if you got all your postdated checks. Yeah that’s fine. I just
George El-Masri [00:25:14] don’t. Yeah. It’s the same concept. It’s just more work. Yeah. It’s more work. Yeah. The pre authorized debit is amazing. Just so easy. All right. Good. Is there any, anything, any mistakes you made with your student rentals, anything that you can share to help someone avoid making the same mistake?
Gillian Irving [00:25:32] You know, it’s funny because well, I mean, now there’s a standardized lease and you can but you can still have all your clauses in the appendix and stuff. But it’s funny, like I used to think that I had the most bulletproof student rental lease ever. And, you know, these kids are smart. So they’ll always think they’ll always think of something. Right. So I had a student rental in in Catharines and I had it had a garage attached to the house. And I can’t remember which winter it was, but it was one of the coldest. Winter is on record and on their lease. I paid the utilities and so they had this like three day beer pong tournament in my garage because they hated using electric heat. And I got the most astronomical bill ever, you know, so I’ll only be burned once and then I won’t be burned again. So, oh, my lease is after that. Even if I have all inclusive utilities, I have utilities cap. And that’s not meant to nickel and dime anyone like it’s within reasonable limits to make everyone comfortable. And you can make it a little bit too hot or a little bit too cool in winter. But not to heat the non heated garage with space heaters for four days in winter. That is so that protected me from those crazy overages, you know, and then I had a tenant also who filled a huge overland pool using the water.
George El-Masri [00:26:54] Oh.
Gillian Irving [00:26:55] And that also I had to pay for, like, just infuriated me. So works
George El-Masri [00:26:59] well,
Gillian Irving [00:27:01] so never again. Right. So now I have like mechanisms like that built into the lease. So you’re never always going to get everything right, but you always have a method to to fix this. You of
George El-Masri [00:27:12] course is that enforceable like let’s say somebody does fill their pool with your water and you take them to court
Gillian Irving [00:27:20] so that the people who had the the water bill, they actually were one of the few tenants have ever had to evict. I was able to garnish their wages for unpaid rent, but I never recovered the water. Mm hmm. OK, I never recovered the water,
George El-Masri [00:27:37] right, so are you saying, well, you weren’t capped, but I
Gillian Irving [00:27:41] thought, well, no, because they paid their own. They they had their they pay their own utility and it was their house and they paid their own utilities. But water is a tricky one because it follows the house, not the tenant. So it just gets put on to your it’s heart water. Water is a hard one.
George El-Masri [00:27:56] Yeah. And the water tank too. I don’t think the water tank is transferable to a tenant. Right. So you have to include that into your lease. Yeah. Yeah. About that. Yeah. OK, fair enough. All right. I want to move on to something that I’m kind of excited to ask you about, which is your your guys on project. Can you share with me? You know, you told me earlier, but what your sister decided to do a few years ago.
Gillian Irving [00:28:19] Yeah. So I’m the co-owner of Skys on Whitby, which is a thirty six thousand square foot trampoline park. And, um, and I got involved with that. My park opened in 2000 15. And so I’m half owner of that. But I got involved because my sister actually she’s a brilliant entrepreneur and she was the first person actually to be an international franchisee, first guy. So and so she brought the first trampoline park to Canada. I think that was in 2009. I want to say is 2009. Anyway, she was really clever because she bought the master franchise agreement for the GTA, which is a big responsibility as well, because you have obligations to set up your territory in fairly short order. So she started with guys on Mississauga and then open skies on Toronto. So her her goal was to kind of have them positioned, one north, west, east and south. So Toronto’s a bit central and south, but so she got Toronto, Mississauga, Vonne and Whippy. And so in order to open up on would be the same time she needed to partner to do that. So I helped her. I helped her with that. Cool. Yeah.
George El-Masri [00:29:27] How did that happen from the like how did she even come across that opportunity as well.
Gillian Irving [00:29:32] So her her sister in law, so her husband’s brother’s wife. And so again, family, like it’s her sister in law, was an early franchisee in the States. And so I guess it is a hearing about a business idea from a trusted person is a really helpful way to get started in something, because you get insights into the how it runs, you know, the what the margins are, what the capital requirements are. And so my sister felt confident talking to her sister in law about this new business idea and then saw her implement it and saw it in action. And so that made her one have someone who she could hit her car to and then follow suit as well. And so it was very similar to me. You know, I see this great business idea. I’m like, wow, I’m so great. I’d love to be a part of that and to be able to partner up with when someone you trust. So obviously, my sister have real insight into the inner workings, like what the true risks and benefits are. Made it an easier and easier move for me. Right. But it’s the same in real estate, too. You watch people who are doing something you find interesting and you either align yourself with them or talk to them and gain insight. And and so you hook up or, you know, mentor with them someone who is a good business idea. It’s the exact same thing that I did with my sister.
George El-Masri [00:30:51] That’s great. So how does that work? She has the master franchise rights for the GTA. So that means that at this point, is she so franchising the business to people in different cities or.
Gillian Irving [00:31:04] No. So she she just she owns the parks and in in all the four kind of locations. Yeah. But, you know, you can’t just buy the franchise rights for Toronto and they’re not open them. So you you are obligated to open your parks in a certain amount of time. Yeah. And so yeah. So she, she bought the rights and then she opened the parks and the hers.
George El-Masri [00:31:25] Cool. Good for her. That’s awesome. Is that her full time job or does she do.
Gillian Irving [00:31:29] I think it’s like her full time and a half job full time.
George El-Masri [00:31:33] What she was she doing something before that.
Gillian Irving [00:31:35] She worked. She was also I mean she was a she worked at the CBC with her husband actually. So we all have the entrepreneurial bug.
George El-Masri [00:31:44] Yeah. So both of you grew up in Montreal, I’m guessing, and you both came to Toronto. OK, do you have any other siblings?
Gillian Irving [00:31:52] I have a brother. He lives out west though. OK, yeah I think. OK.
George El-Masri [00:31:56] Why did your sister come to Toronto?
Gillian Irving [00:31:58] I mean, her she you know, she had her boyfriend come here after after university. He went to York and did his MBA. And so yeah, she was ready to set up roots here as well.
George El-Masri [00:32:10] Oh good for you. Yeah. That’s that’s really cool to hear that. So you’re doing very well in real estate. Your sister is doing very well with the guys on trampoline parks. So it’s cool that your whole family is just kind of flourishing and things are going well for you. Do you have plans to what are your plans moving forward with your real estate, with your business, maybe other ventures?
Gillian Irving [00:32:34] I don’t know, I think I think with I mean, I certainly have the real estate investing bug. I feel like there’s so many ideas. I spent my early career only focusing on student rentals. I really took the advice of my coach and mentor to heart, which is to be an expert and not to have shiny penny syndrome. It’s really hard to get good at something when, you know, like you’re doing this strategy and that strategy and this strategy and that strategy. I really focused for a long time and it was only after, you know, several years where I look to other real estate investing strategies. So now I do rent to own. And I’ve done like I bought a preconstruction condo, which I’m really happy about. And so there’s lots of ideas, you know, like multifamily stuff that I’m interested in now, too. So I think I feel more confident to explore all sorts of different strategies now. So I think in terms of the real estate stuff, I’ll just keep on keeping on. And for in terms of the business, I don’t know, maybe, you know, who knows where that will will will lead us right
George El-Masri [00:33:37] now that you’re at a place where you’re actually looking at different strategies. If somebody is asking you for advice, would you share what your coach told you or would you tell them to look at different different strategies in real estate?
Gillian Irving [00:33:49] So I really think if you want to get good real estate, you need to concentrate first. Like you need to just pay attention to one area to begin with and then get good at that before I just I really, really think that that advice to focus was the best one. And it is for everyone. You can you know what what is it, Jack? Of all trades, master of none. Like you need to get good at something before you expand. And I think that’s I would give that same advice to anyone else who is looking to invest in real estate at least is a serious. Yeah, no, thank you.
George El-Masri [00:34:21] I agree. I think a portfolio of like say one single family, one student rental, one rent to own. I don’t think that’s a very nice portfolio. You probably do a lot better if you like. You said, just focus on one thing. Just keep keep going. But all your energy into it. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Gillian Irving [00:34:37] Especially if you want to grow like I was. I mean I knew, I knew in the early days I didn’t want to just have think I wanted to grow a substantive portfolio over time. And so that strategy made particularly good sense to me.
George El-Masri [00:34:52] Yeah, good. All right. We’ll talk about one more thing, which is, is it mothers in real estate or mothers?
Gillian Irving [00:34:58] There’s a real estate that’s like, oh, that’s a passion project of mine. I me with my two great friends and colleagues, Rachel Oliver and Monica Jasiek, who are also both fantastic lifelong real estate investors. We got together a few years ago. I don’t know. We just felt like there weren’t a ton of women, real estate investors. And, you know, we all had sort of uniquely different strategies. And we realized that if we kind of got together, that we’d have this incredible holistic view of the real estate investing world. Rachel is an expert in Renton’s. Monica is like a buy rent, you know, refinance student rentals. And so we had this really great holistic view of the industry and have done a lot of deals between the three of us. So we got together and we created a fundamentals of real estate investing online course as a way of inspiring and motivating other women to kind of roll up their sleeves and get started and do it and do it with confidence, knowing that if you have the right tracks to follow that that you can be really successful doing this.
George El-Masri [00:36:01] Can you share a success story of somebody that may be looked up to you as a mother or a woman that was able to follow in your footsteps?
Gillian Irving [00:36:08] I think any of our students who take the course and who were feeling nervous and uncertain would be, you know, like there’s lots of people who would take the course and and feel like they have the the confidence now knowing that they have the tools in their tool kit, like a system to follow, how to analyze it properly, how to select a market, how to find a sub market. These are the things you need to get started. Mm hmm.
George El-Masri [00:36:32] Great. Yeah. I met Monica. I’ve seen her twice. Very, very nice lady. I don’t think I’ve ever met Rachel, but
Gillian Irving [00:36:41] yeah, it’s a great business. Really, really great. So all the renter owns. I do. I do with her. Like I don’t do them alone. I get I again I hook my cart to the wagon of someone who is more knowledgeable than me and they’ve been great.
George El-Masri [00:36:55] And it does give you does it because obviously that’s a totally different kind of goal. At the end of the day, if you’re doing a rent to own, you’re looking for it’s kind of like a medium term. Ah, y sort of like you finish in two or three years and you get the money out, whereas with your student rentals that’s more of a long term game. Why is it that you decided to go with rent to own, is it anything in particular for you.
Gillian Irving [00:37:20] So so again I absolutely love and respect Rachel in the business that she runs with Clover Properties. But again, it’s it, you know, running a trampoline park, having my own active real estate and. Means investing in a rent to own as a passive strategy, where I hand off the, you know, the underwriting of the tenant buyers to someone else knowing that they have amazing success rate, and then I can get this really great annual return. So you’re in. You’re out again. It’s like a compliment to my portfolio, whereas I wouldn’t stack everything with Vinton’s because I like the long term full appreciation that you get from a house. But I also like returns that are in the mid 20s every year and that’s pretty great. You know, that it was everywhere and you don’t have to do anything. So that’s great to me. Like great returns for no effort. But again, aligned with a company that shares the same values and it’s run by someone who I trust.
George El-Masri [00:38:18] Exactly. Yeah, that makes sense. OK, perfect. Let’s get into the final section, which is the random five. I’m going to ask you five random questions and you can just I know I don’t know why everyone gets nervous with half hour. It’s nothing. What can I possibly ask that would make you nervous? I don’t know. Do you have anything in mind that would be nervous? No, I’ve got nothing to hide. OK, all right. The first one is, would you rather bike 50 kilometers or run 10?
Gillian Irving [00:38:45] Oh, run ten for sure. You’re a
George El-Masri [00:38:47] runner.
Gillian Irving [00:38:47] Oh, I would love to. I run ten for sure.
George El-Masri [00:38:49] OK, what have you like how often do you run.
Gillian Irving [00:38:53] OK, so I’m injured at the moment, which is really sad. I hurt my foot so I haven’t been running. I’m actually I’ve been given a clean bill of health to start running again next week, so I’m really looking forward to that. But I had a really bad foot injury. What happened was I got plantar fasciitis after run one day and I honestly won’t been able to run for three months. It’s horrid, but I’m not I mean, I’m not a competitive runner. I do it, you know, and I’ve sort of been out of it for a while, truthfully, but I do. I love running.
George El-Masri [00:39:19] OK, that’s great. So what events have you have you done no marathons. Half marathons. Just run. I’m just I’m just an exercise. Stay healthy.
Gillian Irving [00:39:27] You just run exercise I guess. Like it. You just like running. Awesome.
George El-Masri [00:39:31] I like to run too so I would definitely pick running over biking. What’s your favorite guilty pleasure.
Gillian Irving [00:39:38] Wow. That’s a hard one. I think I’ve got several um. I like, I love, I love a really great glass of red wine. I love, um on occasion binge watching Netflix shows. I feel like it’s such a waste of time and I don’t do it that often. But when I do, it feels really good.
George El-Masri [00:40:00] All right. Those are good ones. OK, what’s a name, a hobby that not many people know about. But you’re interested in that?
Gillian Irving [00:40:07] I’m interested in that. They don’t know about me.
George El-Masri [00:40:10] Yeah. Like most people probably wouldn’t know that you like the specific hobby or whatever, huh?
Gillian Irving [00:40:16] Hmm. What is a good hobby that I like to do?
George El-Masri [00:40:20] Arts and crafts?
Gillian Irving [00:40:22] No, I’m not an arts and crafts.
George El-Masri [00:40:24] Go, uh, random math. Random math. Yeah. Like reading your your children’s math books and doing well.
Gillian Irving [00:40:32] No, um, I, you know what I would have said that no one would have thought, you know what, I like hot yoga. OK, that’s my hobby.
George El-Masri [00:40:40] I like hot yoga. Do you do it often.
Gillian Irving [00:40:42] Well when I can.
George El-Masri [00:40:44] So like once, twice, three times a week, sometimes twice a week.
Gillian Irving [00:40:48] I really like hot yoga. Yeah.
George El-Masri [00:40:50] That is really, really good. I’ve never done it but I’ve seen my sister do it anyways. OK, what do you do to feel inspired or uplifted I.
Gillian Irving [00:41:01] Again, I love that question. I like, um, I guess I get a lot of inspiration. I like inspiring books. I like inspiring videos. I don’t know. You just got to find a message that resonates with you and focus on that, I guess. Um, yeah. Like, I don’t know. I’m such a I mean, I’ve got such a um. I’m kind of mushy. Like I like old cat videos, you know, like all of those. I just I love watching success stories of other people, people who’ve overcome challenges that really motivates me. Yeah.
George El-Masri [00:41:36] Is there anything in particular that you can think of, any book that recently inspired you or not necessarily book?
Gillian Irving [00:41:44] I don’t know. There’s there are these because I also because I have a child with a disability. You know, I there was this man who was a four way amputee who climbed up Mount Kilimanjaro, I don’t know, watching stuff like that, like physically, like overcoming physical challenges. I just find that so powerful and motivating one because I’m an able bodied woman. And then I just I just like the determination, even with a limitation, and that people can have this incredible spirit despite like either physical adversity or, uh, I just I find that so motivating, motivating and empowering and moving. And, um, yeah.
George El-Masri [00:42:29] I agree with you. There is I forget the name, but there is a man in the states who has a son who is disabled and doesn’t have much mobility at all. But he actually takes his son and he does, I think, triathlons with them in the wheelchair.
Gillian Irving [00:42:45] Oh, I know.
George El-Masri [00:42:47] Hoyt, yes. Yeah, that’s the one.
Gillian Irving [00:42:50] Yeah. He so he has profound he has cerebral palsy. And the father I think was really unwell. Like he either had like a heart condition or he himself was not. And he started running with his grown fully grown women swimming. Yeah. Yeah. It’s Team Hoyt. I remember reading about them too and I just found it absolutely remarkable.
George El-Masri [00:43:12] That is really, really impressive. Just the act itself of completing the running and the swimming and all that is difficult. But to drag someone with you, that’s incredible to.
Gillian Irving [00:43:23] Yeah. So to do that with someone and also just the inclusion to have your to have your son with you so that he is a participant, it’s like this huge physical feat. Yeah. And you know, and you can just see the look on the on the, the boy’s face. Think you can just see the joy that he like. It just is a team accomplishment. Exactly. Yeah. And just
George El-Masri [00:43:48] incredible. Yeah. Because that story wouldn’t be as fascinating if it was just the weight to the father doing it on his own. The fact that they’re doing it together is what makes the story special. Yeah. So that’s there you go. That’s something maybe inspiring for someone to look into as well. Yeah. Incredible. OK, who do you look up to.
Gillian Irving [00:44:09] I mean I look up to OK, so so many, so many people, people who have incredible business accomplishments but people who are serving our community, I don’t know. There’s just there’s so many people doing so many amazing, amazing things. And it’s not all about, you know, bottom line, there’s just givers, people who are contributing back to the to our to our neighborhoods and our communities. I don’t know. There’s too many there’s too many to list. I just I just feel like there’s so many great people out there who’ve mastered so many different things. I am sort of humbled. Right. Thanks so much to learn from so many people. I that’s right. Yeah. Too many people to mention langmeyer. Yeah. And great and great women. Men like to so many. I know it’s not a real answer but
George El-Masri [00:45:02] that’s all right. It’ll do OK. Can you tell people how they can reach you and what services you might be able to provide.
Gillian Irving [00:45:09] So if they’d like to reach me for the real estate fundamentals course they can find me at info at mothers of real estate dot com if they’re interested in coaching for student rentals or I don’t do that much coaching, but I will on occasion. That’s Gillian, Gillian Irving dot com, and that’s pretty much it. I guess those are my emails.
George El-Masri [00:45:36] Great. There you go. The two emails. Perfect. All right. Well, thank you very much for your time and thanks for having me.
Gillian Irving [00:45:42] It was really fun chatting with you.
George El-Masri [00:45:43] It was fun. It was fun. Yeah. Well, I wish you continued success. Thank you. Hopefully you’ll continue to grow and have amazing new ventures like this. Guys own stuff. So all the best to you. And I look forward to seeing you again.
Gillian Irving [00:45:55] Great. Thanks so much, George.