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Canadians Put Real Estate To Work

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 14 November 2000 00:00

One Kitchener, Ontario couple decided against the nine-to-five grind and turned managing their real estate investments into a full-time career.

In 1960, Irma and Ralph Schloss (not their real names) married, bought their first house and began a lifetime of investing together.

They sold their home in 1963 to buy a building lot and construct an 11-unit apartment building. Since they couldn't get sufficient financial backing to complete construction, Mr. Schloss added "sweat equity" to this investment project by working on the building himself. After three years of living in the building and collecting rental income from the other apartments, they could afford to buy themselves a house again.

"An apartment investment is a long term investment," said Mr. Schloss who, with his wife, went on to buy three larger apartment buildings, then change their investment strategy to commercial and industrial properties. "You do not make money on rents but on increased [real estate] appreciation. After rent control came in, we did not feel very comfortable. We said enough is enough. We sold off our apartment buildings but kept the smallest building – our first. We got into commercial property and mortgages as we saw more freedom in the operations. We also made some investments in farm land."

The Schlosses have always been "hands-on" property managers, dealing with everything from maintenance to tenant complaints themselves. Rents and evictions on commercial and industrial properties are not regulated by provincial law the way residential tenancies are.

Mr. Schloss immigrated to Canada in 1957 without job prospects, business connections or a knowledge of English. Mr. and Mrs. Schloss each carried on an outside job until their investment portfolio could support their growing family.

"There were different tools to make a living with. Life is an ever changing thing and we must adjust to it. I did inside trim -- carpentry of stairways, doors, vanities, kitchens -- and one of the things that drove me out of that was that I developed an allergy to cedar wood. I had to get away from it or it would kill me. In 1969, I quit full-time work. I managed our property and did private contracting as I had time. In 1973, I quit outside work completely and [investing] was full-time for us."

Mr. Schloss recommends real estate investing as an occupation for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.

"Every case is a separate case," he said. "You must be knowledgeable about property in an area and not just go by appraisals. However, if somebody has not got the (formal) education which is required every place today, there is still money to be made in real estate, but you have to be ready to run the business yourself. If you have an interest in learning, you will pick up a lot."

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