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AJ Hazzi

Where are all the deals?

With a returned confidence in the market due to record low borrowing rates and prices trending upward, many people are turning to real estate investment once again to reach their financial goals.  As a realtor it’s interesting to observe would-be investors as they watch the MLS and constantly lament that there are no deals out there. Many even become discouraged and abandon the goal all together.

From my perspective, the problem is that they want this red hot deal to just leap out of their iPad and say, "Buy me stupid, I represent the exact return you are after!” Experience shows it just doesn't work this way.  In actual practice, whenever a home is priced so low that it represents obvious profit to the buying public, the competition for the property becomes so intense that it generates multiple offers, resulting in it going for more than it really should have anyway.

What people fail to realize is that, real estate being a commodity, has very little inherent profit built into it. Nearly all of the profits in a deal are created by skilled negotiations.  Things like negotiating with sellers to sell for less, negotiating with contractors to renovate for less, negotiating with banks for better rates and terms, negotiating with tenants for premium rent or negotiating with future buyers for premium sale price.

A deal is what a person makes of it. With the right team in place and some uncommon sense, almost any home listed on the MLS could represent a substantial profit, provided you negotiated it to be so. 

Many are content to use a very vanilla, buy and hold strategy, you don’t need to do much other than buy property, let the rent pay the mortgage off, and passively enjoy inflation doing its thing. Many ordinary folks have created multimillion dollar net worth doing just that. It just takes time.  The kind of profit most investors I speak with are looking for the sexy profit, more of an instant gratification.  We call this “walk in profit.”  This takes a lot more finesse and perhaps more importantly, patience.

It is equally important to have a proven model that you can measure each property against to determine whether or not it makes financial sense, leaving nothing up to chance.  The real estate investment network (R.E.I.N) just launched their new member site which has sophisticated online tools that you can use to analyze the viability of a property you are considering. As useful as this is, I have always found that having a couple quick-math short cuts you can use to give a property a pass or fail within 30 seconds has been the real key to being able to spot opportunity.  The power lies in the simplicity.  

So with that in mind, consider the opportunity that lay within the ordinary listing inventory, the aging inventory, the neglected inventory, the vacant inventory and the under developed inventory.  In my experience, for every 10 sellers out there, there is one that would entertain a win/win deal that gets them what they want, be it a fast closing, long closing, or an “as is” sale, in exchange for a reduction in price to the point that it fits your predetermined investment model.  

So in conclusion, knowing that the profits of any deal depend solely on your ability to negotiate, your mission becomes this.  Be crystal clear on the kind of property or project you want, the exact price range and the neighbourhood.  Once you have a clear picture of what you want, ask your real estate professional to create a custom search for you for this exact kind of property and from there it’s all in the negotiations!  

Like an RESP... only better

Since I’m at the age now that starting a family has become a frequent topic of conversation, having a sound financial plan to make sure one’s child has the option and privilege to get an education, seems like a wise thing to consider. We are going to discuss real estate (surprise coming from me I know) as a viable alternative to RESPs for funding your children’s education. This strategy I stole from one of my best mortgage professionals Jason Henneberry, Owner of Mortgage Pal. A few months back he had this exact strategy featured in “Canadian Real Estate Wealth Magazine”.

You may or may not be aware, the Canadian Education Savings Grant was initiated to help families save for their children's post secondary education. The federal government “tops up” your contributions to a maximum of $500 ($2,500 x 20%) per child per calendar year, to a lifetime maximum of $7,200.

On the surface, this sounds like a great deal, and it’s hard to pass up an immediate 20% return on your money. But it’s up to you to make ongoing investment decisions that will affect the long term performance of the portfolio. If we assume a 6% annual rate of return and you invest $2,500 per year and take full advantage of the CESG program, your child’s education fund will be worth approximately $83,000 in 17 years.

And as with most government initiatives, there are a lot of rules that dictate under what circumstances, in what amounts and for what purpose the money can be used. What happens if your child decides not to attend post secondary education? What if they have a brilliant idea and prefer to use the money to start a small business instead?

Perhaps there is a better way to spend your $2,500 per year and give your child more options and better control over their financial future.


The best student loan that money can buy…

Now let’s take a look at what would happen if you chose to forego the government grant of $500 and invest the $2,500 per year (or $208/month) to service a small equity loan on your primary residence in the amount of $39,195 based on 6% interest. Many people have access to much cheaper money against their home currently but this gives us a nice, long range cushion.

You decide to use the equity loan as the source of your 20% down payment for the purchase of a one-bedroom condo near UBCO valued at $189,900. The condo is new construction and comes with a waiting list of students willing to sign a one year lease at $1200 per month in gross rental income. After property taxes, condo fees and management expenses, you net $125 per month which covers the payments on the $156,782 mortgage that you obtained to buy the property. Use the positive cash flow to make two additional payments per year and at the end of 17 years, assuming an average interest rate of 4.50%, the mortgage will be free and clear!

The 80 year real estate price index tells us that Canadian real estate historically appreciates at a rate of about 6% per year. But even if we half that number and assume an average growth rate of 3%, the property will have increased in value to $323,920 by the end of the 17th year. And you own it free and clear (400% more than the $83,000 RESP).

Your child now has the option to sell the property and use the cash to pay for school, or take over ownership and refinance to create a self funding student loan which their tenant will pay off for them while they complete their education and eventually enter the work force. This second option has the added benefit of “staying invested” during those years and allowing the property to continue to appreciate. Remember, the RESP would have to be liquidated to pay for school and your child loses out on potential growth of the asset over time.


The gift that keeps on giving…

It’s important to remember that the rental income from the property should more or less keep pace with inflation over the years as well. Assuming an average inflation rate of 3% per year, the rental income will have increased from $1200 to $1925 per month.

Let’s assume that your child decides to go to school and refinances the property to $210,500 to access the same $83,000 that would otherwise have been available in the RESP. At an average rate of 6% and monthly payments of $1,052, using the positive cash flow to accelerate the mortgage, it will be fully paid off in 11.2 years. That includes 4-5 years for school and a half dozen years getting their career of the ground.

Provided our assumptions hold true over the course of time, your child (now 28 years of age) will be the proud owner of a clear title property worth approximately $448,381 which generates NET cash flow of over $21,000 per year. Show me the RESP that even comes close to delivering that kind of long term performance!

And in terms of education, your child not only has a degree (hopefully!), but they might also have learned a thing or two about how to manage real estate during their formative years. And now they can leverage their asset as they move into the next phase of their lives, perhaps to pay for a wedding, or to help them with the down payment for their own home, or maybe even to do the same for their kids and pass the knowledge along to the next generation.

For a full PDF analysis showing the performance of the one bedroom units under construction right now at UBCO over time just drop me a quick line to [email protected]


Strategy and much of this content provided by Jason Henneberry of Mortgage Pal.

Retirement rescue 911

What you are about to read is a true story about a frustrated investor, who for the sake of privacy I will change his name to Tom.  Tom had always been very risk averse and being this way had allowed him to put together a nice nest egg of about $500,000. Half of this was in Registered Retirement funds (RRSPs) and the other half was in low risk stocks, bonds and GICs. He was about three years away from retirement from his job where he earned a nice salary of 75,000 per year and he had kept his credit clean. Following the conventional "wisdom" he had diligently paid off nearly his entire mortgage on his $500,000 home. He had only $100,000 still remaining.

By most people's standards, Tom had done it, he had secured a safe future for himself. The thing keeping Tom up at night was the fact that he had busted his hump his whole life to get to this point, but was now confronted with the reality of soon being on a fixed income of less than $30,000 per year...for the next 20-40 years! The $30,000 is a combination of his 4% return on his portfolio ($20,000 annually and his pension of $10,000). Tom and his wife want to travel, they want to spoil their grand kids and have the freedom to start crossing items off their bucket list. Tom wondered if there was anything he could do over the next three years that would change the outcome of his golden years.

Tom came into my office after reading various articles I'd written in this column and asked if I had any bright ideas that could help him on his quest to avoid his fear of being trapped inside a fixed income barely adequate to stay in Kelowna, let alone travel. He shared with me that he had always been afraid of buying rental property because of the risks. He had heard horror stories of tenants doing the midnight dash and leaving the property in bad shape. Also because Tom still works full time, he didn't have time to be running ads, screening tenants, handling maintenance items or chasing people for rent. What he did like about his current portfolio was that it was hands off.

We spent the next hour going over his finances and I explained an investment vehicle to him that we have been using that not only removes all of the risks associated with buying a rental property but actually gave Tom a totally hands off investment with a predictable rate of return more than five times what he was getting now. Tom asked me to sketch up a plan for him over the next couple of days and present it to him and his wife. I welcomed the challenge.

With Tom still working and earning his nice salary, banks like him. We will take advantage of this for the next three years while Tom still has the income to qualify for mortgages. With Tom's cash, the plan is to buy three properties through the Empowered Renter Program in the 350-400k range. This is using a rent to own strategy to maximize the cash-flow, eliminate management and mutually agree on a fair rate of appreciation for the property, in this example it's 4%.

Each of these properties will be positive cash-flow of $10,000 per year and each will have a pre-determined rate of appreciation of approximately $15,000 as well as a mortgage pay down of approximately $7,000 per year with each deal representing $32,000 per year in total upside.  When the properties sell he has to pay real estate fees that give him an annual return of 22% on the roughly $80k in each property.

Over the next six months we will execute the plan to invest the liquid portion of his portfolio into three properties that have a cash on cash return of 20-22%.  He now has his $250,000 spread out as down payments on his three properties; $400,000 x 20% = $80,000 (multiplied by 3 plus taxes).

This $250,000 is now earning $52,000 per year on the money that was returning $10,000 back when it was in a low risk stock portfolio. It is backed by real estate that he is the titled owner of - something he can see and touch. His tenant has provided a large deposit of fifteen to twenty thousand, and is caring for the home like it is their own. When these properties sell to the tenant buyer, Tom plans to empower other tenant buyers using the same strategy, and will continue to see 20-22% returns on his capital for another 3 year term.

The plan went beyond just the three rental properties. Tom conservatively has $250,000 in available equity in his existing home. He can have access to this on a line of credit for less than $8,000 per year. The plan with this equity is to purchase a long term multi-family holding property like an 8-plex. I showed him one he could buy for $930,000. He would need to invest his $232,500 for down payment and the property would return to him after all management cost and expenses, an annual net revenue of $25,000 including the interest on his credit line.

The last piece of the puzzle in Tom's quest to move from non existing returns into the land of double digits and possibility, is to put his RRSPs on steroids as well. I shared with Tom that he could invest his RRSPs into a self directed RRSP account and become his own bank. With this he would be free to lend his money against real estate and again expect a 10-12 percent ROI. There are many successful Real Estate Investment Trusts that will pay a 10% dividend and allow you to be totally hands off. With Tom's new plan, he can expect to earn $25,000 per year on his registered funds.

So now let's take a look at what Tom will have three years down the road when he decides to pull the plug on work and set his sights on that bucket list.

  • His Rent to Own investments produce $52,500
  • 8-plex from equity in his home makes $ 32,000
  • RRSP's in a well managed REIT makes $25,000
  • Canada Pension Plan max amount is $10,500

Tom's Total Earnings = $120,000 per year

This is more than Tom has ever made, and the best part of it is he doesn't have to trade his time to earn it. All of his hard earned equity that he worked so hard to get over the years is doing the heavy lifting. Each of those dollars has been given a healthy quota of returning an average of 14.6% per annum. He has $750,000 of his cash in the real estate market to earn him his dream income. To replicate that in what he was doing before, he would need close to three million dollars!

In addition to the amazing cash-flow, Tom's properties are appreciating further adding to his returns. The best part of this entire process was helping Tom see what's possible for his retirement years. He left my office filled with hope and excitement for the future. That was a good day for everyone involved.

For a Free E-book that illustrates in great detail each of the deals we did for Tom, explaining the Empowered Renter Program, Self Directed RRSP and Multi Family investment pro forma, just drop me a quick email to [email protected] and we will send it off.


Apartment buildings: absolute gold mine

Anyone that has been reading my articles knows I love a regular home with a suite or a duplex property, and for over a decade I've been pretty faithful to these residential investments, but recently I have had my attention fixated on a more alluring beast, and that is multi-family investing (apartment buildings) and I have to say, I have a new obsession. It combines my favourite two aspects of real estate, Cash-flow and Value-adding, except it puts both on steroids.

Now before I start, many people may have already checked out after reading the headline. Apartment buildings? That's out of our league, or that's too risky! I'm here to challenge that limiting belief. For starters, obtaining a mortgage on a building that has been run like a business for years is surprisingly less challenging to finance with banks than a residential property. With residential they focus on the strength of the applicant. In multi-family lending they look at the strength of the building's financials.

In terms of risk, it may seem like because the numbers are higher that the risk is higher, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In an apartment building you have only one roof to worry about, one heating system, one property tax bill etc. There's an economy of scale here. For example, a roof for an apartment building is worth approximately $20,000. If you had 10 duplexes and had to do all 10 roofs you would be looking at closer to $100,000 in costs.

What about the risk of vacancy putting strain on your cash-flow? Consider that 5 of your 20 apartment units could suddenly vacate, and you would still be cash flow positive. If one side of your duplex vacates you are faced with an ugly negative cash-flow situation.

Risk aside, my favourite part about apartment buildings is that their value is based on the Net Income. More technically speaking, it is the Net Operating Income divided by the local, current CAP rate. A CAP rate is the expected return on investment for banks and investors. In the Okanagan Valley in 2014, banks are lending against a value that is based on a CAP rate of 6%. This is a fairly high overall yield as compared with larger centers like Vancouver, that only offer 2-3% CAP rates.

For example a building with a net operating income of $120,000/yr divided by a CAP of 6% is worth $2,000,000.  Another way of putting this would be that an investor would have to invest 2 million of their own and the bank's capital for an income stream of $120,000 or 10k per month. Typically you would require 25% of your own funds and 75% bank financing. Read all the way to the last paragraph for a free e-book on raising money for a down payment.

So with that knowledge, how does an investor take something from being a solid investment and really turn it into a gold mine?  I'm talking raising the value by as much as a million dollars in 2-3 years through a process called normalization. In simple terms, get the rents up to maximum market price and the expenses down as low as one can negotiate them. What happens once you start down this rabbit hole is about as exciting as anything you will find in the world of investment, period. Are you ready for it?

Here's the basic principal. $50 dollars added to the bottom line monthly, equals $10,000 in increased value. Pretty cool right? But don't forget that when you have 20 units that multiplies into $200,000!

So if $50 dollars/month equates to a $200,000 gain, then let's explore how an ordinary investor could profit $1,000,000 (tax free) by systematically going after the lowest hanging fruit over a 2-3 year period.

This is a case study of an average 20-unit apartment building in the Okanagan Valley. I prefer something built in the 1970's as many were built in that era. The reason this era provides for the best opportunity is that due to its age, you can count on the majority of the big ticket items like roof, windows and boiler systems having been upgraded in the past decade. Also, it is very likely that its current owner has not kept up with rental increases over the years and because they don't have debt on the building typically, they are not overly concerned with maxing out the rents. Often they are happy making their 100-120k per year off the building. Now in their 70s, they are ready to sell this investment and exit the landlord business. Here in lies the opportunity!

Our buying Criteria is a building where the current rents are approximately 100-150/mo low for an average unit compared to the market. You would be surprised at how often this is the case. When looking at the financials of a building look for things like utilities being included, which once eliminated can provide an instant increase in cash-flow of about $75/month per unit. That move alone adds $300,000 to the valuation. The other item we are looking for is a high expense ratio. This means that the expenses are high in relation to the Gross income. Anything 40% or higher is the sweet spot. Our job will be to lower expenses by at least 5%.

So here is a basic Income and Expense scenario for our hypothetical 2 million dollar, 20-unit apartment building:

  • 20 Units with an average rent of 800/mo
  • $192,000 Gross revenue
  • $76,800 In expenses including utilities (40% expense ratio)
  • Net operating Income $115,200
  • Market Value based on 6 CAP equals $1,920,000



  1. Raise average rents to 950/mo
  2. Stop including utilities in rent
  3. Reduce remaining expenses by 5%

These objectives will take some time to complete (allow for 2 to 3 years to fully normalize a building) but trust me, it's well worth the investment of your time and energy. Now let's look at our investment after we've accomplished our three missions.


  • 20 units at an average rent of $950/mo
  • $228,000 Gross Revenue
  • $55,860 Expenses (After utilities removed and 5% reductions on all contracts)
  • $172,140 Net Operating Income
  • Market Value based on 6 CAP is now $2,870,000
  • Net Gain $950,000

Obviously this is a staggering profit, and anyone would kill to be part of something like this. The simple fact is, very few people will ever make the leap. I consult a very small group of investors on how to acquire, normalize and sometimes even further develop multi-family property. It's something I am deeply passionate about and have begun investing in myself. A few months ago I closed on my first apartment building and have another one pending as I write this.

The deal in the case study is only an example. You can find small 5-plexes for as low as $500,000. An 8-plex will run you about $900,000. A 12 unit building will be about $1,200,000.

A general rule of thumb for buildings with 10 units or more suggests you can expect to pay about $100,000 per unit. Slightly less as you go up in price (more economy of scale).

In closing I just want to point out that you should not let a lack of capital stop you from pursuing this dream. Raising investment money from people in your inner circle is very doable. Partnering with people to do multiple deals is as profitable and fun as any business venture.

If you reach out to me via email I will send you a free e-book titled "The Secret To Raising Money To Buy Your First Apartment Building". A great 27 page PDF that will get the ball rolling for you!

Just drop me a line at [email protected]

Read more Investment Real Estate articles


About the Author

AJ is the owner of Kelowna’s downtown boutique firm, Vantage West Realty. The firm prides itself in breaking the mold when it comes to how they practice real estate. Taking a consultants approach rather than the tired, old-fashioned sales approach of selling kitchens and baths, they pride themselves in having a level of expertise not found in a class room.

Having been a student of real estate through 2 market cycles, AJ has come to realize the absence of truly qualified professionals specializing in investment real estate. This has become AJ’s role within the firm and the community, to consult clients on Foreclosure sales, Flipping, Positive cash-flow, the benefits of lease option and other creative avenues that most agents completely ignore.

AJ is a firm believer that the current market is rich with opportunity and that there is a real need for a consultant who “speaks the language" of the investor large and small, and understands their wants and needs. For example, many realtors would squirm from having to make low-ball offers, worried about insulting sellers and tarnishing their own reputation. AJ consults his clients to make the offer that makes sense to them based on their goals; if it’s a flip then the mathematics on the firm’s handy “profitable project work sheet” sets the max dollar. The same for cash-flow, if a client has a rate of return in mind, then that dictates the price!

With a well-deserved reputation as a real estate renegade, Hazzi is definitely an out of the box thinker; a proactive agent willing to get creative and produce a solution during challenging transactions. He is very excited about the market we will see in the next 10 years and feels that it will lend itself very well to his unconventional style.

AJ is an agent who practices what he preaches. He has built his own real estate portfolio up to include development property, resort property, rentals, fix and flips and cash flow properties. Arming his clients with the knowledge and confidence to invest has enabled many of them to build impressive net worth and passive income. His goal is to impart on people especially of the the X and Y generation, that depending on RRSP’s and Government Pension Plans to look after us down the road is risky business. Most people don't realize that as little as 1 or 2 properties added to your real estate portfolio now can provide a safe, cushy retirement in the future and the sky really is the limit.

AJ's past clients and business relationships are his largest asset. His business has been grown almost exclusively by referral. To hear what AJ Hazzi's clients have to say about his service view the testimonials.

For more details or to reach AJ Hazzi, please visit
Contact: [email protected]
cell: 250.864.6433


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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