Interview with Jenna Bickell: Real Estate Investment

Jenna Bickell did well with real estate investment from an early age. She has bought, rented and sold properties in Mississauga and Hamilton and her return is quite good. Check out how she is increasing the value of her assets through real estate, while working full time and growing her family, as well as participating in community events, such as Relay For Life (Canadian cancer society).

Jenna-BickellStarting Real Estate Investment

PinkfolioWhere did you gain your knowledge for saving, investment and real estate?

Jenna: From other women in my life. Especially, my previous coworker Aneta Dymerska who had the same goals as I had. She had given me a lot of advice. She was renting out rooms in her own home in Guelph to students. She sent me her landlord/tenant agreement to help me get started with my renters. Aneta also walked me through the things I needed to maximize my tax refund by claiming against my rental income. We also used the same real estate agent since he had a real eye for places with rental potential.

PinkfolioWhat are your short and long-term financial goals?

Jenna: Now that I am engaged and have my baby my short-term priority is paying off my line of credit debt and getting all of our house projects completed. Long-term, I am trying to maximize the return I get from my income property in Hamilton and focusing on saving for retirement.

Buy, Renovate, and Rent Investment Property

Pinkfolio: When did you buy your first property and what was your income? 

Jenna: In 2011, I bought my first townhouse in Mississauga when I was earning about mid 50K a year. I rented out 2 rooms of 3 for about $450 each. The house was worth $354,500 when I bought it but I sold it for $379,000. It was worth the real estate investment!

In 2013, I bought a house in Hamilton for $254,000 with 3 rooms but i invested to renovate the basement to add 2 more rooms and a kitchen. I was making about $400-450 on renting each room. Now the house is worth $379,000, which i’m hoping will increase to $500,000 after the go train extension to Hamilton.

In 2015, I built a house in Ingersoll for myself and have kept the Hamilton real estate strictly for investment purposes. The basement is rented for $1000 as a unit and the main floor for $1350.

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Pinkfolio: What would be your advice for those who’d like to invest in real estate in the GTA now?

Jenna: The most difficult part is saving for a down payment. Some people wait until they save 20%, which is great. You potentially have a lower monthly or biweekly amount due and perhaps a shorter mortgage term. Not everyone can do that though because it can be difficult to save even 5%. I went with 5% so I could stop renting and get into the market. Interest rates are great right now for buying so I would recommend to:

  1. Look into cash-back mortgages. It helps with large hidden expenses that show after closing
  2. Get a good mortgage broker, and educate yourself about mortgage options, such as increasing payments, paying unlimited lump sums etc. Even if you can’t use them now you still want to use later
  3. Maxing out tax benefits. First time home buyers get an instant $750 back on their taxes. If you are using your property as a rental like me, then every dime you spend on shared household items, even toilet paper, is an expense that can be claimed against your income
  4. Know your rights as a landlord. The difference between a rental property and boarding house.

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  • Cash-back mortgage is cash given by the mortgage lenders to help pay for expenses 
  • Lump sum payment is a large payment that you can make towards your mortgage to reduce your monthly mortgage payments
  • Look into first time home buyer grants, which you don’t have to pay back 
  • To encourage investments, first time home buyers also get tax benefits

Income Property Challenges

Pinkfolio: Now thinking back, would you do anything differently to increase your return?

Jenna: I don’t think I could’ve increased my return much on the income property. What I’ve learned is to put more effort in picking suitable tenants to decrease headaches. 

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Pinkfolio: Did you experience unexpected challenges for your real estate investments?

Jenna: It was much easier than I thought. I was worried about not being able to travel or go out friends, and finding renters and absolutely none of that materialized. I’ve made great friends with my tenants. Difficult situations with some of my tenants gave me experience to have tough conversations, which has helped with my confidence.

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Support Jenna at Relay for Life!

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