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Down-to-Earth Canadian Real Estate Investing: My Ten-House Strategy and Real-Life Journey

Author and real estate investor, Chai Harjo, was determined to purchase and rent out ten properties. While he had a full-time job in the IT industry, a young family and all of the associated responsibilities, he also had a passion for real estate. And so, Harjo pursued this passion, ultimately succeeding in accomplishing his ten-house dream. In his first book, Down-to-Earth CANADIAN Real Estate Investing: My Ten-House Strategy and Real-life Journey, Harjo takes a somewhat different approach to chronicling his experiences when it comes to real estate investing. He gives readers a real-life look at what he went through, both the good and the bad. 

In many ways, this book is a step-by-step guide for those who wish to follow in Harjo’s footsteps. It is filled with practical advice and details that more abstract texts on this subject often elide. But Harjo is not afraid to tackle even the tiniest of matters here, as sometimes the smaller details truly do define this business. From the very beginning of the book, it is not hard to see the author’s intent: to inspire others by relaying a realistic account of his own journey. He does this by illustrating many of the activities an investor needs to be able to do, such as how to find the right insurance and interviewing contractors for a re-roofing job. He paints a very clear picture of the types of expectations people should have as they consider entering the world of real estate investing. 

In Chapter 5, Tenants and Contracts: When Finding Renters, Why Family Matters, Harjo doesn’t pull any punches as he delves into the nuances of dealing with a “bad tenant” experience. He reveals that he has had properties “trashed” by tenants he has had to evict. And yet, despite this or any other downturn, the author’s unflagging enthusiasm for real estate investing continuously shines through. This is one of the reasons why this book is a must-read for anyone considering this industry.

Harjo’s at times folksy wisdom, as evidenced in Chapter 6 where he interweaves lessons learned with the basic caveat: always replace the sump pump, makes the possibility of becoming a real estate investor accessible to essentially anyone. Harjo spends his weekends at open houses so that he can gain greater insight into the local market. He even makes these family events, exposing his children, from a young age, to his overriding passion for everything real estate. 

His message is clear: if he can do it, you can too. In an effort to help anyone who wants to learn more about how he achieved his ten-house goal so that they might one day do the same, Harjo offers plenty of experiential stories and tips. For instance, In Chapter 4, Getting Down to Business: Insurance 101, he dedicates an entire section to what happens when a property’s sewer backs up. He discusses the various options that exist in Canada regarding sewer backup insurance and looks at the practicalities of what could happen by foregoing this rider. The book embraces the very down-to-earth aspects of what it means to be a landlord. 

In Chapter 11, Never Stop Moving Forward, we learn that a critical role of a landlord is to be prepared for the down times with what Harjo calls the “eight lines of defense.” These are your go-to actions should circumstances arise in one or more of your properties that threaten to impose on your personal finances. These eight lines of defense are represented by rental income, a HELOC (home equity line of credit), a credit card, a friend’s credit card, the income from your day job, your savings, a loan from family members, and lastly, the possibility of private money. Having reserve funds will be essential to any investor’s journey. 

Another critical message that Harjo strives to convey throughout the book, and most directly in Chapter 7, The Team Approach: Mentorship, is that while you have to have passion, you also have to be willing to study and work hard, and keep going even in the face of hurdles. Perhaps most crucially, you need to surround yourself with “power team” members that will become part of your core network in order to succeed in real estate investing. For Harjo, relationships are at the crux of his success in this business, to date. A real estate lawyer who is adept at keeping up with changing Canadian regulations, a mortgage broker who will go the extra mile to get you the money you need, and a reliable contractor who won’t keep you hanging when an emergency arises, are the people who, for Harjo, represent his “backbone.” They are the professionals who help keep him moving forward. 

Also in Chapter 7, Harjo discusses the importance of having a mentor. Mentorship can mean the difference between accomplishing the goals you set for yourself and faltering because you feel lost and unanchored. Harjo, himself a mentor to those in the real estate business, propounds the value of having access to someone who’s “been there and done that.” A mentor’s value may not only be what they teach, but also how to avoid mistakes that they’ve made. A mentor should not promise you the world, always coming off as a perennial ray of sunshine, but should be someone who exposes you to both the problems and the benefits of real estate. They should, in essence, inspire you to become a learning machine. 

In concluding his book, Harjo does something a bit different: he offers readers an inside look at his thought process while journeying toward his ten-house dream. He presents a selection of excerpts from his own private real estate journal. If, after reading Harjo’s stories and examples readers are still left with a few questions about what kind of a person he is, this journal should definitely clear them up. He is honest, and, in some instances, unfiltered. If something makes him nervous when dealing with a potential problem he comes right out and tells you what he was thinking and why he was nervous. This is a unique look into an investor’s mindset, whether he is walking through a brand new property, getting a current property ready for a new tenant, or dealing with changing Canadian laws. 

Down-to-Earth CANADIAN Real Estate Investing is a refreshing take on what it means to get into the business of real estate investing. One of the central tenets that you should take away upon reading the book is that first and foremost, you need to invest in yourself, and only then will you become successful in your real estate venture. Learn everything you can, talk to people, go to worthwhile seminars, and read books. You might even consider working with a mentor. Take the time to do the work on you first. As Harjo says throughout, he is not promising you success, nor the same results he achieved, but what he is promising is a candid look at what it took to get to where he did. 

Down-to-Earth Canadian Real Estate Investing: My Ten-House Strategy and Real-Life Journey