“Getting information off the Internet is like taking drink from a fire hydrant.” – Mitchell Kapor
I have a confession to make. I hate the Internet.
Okay, well maybe that’s not totally true. But I certainly have a love-hate relationship with it.
On the good days, I marvel at how quickly I can put my finger on a precise fact or figure or locate an invaluable resource for my real estate business. I count my lucky stars at just how available access to great information is.
Then there are the bad days, when the Internet is like a giant black hole that sucks me in but only spits me out after precious minutes – and sometimes hours! – have mysteriously vanished.
As a real estate investor, access to information – especially info from reputable, trustworthy sources – is a critical part of my toolkit for helping me make informed, strategic decisions about my business. I need good, reliable information, and I can’t afford to waste a single minute finding it.
Armed with a desire to improve my productivity (and encouraged by my coach, Julie Broad, from RevNyou.com), I have compiled a list of real estate websites and blogs that will hopefully save real-estate investors from the clutches of the dreaded Internet black hole.
Think Tanks/Due Diligence for Canadian Real Estate Investors
Savvy real estate investors know that a lot of homework and due diligence goes into buying the right house, in the right location, at the right time. To make that ideal purchase, having access to a variety of reliable economic and financial data is a must.
- myreinspace.com provides the latest global real-estate news, market updates and unbiased economic research. REIN reports are designed to keep investors informed and ahead of any trends so they can make the right decisions about where and when to buy – and, just as importantly, when to sell.
- conferenceboard.ca delivers authoritative economic data on the business cycle, labour demand and trends, and several barometers of consumer and business confidence, including the widely quoted Consumer Confidence Index and the leading economic Indicators.
- theglobeandmail.com, especially the Friday Real Estate Section, is filled with timely, relevant articles describing the various real-estate markets across Canada. “Done Deals” is a personal favourite, as it showcases local homes and reveals both the asking and selling price and the number of days on the market.
- rbc.com/economics/economic-reports/canadian-housing-forecast.html RBC’s housing reports are an invaluable resource. They provide an excellent analysis of national and provincial trends in housing affordability and developments in major metropolitan housing markets.
- cmhc-schl.gc.ca is another resource offering objective housing research and advice to Canadian consumers.
- statcan.gc.ca If you need to put your finger on projected population growth, migration or household income trends to help determine whether the timing and/or location of your next investment is right for you, Statistics Canada is the go-to site for these or any of your stats-related queries.
- The big banks all have useful economic data information, but RBC is particularly reputable in this department (see #4 above). So is CIBC, and especially anything by Benjamin Tal, as the IMF calls him “one of Canada’s leading experts on the real estate market.”
- canadianmortgagetrends.com This site has plenty of up-to-date information, articles and videos that discuss the current state of affairs and long-term trends in the mortgage world.
- housepriceindex.ca. I think this site is super-cool. Even if you aren’t a numbers-geek like me, the charts showing year-over-year (or month over month) appreciation by market are pretty awesome. Or maybe I just like this site because it shows how incredibly strong my investment towns (Toronto: +7.32%) and Hamilton: +7.97%) have been relative to last year!
- landcor.com With access to 77 unique characteristics on each of British Columbia’s 1.9 million properties, landcor.com provides up-to-the-minute valuations on everything from a Vancouver condominium to a ranch in the Kootenays.
MORTGAGE COMPARISON TOOLS
The mortgage on your rental property is its single biggest expense, so getting the best possible rate is critical to your bottom line. Use the tools below to shop around and to compare what’s being offered by a multitude of lenders. Knowledge is power, so knowing the mortgage landscape will help you decide whether to sign on the dotted line or walk away from a lender offering uncompetitive rates.
- ratehub.ca will allow you to compare just about any kind of rate you are interested in – mortgage rates, credit-card rates, GIC rates or USD rates – with the click of your mouse.
- ratespy.com utilizes a network of assets to monitor virtually every Canadian lender that publicly advertises mortgage rates. That includes 345+ banks, credit unions, trust companies, insurance companies, wholesale lenders and online brokers.
RENTAL RATE COMPARISON TOOLS
Rental income IS your business. Price your rents too high, and you might find your unit vacant. Price them too low, and you will leave cash on the table. As a real estate investor, you need to be an expert on rental rates in your area. In addition to commonly used sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji that allow you browse rental listings, the following site helps you easily compare your rent to other areas:
- rentometer.com: Paying too much for rent? Charging too little? Rentometer is the easy way to compare your rent to other neighbourhoods.
LANDLORD SUPPORT SITES
- ltb.gov.on.ca. Understanding your rights and obligations as a landlord is extremely important from a legal perspective. Every province is different, so be sure you find the landlord tenant board in your particular province. This link is for the Ontario site.
- Don’t know how to write a letter to your tenant to complain about excess noise, garbage, or late rent? This site has lots of free documents, forms and templates and also includes a lease builder that is customizable for your province. www.ezlandlordforms.com/documents/free-landlord-forms/
- landlordselfhelp.com provides information, advice and referrals on a variety of topics related to residential rental relationships in Ontario. It’s geared toward the needs of small-scale landlords. (Note from Julie – In BC, we’re members of https://www.landlordbc.ca/. They are an excellent service and also have all the documents you need for every step in the process working with your tenants).
FINDING THE PERFECT PROPERTY
There are lots of great resources out there to help you find the ideal property or agent.
- realtor.ca will help you find residential real estate for sale or rent by agents anywhere in Canada, while www.icx.ca is a listing and search site that features commercial and business properties for sale across the country.
- rew.ca (Real Estate Weekly) has a variety of interactive maps showing open houses and houses for sale in the Vancouver and the lower mainland areas. This site also has an information-rich news section.
- zoocasa.com offers an agent matching service and an extensive listing database for residential listings across Canada.
- theredpin.com specializes in home, condos and townhouses for sale in the Greater Toronto Area.
This is where the black hole always gets me – in the blogosphere. There are just so many great, smart people to follow that it’s hard to know where to start (or my case, where to stop). I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel by creating my own list, so instead I am including a link to a list compiled by Toronto realtor Jamie Sarner. He’s done a really thorough job of ranking the 50 best real estate blogs in Canada in 2014. It is very comprehensive and includes a good representation of blogs/websites from across the country.
As good as Jamie’s list is, a couple of my favourite go-to sites slipped past him and were not included:
- RevNyou.com: I love this site for so many reasons. First of all, it has a TON of up-to-date, relevant information on a huge range of real estate issues. Whether you want to find how to find (or break up) with a joint venture partner, get started in Rent To Owns, write better rental ads, or become an area expert, RevNYou.com has it all (and everything in between, too!) by way of articles and video posts.
- mrhamilton.ca: The realtor behind the successful Mr. Hamilton brand, Erwin Szeto, rocks. He is crazy smart and has a great blog in which he posts regular articles about the state of the real estate market in Southern Ontario.
- biggerpockets.com is a social network for the real estate investing community. Here you can learn about real estate investment, get free tips & education, make deals, and grow your real estate business.
- therealestaterenegades.com or www.rockstarinnercircle/blog: The motto of these Oakville brothers, Tom and Nick Karadza is “Your Life. Your Terms.” They have an excellent site full of relevant articles as well as vlog posts.
REAL ESTATE NEWS
It’s always important to stay current with the most up-to-date real estate news, and these sites will help you do that. Many offer an online sign-up that will deliver daily news highlights straight to your mailbox. That’s what I do, and it makes me feel like I always have my finger on the pulse of the latest real estate news.
- repmag.ca (Real Estate Professional)
- renx.ca (Real Estate News Exchange)
COOL WEBSITES FOR REAL ESTATE INVESTORS
There are zillions of cool sites, and I couldn’t possibly list them all. What I will do, though, is regularly include cool sites that I discover through my newsletters (so be sure to subscribe at Invest In Student Rentals). Here are a few great ones to start with:
- Need a survey for your home? No need to leave your house to get one. www.Protectyourboundaries.ca
- Virtual staging for your property. Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of renting expensive furniture, you can have furniture digitally added to your online photos. So, even though the house remains physically empty, the online photos show your house with its best foot forward.
- walkscore.com. Is an awesome, useful site which could also easily have found its home in the “due diligence” or “rent comparison” section. A home’s “walk score” gives a great indication of how walkable (read: desirable) the property is to local amenities, attractions and transit.
- The best networking site by far in my opinion is meetup.com. On this site you can find any type of group under the sun. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for other real estate investors or palm readers. You can find these and any other hobby or interest group you can think of.
UP-AND-COMING REAL ESTATE INVESTING SITES TO WATCH FOR
There are lots of new sites out there, and below are some of my faves. Yes, the last site on the list is my own site, www.InvestInStudentRentals.com. Be sure to join my online community, as I will be offering regular articles and video blogs to keep my subscribers up-to-date and informed.
I hope this list proves to be useful to you! My goal is to save you from being sucked in by the Internet whenever you’re seeking important and relevant information for your business.
If I’ve forgotten a site that you find particularly useful for your real estate business, please leave a comment on my website at: http://investinstudentrentals.com/contact-us/ and we’ll take a look at adding it to this list or I’ll publish it in one of my upcoming newsletters.
Gillian Irving likes to say she was an “accidental investor”, when buying a duplex in downtown Toronto in 2009 with little planning or preparation. Luck was on her side though, and she was able to ride the value up and refinance to get capital to keep growing. At that point, she wasn’t going rely on luck and an “H&P” (hope & pray) strategy if she wanted to leave her job and provide long-term financial security for her disabled son and three other children. Gillian became a serious student of real estate investing and combined what she learned with her professional skills as a market research analyst to purchase 35 doors in Southern Ontario in 18 months. Today, Gillian is a full time investor and entrepreneur, focused on student rental investing with joint venture partners. She’s also going to be opening up a fabulous Sky Zone Trampoline Park in the Toronto area in 2015.
Image Credit: © Piksel | Dreamstime.com - Woman Pointing At Blank Sign Photo