Women In Real Estate: Interview with a Successful Home Renovator and Investor
Megan of the Copper and Gold Project is one of my favorite gals to follow on Instagram! She’s multi passionate, juggling both her full time job of coordinating a University athletic program with her part time job serving at night. All the while she is renovating an incredible historical duplex herself while learning to navigate being a landlord. Her stories are super helpful and inspire lots of young folks to build their confidence, take a leap and get started on the property ladder.
@MackofallTradesNY: I’m curious as to how you got your start on this project? Were you always interested in older homes?
@CopperandGoldProject: So up until this point I always rented. I never really expected to own a home. To be honest, I was sitting on a lot of debt from school and just didn’t think it was a possibility. One day my mom and I attended a real estate investment conference randomly. She took a lot of interest because of the possibility of retirement options and at the time she didn’t really have a retirement plan. So we committed to go to the next conference together to learn more. That was where we learned a lot about creative financial leveraging. It really taught us how to invest in real estate that brings in multiple income streams, like triplexes and duplexes.
When we sat down with the conference coaches it was kind of a surprise. At that point I had never applied for financing so after going over my numbers they said, “You’ll be just fine!” But it wasn’t the pre-approval that was really a problem for me; it was not having enough money required to start. The problem was the downpayment.
So my parents took out a line of credit on the equity of their home and lent it to me with interest and a payment plan. That really helped me on top of the money I had already saved up. I had a goal to look for something with more than two doors and I was really hoping for a triplex but there weren’t very many options on the market at that time.
But when I found this house, I fell in love with it. It was out of my original price range but it just checked off all the boxes! I also wasn’t expecting to really go for an older home but I adored the character. I grew up in Petrolia, which is a small Victorian town in Ontario with an abundance of century old character homes. My dad wanted me to buy a turnkey property so that we wouldn’t have to do too much work to it. But I wanted one where I could put in some sweat equity to make the most of this jump as I could.
When I found it, it was fully tenanted. In order for me to put a smaller down payment on the house, I HAD to live in it. Therefore we wrote it in one of the conditions that the seller had to evict one of the tenants. The lower unit was my favourite unit but it brought in more rent so to evict them just didn’t make sense. So ultimately I made the right “investor” decision to live in the smaller unit while renovating it to make it worth more when I decide to move out and rent it. I’m so glad I did because now I’ve fallen in love with this unit!
After they were evicted, she moved out and I moved in. I absorbed the tenants and fortunately for me, they are fantastic. They are paying well below market value rent and I could probably charge near double. But they are fantastic, which is hard to find. So I will leave it until they decide to leave. After they leave I will get into their unit to do minor updates and then I’ll flip that to rent.
@MackofAllTradesNY: What do you hope to get out of this project? What is your goal?
@CopperandGoldProject: I think my ultimate goal is to now renovate this space and whenever I feel like I can, I probably will move out and fully rent this house. And I imagine at that point I will be able to pull some of the equity out of this house to use as a down payment on the next property. And I’ll just keep cycling like that. It kind of scares me though! It’s all about math and aligning the right things.
I’ll say this too. It can be a big undertaking. First the renovation of the property but then the responsibility of the investment and for other people and their quality of living. It has been super helpful to inherit good tenants and it is super important to get tenants into a unit. For me it was the only way to buy a house. I think many people don’t really understand the benefit of having rental potential in their home. They can help you buy a house, which not only provides additional income for your monthly mortgage payment but that guaranteed income is also used to help you when you are getting your mortgage approval. I think that is very hidden knowledge. Unless you’re really in it, you don’t understand the inner workings and all benefits.
@MackofAllTradesNY: Do you have an asset protection plan?
@CopperandGoldProject: It came up in the conference. But I have not incorporated. I’m not sure what the process would look like. Fortunately, my tenants are fantastic. They’re real people and I feel that if there was any issue required to work out, we would work it out on our own.
@MackofAllTradesNY: Did you have any friends who you talked to about doing the same thing?
@CopperandGoldProject: I did and one did consider it. But ultimately they decided that they wanted their own space. That is something I look forward to in the future. Because I work late at the bar I feel bad sometimes. Like I’ll come home wide awake and want to work on projects so I’ll tiptoe around late at night. I try to be quiet. I’ll probably get one more building where I live in it along with the tenants. After that though, I’d love to have my own space.
@MackofAllTradesNY: Do you have any other mentors, besides your parents, that you have relied on to consult or help with this project? If so, how, when did you meet them and how have they helped out?
@CopperandGoldProject: One of my best friend’s mom is a real estate agent near Toronto and is a real estate investor herself. When I was first looking, I reached out to her. I wanted to get her real estate prospective and she is the one that set me up with my agent. She also gave me her investment perspective. She was very helpful throughout the process so if I ever needed to reach out for something, she would definitely be my go to.
Even though my parents aren’t able to speak to the real estate investment piece, they really are my mentors when it comes to renovations. They renovated every house that we lived in while growing up and are a wealth of knowledge! My dad has been a HUGE help for me with my renovations. It’s funny how the roles switch now though. Now my mom will message me for design questions to get my opinion. So the roles have kind of flipped, which is fun.
@MackofAllTradesNY: What is the biggest challenge you've faced to date on this project? How did you overcome it?
@CopperandGoldProject: Finances. I have always been comfortable with debt, probably too comfortable! For me it was a big hurdle but I just had to grind it out. I moved home for a year to bust my butt and save enough money to pay off my visas. It felt so gratifying. But then you realize you have to spend 30k on renovations? Sporadic things that have probably been the biggest stressor and the biggest life lessons for me.
I definitely have changed the way I spend money now though. Like I don’t get my nails done as often and I don’t shop for clothes really. I learned to be more frugal and just spend it in different ways. I’m now getting much better at understanding what costs what in terms of renovation materials and then how to properly budget and save for it. It’s really helped me to figure out what is a priority. For example, I wanted to gut my kitchen in the beginning but when I ran the numbers, It was just too much. I quickly realized that I didn’t have to do that. So I learned that lesson and made those updates, doing it all for under a $1000.
@MackofAllTradesNY: Looking back are there anything you would do differently?
@CopperandGoldProject: My dad would say that he wishes I bought a turnkey because he wouldn’t have had to do so much work for me; but I wouldn’t change that! I’ve loved getting my hands dirty and learning lots of things throughout the process. I’ve been quite happy with how it’s turning out so far
@MackofAllTradesNY: Have you experienced any sexism along the way with any contractors or vendors? How did you deal with it?
@CopperandGoldProject: Hands down. The best example is my front window last summer. There was this brick decaling that was pulling away from the house. I thought it might be structural so I felt like I had to get a brick mason in to fix it.
The one I was most interested in meeting was a heritage brick mason. This is perfect! I thought. It needs that kind of a person. Well he came by, saw what needed to be done and ended up quoting me over $1000. He said that it was going to be a complicated project and that it would take almost three full days. I needed to move forward with it but I figured I needed him to give me a day to think about it.
The next day I was complaining to my coworkers about how expensive it was going to be and one of them said, “Do you want the name of my brick mason?” When he came by he looked at it and said, “I can get this done in a day toss me 250 dollars and we should be good.” The other brick mason was trying to charge me 4 fold! This guy probably didn’t want to do a small project. He probably thought yeah, a single woman, she’s young, maybe he could take advantage? And it was true, cause I didn't know any different so I almost did pay that!
I mean after that I’ve done everything pretty much on my own so I haven’t run into that issue too much. It’s an eyeopener when you do your research. References and recommendations are huge, and they are a saving grace when I do eventually get to that point where I need someone else to help me.
I do have a couple of family members who are in construction. My uncle is a contractor and my dad does some work with him now that he’s retired. Anytime I have questions I always shoot him a message. He’s a great resource.
It’s bad that it is even a possible issue. I will say, however, that I’ve been happy to share my experiences so other people can learn from them. I get a lot of feedback, comments, and messages from people telling me that I am inspiring them to do things on their own; especially young women! I love showing that younger women can get their hands dirty and do things on their own! I think I’m showing them it’s possible.
@MackofAllTradesNY: So you seem to have a growing following on Instagram? Why did you start the feed? Was it ever challenging putting yourself out there?
@CopperandGoldProject: I started my Copper & Gold Project page to separate my content from my personal page so that my friends didn’t get annoyed. I think of social media as a creative platform to document and to look back. As time went on though, I’ve started to listen to what my followers want to see from me and navigate my page in that direction. It has really changed the way I manage that account and what I deliver on it.
I’m not a shy person. Being behind a camera doesn’t bother me. Maybe that just comes with time. I mean I’m also a fitness instructor so it doesn't bother me being in front of people.
When I first started I used to film myself like 10 times before actually posting it. But now, I strive to be as real and genuine as possible. Social media is so fake; people are craving authenticity. People are looking for something real that they can relate to. Show the things you made mistakes on. Leave the mess in the corner! That’s okay, don’t clean it up. I try not to spend too much focus on “building” my following, rather I just focus on putting out good content for those who are following and the rest will come!
@MackofAllTradesNY: How do you juggle all your passions and still have time for your reno?
@CopperandGoldProject: Time management. I’ve always been really busy. I think it's routine now. Calendars are godsends. So are support systems. My friends know that I am busy. We might not see each other very frequently, but we make the most out of time we have together. It also helps that I am single. Not saying that having a significant other isn’t good or that someone can’t balance all of this with a partner, but it helps being able to control all of my time without being concerned about someone else too. Also, my job is flexible. I’m blessed that my day job allows me to flex my overtime hours to be able to take random days off to do projects.
@MackofAllTradesNY: What are your favorite materials to use?
@CopperandGoldProject: Aside from copper and gold?? Those are obviously my favourite! Other than that, I love plants. I love green and how much it pops against colors and different textures. I always incorporate a couple of real plants in each room, and then after that, fake ones. I also love old metals, although I don’t have too much of that in my house yet. Maybe I’ll incorporate more of them when I get to the rest of the kitchen reno. I made it a goal of mine this year to take on one DIY welding project so that will come into play soon!
@MackofAllTradesNY: Do you have any design tips for beginners?
@CopperandGoldProject: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do research. There are so many tutorials and blogs and different content out there for you to learn from. If you want to tackle a project, you are bound to find something on youtube to teach you how. People shy away from just trying. So I think you just need to jump in feet first!
I also think lots of people have the ability to pick out specific items but don’t really have the ability to put together. You learn this over time. Start with bigger pieces when you start to design the room. Find the rug first or maybe it's a couch that you love and want to build a room around. But the biggest pieces need to be your first focus. The little ones have more options to pick from and it’s easier to fill in gaps. Design is an art, and everybody’s perspective of art is different. There are tons of design rules. They tell you to never mix this and this. But if you like it, mix it. Who cares? Design is meant for you! Some of the stuff I have seen is so beautiful but so random, you never would have thought that it works, but it did! Have fun playing around with it.
@MackofAllTradesNY: What is your design aesthetic?
@CopperandGoldProject: Hmmmm… good question…Moody for sure! I love dark rich colors, emerald greens, and of course I’m obsessed with copper and gold. I love mixing rich colours and textures, vintage/antique items and mid-century modern flare. So I suppose if you were to label it, I would guess my style is moody mid-century modern.
@MackofAllTradesNY: What is the project you are most excited about for #2020theyearofcreating?
@CopperandGoldProject: Finishing my kitchen. I’m super excited to do that because I haven’t cooked in it for like 6 months. I’m also excited to be redoing the roof. I have this beautiful metal roof on the main part of the house but the carport and the sheds have this old asphalt leaky roof. I’ve never roofed before, so I’m excited to learn something new. I figure I’ll have a couple of my football buddies to come up and help carry stuff. I’ll pay them with beer and pizza. I’m really looking forward to it! I always look forward to tackling something new.
Well there you have it folks, Megan is awesome. Her spunk, her willingness to try new stuff and learn along the way. It’s super inspiring and if you don’t already follow her @copperandgoldproject, I highly recommend you do. Thanks Megan for being willing to share your story with us!