Understanding The Intricacies of Secondary Suite Conversions


Sarah Larbi: REITE club nation, welcome back to another awesome episode this week. We've got a great guest. But before we get into that, I am here today. I'm Sarah Larbi and I'm here today with Laurel Simmons, my wonderful co-host, So today's guest is Ronald De Coteau from Property Pathways, and we really dig deep into how to convert a single family to duplex and some of the things to look for when it comes to zoning and flood zones and, lighting and just all the things that you wanna know as an investor if that's gonna be your strategy.

If you wanna create a basement unit. Ronald is a great member to have on your team because I'll tell you, there's so many intricacies, there's so many things that can go wrong, and you definitely wanna have that expert to be able to do the drawings, go to the city, do the, all that stuff on your behalf for the fraction of the cost.

It's gonna cost you to make those mistakes. So I recommend it. I recommend it to anybody that will ask me, if you're converting something and it's your first one, especially if you're just starting out, find somebody to help you that knows how to do it. That's done many of them.

Laurel Simmons: I guess the bottom line is why would you do it yourself and at any time, even if you're not an expert in that field there, you could make so many mistakes and that will end up costing you time, money, and energy and who needs that, right? That's false savings if you do it yourself.

Sarah Larbi: Absolutely. But I will say this podcast has really good insights regardless, right? Because even if you may not do it yourself, it's still important to look at a property and do some of the basic stuff and know some of the basic things to even know if something is gonna work or not work, right?

When you're going to view properties with your realtor and you can tell right away because of a certain set of initial criteria that it might, may work or may not work, it's gonna save you a ton of time and headache if that's gonna be your strategy. So it is important that you know the basics regardless.

Then hire somebody. My advice to you guys, hire somebody to do the drawings and work with the city for the permitting and all that back and forth, but know the basics at least because that way you'll know if something, something makes sense.

Laurel Simmons: I agree. You have to have, as Ronald will talk about in our interview, that you gotta speak the same language, so you have to have a basic understanding of what you're getting into. So that you can actually ask intelligent questions and make some decisions. If you don't know anything, it's hard to really make the right decision, isn't it?

Sarah Larbi: Absolutely. So a really awesome podcast. Laurel, what'd you say? Shall we play the podcast?

Laurel Simmons: Let's go for it.

Sarah Larbi: All right, Ronald, welcome to the show. How are you?

Ronald De Coteau: I'm doing great. Fantastic. Enjoying the muggy skies, and the cooler weather coming in. Pretty awesome.

Sarah Larbi: My heart breaks when the summer is gone. It's so sad. But so we reconnected recently when we were doing a property tour up in Peterborough, and you just amaze me by how much you know about the city and permitting and drawings and guys, anybody that's listening to this, If you need help with how to duplex or triplex or convert something, Ronald is a great resource. But before we get into that, Ronald, give us a little bit of background of how you got started in doing what you're doing, but also in real estate, investing in general.

Ronald De Coteau: Wow. Yeah that's actually quite, this was quite an interesting journey for me. I actually started becoming interested in real estate investing back in I would say 2010. Really it took me a long time to really get started and actually, Purchase my first property. But once I did purchase my first property from then on I really started to connect more, coming out to groups like the REITE Club, that time it was called sori. Yeah, Sori.

Used to come out. Yeah, that's right. Used to come out there, used to meet with a lot of people. Interesting people learning quite a bit. And then what happened is, I purchased a property and while I understand I had my full-time job, I used to work in the corporate sector. I was a project manager in real estate for one of, for a bank, working with a bank.
I used to come out to these real estate meetings, meeting interesting people. But when I decided to actually get into real estate investing on my own, I realized that there wasn't really a lot of people that knew about secondary suites. Now I know why, because secondary suites back in 2014, 15 was really a new idea.

Really, right? So they had now passed these policies and put these policies in place. So with that said, I really took it upon myself to come to use my experience in education and in architecture and construction management to really just become an expert subject matter expert so that I can help others go through this process. And to some degree I think I have succeeded at that.

Laurel Simmons: I think you're right in terms of and 2014, that's not that long ago, but when you're talking about secondary suites, like back in the day, I'm aging myself a little bit, but we talk about, granny suites or in-law suites or that kind of thing.

I think the whole concept of secondary suites has really taken off because first of all, Zoning has changed, right? Cities now understand that there's no more space you can't build out and continue to gobble up our green space and our parks and all the rest of it. We need to intensify.
The structures we already have, and that's a great way to do it right? Through our secondary suites, because I can't think of how many people who have these huge homes or empty nesters, for example, right? They're sitting in a four bedroom home with a fully finished basement. We'll look at it right?

Ronald De Coteau: You know what, that's actually a really interesting point you brought up there. And in fact I find that to be, and I'm mirroring the thoughts of a lot of the policy makers here on this. But yeah, creating secondary suites is absolutely the most sustainable and cost effective way to identify any community, right?

If you're looking at building a high rise, imagine how much greenhouse gasses, how much effort and energy and expenses needs to go into that. Whereas if you look at an existing community, if you just add a second apartment to every house, you're doubling the capacity. Now, of course, that has to be said with a grain of salt, because if you double the capacity of any community, you're talking about a little burden on the infrastructure, right?

Like sewage, gas, water, roads, schools. So that stuff is really important and that's why the zoning is set up right now, and that's the province that has given municipalities the ability, they said they mandated that they must have policies that would allow secondary suites, but the municipalities now have going ahead and prepared and published these policies that would allow secondary suites.

They can't do it in every area. That's why you'll notice in some areas it is, they'll say you can't really install one here because. If they double the capacity everywhere, then basically there won't be enough schools for people to learn. There won't be enough water pressure to service all these properties and stuff like that, yeah, it's really important. The secondary suite, everything that goes into it is really important and, This is a part of the role that I play. I'm one of the gatekeepers if you wanna say.

Making sure people are doing this thing right and for, from an investment standpoint for an investor, making sure that they're selecting the right properties that can actually be converted. Because the last thing that you want is to purchase a property. And then you got all these goals and dreams to go convert this thing and start getting cash flow out of it. Only to find out that wow parking requirements don't match up with what is required. So that can be a real heartbreak. A lot of investors, right?

Sarah Larbi: Absolutely. That can make or break your whole investment and your strategy and unfortunately, you gotta do your due diligence ahead of time. So just to get a scope of your experience, how many secondary suites or conversions have you done and roughly can you just share like the area that you do coverage in?

Ronald De Coteau: I would say, in the past, like I say four to five years, we have completed over easily over about 150 designs like secondary suite design. So this is really, so I, myself I run an operator construction. And design company, construction management and design company. And basically I'm A, B, C in designer myself, so I basically understand all the parameters. So basically we have done over a hundred, 150 secondary suite conversions, and we have done it from, in every municipality.

I like to say basically we have no geographic sensitivity because the truth is when we are working with clients, they, especially investment clients, they're special clients, right? Because they aren't basically purchased in a house one time and then next five years they're calling us back.
These are people who are running businesses and they're buying properties on a frequent basis. And sometimes they may not only, like for example, they may not only purchase a property in Hamilton. They may purchase one in Hamilton. January and then in July. They're looking at a property that they're getting the best returns out of in Barrie.

Sarah Larbi: There is a radius though, right? Like it's what, two hours radius, within Toronto as an example? I don't think you wanna necessarily get sent over to Thunder Bay, or maybe you do. I don't know.

Ronald De Coteau: Maybe that's actually a really good point actually. So yeah, I would say about an hour and a half to tour radius in GTA . So really we cover if you're looking we cover the Waterloo region, we cover the Halton region, Niagara region. We cover the Gjoa region.

Sarah Larbi: Okay, cool. And I will add that every municipality and one of the things that I've learned over the years have different requirements and it's just so different even from One town and you go to the next, like literally the next town over, the next city over, and it's just a different set of requirements.

So walk us through as an investor, maybe somebody that wants to get into conversions, because that sometimes makes the most sense, right? Depending on where you are and what property you're doing. So what are some things that they should be aware of before they go ahead and buy that piece of property? So let's just say they're going out to view a property. Walk us through some of that.

Ronald De Coteau: I'm glad you asked because yeah, this is some of the things that actually I basically consult clients every day on these very same items. From a punch list or bullet point standpoint?

I'll say the first thing you wanna look at is obviously the zoning, because not all municipalities will allow for the conversion or the BRRRR with conversions, I guess you can call it that, right? Bur with conversion or in some re in some areas, right? So you have to first determine, okay, is the zoning actually.

Does zoning allow for that type of conversion? The second major, really important piece is parking. Some municipalities will allow for parking to be in tandem, right? Meaning one behind the other. Others, they will, they'll actually require that you have the parking in bay parking format, meaning they're 90 degree one beside each other, right?

That's really important. Now, there's also a nuance there when you look at, in some municipalities they have different, if you wanna say definitions, For these things, right? So Laurel you earlier mentioned like a granny flat or something like that, right? So there's like granny flats, there's garden suites, there's secondary suites, there's accessory units, there's duplex, like all these different things.

Sarah Larbi: Coach houses, glasses now as well, and tiny homes.

Ronald De Coteau: And tiny homes, right? Laneway houses and all these other things. They're trying to create affordable housing for anyone, right? So yeah. So this is something that you also need to become familiar with, what is actually allowed in the various zones, and how does parking relate, like to coordinate or co collaborate with that.

Another really important thing that you need to look for is and you won't necessarily find this in the zoning, right? So that's, this is more on a conservation side. You really need to look and see whether or not the property or the plot of land is located near a high flood plain, right? If a if your property or plot of land is located near a high flood floodplain, what happens is that you more than likely will not be able to place a secondary unit on that property without a permission from the conservation authorities.

This floodplain is like mapping people, right? They basically will determine whether or not the risk is too high or too low. But as a general rule of time, if your property is located in, within a floodplain, like you just stay away from it because it'll just add an extra couple months. Who knows? Maybe you'll never get converted.

Laurel Simmons: As I recall from some of my studies, it's like a hundred year floodplain, right? So people will say there hasn't been a flood here in 20 or 30 years. Too bad. So sad. A hundred years ago there was a flood and there was one then there's nothing to say that there can't be one tomorrow.

Ronald De Coteau: Laurel, that's a really interesting point to bring up. This is tapping back into some of my past experiences: the hundred year floodplain that is really the hundred year flood that they're talking about.
When cities are designing their infrastructure, like for drainage, water runoff and stuff, that's what they look at. They look at the last hundred years, they look forward, do the hundred years from now look like? And they try to design for that. Now, if you purchase a property that is within a floodplain.

Sometimes it doesn't mean that area floods, it just means that area has a higher risk of flooding if we experience that hundred year flood that they designed the infrastructure based on. So that's really interesting and something that you need to make note of when you are looking at the secondary unit.

Sarah Larbi: Before you go on to the next thing, where can somebody go to find if their property that they're looking at isn't a flood zone?

Ronald De Coteau: Oh man, you're asking me. This is what I got paid for. Okay. Fine only for the REITE club. Okay. So really honestly, Google is your friend, right? That's probably one of the things I really excelled at. I'm a research fanatic. If I need to find something, I'll find it. There's nothing that can be hidden. In fact, I actually, when I used to work in my 905, I actually researched so deeply into a company that I found such information that during the interview the guy was like, how do you know this stuff?

Like how, there's no way you could notice. I was like, yeah, I got insiders. But really Google is my insider. And if feel, if you search long and hard enough, you'll find all the information you need. So what I typically do is really simple is just floodplain in welling, flood plain in Cambridge, flood plain, and they have a lot of interactive maps now, sometimes they're a little bit tricky to use, but honestly you can give me an address. I know within five minutes I can get you all the information you need to know if you need to buy that property or not. All the information is really online. You just need somewhat of an expert lens to just view with the information.

Laurel Simmons: I bet that would be it just occurred to me that would be really cool, just you could look up your own address and see where you are. Like, forget about the conversion, just see your own address. Where you live. And then, and all of a sudden I'm thinking, okay, that has implications for insurance and all kinds of things.

Maybe if you're not in a hundred in a floodplain, you can go back to your insurance and say, Hey, I noticed that, there's this little writer about floods and I'm not in the floodplain, so what's going on? And exactly. Let's negotiate. Everything's negotiable, right? But if you have the information and you've got the facts behind you, then hey, who knows what can happen?

Ronald De Coteau: Wow. I never actually thought of it in that way, but yeah. Maybe you can save some insurance money.

Laurel Simmons: I want my commission.

Ronald De Coteau: You want the commission. That's a good point.

Sarah Larbi: You know what you're likely not gonna be able to finish the basement and finish it nicely. Like I know a lot of my properties in Branford are in Eagle Place and there's lots, and Ronald, you probably know this, but there's like flood zones in the majority of that area. So they're great for burring singles. They're not great for burring, into conversions.

Ronald De Coteau: That is so risky. A lot of people don't even know how risky floodplains are, but I guarantee you, you do not wanna purchase a property in a flood zone because even if you are allowed to put a prop a basement apartment in there, or secondary suite, whatever you choose to call it you would have to do, if they allow you, it'll come with a lot of recommendations, which would probably be waterproofing the entire thing and making this which river, which would probably bump your renovation budget from 120 to maybe a hundred to 80, 90. Who knows?

Sarah Larbi: It might not even be allowed regardless. So just to go back though, like if it isn't a floodplain and you can BRRRR a property without converting it, that could still work, but just fine. And you can't possibly duplex it, right? Or at a secondary suite.

Ronald De Coteau: Now you have a second exit. That's right.

Sarah Larbi: Exactly. So after you, do the flood zone and the checking and everything like that. What's the next thing that you would recommend somebody do?

Ronald De Coteau: The next thing is that they signed up with me.

Sarah Larbi: You know what, in all I know, we're just joking, but I'll tell you what, as an investor, I don't wanna work. In that part of my business, I would rather delegate it out to somebody that knows the city, knows the rules, and can do it a lot more efficiently than I could.

To be honest, like the city, some of the cities are so slow and horrible to deal with. I would rather just hire somebody to take care of that piece and work on the overall business. So a hundred percent if somebody is doing conversion, And it's your first conversion or your second conversion, or you're still, just hire the experts that have done hundreds of them so that they can help guide you, do it for you, do the drawings, get the drawings approved and walk you through each step because you're helping them throughout the whole process of the conversion as well. But keep going. I know you were just joking but it's really important. To hire the experts for this kind of stuff.

Ronald De Coteau: That's great advice.

Sarah Larbi: I wanna add something in there. Like in the summer we actually were considering converting a basement to a secondary suite. And we were just considering, like at the very beginning of the process and we brought somebody in who actually has something, has a lot of experience.

Out that conversation came, it's like, Oh, I don't think so. Just because there were things we hadn't even thought of. Okay, parking is an issue. So you're gonna have to have an exit out here. And that means, oh, guess what? The fire, the gas fireplace has to be totally rerouted.
 The fireplace is gonna come, or the parking lot's gonna come on Exactly where. The patio is, and all of a sudden you're into not just thousands of dollars, but tens of thousands of dollars to make it work.

Ronald De Coteau: Absolutely. That's a really interesting point you're making there because. In fact, I will add to what it is. Sarah mentioned earlier on about working with the experts. Now not every expert is cut from the same cloth because, you, I have actually been hired to redo drawings completed by registered. Architects and so forth.

It's not because they're not good at what they do, but they're simply not an expert in this particular area. If you ask me to design a 50 story building that product, you'll probably be hiring the wrong person, but you ask me to do a secondary suite, there is really nothing that I don't know about that in most municipalities are intra Ontario or wouldn't be able to find out and be able to execute on that in an efficient manner.

You really need to have the right experts on your team. So that's super important. Going back to, to, to this bullet point list, I would say this is also another thing and now this is all zoning items we're talking about, but we haven't even touched on the building code side of things, right guys?

I don't know if you're gonna have the time to go through it, but just on the zoning side of things, we, the, this is something that is always, that's never really mentioned, but is something that is really important and it's gonna sneak by, and this is called the, like heritage Committee, heritage Buildings.

The last thing you wanna do is purchase a building that has heritage. Like it's listed or designated man, like that would be the worst case for you because then as the whole community's fighting against you.

Laurel Simmons: I've seen where we live in Niagara and the lake. There's a lot of heritage. Oh yeah and every time I walk, like in the old town and I see the plaque, the special plaque, and I know owners are so proud of this, and I look at that and I go, Oh my God. Oh this has probably cost you how much money and what you cannot do because you have this That's I do. Little plaque why did you do that?

Ronald De Coteau: This is actually a big deal and what happens is and I always do this just in case, and I'll tell you what, I do all this search. So someone will just call me. They will not pay me a dollar, although I do have a paid service as well.
They will just call me or just send me an address and I will say, you know what? I will go through all the due diligence simply because I. Oftentimes this business is calling me because they want me to design this property, and deliver on approved drawings for a secondary unit. Now, if I am unable to do that or make a poor suggestion or recommendation, then I do find myself responsible, right?

I just think like I need to put, do all the due diligence possible. So I do all this stuff. I look all this up. So yes, I do look to see if the building is designated or if it is in a designated area. Like sometimes a neighborhood could be designated, so that's really important.

Sarah Larbi: Look at downtown Oakville. I feel like that whole area that's walkable to downtown is all designated.

Ronald De Coteau: Mind you like, so I'll tell you, I have a caveat here because I would say even though a business, a building might be designated or even listed there's a difference there. It doesn't mean that you wouldn't be able to add a secondary unit. You'll just have a few more hurdles to jump, because you gotta go through the Heritage Committee, get their approval and so forth, and you won't be able to do anything on the exterior, like adding a deck or removing some sort of tree that's been sitting there for a hundred years or some sort of, something like that.

Sarah Larbi: And if you do that, you've got to do it a certain way, right?

Ronald De Coteau: Meant in this style. Yes.

Sarah Larbi: I have a question because you talked about listed and designated and I was doing some research at one point on the difference between that. Okay. And I don't wanna spend a whole lot of time, but I think it's still interesting because there are heritage listed and then there are heritage designated. And what's the difference?

Ronald De Coteau: Listed is when someone just inquires about a building. And brings it to the attention of the committee or the city and says this building looks like Georgie and or Victoria. I know it has some specific elements, like the veranda looks some sort of special way, and they're like, listen, we want to actually put in an application so that we can protect this. Now, a lot of times what happens is this happens with the neighbors or the community. They will go to the committee and say we need to stop this developer from demolishing this building.

What they will do is list the building, but there's still the process of verifying whether it actually meets the criteria to be a heritage building. And during that process is listed. But once that process has been verified, then it becomes a designated building and there's no way you can knock it down. Or modify it. Listing is just like neighbors doing it. Designating is really the city confirming it. I dunno if that makes sense.

Sarah Larbi: That's cool. So let's fast forward a little bit and just talk about the actual property itself. Let's just say it passed all the zoning, it passed the flood zone thing, the heritage thing, everything else. You look at a property, what are like, like maybe just a few key things to look for off the top of your head.

Ronald De Coteau: 30,000 foot view, headroom, clearance, major things. All right? So as soon as you walk down, if you have to bow your head to get down the last riser, that's a problem. That's something to be concerned with. Just quickly. It's supposed to be five feet, 11 inches. If you don't get that from the top of the tread. For the nosing of the tread to the headroom clearance of the stairs you're probably not, it's probably not gonna pass. The inspector's eyes as well.

Once you get down to this, once you get down to the bottom of the stairs, the next thing you wanna look at, just make sure, take a measuring tape. You wanna measure. Of course, this is a lot of measuring guys, but these are the key things you wanna look for, right? Headroom, clearance, as well as egress are part of egress.

You need to maintain six feet, five inches throughout underneath beams and ducks, right? Any bulkheads or anything like that, especially if it's in the part of egress, that's the direction you're gonna use to exit the building. You need to make sure that it's five feet, six inches. Now, with that said, in Hamilton, they give you a little break.

They just keep it at six feet, one inch. So that's a real plus, and that's really helpful for a lot of people in Hamel and Only that's the only municipality that does that. The next thing you wanna look at, and this is not necessarily it's a little more challenging for the untrained eye, but you need to have natural lighting and egress requirements.

Right now, one of the biggest misconceptions is if I were to ask you, do you need to put an egress window in the basement? And where does this window go? Most people will say, oh yeah, I was told we need to put an egress window in every bedroom. That's not the case.

In fact, in some properties you don't even need an egress window. So what the building code states is that if you have direct access to the exterior from the floor that has a bedroom, there's no need for an egress. However, in most basements, oftentimes the part egress leads to a stairs that is above grade and is not on the same floor as bedrooms.

You just need to include one egress window on the floor that has the bedrooms. And it doesn't need to be inside the bedrooms. It can be in the living room, kitchen, anywhere else, right? Oftentimes it just makes sense to put it inside the living room. So this is another important piece here, because living rooms require 5% natural lighting.

When I say 5%, 5% of the window, 5% of the window needs to represent 5% of the floor area. That's the glazed area of the window, right? So in the living room, oftentimes to achieve that 5%, you oftentimes need to cut a new window out, to ensure there's no one that I know. I've done a secondary suite that is not familiar with cutting basement windows out and adding new lentils and stuff like that.

That's really important. So that's one of the things that I think is that oftentimes gets overlooked because when you look at a property, sometimes it is just really difficult to achieve the natural light that you will need in bedrooms and living rooms and dining rooms. It's very difficult if or if around the property there's a deck.

If the property line is so close to the building wall it is so close to the property line that you wouldn't be able to put a window well there or something. So all these are factors that when I go into a property, I look at it holistically and I really try to assess whether or not. These things are going to make me look like a liar or not. And I hate to look like a liar, right? So I, when I say yes, I w I gotta be able to deliver on this stuff. And, there's another big thing that I think is really important to mention. So there's this. There's this big move to be lifting beams and docks and stuff like that.

Guys, this stuff is really interesting. I would say anyone can do it. I love doing it because why? It opens spaces up. You can remove columns and you have all this huge open concept in the basement. That's great. However, when you start moving ducks and beams, you get into, you open up a can of worms.

I don't know, start stoking the fire, business and yeah, it costs a lot more money, right? To achieve the end product, right? I would say yes, keep that in mind and also really important. You know when you start moving ducks or squash squished in ducks, you'll hear a lot about that, right?
Everyone is yeah, you can squish ducks. Just go slimline ducks like that is great. However, once you start. Modifying the existing duct system too much. The building department sometime will ask you for an HVAC design and a heat loss calculation because now you have basically re redesigned and the entire the existing layout, right?

That's really important to know. And I would say the next thing that's really important is the smoke detectors. Smoke detectors do not belong in kitchens. Like guys, just drop the tort. Like you do not need a smoke alarm inside a smoke alarm inside the kitchen. So in fact, if you do that, sometimes you run the risk of.

Having these interconnected smoke alarms throughout the properties, set off every time someone burns a toast, right? So that can become super annoying, right? So as the building crew, all we need to do is install smoke alarms inside of the bedrooms and the hallway leading two bedrooms as well as inside every floor.

Every level of a property. So I'll tell you why that's important, but I'll begin first by speaking about the smoke alarm. So the smoke alarms, we need to have two and one in each bedroom. A two and one represents. The audible alarm and the visual lights, that's a two in one.

The tree in one, just, we are just adding a carbon monoxide detector to that, right? So you have a tree in one in the hallway leading to bedrooms, or if you have a really open concept layout, you just need to put it close to the bedroom if there's no hallway leading to the bedrooms, right? And then we, of course, need to have one inside the furnace room, as I like to call it an in-line smoke detector, duct smoke detector.

We need to have one on the duct supply line, and that's, you need to have that in there, especially if not, especially since that furnace is serving both units, any furnace serving two units, you need to have a smoke detector mounted on there. It's a special device. That shuts off, if you will, to the unit and then cuts off wall power to the furnace. So with all that said, I can get into a whole lot more. There, there's just a lot more, and I love talking about this stuff.

Laurel Simmons: It also strikes me that, it briefly just touched on, but when you're moving things around and you've always gotta keep in mind structural design, right? You can get into massive changes and massive expenses. If you start fooling around with the load-bearing columns or beams or whatever it is, that's a lot of money.

Ronald De Coteau: It's costly. That's regular. It is costly. However, there's a cost efficient way to do things. So I will say this, that is never really my first solution. My first solution is always to design a wrong egress. So meaning, rather than having to lift a duct or a beam to create the headroom clearance is six foot five inch clearance that I'm, that we talked about early on. Rather than doing that I usually like to look at how we can move around that low headroom clearance.

Still create an efficient design and a good flow through the space, right? So I tried, and that's the most cost effective way to do it. Now, if that is not achievable, then I try to look at how, what's the least amount of area that I need to actually lift or modify structurally to accomplish that same end.

Laurel Simmons: Okay. Can I ask one? Okay. I just gotta ask this question. It's a burning question. A burning, burning question. I wanna know what is the most disastrous difficulty. Pull out your hair and everyone else's hair. Project within, like a few sentences that you've ever worked on, because I bet you've got more than one.

Ronald De Coteau: They're found a few between, but when they come, whoa. They come heavy, yeah. This is a problem. I usually like to call myself a problem solver. I think that's a huge part of what I do. I solve problems and anywhere I believe I can add value, that's where I try to, that's where I think I can be most effective.

With that said, when I somewhat sorted, started out in doing the construction management piece of things, I actually started to do a lot of takeovers. So there's a lot of projects that are going wrong throughout, like even in areas sometimes you would drive by a house and be like, whoa, that property has been under renovation for a year.

Like, how come it's not done as yet? Those are projects that when I started out taking on construction management projects I took on quite a bit of those and I'll say it is really difficult when you take on a project and someone has left it in shambles. Because now you gotta undo what they did, and then you gotta bring it back up to the standard that it needs to be.

To give you a specific example just recently, in fact I took over a project and worked on it, there was, it was just a finished job, right? It was just a matter of finishing the job. However, when the inspector came in on the final inspection on that day it was a project takeover. I finished a job, the inspector came and he said, oh, why did you guys close that wall up? I was like, what do you mean? Why did we close it up? It's the wall that was framed in. All we did was paint it and finish it. He said, no, that wall needs to come down. But not only that wall, the floor needs to come out, but not only the floor needs to come out.

We need to support that new, existing structure with LVLs. Dig a footing down, put a new post in. It's to remove HVAC work, remove electrical work. So what was supposed to be just like a $5,000 job turned out to be like a $30,000 gig. And it took like about three weeks. But again, I pride myself in really I will never leave a client hanging, even if I'm coming outta pocket.

Once I make a commitment. That's what I'm sticking to. Of course I'm not gonna be taken advantage of, but with that said, I gotta deliver on what it is I said I'm gonna deliver on. And with that said, I work with the best guys. I like to think in this field. And they also know what they're doing.
When we put our heads together, there's no solution that we cannot find. So with, and the building inspectors really appreciate when someone is working. On a project and they understand what they're working on. They're not just someone who's pushing tools around, but they understand all the logistics and the paperwork and what needs to be done from a legal standpoint, building a code standpoint, zoning standpoint. That's where I gain a lot of respect in the municipalities that I work in.

Sarah Larbi: That's a really important part, one of the things that I would just say is, Like the benefit of having somebody like you at the job is you're probably seeing a lot of the same inspectors anyways. You probably know them by name, you know what they're gonna look for. You know which ones are easier to work with. You can probably ask for a certain one over a certain other person. But, and there's so many things that we haven't even talked about and we only have about half an hour to go through this podcast, but we haven't talked about parking.

We haven't even talked about how some municipalities have a minimum and some have a maximum amount of square footage that you could do in a basement. So I will tell you, it is quite complex. For the little amount of costs, in my opinion, for the amount of headaches saved. And I think money and chaos.

Just hire this part out, hire this part out. Especially if you're starting out and you'll have somebody that does the drawing for you, brings it to the city, works with the cities, and gets it approved. And then, but I think you said something really important. You work with the inspectors, right? So they come, then you're actually able to have the same kind of conversation, the same language.

You know what they're looking for at each step. Because you don't just go to the city and you get. The permit, and then you're like, okay, cool. Unfortunately it's not that easy anymore. This is 2020. And of course they have to come at different stages and then they say, oh, this is good or this is not good.

Ronald De Coteau: That's right. What do you say there, Sarah is so true? I like to say, when someone hires me they hire me to do three things or to speak to three audiences, right? The first audience is of course, yourself, like I'm speaking to you, right? The second is the building department. And the third is the contractor, right?

I am the one that's really the central point that makes sure that all these conversations that nothing is getting missed or miscommunicated. Because especially when it comes to the contractor and the building inspectors some bills, some contractors will walk off the job because they're sick and tired of the inspectors because they don't speak the same language.

What I mean is that they don't speak about buildings. Cool. That's actually like a language. I speak that language, so you know, and the thing is when I say I show up on site, Especially like in areas that I work, and we spoke about this earlier, like in St. Catherine's where everyone is oh my gosh, it's like a very champed municipality.

I enjoy working there and I have built all the strongest relationships there. Because I've brought the most value and I've learned the respect of all the building inspectors, the plant examiners, and the front, that stuff. That's what it is you really wanna work with. And, say con, I always like to say contractors build or renovate properties, but relationships build cities.

That's something you wanna always make sure that who you are working with, they have strong relationships and ties. Not that will somehow allow you to maneuver wrong some of the requirements. No, that is not gonna happen. This is building construction. However, that will allow you to have conversations and have everyone come together and create solutions that may not necessarily seem to exist. It's important.

Sarah Larbi: Ronald, I think it's time for our lightning round. We could keep asking you questions. We're definitely gonna have to come, have you come back, whether it's a webinar with a REITE club or something else, just cause there's so much information that we could do and every single piece could be a whole hour conversation as well. It's just so valuable. So yeah, thank you for sharing all your insights. Are you ready for the lightning round though?

Ronald De Coteau: Okay, sure. Let's do it.

Sarah Larbi: Alright, here we go. Question number one, Ronald, what is the best advice that you have ever received from another investor or at a networking event?

Ronald De Coteau: The best advice that I've received was just do it. Just get, just go out and get the job done. If the worst thing that you can do is hold off on a decision to buy a property or hold off on a decision to do something that will help someone or even help yourself. So just do it. That's, that was one of the biggest pieces of advice I think I received. In fact, I received a right at the REITE club. In one of those networking events there.

Laurel Simmons: All right, so now question number two. What is your favorite resource for real estate investing now? Book training versus event what? Whatever. What's your favorite resource?

Ronald De Coteau: I would say networking events. My favorite resource would honestly be one of the first books that I read was Real Estate Investing in Canada. That's it's is a blue book. I don't even know what it is. Who actually wrote it, I can't recall. Anyway, but that was huge, it really helped me to understand all the aspects of investing. Who Likes all the pieces that I need to put together the financing and the getting the property, finding the property, putting the team together. That was really important. And you are very useful, but your real estate investing in Canada.

Sarah Larbi: All right, cool. Number three, what is the one attribute that has made you most successful?

Ronald De Coteau: Perseverance. Yeah I really just I'm a stick, I'm a stick to it kind of guy. I really have no quit in me. Maybe I shouldn't be saying that about myself, but I dunno how humble that is. But yeah I generally don't quit on something when I set my mind to something. Generally it's gonna come to pass. It will eventually come to pass and I really don't. I don't really care what anyone else is thinking or saying. I'm just gonna keep doing what I'm doing somehow, some way it's gonna work.

Laurel Simmons: That's really powerful. That's why you're successful.

Ronald De Coteau: On some level I've seen a lot of successful people. I'm getting there.

Laurel Simmons: All right. And question number four. So what do you typically do on a Sunday morning?

Ronald De Coteau: Oh boy. I don't know if my wife will like this, but yeah, usually when I get up, the first thing that I do after tasks for half an hour in life, I basically go to work, like I gotta check my emails so they. I like this young business, right? Like it's still in its infancy stage, like maybe moving out into moving more out into maybe a dollar cents.

But really and truly, like when I wake in the morning, like I think about this business. I think about who does, who messaged me yesterday? Who all the things that I need to be doing. I gotta just get the job done. I have a lot of people that are counting on me. Even right now as I'm on this call, I got a lot of people that are counting on me to deliver on my promises.

I don't wanna let them down. And then once I'm done that, I try to, Release my mind and then go back to my family and spend some time with them. In fact, on some Sundays my son, my wife, and I are on project sites. We're running project sites and looking to see what's happening. So yeah, it's a family business, like we make a family time out of it. So as I say, my wife won't be so happy about that.

Sarah Larbi: All right, cool. Ronald, where can the REITE Club nation, the listeners, reach out if they want to know more about you and find out more?

Ronald De Coteau: Okay, great. So if someone wants to get in contact with me, I am super active on Instagram. I only joined last year. I just got my one year anniversary on Instagram on September the 13th. So I was like, wow, that's awesome. But I actually really like it.
My Instagram handle is property pathways, so just add property pathways. My Facebook is adding property pathways. My website is propertypathways.ca. And of course you can email me at Inquire with @Propertypathways.Ca. So it's all property pathways. You can't miss me. Just Google Property Pathways you'll find amazing.

Sarah Larbi: Awesome. Any final last words of advice?

Ronald De Coteau: Last advice is that, secondary suites are not a walk in the park. Make sure and work with the experts. I'm definitely one of those guys. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions. I'm an open book and I'm really ready and willing to help.

Sarah Larbi: Amazing, Ronald, thank you so much for being on our show.

Ronald De Coteau: Awesome. Thank you so much, Sarah. Thank you so much, Laurel.

Laurel Simmons: Sarah, wow. I don't know about you, but I sure learned a lot from that interview. Wow, like my head was like, exploded with everything he knows and all the things. I don't know.

Sarah Larbi: He's definitely a wealth of knowledge and I will say that like when he's done a hundred or 150 of these and many different municipalities, it's great to be able to like just get some tidbits and some insights from him on different things that we should look out for, if that is our plan to convert into new basement suites.

I will say, he is great. I took some students, my birth students out in Peterborough and he came along and he was showing us how to look at different properties and what to look for. And it was just so valuable to see him in action as well. And I will say, he also puts together, and he didn't say this cuz he is very humble, but he puts together a whole like file of here are the things that this property has and, here is my assessment on it.

Like he provides that to the investors, which is really cool by property, so that they know going in before they actually firm up on something like, is it doable or is it not doable? And I think that's pretty cool.

Laurel Simmons: That's really valuable information cause it just helps you make decisions. And I think not only that, but when you make the decision, there's kinda a path, there's a path going forward for you, what's next and what's next and we all have limited time right? And limited resources. So we gotta make the most of what we've got.

Sarah Larbi: Absolutely. So guys, property Pathways, Ronald De Coteau, thank you for listening. REITE Club Nation, thanks for tuning in. And don't forget, register for free thereiteclub.com and check out all of the awesome information that we've got there. Thanks so much Laurel as well for being a great host. And guys, REITE Club Nation, don't forget, come grow with us.

Laurel Simmons: Come grow with us. See you next time.