Jumping in at 21. Invest. Adapt. Evolve. with Rebecca Young


In this podcast episode Rebecca Young reflects back on the lessons learned from purchasing her first property at age 21 with single-family dwellings and duplex BRRRRs to knowing when to step back to assess, reflect and restructure - allowing her to scale and build a portfolio with 41 units over 8 properties.

Laurel: Francois, it's time for another podcast with The REITE Club. Today's guest is Rebecca Young, who has a fascinating story. We, Daniel who's a co-founder of The REITE Club heard her and she started so young and she has a really great story. We've already done the podcast. What were your impressions?

Francois: Starting essentially at 17, like laying the ground, the foundations for real estate investing. And then at 21, when she ultimately made a purchase and the resourcefulness of a young woman, I'm really hoping my kids will do the same. They're both young adults or teenagers. I'm hoping they'll learn from Rebecca's learnings. Maybe not the hard way like she did, but anyway, still take the good part.

Laurel: I think as we talked about in the podcast itself, it's all about, you just keep going and you never let that no stop you.

Francois: That's it. It's really about persevering, barreling through and getting ahead. That's the only way out, even as a seasoned investor, Laurel, there's ups and downs and sometimes you wanna give up and it's the time when not to give up usually .

Laurel: Exactly. So, let's go to the podcast.

Francois: Yes, let's get to it.

Laurel: Rebecca, welcome to The REITE Club podcast. It's great to have you here.

Rebecca: Thank you. I'm very excited to be here.

Laurel: You're based in Toronto. Yep. You've got a pretty cool story, which people will really like to hear. You started off small and fairly young and then you just exploded. What got you started in real estate? Tell us what got you started.

Rebecca: It's a good question. I think it was a combination of things. My mom and my step dad also had just a couple of rental properties. I did go and help them a bit when I was younger. Sometimes going to collect the rent or I did have the lovely experience of one particular tenant in one of their units just completely, it was a complete disaster. There were cockroaches and we had to just rip out a bunch of stuff and kind of rebuild from there.

How it came to a head for me was I was on my own when I was younger. I was 17. I was putting myself through school, worked multiple jobs to put myself through school, but then saved all my money because I was a little bit afraid of not having money. And happened to go and see an apartment that I was looking to rent, but they told me that it was also available for sale. It was $60,000 at the time.

At the time I had saved up about $26,000 and I thought, okay that might actually be doable if I can just keep saving and see if I can get to that point. That opportunity had passed and I found another place to rent instead, but only a few months later, I met my boyfriend at the time and he had also had some family experience with people investing in real estate, people that had done it was his grandfather from England who had done really well with real estate. He had an interest in real estate investing as well.

All these things came together for me, where I found the opportunity for a property in Stony Creek. We went ahead and purchased that originally we had planned for myself just to live in this property and it was across the street from the Mohawk starrt campus in Stony Creek.

I planned to just essentially rent one of those rooms and then rent all the rest of the rooms in the house. But instead we had actually moved in together. By the time we purchased and took possession of that but then the just rent out the basement to students covered the majority of the expenses and the following year because of market appreciation and because of fixing up some of the property. I was able to refinance it and take money out.

That was the light bulb moment of deferred capital gains and being able to access that equity and have it work for me. It just grew from there. We had built a portfolio of five properties, unfortunately, that didn't work out for us and our relationships. Did have to dissolve that. We each kind of started over with one property. But since then I focused a little bit more on what I wanted outta life.

The kind of person I wanted to be myself and who I wanted to be with. I met Paul, my fiance, and we basically started building. We bought our first place in 2019 and then all the rest of the properties from 2020, I think it was November 2020 onwards. There has been a lot of growth in the last year and a half, which is crazy in itself. It's been a lot of fun. We're refinancing other properties, getting our initial investments back out and you guys can expect more growth in the future as well.

Laurel: Can I ask you? Cause people really to know this. How young and how old were you? I'm just gonna ask you, how old were you when you started? It is possible at 21 to start because I think a lot of people think, oh, I have to, you did save up some money, but I guess the moral of the story is you don't have to wait until you're 31 or 41 or 51.

Rebecca: A hundred percent. And to be honest that first property was a really unique experience for me because it was very challenging. Obviously, there's a difference in prices now. A lot of people just always get the feedback that, oh, it was a lot cheaper in that market back then. But to be honest, I thought I did everything right. I had a realtor. We had conditions on the property. I was able to waive my financing. About a month before I was supposed to close on the property, the woman I was working with from TD had just basically written to me and said I'm sorry, I can't do this deal. And just completely ghosted me.

I'm 21 and I didn't have anyone in my family to help guide me in that scenario. I just thought, oh my God, I'm gonna lose all of my initial investment in this property. After being on your own at 17 and working out for that, that was all of my life savings. That just wasn't an option. I was able to find a mortgage broker and basically they came up with I got the deal through, oh, at the time, I think it was home trust.

I had to think about that for a second, but it was a first and a second mortgage and a line of credit. For me, that was really mind boggling because they thought, okay they're not gonna qualify me for like less debt, essentially at a cheaper rate, but they're gonna give me a first and second mortgage and a line of credit to get creative financing, just acquire this property.

It was scary, but I thought, okay, it's one year. I'll rent it out and cuz they weren't even counting any rental income and that actually covered a good chunk of the expenses. I was able to still manage. The following year I was able to refinance. I guess the point being to your point, I do meet a lot of people that I think for me being so young was actually an advantage because I probably just didn't know any better.

We created the situation where I had to move forward with it. Otherwise, I would've lost everything. It wasn't really an option to say, no, this isn't gonna work or to look for the perfect opportunity. I saw recently somebody was talking about a book that they're reading. I think it was instead of ready aim fire, it was like ready, fire aim. I loved that message because being so young I just went for it versus I find that a lot of people make the mistake where they want to have certain things in place first. You just don't know what you don't know.

I find in a lot of cases, people just don't get started because then they just come up with more reasons as to why it's not the right time, or it's not the perfect scenario. I'm gonna be 32 this year. I was talking on that podcast before. I think the biggest, most valuable skill that I've learned is that regardless of what comes up at this point, I truly believe that I can find a solution to handle it, and I think a lot of people don't wanna rip off that bandaid, but I think that's your absolute number one skill in real estate, because stuff's always gonna come up. Anything unexpected is always gonna come up.

Francois: I love it. At 32, you've already had a bit of a rebirth, I guess you could say. You had your initial portfolio, then you had to let it go again. I know it's probably a bit painful, but again, you were able to leverage that experience at 21. That scary moment. I'm sure you know, have resources. There's a way out of this. Can you walk us through restarting cuz you were successful and now you're a lot more successful, but still that's a scary moment, the turning point.

Rebecca: It's a great point. I guess I would've, my birthday is later in the year, it was in 2017. I would've been 26 when my ex and I split up and that was hard for a number of reasons. I know you guys listened to their podcast, but I was previously married. It was hard for a number of reasons. My parents went through a pretty nasty divorce and for me it was very important to not follow the same path.

It was very disappointing, but it's not a reason to stay in something that's not working for either of us. It's not really fair. But the interesting thing, I think the thing that actually hit me the hardest to be honest was that I felt that real estate had become a bit of my identity. It was the thing that I loved to do. It was something unique.

I had all these wonderful experiences where I got to learn. In that same year it's funny, cuz I've been actually reflecting on this recently, but I also work in tech and at the office in that year. Unfortunately, there was a death and somebody had decided to take his own life. And unfortunately, I was there and I witnessed it and I think honestly that really changed my perspective about being in a nine to five, being in tech and I do enjoy parts of my job and I'm still working in tech, but I think I mentioned this because that was a big part of my identity going through school and getting into research and then getting into tech was very proud of that.

I had my own published research. It was a big part of my identity. When this happened it was at IBM and we all classify ourselves as IBMers. It's like a family atmosphere, environment, and to lose an IBM or like to lose a part of your family. I just felt the time that the leadership they're no longer there. I think it's safe to say this, but they just didn't. Handle it very well, they put the blame back on the person and said there were mental health issues.

For me, it was really hard cause then I felt okay, maybe I'm not a part of this family. Maybe I'm a little bit more of a number. That's when I really just doubled down on real estate's my thing, and a lot of my friends will tease me and call me real estate backs. I guess I mentioned all this because basically for me, I just needed to rebuild as quickly as possible. I wanted to learn from my previous mistakes and I wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to build a portfolio that would be later torn down again. But at the same time, I knew that for myself, regardless of who I was with or what I was doing, I was gonna rebuild my portfolio.

I listened back to my podcast with Nick and Tom just to kinda remember what we had talked about just to prepare for this as well. I guess the point being that Nick had said it's impressive to cuz you're rebuilding at such a difference in price. But for me it wasn't even an option. And especially because I just analyze all the deals, so at the end of the day, to be honest, I don't even really focus on the price tag of the property so much. What can I qualify for? How do I get this next property? And what's cash flowing?

I think it is a really important point for your listeners as well. I get feedback from people saying, oh when you started prices were a lot less expensive, but I did go through a period where it was a bit of a sticker shock because it was just a lot more expensive. But I think if you just take that step back and see the forest through the trees and just focus on your numbers again, ultimately we're not really buying on appreciation or the property prices we're buying for that cash flow, cuz where you get security and that's where you get your freedom cause that's your passive income.

Those were my experiences and my lessons learned from that. Honestly, I'm really grateful for the experience because like I said, it was tough for a lot of reasons, but at the same time, I know that God forbid, if I had to start over, it's a lot less scary. Now, you just start to roll with the punches and it makes you stronger. It all worked out.

Laurel: I'm curious, you started at 21 and you're now 32. Over 10 years, how did you learn? Cause I think a lot of people and I would like to know because nobody is born knowing how to do real estate. And I put quotation marks, "nobody's born knowing how to do that". I think for Daniel and myself and what we've done in our businesses, there can be a really steep learning curve.

I don't care whether you go to take courses or whatever work with mentors, there's still a steep learning curve. That's just the way it is. How did you navigate that at the beginning? What did you do?

Rebecca: It's a good question. Honestly, I think I just took one step at a time. It's funny, because of my background in economics and finance and I'm laughing because I have a friend who was visiting. We also used to work in tech together and we caught up with a couple of other engineers last night and we were just talking about my friends going back to school.

We were talking about that and being in academia. And we were talking about our degrees and to be honest I really value economics. That part of my degree, I felt like I learned a lot and being able to navigate what's happening now with our economic climate. For me personally, I actually made the comment that I felt that I didn't really learn anything from the finance part of my degree. I have a minor in finance and I felt that I was learning it on my own being in properties before.

I was taking accounting or I actually took a class on real estate investments, I think fourth or maybe fifth year. I'd already been a couple years into real estate investing. And to be honest, I felt like the theory wasn't even really that applicable compared to what I'd already learned, being boots on the ground.

When I reflect back on that, I think for me, I was very financially focused cuz when I was on my own, when I was 17, you're very maniacally focused almost on your income, like your cash inflows and your cash outflows and budgeting for what bills are coming out. We're gonna have enough money to be able to pay for everything? And for me, I guess it plays into getting that first property.

I also reflected back on my first year of school and I had rented a room from a house where I think they, I can't remember if they had, I think it was five or six bedrooms, but the family had actually managed to put two of their sons completely through undergrad and medical school. You're already looking at that. And then I was thinking about how much I was paying for rent and then calculating it based on the quick math of what they were making on the property.

In terms of the mortgage, I didn't really understand that at the time, but I figured that they were making good money off of it. My ex and I went to a bank and we just talked to a mortgage broker and said, how does this work? And that we got the preapproval. That was a lot less than what we needed to buy that first property. We just kept going back to the bank and finding out, like, how can we make this work essentially.

When I had a better understanding of the mortgage, I just built it a spreadsheet back then and just did the quick calculation. To be honest, my main focus at the time was, I could live for free if I do this. That was my biggest motivation. That's what I was looking forward to. And like I said, it was just baby steps because at the time having the first mortgage fall through and having to come up with the creative financing at first, that was very stressful.

The following year being able to refinance and then they brought it up to 80% loan to value of appraised version of the property and even realizing there, like to be honest, a lot of it was just dumb luck in a way where you're going through these scenarios and learning, because like I said, that was my light bulb moment where I thought, wow, I can actually access my money back. It paid for all the debt that I had taken out.

I even had some of my initial investment back out and I thought oh, my God like this, if this is how this works, like I could just go and get more properties. This is wild. I was just so surprised that nobody told me that you could do this. I know obviously there's some risk associated with that because as you're taking on more and more debt, you wanna make sure that you've got enough money on hand to build a cover for emergencies.
I also looked at it like an invisible bank account because I still had 20% of the value in the property. Because of how I disciplined myself in the beginning of saving, pretty much all my money, I had a checking account that I had my daily operating expenses for my life out of. But then I also had a savings account that I eventually parked at $26,000.

In my mind it was the house account, that's the savings account, I just don't touch that. It's just to say that over those 11 years, it just built off of that I found rockstar. I found a mentor though, I don't know if you guys are aware of them rather, but JD and Wendy sing. Funny enough, a little bit of serendipity, but JD was actually a manager for my ex back in I think that was starting in 2012 or 2013. But they had also been investing in real estate. They actually had 10 properties.

For me, that was like, they were rockstar status. That I thought, oh my God, if I could get to 10 properties one day, that would be like I've made in life, and so just to see that someone else could do it, that was really cool. We became friends and we're still friends today and they had introduced us to rockstar and then it was nice to find a little bit more of a community around it because I know I mentioned my mom had a couple properties, but that was more influenced from my great uncle or my grandfather's brother who she wasn't able to work for herself.

He saw an opportunity to teach her how to invest in real estate so that she could have some extra income and help her take care of herself, essentially. The point being is that it wasn't like that was a resource for me whenever I was having trouble with resources or real estate to go back to her.

I guess it's all to say that I just took it one step at a time. I probably made a ton of mistakes. I learned from it. I came back stronger over time. And then also just finding my community and different friends to be able to keep the motivation going. I think that was the most important part of it because it's like I look back on it.

I think overall I've been pretty lucky with real estate, but there's been like a couple of crazy scenarios where you know, one of the places I was house hacking. One of my tenants unfortunately had really down on his lock. He decided to turn to drugs and tried to hurt himself. And I was very young, I was still in my early twenties still and the other tenant had knocked on my door to say, hey, this tenant is threatening him himself with a knife.

That was a crazy scenario, I was so young, I wasn't prepared to deal with that. We had to call emergency services. There's some stuff that was pretty wild, but at the end of the day I think the community was actually the biggest thing for me or even podcasts like this to listen to other people's stories.

I think all these things just make us stronger overall. I love real estate. I would do it 10 times over again if I had to, because it's just completely changed my life from where I think I should have been statistically.

Laurel: It's interesting though, a little earlier about going back? Not taking no for an answer, I guess maybe because I think what I'm hearing you say, and I know for sure that this happens to a lot of people is that they go to ask for a mortgage, whether it's a mortgage broker or a bank, whatever it is.

The first answer no, you don't qualify no, whatever no, come back, but you didn't take that yeah, because you didn't even know that. That was a wall. You just ignored it and you kept on going back. But I think that's what's really cool that people don't understand that just cuz you get one no, that means nothing. That means absolutely nothing.

Rebecca: Definitely. And to be honest, for me, it was frustrating at the time because the biggest problem was that they weren't taking my income because I was a teaching assistant, a research assistant, and they were trying to argue that it wasn't guaranteed income. That's been my biggest challenge for the rest of my career as well. They only take my base salary.

You have to be there for a couple years before they take the rest of it. It's when you've been doing it for so long and I had proof that I was a really valued employee doing all these research contracts. I was like, and just being me, I said to him, I'm always gonna make this kind of income. I worked three jobs when I was in school, like continuously, so for me that was wild. That's why there was a no, so I just kept going back and challenging myself because I didn't, maybe it sounds a little arrogant now, but I didn't really think it made sense logically.

I've always been trying to push that envelope. I just found that the creative financing was, like I said, it was such a light bulb moment for me because I realized and JD actually always says this to me, that a good deal always gets done. If there's a deal that you really want, you can always make it work.

It always makes me laugh because it might be really difficult to get that property, but when you get it, you can fix it up and then you can take it back to a lender and if you've done a good job, then usually they're very happy to give you the extra money for the property.

Like I said, I guess I was lucky in a way that I learned that early in my real estate investing career, and as your network grows and your experience grows, you just learn that as well. That even if you do get one, no from someone there's even a community that you could reach out to and say hey, I've brought this roadblock. Has someone else come across this before? What did you do?

It's all about as you keep growing kind of planning for that next step and how, and just almost anticipating those roadblocks. And to try and get ahead of them or plan your strategy around it. That's actually why we started investing in commercial, multi units, because it's a lot easier to qualify for properties to get more of them. I think there's always a way around it for sure.

Francois: That leads me to my question. I was curious, how do you structure your deals now? Cuz, and now you just covered it with commercial, cuz residential, eventually you do start getting even more nos, but how are you? What's your corporate setup and all that? Do you mind sharing a bit how it's structured to buy all these multifamily properties?

Rebecca: Right now we have three corporations because two of those are in partnerships and then we have our own corporation as well, where we're still putting money in. I still love the BRRRR strategy and I'm actually really enjoying being in commercial multifamily, just smaller apartment buildings, because I view them as little business.

It's a lot more, I feel predictable because even in the residential space, we've seen amazing appreciation. But at the same time I find that I think that's gonna be a little more volatile this year and being able to use commercial financing. You use the income approach and they ultimately just wanna make sure that you have a certain amount of cash flow.

That's been a little bit more predictable for the JVs that we have. One is 60-40 split because we actually do have more active investors on that project, but we were also bringing a lot of expertise. That's how we decided to split it. Both sides of the parties were bringing capital into it as well.
I would say that's really my first JV and that's actually worked out pretty well. Learned a lot from that. And then for the second one we just did 50, 50, but again, we actually both put in capital cause it's a new relationship. We wanna prove it out. For us, it's just basically the same for Paul and I for our corporation.

It's basically just the same business as usual, but now starting to get into just commercial mortgages and trying to reduce liability because we know that we're gonna keep growing that portfolio as well. Just also future proofing. That's pretty much it right now. With the projects that I've taken on.

If I was to look for other JVs, I would look for 50, 50 still and expect that I wouldn't have to put in capital cause I'm bringing that expertise. And have a proven track record now. But at the end of the day, like I said JD always says a good deal always gets done. I think I never wanna shut out any ideas either and have a look and see what makes sense.

Whatever property we'd be looking at or whatever partnerships, one of our partners actually comes from a family that invests in hotels and motels and stuff. I think that would be cool to get into as well. Just trying to keep myself open to that, all those possibilities and lots of additional learning.

Laurel: There's so much to learn. Once you get going, don't you stick your toe in that lake? It's just the oceans are there. There's just to learn and so much to do, but you know what, Rebecca that half hour's gone really fast. We're gonna go into our lightning round. You've got so much great information. All you have to do is just answer the first thing that comes to mind. These are not difficult questions. Here I'll ask the first one.
What's the best advice you've ever received from another investor or at a networking event?

Rebecca: I feel like I said it a couple times, but a good deal always gets done.

Francois: I like it a lot. Isn't there a saying when the student is ready, the master or the teacher appears. I find it's the same for real estate deals as well. You're ready. It's gonna happen. It might be tough and painful, like you've said, but it's gonna happen and it will be good.
Question number two. What is your favorite resource for real estate investing? It could be a book, a person, an event?

Rebecca: Oh man, that's tough. I think over the grand scheme of things, I honestly think rockstar real estate has been a phenomenal source of community for me. I'm gonna give a shout out to Tom and Nick and say rockstar real estate.

Laurel: That's good. It's your community? I have to agree with you. We wouldn't be where we are without a community. You can't do it alone. You just can't a hundred percent. Question number three. If you had to choose one thing, what would be the thing that has made you successful?

Rebecca: Willingness to fail and fail fast.

Francois: Last question. What do you typically do on a Sunday morning?

Rebecca: That always changes. Sometimes I'm out looking at properties, but most recently I've actually started jiu jitsu and they have morning classes at 10:00 AM on Sunday. That's what I'm committing to doing for at least the next year.

Laurel: Congratulations. That's great. Good way out there. And really move and get things going in all kinds of ways. Rebecca, how can people reach you?

Rebecca: I started a YouTube channel over COVID it's called five to nine real estate. A nine to five because I do this in my five to nine. I find that's usually the best way. I wanna be able to reach as many people as possible. If people support by subscribing to the channel or leaving comments on other videos that they'd like to see, that would be a big help.

I'm also very often on Instagram. I have fivetonine.ca as the Instagram page, or if people wanted to add me personally, that's fine too. It's Rebecca D. Young. That's my personal page and those are usually the best ways to reach me.

Laurel: Thank you so very much. We really appreciate your time and listening, we'll be watching you with great interest and I'm gonna check out your YouTube channel too, and see what you got there.

Rebecca: Awesome. I appreciate that.

Laurel: That'd be great. Thank you very much.

Rebecca: Thank you. I really appreciate your time today. It's been a lot of fun.

Laurel: Francois, there she is. She has a great story and goes to her YouTube channel. And speaking of going to YouTube channels or letting Rebecca know what's going on and what you enjoy with her channel. If you're listening, give us a rating for our podcast, cuz the more we get rated, the more people we can reach and the more people we can help.

Francois: That's all it is. It's people customizing their lives and by spreading this message, you're helping others, giving inspiration and possibility and hope.

Laurel: That's right. We hope you rate us and we hope you spread the news and come and join us at thereiteclub.com. Until next time, see you later.

DJ: Thanks for listening to The REITE Club podcast, where the focus is on helping all levels of real estate investors advance to the next level and help you customize your life. Be sure to tune in next week at thereiteclub.com/podcast or wherever you listen to. And if you get a few seconds, please rate the podcast. Wherever you're listening, it helps the show get noticed by others like you. And we truly appreciate it. And don't forget to subscribe.