When will you be ready for retirement? François Lanthier tells The REITE Club how he created cash flow and grew his nest egg through real estate investing... and doing it by involving every member of his family.
TRC: François, when did you get involved in real estate investing?
François: My wife and I started in 2015. Our first property was a condo, and my mom was the tenant. They say start small and easy, so there you go. The condo we got was actually financed, in part, from a penalty on a mortgage. So that served as part of our down payment. It was very cheap, and it was a great learning experience.
TRC: You say you started with something easy, but having your mom as a tenant might not be easy… What if she doesn't pay rent?
François: She still had her own house, job and guaranteed income. But I guess I didn't think about those types of questions back then. And yes, that did come around, but we didn't need to kick her out or anything. Those questions are really good to ask.
TRC: Why did you get involved in real estate investing?
François: With my job in the private sector, there was no pension. So I thought, what would I live on? What can we do? Is there a way to increase our income? And with a family, you always need more money. Real estate investing was an opportunity – by creating monthly cash flow and with the mortgage pay down – to increase money and savings for a retirement plan of some kind. Otherwise, I'd have to work till I die.
TRC: What strategy did you use next?
François: For us, buy and hold still holds true. We just buy and hold the properties. Nothing fancy, no BRRR or anything. We buy a property, look for efficiencies, increase rent…do a few things. But we’re starting to pivot.
TRC: So that means you have to be really good at getting the property you want.
François: Yeah, normally I look at 40 to 60 properties before buying one. It’s quite a process, but we do end up buying properties that fit the bill and they're not turnkey. We could do BRRR, and we have done some refinancing, but it's never been the number one intent.
TRC: What do you like about the buy and hold strategy? What do you not like?
François: What's nice is you're never over-leveraged, unlike with some other strategies where you borrow everything. You do leave some money on the table, but you always have money in properties that you could, if you needed to refund it.
And pull out and do more. I like that safety, the more conservative approach. And it's a bit of a nest egg. So the money sits there and is available when you need it. Refinancing can be harder, but you can go with private lenders and find ways around it.
TRC: You mentioned that this is still the strategy, but you're starting to diversify. What else are you doing right now?
François: Now we have some joint ventures, which is different. But again, with my joint venture partners, we're doing buy and hold. So I guess it's the same strategy, but with other people.
Also short-term rentals. That one is very exciting. We’ll do short-term rentals in Florida very shortly, and we have some in Ontario as well. So that's a new addition.
TRC: How are things going for you and your wife on this on this real estate investing journey?
François: Great! We now have the freedom to choose what we do with our lives. So it's great! It's quite a learning experience.
TRC: So, it allows you to move wherever you want whenever you want.
François: Yes. Physically, I could be anywhere.
TRC: I interview a lot of people where one partner is doing the rent-to-own, but not the other. But you guys are up to your ears in real estate investing 24/7. How is that working?
François: It’s great! Jennifer and I met in college. We studied together and now we work together…we're always together. We like it. We complete each other's sentences, and it's a little scary. We do sometimes argue, and when we argue it's a real one! But normally, I'd say 95% of the time, we're very much in agreement.
TRC: Now you have two “grown” children right?
François: Yeah, 15 and 17.
TRC: Do you involve them often?
François: All the time. As we speak, they're painting hallways in one of our properties. Oftentimes they'll go and do small tasks, like lawnmowing or gardening. We re-did the garden beds at many of our properties. The weeding, mulching, selecting plants, creating a budget for landscaping…the kids do that.
TRC: What would be your advice to people, couples, families?
François: I think it needs to be a family affair. I also meet a lot of people where the wife or husband is not involved. I don't know how people can make that work because this becomes so big that there's no way it’s not going to spill over in your lifestyle. Your kids need to understand what you're doing and why you're doing it. There are big financial decisions. I think it needs to be a team effort, everybody needs to be in the loop.
TRC: How many doors do you have right now?
François: Now we're at 38.
TRC: And did I hear also that you started your own property management company?
François: Yes. Unfortunately, we had to let go of some property management companies. So we started our own, but only for our own purposes. It’s not my goal to do property management, it’s just to serve our needs.
TRC: What piece of advice would you give to somebody who's just getting started?
François: The biggest thing, I think, is to take action. Do something, I don't care what it is. I see a lot of people stuck in analysis paralysis. I have the opposite problem. Making a mistake is better than doing nothing. Even if you lose money, in my opinion, you learn. And as long as you learn from it, you can really grow. So take action! Inquire and make some calls, bid on a small property like I did with my mom and the condo. It was a little scary, but it wasn't that bad.
TRC: What are some last words of advice for anyone wanting to get involved in real estate?
François: Take your action seriously, because that's what's going to differentiate you from 80% of people. Most people will stay inactive and not move.
About François Lanthier
François Lanthier, along with his wife Jennifer and their two teen-aged children, is a serious real estate investor who has grown his real estate portfolio exponentially over the last few years. You can reach François through “Find a Friend” here on our website or search for him on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. (And just so you know - François is The REITE Club’s sponsorship and affiliate manager.)