How I Created $1 Million in Real-Estate Equity with $50K

Hindsight is always 20/20, particularly when it comes to real-estate and Montreal’s real-estate market is no different. Just like with most investments, typically, the more you wait the more you pay but that doesn’t mean you can’t play. First, you need to consider a few things:

  1. Objectives – are you buying your home, investing extra money or both? Are you banking on appreciation in the long-term or looking to generate positive cash-flow?
  2. Remember that your first investment property won’t be your last. Unless you’re looking to settle into your house for the long-haul, check your emotions at the door. Personal preference with respect to size, colors, layout etc… may matter when you’re choosing your dream home but not when you’re looking to create wealth, and that’s exactly what we’re doing here.

When I got into the game over 10 years ago, my objective was to use my personal home as a foundation for building equity while leveraging debt and adding value to increase my returns. The tax exemption on capital gains from the sale of a primary residence was a huge advantage that I wasn’t going to ignore. With this in mind, my wife and I purchased our first home at a modest price of $240,000. It was a bungalow from the 1950s in Montreal’s sought after West-Island and it was in great but original condition. We opted for a high-ratio mortgage with only 5% down and used a balance of $40,0000 on renovations – tearing down walls, re-doing the kitchen and bathroom and sanding and repainting the floors. We could easily have exceeded the budget, cannibalizing our return, but were very selective in our upgrades. So, a year later we sold the property for $360,000. Using basic math, without accounting for mortgage interest and insurance, we made:

  • Sale Price $360,000
  • Purchase Price $240,000
  • Down Payment $12,000
  • Renovation Cost $40,000
  • Closing Costs $5,000
  • Profit $73,000
  • ROI 128%

Yes, we opted for a high-ratio mortgage but the insurance premium was amortized over the life of the mortgage and we were able to transfer the debt onto our second home, a colossal dump one street over. We bought it at a purchase price of $225,000 with zero cash down and a renovation budget of $80,000. A year later we sold it for $375,000 and, once again, used the gains to invest in our first revenue property, a duplex with a bachelor suite in Montreal’s Lachine suburb.

At a purchase price of $405,000, a down payment of $80k and a 35 year mortgage (which unfortunately is no longer available due to new mortgage regulations in Canada) we minimized our monthly mortgage payment and maximized our monthly cash flow allowing us to live in the main floor all expenses paid.

In the years following the purchase of our duplex, we were lucky enough to pick up two more properties which we currently rent – a home on the Lakeshore in Dorval and another duplex in Lachine.

So the $1 million in equity?

Duplex 1

  • Purchase Price $485,000
  • Current Market Value $750,000
  • Current Mortgage Balance $285,000
  • Equity $465,000

Duplex 2

  • Purchase Price $405,000
  • Current Market Value $700,000
  • Current Mortgage Balance $430,000
  • Equity $270,000


  • Purchase Price $280,000
  • Current Market Value $500,000 (land value)
  • Current Mortgage Balance $245,000
  • Equity $255,000

Total Equity $990,000 (ok fine, I rounded up by 10K)

Best of all, we’re not just banking on future value since all three properties now generate a positive monthly cash flow. They didn’t at first. We added value with simple upgrades, mortgage re-negotiations and reasonable rent increases. With vacancy rates in Montreal’s residential rental market experiencing historical lows, we’ve ultimately hedged against possible downturns.

Getting into the Montreal real-estate market can be daunting. Often you have to determine where you can create value and invest accordingly but the first step is just getting in. We started with $50,000 and made mistakes along the way but, we learned and moved on. Now I’m hoping to share that knowledge with those interested in doing more of the same. Get in touch to learn more.

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