Canadian, bought first property in US

18 Replies

This is a few month late but I think its time I share my success story here. 

Although not my first rental property I have purchased( I have purchased 2 other in BC Canada before), but it is the first property that I purchased as a way to become a true real estate investor. 

I bought my property in Spokane WA. Reasons for locations are it is somewhat driving distance from me 6 hours drive each way. prices are cheap compared to most other places close by, larger city that seems to be moving in the right direction, and rent that meets 1.5% or better. 

property I purchased is a 1 story with a very livable unfinished basement. The house needs a lot of work and by a lot I mean complete kitchen and bathroom remodel, wiring new plugs and installing new light fixtures in all of upstairs. new furnace, new windows. I am glad in some way this property needs this much work because I think this makes it easier for the next properties, I have learned what things to look for next time looking at purchasing other properties and how much they would cost to repair. I have also met the contractors that I would like to work with again.

I didn't use one contractor to take care of everything, windows, heating, electrical is all different people as I got better prices this way. Remodel I have left for one person as this gave me the best price and I didn't have to worry about making appointments with different contractors and baby sitting them.   

purchased property with LOC and repairs are also with my LOC (thanks to Canadian dollar sucking might have to use some of my own cash also).

The idea with this property is rent it for a year or so then sell it, I wanted to flip it right away but WA laws are stopping me and since I am not a US citizen I doubt I could get a contractor license(something I am looking in to still). The positive is I will get to know the rental market this way, I might also look at rent to own option also.

Things I did right: I was only couple of thousands off on my repair cost, Patient before buying, so far got the right contractors, have great credit and never have any debt but my mortgages, and remembering to download bigger pockets podcast's on my cell to listen on the drive. decent location with good neighbors( I went and knocked on each of their doors introducing myself and letting them know I am the new owner and giving my contact info in-case they need to talk to me). 

Things I didn't think about or did wrong: exchange rate, needing additional month to finish the property(kind of my fault with not making quicker decision and holiday season coming up), not looking at small expenses like cellphone bills and roaming charges, small details when looking at the property (ex. the siding had some corners missing now good luck finding the right color). sending checks with mail can be expensive (3 to 5 days priority mail is about $30 from Canada to US).

For other Canadians out there, buying the property was really easy, everything was done with mail and email. Docusign took care of everything for purchasing the property everything else priority mail took care of. I never had to go to Spokane for purchasing or insurance. There are banks that will give you a mortgage with alright rates 4% or so but on only 65% of the purchase price. The bank I talked to had a minimum of fifty thousand dollar mortgage.  

purchase price $39.000

repairs: $35,000

rent: $900 to $950

sale price: $115,000

@Shahriar K.  That's fantastic!  Way to go, it's good to see other Canadians making a success of investing US side.  Sounds like you didn't have too many issues, you make it sound so easy!  Too bad they all weren't that way.   

That's great to hear! I live on pricey California and I am planning on moving up to Spokane soon so it is nice to see that the prices are relatively cheap. That makes it a lot easier to actually do deals with your own financing. thanks for the update!

@Chad Urbshott   I probably just jinxed myself but saying its been going smoothly. I should also mention there are sleepless nights that I do get worrying about whats going to happen, but thats part of the journey.

@Christian Belleque   You will definitely find the prices to be kinder on your wallet. With Spokane it looks like if you want the nicer neighborhood you want the South or North sides of the City, the middle part is mostly older neighborhoods and some of them not in very good shape. Good luck and if I can be of help please let me know.

I should also take this time to thank many of you on BiggerPockets for the help you have shown and given. I probably wouldn't be investing in US if it wasn't for this site and meeting the people on this site. so THANK YOU

@Shahriar K.

Did you purchase personally or form an LLLP, or LLC?

I'm looking for someone to point me in the right direction as far as setting up a company, or any attorneys who specialize in cross border, thanks


Congrats Shahriar K.lessons learnt, future deals can only get better

So an update on this project. It took longer to finish do mostly to my own fault of not deciding quick enough what is the best thing to do. Also there were things that come up that pushed my rehab to be much more extensive. For example the basement wood paneling because of all the small(some big) cracks I just completely redid the wall with newer wood paneling. Electrical although not necessary was completely redone with new box. Now I know small details matters when looking at purchasing a property because when it comes to rehab it could be the difference between $1000 or $5000 fix. The floor wasn't even and because of the carpet I didn't notice it as much, but this stopped me from install laminate and had to go with carpet again.

Things I did right:

replace heating system and windows first thing as this was the start of winter, this made other contractors happy and allow them to work also. Although paid a bit more I went with known companies for things like windows to make sure I wouldn't have any issues being long distance. patience and not pulling my hair out when things didn't go right. 

very nice! Rehabbing properties takes a lot of time babysitting contractors is no easy task. I remember buying one property doing the same caused me lot of headaches with city inspectors  had stopped my contractors for required permits were not adequate for the work being done. I had to sneak out of work at times to get my rehab done was nerve wrecking but would I do it again? Hell yeah because the property net me 34690 profit!

@Ubaldo M Gomez it was definitely a good experience. 14 hour drives a day to just to check make sure the contractors have done what they are charging me, although I was pretty lucky with the contractors apart from some moments of going come on man it went pretty smooth. I also lucked out with the dollar not tanking before finishing the rehab so I have also made decent profit from the exchange rate. I am not looking at US market now but at multi family here in BC Canada.

Thanks for the post Shahriar. I greatly appreciate the good and bad points and lessons learnt part. It helps people like me get my head on straight before taking the plunge. Just out of interest why are you looking back in Canada instead of the US?

@Shahriar K.

Good on you for jumping into a remote rehab - the lessons learned are invaluable.    

Such lessons are also the reason we have hesitated on purchasing our normal fare of severely unloved properties when far from home.  

... or perhaps it's because I'm too hands-on to be able to sit that far from a major renovation ;-)

Awesome! I love to hear about success stories!

That is a great RE investment!  How did you finance the property?  I am working with a few Canadians and they have been using US mortgage from the Canadian based banks, TD and RBC.   As I understand it the US mortgages are longer (30 years) and typically cheaper.  They both run a "cross boarder" program. 

Thanks everyone. Just to recapp i guess things i would do if i was going to do it again.

1) Have atleast 2 contractors you can trust on. This came handy as i had to do one repair for the buyer and my usual contractor was no where to be found, i just called my other contractor to finish the job.

2) make sure you meet the neighbors and pass your contact info to them, I actually got my neighbor to cut my lawn and they would email me if anything wrong.

3)contractors again, it is important to find a trusting one, I had my realtor refer me to a inspector and since I liked the inspector asked him who he recommends as electrical who again turned out great and possibly saved me lots of money as there was a leak behind the main shutoff in the house which he saw and called me and was there when city came to repair it. 

4) buying and selling was done all from my house with scanner and email, just make sure the closing agents have docusign and you are good to go. I read every page of the contract BTW just to be on the safe side.

5) Make sure to take a picture of everything you want repaired. I sometimes sent pictures which I would highlight in Photoshop and explain what I want done.

6) I bought almost all material myself and paint etc. My wife knows interior design so she was great help in that regard.

7) I didn't haggle with my contractors over few dollars I did ask them for price of individual jobs and asked them if they could do it for this amount bulk.

8) closing if your property is worth more than 280,000 I think it is or not being sold to owner occupied IRS will take 10% of the sales price at closing, which I am in the process of getting back.

I am not buying in US since Canadian dollar has gone down alote and I do have down payment for a small multi family here I'm BC. 

i used cash for everything, there was a US bank in Washington state that did offer mortgage to canadians but no loc forgot the name right now but decided to just do cash since the hole purchase and rehab was less than 100,000 grand. Canadian banks in US want ridiculous amount liquid cash just sitting in their bank account to give you a mortgage in US.

Originally posted by @Lesley Resnick :

That is a great RE investment!  How did you finance the property?  I am working with a few Canadians and they have been using US mortgage from the Canadian based banks, TD and RBC.   As I understand it the US mortgages are longer (30 years) and typically cheaper.  They both run a "cross boarder" program. 


In my experience, {residential} mortgages in the U.S.A. are more costly (origin fees, higher interest rates, longer amortizations) than those in Canada.

@Shahriar K. Great inspirational story. Job well done and thanks for the information!

Hey why does it matter that the canadian dollar is weaker then the US? If you buy the property with Canadian dollars your cash flow will be in US dollars so your return will be higher. Also when you sell the property it will be worth higher. Im not understanding what the hesitation is, because you and @Roy N. both mentioned this. Any of your input is highly appreciated !

Last question if im thinking of buying US property just 1 triplex for now would it better to do LLC or personal?

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