Interview with Gillian Irving of Invest in Student Rentals and Mothers of Real Estate Meetup Group

Hello FNM Community;

It is a HUGE honor to introduce you to Gillian Irving, a specialist in student rentals in Ontario.  When I was introduced to Gillian through Julie Broad and I spoke to her on the phone, I recalled how knowledgeable she was about real estate, how open and honest she was about it.  Plus I learned so much just talking to her, I  knew I had to interview her.

Gillian Irving


Gillian is truly a modern day renaissance women –  mother of 4 kids, coach, full-time real estate investor, speaker and regular contributor to Canadian Real Estate Wealth magazine.  She also launched a real estate investment education meetup group called ‘MORE – Mothers of Real Estate, whose mission is to educate, connect and help mothers, and women in general become capable, confident real estate investors — while balancing kids, careers, family and finances.

In this interview, you will learn:

  1. Student rental real estate investment strategy – pros and cons

  2. Screening rules for choosing real estate investments

  3. Her tips for dealing with student tenants

  4. 39 web resources for real estate investors

  5. And much more!

Interview with Gilllian Irving

1.When did you start investing in real estate? What motivated to jump into it?

I think like a lot of people, I was really hit by the economic downturn in 2009. I remember watching my savings and my kids RESPs get obliterated, and I felt so powerless to control any of it. I just kept thinking that some nameless and faceless CEO was in charge of my financial future and it made me feel very uncomfortable. I know most people worry about their financial futures and I’m not really any different, except that one of my children has a serious disability that might really affect his ability to support himself financially when he is older. I don’t want my other kids to have to be responsible for caring for him financially, so my husband and I change how we looked at our finances and real estate emerged as a great option. In a nutshell, NEED was my motivation.

2. How did you get started in real estate investing? Why do you choose it over other investment strategies?

I actually call myself an “accidental investor” because I first got started, by luck I guess. I went for a run one day in 2009 and ran past a beautiful duplex in a really desirable part of Toronto. Remember this was a time when everyone was afraid and holding on to their wallets with a vice grip! But I had a strong feeling about the house and location and I got home from my run and told my husband that we were buying a duplex. I still laugh when I think of his face… like what happened?? …you went running for 45 minutes!!! All I really knew from my somewhat limited reading at the time was that you just wanted to buy a house where your rental income exceeded your expenses. My intuition about that house, proved to be spot-on.

I like real estate over other investments because there are multiple ways to make money: There is mortgage pay down, cash flow as well as appreciation (which is calculated on the value of the home NOT the value of your down payment, so you get the added benefit of leverage, which is really great). I also like the element of control – you are the CEO of the house and can manage it how you see fit.

3. Why do you choose student rental investing, what are the pros and cons?

This is my favourite question because there are so many reasons why student rentals are such a great investment.

Here are my top three PROs:

  1. CASH FLOW because you rent by the room, not by the house. For example, we have a house in a college town that is across the street from a mid-size college. If we rented this particular house to a single family, we could probably get about $1600 per month. But because we rent out each of the 6 rooms to individual students at $450-$500 a piece, we collect $2900 month. All that extra rental income translates directly into improved cash flow at the end of every month.

  2. RENT SECURITY. I am sure some of your readers are thinking this must be typo. How can anyone p