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Outdoor photo of Austin Yeh with a bridge and residential buildings in the background
Photo by Jacqueline Ashton

The Property Guy

In less than five years, Austin Yeh has built himself a solid real-estate portfolio. Here’s how he did it

The urban real estate market is tough for anyone looking to invest. But it’s not impossible – even for young buyers. Case in point: Austin Yeh (BBA 2017 UTSC). Since graduating, the 26-year-old has built a portfolio of 20 properties – all stemming from a small initial investment. His secret? Knowing where to look. Now he helps others do the same by offering real estate advice on his podcasts and in articles.

Why real estate?
The decision was practical: I wanted financial independence, and my parents, who immigrated to Canada from India, live modestly. I couldn’t ask them for help, and I didn’t see myself working full-time until age 65 to create the lifestyle I wanted. I started investing in stocks and did terribly. A lot of average investors, including myself, tend to sell when the market takes a hit, and buy back when it does well. By contrast, real estate requires patience. You need to make more rational, less emotional decisions.

Most of your properties are in Windsor, Ontario. Why?
When I started, I had saved $40,000 from working summer jobs and internships, so it was the only market I could afford. In Windsor, your money goes further, which is essential to make good investments. For a property to become an income-generating asset, the rent must cover all the expenses of the property, including mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance and repairs. That’s only achievable in Toronto with a 50 to 60 per cent down payment. With many homes costing more than $1 million, this is not feasible for most people. I urge people to consider smaller markets if they want to invest and don’t have a ton of cash.

Because of your media work and public profile, I understand you’ve received threats. What did they say?
Stuff like, “Let’s kill all landlords!” Landlord hate groups exist because not everyone agrees with capitalism. Some people believe housing should not be capitalized. It’s a tricky subject.  

COVID-19 has affected many people’s ability to pay their rent. Did it affect your tenants?
Once the pandemic struck, I called all my tenants to find out their situations. Some of them had taken a financial hit, so we talked about lowering the rent while they were struggling. We are not out of the woods yet. It’s an evolving situation.

What are your future goals?
This month, I quit my full-time job as a senior data analyst because my real-estate income stream is sufficient to support myself. By age 30, I’m hoping to stop working in real estate, and become a high school business teacher. If you teach kids about business fundamentals from a young age, you can provide them with the tools to achieve financial freedom. Then they can live the lives they want.

My mom and dad. They’re why I continue to work hard and set ambitious goals.

Book recommendation
The Book on Rental Property Investing by Brandon Turner

Key quality for a landlord

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  1. 3 Responses to “ The Property Guy ”

  2. Marie Griffith Barnes says:

    Great article! Way to go, Austin.

  3. Lola says:

    Excellent goals. As someone who teaches and also does small-scale investments, I believe teaching is fundamental.

  4. Bob says:

    Great story. Also a very nice guy.