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How to Flip Condos Like a Pro with David Feld of Feld Kalia Law Firm

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Andrew la Fleur, from TrueCondos.com, talks to lawyer and serial real estate investor, David Feld, who is one half of the Feld|Kalia Real Estate Law Firm. Listen to them discuss how to flip condos via assignments, David’s personal story on how he got to where he is now, as well as his own real estate investing strategies.

David Feld Interview Highlights

0:59 How to Leave a Review for The True Condos Podcast

1:30 Who Is David Feld?

2:30 – How Did David Feld Get Into Real Estate?

6:21 – What Makes Feld Kalia Different from Other Real Estate Law Firms?

9:00 – How Does David Feld Work With and Help Condo Investors?

11:00 – David Feld’s Hotel Business

14:33 – Condo Assignments

16:33 – Are Condo Assignments Difficult?

17:53 – David Feld’s Condo Investing Strategies & Advice

21:14 – David Feld’s Take on the Condo Market

23:10 – David Feld’s Passion For Real Estate Law

Links:

Follow David Feld on Twitter

Feld Kalia Law Firm

Isabella Hotel

How to Leave a Review for The True Condos Podcast on iTunes

David Feld Interview Transcript

Andrew la Fleur:

Hello. Welcome back to the True Condos Podcast. Whether this is your first time listening or you caught every single episode, I just want to say thank you for listening.

I’m your host, Andrew la Fleur. I’m a realtor. I specialize in helping people to make money by investing in the Toronto condo market.

This podcast is a chance for you, the listener, to hear from experts and industry insiders about what’s really going on in the condo market. We also like to find out where these insiders are putting their own money when it comes to condo investing.

If you like this podcast, just go to truecondos.com, and subscribe to get even more great content like this, all about condo investing in Toronto.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they want to leave a review for the show on iTunes, but they can’t figure out how to do it. I admit that iTunes, unfortunately, doesn’t make it very easy to leave a review, but once you see how it’s done, it’s quite simple.

What I did is I created a short video which actually shows you exactly how to leave a review for the podcast. You could see that video in the show notes page for this episode over at truecondos.com/david.

On that note, I’m interviewing David Feld today. David is one-half of the Feld Kalia Real Estate Law Firm, which he started with his wife, Sonia Kalia about 10 years ago.

David is a serial real estate investor. He’s invested in everything from condos to homes to his own office building, and even a hotel, which is a pretty cool story. We cover that in this interview.

David’s also recently getting into flipping condos via the assignment market. We talk about that as part of his personal investment strategy as well.

For all the show notes on this episode, just head on over to truecondos.com/david. Now, without any more delay, here’s my interview with David Feld.

Thanks for being here today with us, David. I appreciate your time. Why don’t you start just by telling us a little bit about who you are and how you got into real estate.

David Feld:

Thanks. About 15 years ago, my mom was buying and selling lots of property in Barrie and at Bayview and John area. Instead of being a bad kid – I was 16 years old – I got in the car and I started driving to all the properties and managing them for collecting rents, dealing with some small cleaning and fixing up of stuff.

I kind of loved it. I started growing a passion for real estate pretty much right away. That love just kept growing and growing and growing.

I was actually going to be a doctor. I went for neuroscience at U of T and graduated with high marks, but I didn’t feel the magic there. I still love science, by the way, and very obsessed with it actually. I used that to my advantage. I understand how people think how the brain works and all that stuff.

I went to law school. I, luckily, did really well on the LSATs. That sort of gave me the idea that maybe I should be a lawyer.

I went to law school. I left and, actually, my first job was doing insurance defense for a big law firm on Bay Street.

Slowly, that was eating away at my life. I was not enjoying it. I did not enjoy being a lawyer. I thought I made the wrong choice. I didn’t enjoy any of it actually – not the big firm mentality and not insurance defense or any of that.

At one point, it got so crazy that I was like, “I can’t do this anymore,” and I don’t know what to do. I sat back and I thought, “Why not do real estate? That’s what I love, that’s what I know, and that’s what I could take off with.”

Andrew la Fleur:

At the same time, you were struggling through this, your first law job that you hated, you were also doing real estate on the side?

David Feld:

I was managing the properties for my mom. I didn’t have any money yet to buy any properties or anything like that. That’s all.

Andrew la Fleur:

You just had a love for real estate.

David Feld:

Always, yeah.

Andrew la Fleur:

Okay.

David Feld:

I remember I got this big Blue Book all about real estate, and I started reading it over and over again. I realized, “This is it. I’m going to just take this plunge.”

I went to my firm head partner there and said, “You know what, I’m leaving soon. You let me know what you need and I’ll leave on friendly terms,” and I left. Then for 6 months, I didn’t do anything. I just read about real estate. I was getting a feel for it.

Luckily, my wife, Sonia, was doing well as a lawyer as well on Bay Street, so I had the luxury of a little bit of time – not much – before we ran out, but a little bit of time. I always had a taste for the finer things even as a young kid. I knew I had about 6 months before I better start bringing in some money.

I started the firm on this little Blue Book. Luckily, I surrounded myself with good people right away. I was able to hit the ground running.

We started the firm about 10 years ago now. Since the day we opened, we’ve been very busy, getting exponentially busier all the time. Because of that, I’m lucky in that I get to do a huge volume of closings.

I have a lot of experience in 10 years more than other people would have in 30 years, because I talked to lawyers who’ve been doing this for 30 years all the time, and the volume that we do is so high. I’m giving advice to lawyers all the time who’ve been doing this for 30 years.

Andrew la Fleur:

Right. Let’s talk about that. I’ve been through a lot of real estate lawyers. I’ve worked with a lot of them, obviously, over the years as a real estate agent in many transactions. You’d meet a lot of lawyers.

I guess, like any profession, there’s good ones and there’s bad ones, but what would you say, specifically in talking about real estate law, what is wrong with most real estate law firms or most real estate lawyers out there? What makes your company, Feld Kalia, different or special or unique?

David Feld:

Communication. Real Estate transaction is very complex from a legal perspective. There’s a lot of players involved and a lot of information that needs to go to different people in a very timely manner.

It’s communication. You need to be able to communicate very well with your client, with the realtors involved, with the bank involved, with the other lawyer involved, with the tax department, when necessary. That’s just 5 parties that roll off the tip of my tongue, but it’s a lot.

You need to plan. You need to know when the closing date is and plan accordingly.

Sometimes you need to prod. If one of the parties is not giving you the information you need in order to complete the transaction, you shouldn’t take a reactive approach and wait for it to come. You have to be proactive and get that information, because when issues arise – and they do arise in all closings – if you catch them early, you can fix them with no width of anything going wrong.

Andrew la Fleur:

The client benefits.

David Feld:

What’s that?

Andrew la Fleur:

The client ultimately benefits.

David Feld:

The client benefits. If you’re leaving things to the last second, which a lot of law firms that we deal with do, and I’m calling them up last minute asking for documents.

Just yesterday, I reminded a lawyer that he didn’t close something on Friday with us and he has to close today. He still had no sense of urgency and didn’t even realize that the file was closing.

Then, to take it to the next level, passion. You should have passion for what you do. You should come to work every day and love what you do and love your clients. Then, naturally, magic will happen.

With us, everyone in my team is passionate about what we do. We come to work smiling. We may not always leave smiling, but we come to work smiling. We know what we have to do and we get it done.

Then, finally, organization. You need to be organized in real estate. Again, there are so many details. You need to be organized. You need to know what you have and what you don’t have and, again, get what you don’t have.

Andrew la Fleur:

A lot of condo investors or people thinking about investing condos listening to this podcast right now, how do you specifically help and work with condo investors?

David Feld:

As an investor myself, I saw that there’s something missing from lawyers in Toronto, which is they’re just sort of talking but they’re not explaining about the tax consequences that might occur, especially with new construction, and different things like that.

What we do, for our clients who are investors, is we prepare some rough numbers for all of it now. I, personally, on the phone, take every client through the whole agreement of purchase and sale. I’m speaking specifically about new construction right now because investors tend to buy those.

I explain to them the different avenues. One is they could live there. Another is they could rent it out. The third is they could assign the property. I take them through all 3 veins and I’d show them the number consequences of each of those.

At the end of a call with me, which is around 45 minutes, every client says, “Thank you so much for explaining the different ways we can do this.” They have a good understanding of how much to budget for their closing to date, during the 10-day cooling off period, not 2 years down the road when everything is built.

I have so many clients call me up and say, “My lawyer told me to bring in another $24,000 today to close, and I have no idea why. They barely explained to me why in the meeting.” Then they hire me, after the closing, to take them through all the paperwork that their lawyer already took them through, that they already paid their lawyer for, to just explain to them what to do.

Many times we’d find a rebate for them that their lawyer didn’t even tell them about. We’d get it for them.

That’s like another side business we have. I didn’t even tell you that.

Andrew la Fleur:

That’s right, HST rebates.

David Feld:

Yeah.

Andrew la Fleur:

We have another podcast about that. For anybody who’s listening who want to learn about HST rebates, check for that one.

Another business that you have that I think people might be interested in, especially real estate investors, is your hotel business. You actually own a hotel, boutique hotel, downtown Toronto. Tell us about that hotel. Where is it? What is it? How did you get into that business? What’s it like owning a hotel?

David Feld:It’s kind of cool owning a hotel. We have a hotel at 556 Sherbourne, which is on Isabella Street. It’s called Isabella Hotel. It’s just south of Bloor.

Yeah, it’s been quite an adventure buying basically a ripped, torn down place that was pretty much flooded when we bought it.

Andrew la Fleur:

When did you buy it?

David Feld:

About 7 years ago.

Andrew la Fleur:

7 years ago, okay. It was in a really rough shape, so you’ve renovated it all.

David Feld:

Renovated it all. We’ve already done a second renovation. You know what, a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and money went into it. I think if you put all of that into anything … They say if you build it, they will come, which I’ve always thought as such a profound thing and it’s so true.

People show up and they love it. It’s been a great learning experience for us. We’re actually thinking of getting into another hotel soon.

Andrew la Fleur:

Wow! In the similar boutique downtown hotel or something different?

David Feld:

Something a little bigger. We might go double the size. This one’s 42 rooms. Maybe we’ll go into the 8200 rooms next, because we’ve learned a lot here and we’d like to apply that learning to the next project.

Andrew la Fleur:

What’s the long term play with the hotel? It’s different for every property, but you just enjoy the income until the real estate its sitting on is worth a lot then you sell the land, or what’s the game?

David Feld:

When you buy the hotel, you don’t know. It could be that you’ll hold it until the value of the property goes up, or you’ll look at the numbers. If they’re nice, you could just sit and retire with that passive income coming in. It’s not so passive if you’re always working, but passive income.

In our case, luckily, we are getting major offers on the hotel all the time now. It’s getting close to the numbers we would like. I think what we’ll do is we will sell soon and use that money just to buy another hotel and do the same thing again.

It’s a big risk. You’re putting out huge money to buy the property and you’re hoping things will work. You don’t know if the area will work. You have to deal with the city. It’s not fun dealing with them for little permits and things like that.

Yeah, I think I always look at land value for everything I do, even my office here, for instance. I bought it. I don’t even know other lawyers who buy properties. All the lawyers I speak to, they rent their offices. When I told some lawyers that I’m buying this office, they thought I was crazy.

I think you should think about that. If you have the money, buy your property. It’ll go up in value while you’re making your money. The same with the hotel.

Andrew la Fleur:

That goes back to, like you said, your original passion was real estate. You started this law firm, but your underlying passion was real estate. Also, that affected why you bought the property as opposed to leasing the place like every other lawyer. Now you’ve got a great corner property that’s gone up a lot in value. You can do the same thing, I guess, with this. Eventually sell it and then buy something else that’s bigger.

David Feld:

Exactly. That’s what we’re doing. We’re actually looking to buy a second office now for the office.

Andrew la Fleur:

Wow! Let’s talk about assignments a little bit. I know that you’ve helped a lot of buyers and sellers on assignments, condo assignments. It’s a growing part of the Toronto condo market. Maybe for somebody who has no idea, let’s just get the definition. What is an assignment exactly?

David Feld:

Sure. An assignment is when you buy a property that’s unbuilt from a person who bought it from a builder. It’s very simple. You’re stepping into the shoes of the original purchaser who bought from a builder.

Andrew la Fleur:

Okay.

David Feld:

An agreement between a builder and a person is around 45 pages long. It’s a big shoes to fill when you step into these shoes.

Part of what we do here is, in the first moments, when you do sign these agreements, we review everything in detail with the client. We highlight the original agreement. We highlight something called the assignment agreement. Then we prepare a bunch of numbers for the client and we take you through the whole thing.

At the end of a conversation with us on an assignment, you will understand what an assignment is, how it works from beginning to end, and all the numbers and how they play together.

The thing is there are a lot of different parties involved. I just mentioned earlier how many parties there were for just a normal transaction, but add to the mix now another lawyer. There are 3 lawyers involved. Dealing with a builder or dealing with the builder’s lawyers is quite an interesting event all in itself.

Andrew la Fleur:

Right. Why do you think a lot of real estate lawyers that I’ve dealt with I’ve talked to over the years, they don’t understand condo assignments or they really have a hard time with them or they really discourage their clients from doing assignments, selling or buying assignments, just generally making it quite difficult, making it seem like it’s a very difficult thing to do? What’s your take on assignments in general?

David Feld:

It is a very difficult thing to do, but we do it. It’s very difficult because, again, you have so many parties involved, and the numbers are flying in different directions. It’s not all nicely stated on one piece of paper. These have numbers all over the place. We have to hurl in or hurdle in, or I don’t know the right word, herd it into one page that we can do it all with.

Just that alone, the complexity. Many lawyers don’t want to do complex transactions because they’re transactional lawyers and they like to do things quickly and get them done.

It involves more legal work. It involves more, sometimes, legal research. It’s just more involved, so some lawyers just shy away from it. I find so do many realtors shy away from it.

Just like I tell all clients, get a lawyer that does assignments for sure and get a realtor that does assignments for sure. A lot of realtors will try to do an assignment and they just can’t do it. They can mess up the whole thing and it can create a lot of problems.

Andrew la Fleur:

You are a condo investor yourself, right?

David Feld:

Correct.

Andrew la Fleur:You’ve invested in condos. You own different condos. Tell us about what you own or what you bought, what’s your strategy with your condo investments.

David Feld:

I’ve done it all. I always believe it’s important, if you’re going to do this, to get a few small units and put some tenants in. Just to get your feet wet, start with one unit, get a tenant in it, and see what it’s like to be a landlord, first of all.

You want the rent, obviously, that you get from your tenant to cover for property taxes, maintenance fees, and your mortgage – at least that. Then, if all things being equal, if the market is going up, which we all hope it is, over the course of a bunch of years, if you will pay off your mortgage, and you’ll be sitting on passive income. Again, the magic word, passive income.

The goal for all of us is to have passive income. We will all retire one day. We will all not be able to work one day, not too much.

Andrew la Fleur:

I can’t picture you retired, I’m sorry.

David Feld:

I won’t retire until I die.

Andrew la Fleur:

Most of us will retire.

David Feld:

Yeah. I don’t see myself retiring, but I want to calm down a bit. I want to slow down what I do in a day. I want to have more control over everything.

Definitely good to get some tenants in there and see how that goes, see what it’s like to be a landlord, see how you deal with tenants. If you like it and you do it once then … Everyone I know who’s done it who likes it, they catch the bug. It’s a fever they have. You’ve got to do it again. You go again and it’s happening again.

Slowly, my idea was to get at least 5 that were doing that, that’s what you want to aim for, I think. Then you’ll know that when you retire, you’ll have enough money to cover for everything.

Once I did that for a while and I started loving it, I said, “Hey, I should try this assignment thing,” that’s what we were talking about. I started doing some assignments.

I, personally, love doing assignments because I get bored easily. Buying property and holding it is fun, but then I’m waiting for what? For me to retire? I want the money now. I want to use it again now.

It’s kind of been fun for me. It’s like the stock market, when you buy and sell and buy and sell. That’s kind of what I’m doing with real estate.

I don’t recommend this to everybody. This is for someone who can take big risks. Why I say that is I sometimes buy properties to assign them. That’s my main purpose of doing it.

I’ll buy something from a builder that I think is a great price per square foot.

Andrew la Fleur:

That’s your plan A.

David Feld:

Plan A is to assign. Then I wait 2 years, just before it’s built. Just before it’s finished being built, I look for buyers. If I make a nice profit, I’d take that money out right away. From that, I can buy 2 condos and do it again.

I’ve been doing that. It’s great. Just know that, with every assignment, you have to complete the transaction if you can’t find a buyer.

You’d be a little crazy to be buying 4 or 5 properties a year, which is what I’m doing lately, knowing that if you don’t find buyers for any of them, you’ll have to close on all of them. When I say close on them all, there are HST rebate issues that apply to that, which I know you’re talking about another time.

Andrew la Fleur:

Yeah. That’s great. You’re, obviously, a more experienced investor. You’re now taking it to the next level in your investment strategy and taking on some more riskier plays that may not be for everyone, but they’re working well for you right now.

David Feld:

That’s right. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the near future with the condo market so I am taking it easy. I’m not going crazy like I used to.

Andrew la Fleur:

Let’s talk about the condo market. What is your take on the market right now? What’s happening?

David Feld:

From my limited perspective, just the law firm alone, the deals are coming in by the truckload. I’ll give you real numbers. I’m getting around 7 to 8 deals per day. That means, to me, that the market is booming, but there’s so many other variables that are coming to play, like what is my market share and things like that. I don’t know if that’s enough.

I’m on Facebook. A lot of my friends, as you know, are realtors. Everyone is just doing incredible. Everyone I know.

From that and just looking at the real numbers, the market is doing great. I understand – you can correct me if I’m wrong – that now they’re saying that 2-bedroom units are a better long term investment than 1-bedroom units. I would have never thought that, but that’s something I’m hearing now.

I guess it makes sense to some degree because families are moving into condos now. They want to come downtown. They’re working downtown. They have a kid or two. Not everyone’s buying houses. We’re running out of houses, so they need a place to move. 2 bedrooms are becoming a big thing now.

Andrew la Fleur:

Do you own any 2 bedrooms or are you looking at adding some 2-bedroom units?

David Feld:

What I’ve been doing lately is townhouses. I’ve been trying to do townhouses, which is the best of both worlds. It’s a house, so I can call it a house. It’s a piece of land. A lot of people like that. It’s bigger, so it’s good.

The risk there is the purchase price which is much higher – much, much higher, but I’m finding a good place with townhouses now.

I do not own any 2-bedroom condos, but I own a bunch of 1-bedroom condos, because that was the advice I gave and used myself. The simple reason is this: if you buy cheaper places, you’ll have more people to buy it or rent it from you. It’s that simple. The higher the number goes, you’re limiting the kind of people that could buy or rent from you.

Andrew la Fleur:

That’s great advice. Just a final question. Is there one question that no one ever asked you about yourself or your business or the condo market that you wish someone would ask you about?

David Feld:

That’s a good one. I just always want to get across my passion for my clients and the law and systems. My wife and I and the whole team here, we … I eat, breathe, and sleep real estate. I don’t know how to get that across to people. I get so angry if someone wouldn’t use our firm or something like that, but I can’t do anything about it.

I just want everyone to know that we really care and we have a lot of experience because of the high volume that we do. Any potential issues that could happen, we usually fix them well before they would ever pop up actually. That’s one thing.

Also, just personally, I am obsessed, as you know, with efficiency and systems and ways of making communication better between us and all the parties. It’s just something I wish I could share with the world and yell it off the rooftops, but it’s not something I’d do because, as lawyers – believe it or not; I know everyone will laugh – you’re not supposed to show yourself as an arrogant prick.

You’re supposed to be modest. Just like you guys have, actually, you’re not allowed to say, “We’re number one,” and things like that. Lawyers, especially, have rules about that, but I just wish we could yell it off the tops of mountains and things like that.

Andrew la Fleur:I think this podcast will go a long way to getting the message out there. I think that I could definitely vouch for your firm and how awesome you guys are and how the level of service you guys provide is just unmatched in Toronto, as far as I’m concerned. Not just me, the list of top real estate agents in the city that are using you guys is just growing by the day.

David Feld:

I love it.

Andrew la Fleur:

Yeah.

David Feld:

Thank you very much.

Andrew la Fleur:

If people want to get a hold of you, David, what’s the best way to find you online?

David Feld:

We’re very digital. You can just go to our website, www.wearelaw.ca. From there, you can just click and talk to us right from the website.

If you want to e-mail us directly, it’s just info@wearelaw.ca and you’ll hit us right away. We endeavor to respond to e-mails usually within 5 minutes, get everything going for you. Or you can call me, if you like. I don’t know, should I give out my number?

Andrew la Fleur:

If you want to, yeah. Totally.

David Feld:

Yeah. If you want to call our office anytime, 416-203-6347. You can ask to speak to anyone. We’ll all help you, or you can ask to speak directly to me, David, and we’ll be glad to help out.

Andrew la Fleur:

That’s great. Thank you very much for your time, David. Hopefully, we can have you again on the show soon.

David Feld:

Definitely. Thank you.

Andrew la Fleur:

Okay. I hope you enjoyed that interview with David Feld.

As a condo investor, you need to have a team of professionals – a realtor, a lawyer, mortgage broker, accountant, property manager, if necessary, etcetera – who are not just good at what they do, but they also understand the game, understand condo investing.

The first question that I ask any new professional that I’m thinking of working with is, “Are you a condo investor? What have you bought?”

David has been obsessed with real estate investing since he was a kid, helping his mom with her properties, as you heard in this interview. When you work with somebody like David on a transaction, as a condo investor, you get the added benefit of having someone on your team that has decades of experience doing exactly the thing that you are trying to do, and that is to make money in real estate.

I’m probably going to have David on the podcast again soon. If you have any specific questions that you want to ask or you want me to ask David then just leave a comment on the show notes, which, once again, you can find over at truecondos.com/david.

All right, that’s enough for me for today. If you like the show, please go to iTunes on your computer and leave me a review. Once again, if you’re having trouble figuring out how to do that, just go to the show notes, truecondos.com/david and you can watch a little video tutorial there that I made that shows you exactly how to leave a review on iTunes.

All right, thanks for listening. Until next time. Bye.

Thanks for listening to the True Condos Podcast. Remember, your positive reviews make a big difference to the show. To learn more about condo investing, become a True Condo subscriber by visiting truecondos.com.

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