Real Estate Investing in a Pandemic – Year 2

When this pandemic started in 2020, I never thought it would last as long as it now has.  We are now almost 2 years into it, and I think we are all going a little covid crazy.  

When will it end?

Last year, I recapped our real estate investing and was very open and honest about how things went. It was not pretty.

And as we are still in a pandemic, I thought I would provide another honest update about the truth about real estate investing in a pandemic. 2021 was a much better year for us.

Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly and the truth about real estate investing in a pandemic – year 2.

The Good

Similar to 2020, one of the bright points of our real estate portfolio is the relationship with our tenants. We self-manage our portfolio and I take great pride in finding the right tenants and building a relationship with them throughout their tenancy.

It never ceases to amaze me the horror stories tenants share about terrible landlords. We strive very hard to not be one of those horror stories.  But it is still an investment for us, and we do treat it like a business. 

So, I’m sure some of our tenants do not like us very much. That’s okay, you can’t please everyone.

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Decreased Costs

We worked hard in 2021 to decrease our costs. There will always be expenses with owning rental properties.  And thankfully, we can write these expenses off.  But there are still some things we can do to decrease our costs.

One thing that helped was we only needed to replace 2 major appliances in 2021, compared to 5 in 2020.

And one of the best things we did to reduce costs in 2021 was to move our insurance over to Square One. The process was very simple and ended up saving us $2000 across our portfolio. 

Not all insurance companies offer robust landlord insurance but we are very happy with Square One.  They offer an a-la-carte type of insurance so you can get exactly the coverage that you need.  My personal favourite is that I can set the loss of use coverage.  This coverage will cover our rent should we have a claim that prevents our property from being tenanted.

Related Post – Square One Insurance Review – Slash Your Home Insurance Bill

If you have property insurance (as a landlord, tenant, or homeowner) I would definitely recommend taking the 15 minutes it takes to get an online quote. And if you use my referral link you can save an extra $20 off your premium.

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Increased Rents

I know that times are still tough for many families right now. There is a lot of uncertainty with this pandemic and rolling restrictions and lockdowns.

In 2020 we didn’t increase any of our rents. In fact, we lowered some to help out our tenants.

But in 2021, we increased rents on some of our properties. There is no limit to how much you can increase rents in Alberta but, we can only do it once every 365 days of tenancy.

Most of our rental increases came on property turnovers.  As one tenant moved out, we increased the rent for the next tenant. Often this meant just bringing up the rent to market value as market rents had risen over the past year.

Some would ask why we didn’t increase rents sooner. This is often a discussion in our household. And we always end up deciding that keeping a great tenant for a little less rent is better for us than a poor tenant who pays more; the headache is often not worth the extra rent.

We did have a couple of properties that we hadn’t increased rents on in a few years, so those rents went up a bit too this past year.

No Vacancy

I’m delighted to report that we had no vacancy in 2021. Most years this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But renting out a property in a pandemic isn’t always easy. And we had a few things working against us (see below).

Mortgage Pay Down

Keeping our properties rented always helps with mortgage pay down.  Each month our net worth grows a little bit more thanks to our tenants paying down our mortgages.

We had just over $71,000 in mortgage pay down throughout the whole year.  Now, that amount isn’t passive, but it also isn’t coming directly from our pockets.

The Bad

The downside of owning rental properties and self-managing them is that they are not a passive investment. Some of the cons are things that take up more of our time than we would like.

4 Property Turnovers

We currently own 9 rental properties, and throughout 2021 we had 4 of them turnover (one of them multiple times).

The bad part of a property turnover is the time and energy it takes to re-rent a property.  The good part is that we were able to increase rents. And sometimes, a turnover means losing a great (or not so great) tenant.

Some of our tenants moved on because they bought their own property, and some moved cities. There was no major conflict that caused our property turnovers this year.

Decreased Property Values

Because we include our rental properties in our net worth statement, we needed to develop a consistent way to value them.  It doesn’t 100% matter how you value your property as long as it’s 1) consistent and 2) realistic.

When we first started investing in properties, we decided to use the city assessed value as the property value for our net worth statement.  This value is often not what we would get if we sold the property. But seeing as we have no intention of selling any of our properties anytime soon, it really is just a paper value anyway.

Where we live and invest, property values went down in 2021. And while that is good from a property tax bill perspective, it does negatively impact our net worth.

Overall, our properties decreased in value by $40,000, which is a heck of a lot better than the 6 figure hit we took in 2020.


Self-managing our portfolio means that our tenants contact us directly if something goes wrong.  And while there is this myth of midnight plugged toilet calls, we can never predict when something will come up with a property.

And more often than not, something comes up when it’s not always “the best” time for us.  This was especially true in 2021 with the birth of our little one.  

I had adjusted our schedules to have the month before and after clear of property inspections and leases. But in reality, maintenance issues came up.  Thankfully hubby was off on parental leave with me which made this (a little) more manageable.

The Ugly

In 2020 our big “ugly” was a tenant who abandoned a property.  Here’s a quick update on that situation.

We took that tenant to the RTDRS (Residential Tenancy Dispute Resolution Service) and had our hearing in early 2021.  We won our cases for damages owed. But now, we are still trying to get the previous tenant to pay what she owes us. Hopefully, we will make more progress on this front in 2022.

2 Lease Breaks

Overall, 2021 wasn’t that ugly of a year for our rental portfolio.

But we did have 2 tenants break their lease, which was a pain in the butt.

The first tenant left the property in a big mess that we had to clean – not fun. Usually, we would get our cleaner to do that, but there was no time.  

The previous tenant said they would have the place cleaned. We believed them and had the new tenant lined up to move in immediately. Then the previous tenant left without cleaning. 

So, we spent some time scrubbing. Not the best-case scenario, but also not terrible. Lesson learned.

And the second tenant to break their lease did so in the middle of the winter. Not an ideal time to re-rent a place, but the tenant gave us as much time as they could as they had to relocate due to work.  Thankfully, we were able to get that property re-rented without incident.

The silver lining with both lease breaks is that we found new (fantastic) tenants in a timely manner.

Final Thoughts

Well, the details for 2021 weren’t as juicy as 2020, but there will be up and down years. Overall the consistency of our real estate portfolio will pay off for us in the future.

This year, we took the time to more actively manage our properties and look for ways to decrease our costs.  If rents continue to trend upward, 2022 may be an even more profitable year.

Hopefully, that gives you a little glimpse behind the curtain of what it was like to invest in real estate during year 2 of a pandemic. 

How did your real estate portfolio perform in 2021?

10 thoughts on “Real Estate Investing in a Pandemic – Year 2”

  1. “Some would ask why we didn’t increase rents sooner. This is often a discussion in our household. And we always end up deciding that keeping a great tenant for a little less rent is better for us than a poor tenant who pays more; the headache is often not worth the extra rent.”

    Totally agree Maria. We decided to hold off on increases rents last October when our first year had passed with our tenants. While I would not call them “fantastic” by any means, they pay rent on time and ultimately that’s a huge factor. It seems silly to me to try to increase rent by say $100/month, have them leave, and let it be vacant for a few weeks while they are moving out and someone else is moving in. You’re already playing catch up at that point. And then crossing your fingers that the new tenant pays on time.



    1. Court – if your tenants pay rent on time and take care of the place then you’re set. Sometimes you have to look at the big picture. If you end up with a month of vacancy it is totally not worth it. Even if you can avoid a vacancy the extra headache of finding a new tenant can be time-consuming. Right now I’d much rather spend that time with my family.

  2. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for the candid assessement of being a landlord. Rental properties certainly are the type of investments that help many people achieve FI sooner. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Rommel. Real estate investing is definitely not passive and not for everyone but it’s helping accelerate our path to FI.

  3. 9 rental properties wow! Ten years ago I said that I was going to start buying and renting out properties, and guess how many I have now? 0, lol. I applaud people who can deal with the occasional hassle of managing tenants. A few of my friends have told me too many horror stories and that has kept me on the sidelines with only stocks.
    I think you are Canadian, but in the US there was like 1 and a half years where tenants were allowed to not pay rent and stay in the rental property. The assumption is that a rental landlord is a rich, fat cat who can sustain over a year without income. As you stated above, you have mortgages too! Then I think about vacation rentals and I shiver! Nice work though on your end.

    1. Ryan – yes I’m Canadian and here rent regulations fall under provincial jurisdiction. Some provinces are very pro tenant. Thankfully I live in a province that has a nice balance. Do landlords take advantage of that? Probably. But that just makes our properties that much more attractive because we always treat our tenants how we would want to be treated. It is possible to have a win-win situation.

  4. You and your husband are the best kind of landlords. You clearly treat your tenants with respect and kindness, and it comes back to you in the way most of them treat you and your properties.

    Sorry to hear it was a tougher year for you than in years past… and all on top of you being pregnant and giving birth to your second! I hope 2022 will be an easier year for you.

    1. Thanks Chrissy. Even though we run our real estate as a business, it’s always important to us to treat all our tenants like people and how we would like to be treated. A little kindness really goes a long way. Yes, here’s hoping 2022 is easier:)

  5. Greta job on managing 9 doors without vacancy. Very impressive! … I also agree with your point about the good and bad side of turnover. I our case, we had a turnover on one of our rentals which ended up to be a good things since we managed to repaint the unit and get much better tenants.

    1. Moe – yes, if properly managed a property turnover can be very beneficial. I know some landlords that have had the same tenant for years. And it’s not until that tenant leaves that they are able to repaint or change out flooring or fixtures.

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