Courtesy Bob Dhillon

Calgary real estate mogul Bob Dhillon has built a successful business across Western Canada with Mainstreet Equity Corp., which owns and manages thousands of rental properties.

His business has its roots on the residential side of real estate, and it all started when he bought his first home in Calgary, fixed it up and sold it for a profit.

That model of buying properties, adding value and then renting them at a competitive price has served him well, as the Mainstreet empire has grown to 11,385 suites in 10 western Canadian cities.

The first residential property he bought was with a partner in Calgary’s southwest Sunalta neighbourhood, just outside the downtown core, for about $32,000.

“It was one of these iconic houses on the hill that overlooked downtown Calgary.”

“I was 19 or 20 years old. I bought it from a bank, it was a foreclosure. It was boarded up. We fixed it up and sold it,” said Dhillon. “I made $17,000 or $18,000 on my first flip.”

It was good money for someone who in his 20s, and the experience paved the way for his business successes over the next 30 years.

The house was originally bought in the late 1980s, and Dhillon held onto the property for just a few months before selling it.

“I learned that real estate is cyclical. It’s inefficient. It is an opportunity where you can create value yourself. It’s not like buying a stock, and you’re waiting for other people to create the value in the stock,” said Dhillon.

“In real estate, I created the value myself by fixing it up and renting it and selling it off. If you’re an entrepreneur/investor and a value creator, then nothing beats distressed real estate. For an entrepreneurial-oriented investor, real estate sometimes can be the perfect choice.”

He used the same formula when he bought a house to live in. That too was in the 1980s and it was also a foreclosure.

“It was in Upper Scarboro. I fixed it up when I moved into it. I lived there for 16 years and then I moved to Mount Royal,” he said. “It was one of these iconic houses on the hill that overlooked downtown Calgary.”