This year, Ron Lovett got a tour of a pair of apartment blocks in the Spence neighbourhood — at 677 Maryland St. and 626 Ellice Ave. — without setting foot in them, or even in Winnipeg. Seeing the buildings over Zoom, he liked what he saw, and bought them.
The Halifax-based entrepreneur got his start in the housing world in 2017 after selling Source Security & Investigations, his private security company, to a multinational corporation, using that deal to fund his next venture, Vida Living.
The company started off in Halifax, purchasing rental properties in that city's north end that had been rundown or mismanaged, Lovett said. The company takes stock of the building, upgrading security and lighting and renovating the units as needed: some were crawling with insects and in need of serious repairs.
"You wouldn't want to live there until we came in," he said.
But unlike "renovicters," who buy low-cost buildings only to raise rents to finance those repairs, Lovett insists that's not his company's modus operandi. "We buy a building based on current rents and those are the rents we keep," he said.
In about three years, the company has expanded to managing more than 300 units in Halifax and Dartmouth, with a "unique" approach to renting, including offering incentives to tenants who start a business, paying movers or breaking leases without penalty if renters buy a home, and giving skilled tenants right of refusal for paid work in company-owned buildings. Vida also strikes deals with employers to give workers initial discounts on rents.