I’ve started writing again about the importance of passion projects as a result of our pandemic pivot. Stay tuned for more about that! I am really really excited to share my 4th book with the world. Stay tuned!
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to make tough decisions, but a Colchester couple has been living an HGTV episode that’s taken them from no income to property millionaires.
Stephanie and Brian Aspinall gambled the equity in their primary home to buy and renovate four cottages in the Colchester area as Airbnb rentals. In just over a year they’ve turned their sweat equity into a tidy $1-million profit on those properties, along with the rental income and the proceeds from the sale of their primary home.
“Our whole world was changed by COVID on March 13, 2020,” Brian Aspinall said.
“I was a keynote speaker at an IT conference in Grand Rapids when they told us, ‘You better go home. They’re talking about closing the border.’
“In a matter of days, we lost 18 months of future business and faced having no income and having to go on CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit).
“It was scary trying to figure out how we could survive.”
Aspinall said opportunities did re-emerge in the IT field as business and education pivoted, but there was no way of knowing that scenario or the timetable back then.
“It was six to eight months of mostly silence before those opportunities really began to appear,” Aspinall said. “We couldn’t wait until the beginning of 2021.”
Having bought a property near the end of 2019 with potential as an Airbnb, the Aspinalls opted to use the equity in their primary residence to get the financing for the renovation. They had chosen the area because of the lack of accommodations to serve a growing wine region and for the ease of access to maintaining them.
It was the ultimate bet on themselves and their resilience.
“The only income we could show the bank was from what we’d saved in our teachers’ pensions for 15 years,” said 40-year-old Brian Aspinall, who along with his 41-year-old wife had left their elementary teaching jobs with the Chatham-Kent school board to start their IT consulting firm Code Breakers Inc. in 2016
“But it felt good to think about swinging a hammer building something after the two of us had spent all our time in careers that weren’t physical.”
With some construction experience from his high school and University of Windsor days, Aspinall and Stephanie began their adventure into the unknown.
They decided to create a video blog of the entire journey that’s available for viewing at YouTube.mraspinall.com.
“Working and spending so much time together was something new for us,” Brian Aspinall said. “We learned as we went along. Each project got more complicated.
“We used each property to finance the next one. By the third and fourth houses, the bank didn’t care that we had no pay check because of the rental income and assets we’d built up.”
However, the path to becoming a millionaire was littered with challenges from material shortages, to headaches over renters breaking rules forbidding big parties and municipal regulations.
In May 2021 the couple cashed in their chips as their Code Breakers business once again was flourishing and speaking engagements across North America returned.
“We’d have to start a property management company to run it,” Aspinall said. “Washing laundry for five homes with just one washer and dryer isn’t easy.”
However, the couple has no regrets over their life-changing adventure. They plan to continue with their Airbnb renos in the future in more tourist-focused, southern climates like Mexico.
“We’d do it all again,” said Aspinall, who said the couple is now building their dream home on Lake Erie in Colchester.
“The secret for us was not getting into bidding wars. We’ll let the market cool a bit.”