RapidChat: Josh and Elizabeth Sinclair tackle rental real estate in Grand Rapids

Rapid Growth: When did you two purchase your first home?

Josh Sinclair: We bought our first home in April 2016 close to Houseman Field in the Midtown neighborhood.

RG: Did you buy it with the intention of turning it into a rental property?

Elizabeth Sinclair: We sure did! We bought a duplex and fixed up the lower half to move into ourselves and had a renter upstairs.

JS: Our intentions were to buy an old duplex and fix it up. We started with renovations on the lower unit of a home built in 1986 and after we were able to save more money, then renovated the upstairs.

RG: How have you managed to close on multiple homes — especially with the supply being low and the demand being so high?

ES: We look for the homes no one else wants. We buy the really tough ones that others pass over. With everything going so quickly and with all cash offers, we have to be patient for the right one and be willing to put the work in where no one else will. Also, you have to make decisions quick once they present themselves. 

JS: Like the wifey said, we buy homes that most people want nothing to do with. We also submit lots (and lots) of offers that get rejected. You have to be persistent in this business — and never fall in love with a property.

RG: Are you involved with any of the neighborhood associations?

JS: I am very involved with the Rental Property Owners Association here in Grand Rapids; they have been so helpful learning the ins and outs of this crazy real estate investing world.

RG: What are their top concerns for their community?

ES: Midtown still talks about their parking! Seems downtown has moved on from the parking conversation a bit, but the Midtown neighborhood has some residents who have been there for years and are finding the new changes invasive. 

RG: How do you find a balance between doing what’s best for your family — as entrepreneurs — and for the people of Grand Rapids?

ES: This is a tough one! I work in the housing market in my day-to-day job as well and this one always gets to me. Gentrification is true (and real) here in GR and should continue to be discussed and changes made moving forward to reach a solution for these issues. Joshua and I just recently had this conversation about, are what we are doing “the right thing." We love taking old homes and making them beautiful to provide lovely spaces for those in Grand Rapids to live. I think I will always wrestle with this but believe we have achieved a good balance in our lives for now. 

RG: Where do you stand with the rising rental prices?

ES: I don’t have the answer for this and I don’t think anyone does or we would resolve it. The rising rental rates make it great for us as entrepreneurs and for our economy but force a struggle to balance out the needs of an entire city.  

RG: Does Sinclair Properties strive to keep rent prices affordable?

ES: We don't strive to dip into the affordable housing market; we are market rate housing. With only so many tax credits to go around for affordable housing, we leave that to those who already do it best.

RG: How have you seen lower-income families being impacted by this?

ES: Our rising prices around town in all areas are bringing talent to the city and continuing to create jobs, but the rising price in homes is causing those long-time residents to be displaced. I think we need to be listening to the city’s zoning proposals and be open-minded to new ways to create the housing needed. We can’t say there is a problem, shoot down all the suggestions given, all while not coming up with any ideas ourselves. This keeps us stagnant in a time of growth — which is why we are feeling the strain and the growing pains so much. 

RG: In which ways do you think the city can help prevent displacement and better serve the “missing middle?"

ES: The city has recently partnered with some builders and the land bank to purchase lots throughout surrounding neighborhoods to rebuild the missing middle single-family homes. My sister and brother-in-law just bought one of these homes over in the Baxter neighborhood south of Wealthy St. and are loving it. Additionally, we need to be ok with some of these zoning improvements proposed to create the actual space to have the missing middle accommodated.

JS: I know our city officials are well qualified and have been working diligently to work on this problem and find some common ground.

Jenna K. Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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