Spend a few minutes watching W Network’s reality series Hockey Wives, and you quickly realize two things. One – it’s not at all like any of those Real Housewives shows riddled with F-bombs and B-words. And two – it has a decidedly Canadian element of humility to it.
Of any “wives” show, you might expect one featuring hockey would be filled with drama. But there are no cat fights here. Sorry.
The cast seems real, reasonable and grounded.
Notable among them is Kodette LaBarbera, wife of recently retired NHL and AHL goalie Jason LaBarbera, and mom to 7-year-old Ryder and Easton, 5. Among the cast of models, TV personalities and entrepreneurs, Kodette stands out as one of the stars of the show.
Hockey Wives provides a glimpse into the family’s challenges with a suitcase lifestyle, with Ryder’s autism and Kodette’s mission to raise awareness and funds for the cause. And in season two recently ended, we learn of Jason’s impending retirement and the LaBarbera’s growing interest in real estate.
YPNextHome spoke to Kodette about their transition from the hockey rink to the investment property arena.
YPNextHome: How did you and Jason get started investing in real estate? On the show, you discussed buying an 18-unit complex in Nelson, BC, but you also own two single-family homes in Calgary as investment properties…
KL: There was never really a start to it. Jason purchased his first home in Calgary many years back. He always had friends and brothers living there, so when we started dating we purchased one that was just for us. We bought in Scottsdale, Ariz. a few years after that and lived there for four years when Jason was with the Coyotes. We have since sold that one. We just purchased our “forever” home in Calgary… we just needed a bigger yard for the boys! With the market the way it is in Calgary, it’s easier to just hang on to all three properties.
YPNextHome: What’s your motivation – preparing for retirement? Building a nest egg for the boys? To build wealth?
KL: It’s definitely a good nest egg for the boys. We hope to keep building that up for them.
YPNextHome: On the show, it seemed like you were managing this part of your lives, while Jason focused on hockey. Is that the case, and how do you balance your new ‘career’ and his? Who does what?
KL: Oh, no… I really wanted that building in Nelson, but Jason is definitely more hands-on with investments, and he’s quite good at it. I do all the charity work and fundraising, cleaning, managing the boys’ schedules. Jason plays hockey, then he does all the cooking, banking and investments.
YPNextHome: I understand you invest with partners. Is this an official joint-venture partnership or a more informal arrangement?
KL: They are former teammates and friends of ours – Jim and Stefanie Vandermeer. Jim and Jason have always had the same agent, so we have been closely tied to them for a long time. It’s an official joint venture – our holding company is set up. Stefanie is the brains behind all of it. It always amazes me how much she knows.
YPNextHome: What investment strategy are you using – ‘buy, hold and rent’?
KL: Yes. For now.
YPNextHome: Why Calgary?
KL: We both ended up here… there’s more opportunity than where I am from (Nelson). Jason started coming here for development camps with the New York Rangers (who drafted him). We both fell in love with Calgary and stayed. Now we are hanging onto the properties and it’s a great situation. We love it here. It’s a great city, and there’s a lot of draw for people to move here.
YPNextHome: How have these properties performed for you, as investments?
KL: Great, but as with any house, there are repairs along the way.
YPNextHome: How are your tenants? What are some tips on how to find, and manage, good tenants?
KL: Our tenants are wonderful. We are very fortunate to have them and we have a great relationship. Just make sure as best you can that they are stable. Interview as many people as you need to. You will know when you really like someone.
YPNextHome: How has the recent downturn in the economy and housing market affected your properties?
KL: Rent is a little cheaper than it normally would be, but it’s okay… it will pick up again. We have confidence in that.
YPNextHome: Prices are down in Calgary – might you be thinking of acquiring more properties?
KL: Not at the moment. It feels like we have a lot going on right now. But that is why we bought our forever home now – we took advantage of the downturn.
YPNextHome: What other types of investment strategies have you considered?
KL: We have considered them all – storage units, condos, parking lots – you name it!
YPNextHome: What led you to look at the building in Nelson? The location, building and type of investment are very different from your other properties…
KL: I’m from Nelson, but my family is no longer there, so it would have been nice to have a tie there again. Nelson is a great place, so quaint. Everyone falls in love with Nelson. (Editor’s note: the LaBarberas backed out of the deal after the building inspection revealed some costly necessary repairs.)
YPNextHome: What did you learn from that experience that you can share?
KL: Be thorough. We have made this mistake before. Stefanie is very thorough, so that has helped us out in many ways. Get all the information you need to be comfortable with your purchase.
YPNextHome: Now that the Nelson deal fell through, what might be next as you expand your property holdings?
KL: We’re just keeping an eye out for anything that the four of us feel comfortable with.
YPNextHome: On the show, (NHL goalie Jonathan Bernier’s wife) Martine Forget joked that your and Jason’s real estate ventures were inspiring. Have you actually encouraged friends and family to invest?
KL: Yes! I only really talk about it with people I am close to, though. It’s not something that comes up in everyday conversation. There are also just some people who enjoy talking about it more than others.
YPNextHome: What advice would you have for others thinking of investing in real estate for the first time?
KL: Stay within your limits. Even if you get the funding, you don’t want to dig yourself into a hole. The economy and housing market can shift at any time.
YPNextHome: Is Jason still playing? You joked on the show that he is nearing retirement…
KL: He’s not! He took a job as goalie coach for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen. It’s a wonderful situation for us. No moving, great organization and he loves learning. I’m very excited and so proud of him.
YPNextHome: What plans do you have now that he’s retired as a player?
KL: I’m not sure yet. Probably still do charity events and working with non-profit organizations.
YPNextHome: How are Ryder and Easton? They seem like real characters… How do you manage being a mom, hockey wife and real estate mogul all at once?
KL: Ryder and Easton are amazing. They are so happy to be home and adjusting well. Ryder keeps advancing every day, as he has been for the last few years. They are hilarious – they make us laugh all day. We are very fortunate to have such wonderful, loving and spunky kids! We have a fun household. I just make a lot of lists. I’m type A – I just get stuff done!
For more real estate investment news, see our new publication Canadian Property Investor.