Lauren McPhillips is the creative mastermind behind This Renegade Love, an online platform that helps entrepreneurs build a unique brand and tell their stories online. Her tribe of renegades includes bloggers, business owners, creatives and anyone in between (including myself!). We delight in her opinion on everything from mastering Pinterest and growing an email list to self-love and body positivity. And now, she’s moved into a new domain: Homeownership. This past summer, McPhillips and her husband packed up their rental condo in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood and bought a home two hours east of the city in picturesque Prince Edward County. Here, McPhillips welcomes us in for a closer look at her homeownership journey.
Originally, the couple set their sites on buying a place in Toronto. But there was one caveat: They wanted to avoid the condo market (the maintenance fees and mystery neighbours, more specifically). “So we started looking at houses and we quickly discovered that it was very, very expensive,” she says with a laugh. They also love to travel and weren’t prepared to forfeit their lifestyle to make it work. McPhillips had been invited on a few press trips to Airbnbs and hotels in Prince Edward County, and picked up on the exciting energy bubbling in the region. “A lot of new businesses were popping up and I really saw an entrepreneurial spirit growing here and a younger community coming together,” she says. The vineyards, gorgeous landscapes and farm-to-table eats didn’t hurt either. Plus, more room for her pup Keith to run around.
They eventually bought the first house they looked at. “We ended up looking at probably eight more houses but we just kept coming back to this one,” she says. It’s a new-build with tons of charming custom detailing on two-and-a-half acres of land.
Despite the fact that 20 percent of the Canadian population are their own bosses (at least part-time), qualifying for a mortgage when you’re self-employed is easier said than done. Your lender will need to see your income, in the form of taxes, over the last two to three years. “It’s a little bit hard when your income is coming from all these different clients, and you do different types of work,” says McPhillips, who has brand partnerships on her plate, along with freelance writing, workshops, e-courses and more.
In addition, many entrepreneurs write off their expenses to minimize their taxes payable, which make their net income appear lower to lenders. And when you don’t have a steady paycheck, that income can fluctuate — even if it’s trending positive. “Last year was a very transitional year for me,” says McPhillips. “I was kind of moving out of brand partnerships and I was saying no to a lot of work.” Shifting her business in a new direction temporarily skewed the numbers — at the exact moment they were looking for a pre-approval.
“I actually owned a house years and years ago with an ex. And it felt like they literally handed us a mortgage because I wasn’t self-employed,” she says. Her husband is also in the process of securing his permanent residency, which added to the complexity. They ended up working with a mortgage broker and finding a decent interest rate with Manulife. “It was the process of back and forth and them needing things everyday that almost gave me a heart attack — literally right up until the day we signed,” she says.
The entrepreneur also had to overcome the fear of starting over and swapping the hustle and bustle of Canada’s largest city for a slower way of life (and internet connection). A well-intentioned comment spurred some understandable self doubt: “Aren’t you worried that you’ll become irrelevant now? Like, that your business won’t survive now that you’ve left the city?” McPhillips shared in her newsletter that despite the comment feeling like an initial punch to her gut, she sees things differently now: “Well, it’s now been two months since I moved from the city, and what I’ve come to understand is that this wasn’t an upheaval of my life – it was simply a pivot. And instead of fear it, I choose to lean in to it.”
McPhillips shows her audience what’s possible. For many entrepreneurs who are grinding it out in Toronto and hitting homeownership walls thanks to affordability issues, the next wave may feel inspired to follow in her footsteps. The WiFi may be painfully slow, but her homeownership journey only showcases the power of online-based businesses. “There have been a few people who told me, ‘I actually started following you because you made the move from the city to do this thing,’” she says.