Debbie Gilbert was born and raised in Barrie. Her career has been varied including running her own business, owning and operating a franchise, Executive Director of a local charity and working senior administrative positions in education and family mental health. She believes all her work and life experience has brought her to her current career as a Real Estate Entrepreneur.

In 2015 she embarked on this new business – real estate investment. At first she did the project management and some of the house renovations herself, but after her second property decided it was easier to hire people to do the work. She would take a single family home, renovate and turn it into a legal duplex, with rental income generated from two units.

Today, she has a healthy portfolio including duplexes and student rentals in Barrie and Orillia.

These ventures, however, just whetted her appetite to dream bigger, and in 2017 she started Rosehill Heights, through which she is creating shared housing for senior women.

She has just completed renovations on her first property which will accommodate four women.   She did extensive research and hired experts to advise her along the way, such as lawyers to iron out all the legal ramifications and necessary paperwork.

She enlisted professional help to develop a thorough screening process and to make sure the women who end up as her tenants are compatible with each other. “This process gives new meaning to the “like” in like-minded women.” she jokes.

Located in a million-dollar neighbourhood, she has made sure that the bungalow has been renovated, decorated and furnished to the highest of standards. Each suite is a bed/sitting room and private bathroom, and the shared space includes a living room, dining room, family room, laundry on both floors as well as an office space, deck and patio backing onto mature forest. The lower walk-out level includes another family room and a kitchenette for convenience.

The concept of seniors sharing space is not new, but Debbie is proposing to do it slightly differently at Rosehill Heights. The residents will be renting their space, rather than co-owning the house. This gives the women more freedom on how they invest and spend their money and if it doesn’t work out, it is less of a risk, and easier for people to move on rather than having to sell their “share” as in the co-ownership model.

While she originally wants to help senior women find suitable accommodation, she projects that the next few Rosehill Heights homes may be co-ed, or even a house specifically for the LGBTQ community.

It is impressive to learn about the amount of research and time Debbie has invested in making sure she is doing this project right. And in fact, when asked what advice she would give to someone starting out in her own business that was her immediate response – “do your homework.”

And clearly Debbie has. She has embarked on an ambitious project that is going to make a difference in the lives of senior women in her community, and I suspect this house will be the first of many.