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Flat year on horizon for region's real estate – Times Colonist

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ANDREW A. DUFFY

Times Colonist

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After a flat sales year in 2019, the Greater Victoria Real Estate Board is expecting another without shocks, surprises, slumps or super-charged growth.

“I suspect it will be more of the same,” said incoming Victoria Real Estate Board president David Langlois. “There are no shocks we can see with respect to interest rates or any large world events, though obviously we can’t predict those things, but in terms of the cycle, we are right on track.

“We typically go through a period of frenetic activity and price raises, then a relatively long, flat period when not a lot happens.”

According to several real estate veterans, the frenetic periods of activity and price increases tend to last two or three years, while the plateau periods can last seven or eight years.

That’s where 2020 finds itself — in the midst of what many believe could be another long, flat period. According to market figures released by the board Thursday, the region is coming off a year that boasted 7,255 sold properties, a 1.47 per cent increase from the 7,150 sold in 2018. The 10-year average for property sales is 7,413.

By comparison, the busy year of 2016 saw 10,622 sales, and another 8,944 in 2017 before things started to slow down again in 2018.

Langlois said the board saw its benchmark home-price index peak in the summer of 2018 to about $900,000, since then it has moderated a little, “but not much.”

“[2020] will be an uneventful, unexciting, normal year from what we can tell,” he said, adding last year there were few appreciable gains other than condo prices in the core areas and the single-family homes at the lower end of the market.

Langlois said he expects to see the higher end of the market continue to be soft, with the bulk of activity reserved for the lower end and entry level, a result of the federal government’s mortgage stress-test rules.

In all, he expects it will be a relatively balanced market.

“The market is steady,” Langlois said. That was the case as 2019 came to a close.

Last month, the board reported 402 properties sold with sales of condominiums up 17.5 per cent to 121 sold, compared with December 2018. Single-family home sales increased 13.8 per cent to 198 at the same time.

The benchmark price of a single-family home in the Victoria core in December was $855,000, down from $860,400 a year earlier. The benchmark price for a condo last month was $520,700, up from $503,000 a year ago.

Outgoing president Cheryl Woolley said 2019 was “active, slow to grow and low in supply.”

“Last year, we saw many prospective buyers sit on the sidelines waiting for inventory to be added. As a result of this unmet demand, there was and continues to be a push from consumers to create townhomes and condos at accessible price points,” she said.

In a year-end statement, Woolley reflected they had started the year by looking at measures taken by the federal and provincial governments to cool off a housing market that had already started to slow down after 2016-17.

She said tighter mortgage lending rules lowered consumer borrowing power and pushed more buyers into the mid- and lower-priced property market. The result was pressure on pricing.

“Although we did not see huge price increases though 2019 like we did in the run up through 2016, we do see buyers entering into multiple offer situations and competing for properties,” she said.

The real estate market on the rest of Vancouver Island slowed down in 2019, as the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board reported total sales of single-family homes fell nine per cent to 4,119.

The average selling price, however, did jump five per cent to $535,577 last year, up from $511,839.

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[PODCAST] Ready to Real Estate – Ipsos Research

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Listen in to hear Ipsos’ Sean Simpson discuss highlights from our research study: Buying, Selling and Renting Trends in 2021. The dream of homeownership is stronger than ever with a majority of new homeowners admitting they purchased their home sooner than expected. Toronto Regional Real Estate Board’s Chief Market Analyst and podcast host, Jason Mercer is joined by Sean Simpson to talk about the strength of the Canadian market and the latest consumer sentiments of buying, selling and renting this year.

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Toronto and GTA Rental Real Estate Market in 2021 – RE/MAX News

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For years, it’s been a tough battle for renters living in Toronto and the surrounding municipalities. Rents have only been on an upward trajectory as supply was limited and demand was through the roof. But after a year of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Toronto and GTA rental real estate is now a renter’s market.

The turning point was last spring, when the coronavirus pandemic crippled the nation and forced governments to institute a plethora of new rules and regulations. One of the first items on the chopping block? The short-term rental market, affecting condo investors who relied on Airbnb and other short-term rental arrangements. The other factor was immigration restrictions, which have led to seismic drops in the rental market.

After a year of the COVID-19 public health crisis, Toronto and GTA rental real estate looks very different. Tenants have negotiating power and more options, which was unheard of before the housing boom in North America’s fourth-largest city. At the same time, condo owners are either selling their units or renting their apartments below the cost of their mortgage, resulting in both “seller’s fatigue” and “handcuffed sellers.”

A wide range of reports estimate that the monthly rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto has fallen as much as 23 per cent year-over-year, with prices coming down as low as $1,500 in some of the most appealing locations in the city. Although this is still relatively high compared to the rest of the Canadian real estate market, it is a welcomed relief for renters who have been paying sky-high prices for the privilege of residing in a red-hot urban centre.

Right now, is it even worth it to buy a property when rent is at a multi-year low?

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), households are paying large premiums to own instead of rent. The crown corporation suggested that condo owners are paying 86 per cent more to own than rent in a purpose-built building. This is the highest premium paid in any housing market of the country, including Vancouver (56 per cent) and Victoria (13 per cent).

This begs the question: will the Toronto and GTA rental market return to pre-pandemic conditions in 2021?

Toronto and GTA Rental Real Estate Market in 2021

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel in Ontario. New cases seem to be declining, more people are getting vaccinated, and the economy is starting to reopen. Even if a third wave strikes amid South African and British variants, the province and many of its sectors have shown their resilience to adapt, survive, and thrive.

Once the Greater Toronto Area returns to some semblance of pre-pandemic life, which officials are optimistic could happen in the third quarter of 2021, the rental real estate market could be one of the first beneficiaries. From restrictions being lifted at the Canadian border and students returning to the classroom, to the short-term rental market being given the green light again, the Toronto and GTA rental real estate industry could rebound.

PricewaterhouseCoopers recently released a report on the outlook for Canada’s housing sector. The multinational professional services network of firms predicts that the rental market will see benefits from a slowdown in home ownership and a backlog of immigrants. At the same time, it warned about the end of government income support and wage subsidy programs that could hurt tenants’ ability to pay their rent. The organization also said that more university students are likely to enrol in virtual classes instead of in-person learning, which would impact short-term rental activity.

The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) also anticipates a surging GTA real estate market, amid a strengthening economy and widespread vaccinations.

“The pandemic certainly resulted in an unprecedented year for real estate in 2020, but it hasn’t put a damper on the overall demand,” said Jason Mercer, TRREB Chief Market Analyst, in a statement. “Looking ahead, a strengthening economy and renewed GTA population growth following widespread vaccinations will support the continued demand for both ownership and rental housing. But over the long run, the supply of listings will remain an issue, particularly in low-rise segments.”

Put simply, the future largely depends on the vaccine rollout, the coronavirus variants, and the economic rebound.

Transformation of Toronto Rental Spaces?

Perhaps this is an opportunity to reimagine the rental market in Toronto and the rest of Canada’s housing market. With more people working and studying remotely, our homes have become multifunctional spaces to accommodate learning, exercising, entertainment and more. And as a result of this, our need for space has been redefined. PwC called this the “amenitization of communities,” whereby multi-purpose buildings allow new features to accommodate the new normal, such as videoconferencing rooms, dedicated areas for grocery delivery, and perhaps even additional green space.

Once the rental market returns to growth, developers might need to think about how to redesign apartment living for future generations, perhaps inspiring a new wave of rental demand.

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Real estate investment Part 2: condo pre-sales and LPs – Western Investor

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Vancouver real estate investor Ralph Case helped his son buy a pre-sale condominium in central Surrey in the summer of 2016, putting $30,000 down for a $200,000 apartment scheduled for completion in late 2018. In the summer of 2018, months before the project closed, his son sold the condo as an assignment for $330,000. Minus the down payment, the net profit was $120,0000, Case told the Jurock Land Rush conference March 6 in Vancouver.

In this second of a four-part Western Investor series on real estate investing, we outline how investments in pre-sale condominiums, or purchasing a share of a limited partnership in new condominium or multi-family rental projects can allow investors to get onto a real estate ladder that could carry them to their first home and beyond.

The advantages of buying pre-sale condominiums is that you are investing at today’s prices for a property that will complete in three years, when you expect the price to be higher. Also, a number of Metro Vancouver condo developers are currently offering discounts to move pre-sale units.

There is no guarantee, of course, and investors must be selective about what and where they will be buy. The overall benchmark price of a condominium apartment in Greater Vancouver is now actually 0.4 per cent lower than it was three years ago, but it increased 4.7 per cent in Surrey, 8.7 per cent in Maple Ridge and by 18 per cent in Mission over the same period.

For investors, the concept is not to move into the condo, but to sell it upon completion, or even earlier if assignments are allowed, or to place it on the rental market when the building is complete.

The following are current examples of pre-sale opportunities that are launching shortly, likely by April 2021, compiled with the assistance of Ryznar Media Inc.

• Era, by Swiss RealGroup Canada, is a 20-storey condo tower in Maple Ridge with about 200 units. The developer is offering selected pre-sale one-bedroom condos from $249,900.

• Belvedere, 275-unit condo concrete tower in Central Surrey at a SkyTrain station, by Square Nine Developments. One-bedroom units start in the high $300,000 range. More than 1,000 buyers have registered though it has not officially launched pre-sales yet.

• Telford on the Walk, in Burnaby’s Metrotown, by Intracorp, launched pre-sales in January 2021 and sold out 70 per cent of the 332 units in three weeks. The studio units pre-sell from $389,900 and the completion is set for 2024.

Limited partnerships

There are a number of limited partnerships involved in the real estate investment space, some of which allow income-producing property to be sheltered inside of a registered retirement savings fund. Most of these are targeted at accredited investors, who are those holding at least $5 million in assets (not counting a principal residence) and with incomes of $200,000 or more.

Nicola Wealth of Vancouver is one of the larger groups, with holdings in both commercial and residential and with three funds, including two which concentrate on long-term income and one, a capital fund, that focuses on buy-hold opportunities. According to the company, $1 million invested in Nicola Wealth in 2000 would now be worth $4.08 million. Nicola’s composite annual return is 6.9 per cent over the past 20 years.

One of the smaller limited partnership, and fairly typical of genre, is the Greater Victoria Property Group (GVPG), which concentrates on new multi-family rental apartments.

The latest GVPG offering is a 22-suite rental building in the Esquimalt area of Victoria, being developed as a joint venture with a general partner. The plan is to complete the building, rent the units and then sell the project within three years. Minimum investment is $50,000. The projection – not guaranteed – is for a net profit of $2.4 million, of which the limited partners would take a 40 per cent share, or about $966,958. The simple return on investment is projected at 48.3%, or 16.1 per cent per annum over the three-year horizon.

Developers can also act as partners for condo investors. An example is Mission Group, Kelowna’s largest residential developer, which pre-sells some new condos that are destined to put into a rental pool. An example is the Bertram building, which has 257 condos ranging from studios to two-bedroom suites, with prices starting in the mid-$200,000 range. It is close to the future University of British Columbia Okanagan downtown campus that was approved last summer. The Kelowna rental vacancy rate is 2.7 per cent and monthly rental averages $1,345 for a one-bedroom, but is higher for new projects.

Next in the series: real estate investment trusts.

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