Traditional asset classes will likely continue to attract investor interest going forward due to their stable income stream and low risk-return ratio. However, the pandemic has given investors the opportunity to take a closer look at other asset types, while also accelerating trends that were already underway, such as the rise of e-commerce.
According to Zain Jaffer, founder & CEO of Zain Ventures, the past decade has seen an emergence of new types of real estate assets and investment structures—and their performance is less dependent on local market dynamics. Here’s what Jaffer thinks about the most attractive and financially viable asset types, especially in the current economic climate.
Tell us more about the main trends that form the basis of long-term demand in the alternative real estate sector.
Jaffer: Institutional investors have been smart to pay attention to alternative real estate sectors over the last decade. Performance in those sectors has been steady and counter-cyclical. Returns have been desirably less correlated to the performance of the market as a whole. COVID-19 and its long-term implications make that detached performance all the more valuable, and emerging technological trends are setting the foundation for long-term growth in the alternatives sector.
Anyone active in the market knows everything is interconnected. Right now, technological and social change is underway—health care is experiencing accelerated growth, flexible and remote workspaces are undergoing a mass reimagination, and e-commerce and digital solutions are driving our economic recovery. The demographic shift toward an increasingly elderly population argues a strong case for investing in senior facilities. Health is driving the market and investors who are able to support smart portfolio acquisitions with high-level health and safety operations will see outsized returns in the alternatives market.
How can these forces sustain or increase demand in the long term?
Jaffer: To understand long-term trends in the market, consider the parts of our routine that are undergoing renovation. Businesses are discovering that remote work has the potential to be a more efficient and more cost-effective new normal. Hybrid work models are everywhere, driving demand for more specialty workspaces and data centers.
Similarly, the ensuing silver tsunami is a sure sign that there are returns to be had in health-care facilities, senior housing and assisted living facilities. Growing in its attraction, the senior housing market is being shaped as we speak. Although demand is steady and rising, major inefficiencies have come to light throughout the duration of the pandemic.
Owners and operators will be overwhelmingly rewarded for improvements to design and investments in experience-assisting technology. Investments in the sector that prioritize integrated tech, design innovation and a higher standard of health care will be well positioned for steady returns.
Another pandemic-born trend is the shift to e-commerce, a move that experts are considering semipermanent. Not only are retailers around the world disappointed by the holes in their supply chain operations, they’re also in need of more self storage, cold storage and safety inventory space. E-commerce is a new driving force in the market and the specialty real estate that supports it can be considered a safe bet.
Elaborate on the opportunities arising due to these shifting trends.
Jaffer:A recent report by CBRE compares investor interest in different alternatives from 2016 through 2020. The largest spikes are seen in the health-care and data center sectors.
Health-care employment often has an inverse relationship to economic performance, growing faster in times of economic duress. More employment will be linked to more space absorption and greater rental income. It’s not always a straightforward investment since health-care facilities are highly specialized and require sizable initial investments. But in the aftershock of the pandemic, demand is likely to rise and service offerings are evolving as we speak.
Already a key player in our ever-connected world, data centers will hugely benefit from the shift to remote and hybrid working. Growth in areas with strong infrastructure, tech literacy and power supply—Silicon Valley, Singapore, Tokyo, London and similar areas—will see the greatest returns, and markets with strong growth in tech-related positions will share in the momentum.
If we shift for a moment to the trends in e-commerce, one of the biggest spikes in demand has come from food and grocery sales. Perishables and refrigerated/frozen foods have introduced a completely novel need for cold space solutions and investors have taken notice.
As smaller retailers enter the market as newcomers, opportunities like sale/leasebacks, joint ventures with cold chain operators and metropolitan-adjacent build-to-suit developments are particularly attractive. And as cold storage spaces command higher rent premiums compared to dry spaces, owners and investors might consider space conversions—the transformation from dry to cold storage—as a place to introduce higher portfolio returns.
What can you tell us about today’s leading sectors of alternative real estate?
Jaffer: Roughly 12 percent of commercial real estate investment in the Americas is made up of alternative assets, with the most market activity coming from the U.S. While the market suffered the same pressures as other sectors in the COVID-19 economy, investor interest remains steady in the aforementioned fields.
The promises of alternative real estate still ring true—these assets tend to have less turnover and offer higher yields. Investors are attracted to the stable income and the way that alternatives investing can properly diversify a portfolio. Sectors like health care and student housing are also well known for their downturn protection.
Now, with the transformative force of COVID-19 leaving trends clear in the market, these sectors have added potential due to their involvement in our collective pandemic recovery. The demographic shift underway, combined with the technological and social changes that have been accelerated by COVID-19, present career-defining opportunities for specialty investors to grow the market and be involved in the road back to recovery.
What are the challenges of alternative real estate investment?
Jaffer: Competition is growing quickly and investors need both a clear strategy and an eye for innovation to find their fit in a fast-evolving market. In crafting an investment plan, successful investors are being rewarded for their fresh thinking, agility and, above all, patience. High returns often require the exploration of new sectors, the taking on of risk and an active engagement in the complexities of operation.
In the past, the operational expertise required in the alternatives sector made it a space largely dominated by owner-occupier investments. While it’s clear that new capital in the space will be rewarded, it’s imperative that investors familiarize themselves with the nuances of the spaces they take on. Value-add investors that partner with operators to maximize their understanding will be well positioned. Investors that can identify, comprehend and capitalize on the opportunities present in the alternatives sector will create a winning platform to reap the coming rewards.
How do you see the alternative real estate sector going forward?
Jaffer: My outlook is that the real estate sector holds immense promise and it is likely to become more mainstream in the future. Market information is already more available than it has been in years past and improved transparency in the sector will continue to be beneficial. It’s my opinion that competition in the sector will only be increasing.
A surge in real estates prices that extended down the Highway 401 corridor created a 35-per cent jump in the average price of a home in the Windsor area this January compared to January 2020.
The average local sales price for the month was $510,716 compared to $379,813 just 12 months earlier and $206,383 higher than in January 2019.
“The underlying facet of this is really the fundamental of supply,” said Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors president Damon Winney.
“In January 2020 there were more new listings than this January. We’ve all heard the stories of 10 to 20 bidders for a property.
“With fewer new listings, we’re moving through our inventory of homes quickly. We only have 319 active listings on the board right now.,” said Winney, who is also co-owner of Jump Realty.
Local homes are taking only eight or nine days on average to sell, he said.
The London/St. Thomas Association of Realtors reported the average price rose 40.5 per cent in the region, to sit at $607,431. Chatham-Kent’s average price rose 42.4 per cent to push the average home to $350,452 for January.
Homes were selling for 11.7 per cent over asking price in Windsor and 10 per cent over in London.
The rental market for apartments also remains tight with a 3.2-per cent vacancy rate compared to 3.6 per cent a year ago.
The average local rent for a two-bedroom apartment has crept up from $949 in 2019 to $1,058 currently. The national average is $1,330.
It’s a similar housing story in London and Chatham where homes are moving as quickly and there is less than a month’s supply of homes on the market based on the current rate of sales.
Windsor’s February figures, which haven’t been released yet, won’t maintain the same torrid pace as January, Winney said.
“They aren’t as eye-popping as 35 per cent, but they’re still strong at 24 per cent,” Winney said. “That’s more in line with the provincial average.”
The average home sale price for January in Canada increased by 22.8 per cent to $621,525.
Monthly prices increased 21 per cent in Ontario, the largest increase of any province, with the average home costing $796,884.
The highest average price remains in British Columbia at $843,830 with New Brunswick being the most affordable province to buy a home at $205,074.
Winney said “2021 started off just like 2020 ended, with a number of key housing market indicators continuing to set records,” Canadian Realtors Association chair Costa Poulopoulos said of the national scene.
“The two big challenges facing housing markets this year are the same ones we were facing last year — COVID and a lack of supply. With luck, some potential sellers who balked at wading into the market last year will feel more comfortable listing this year,” he said.
The inventory of new listings in Canada is at a record low.
CREA’s forecast released last week for the Windsor market remains robust in terms of prices and in economic and population growth.
Winney said COVID has made buying a home challenging, but supply has also become restricted as some homeowners have opted to renovate their homes and stay put.
At the same time, there’s also continued interest from outside buyers, particularly from large urban areas like pricier Toronto.
A stable workforce, good climate, border access and the ability to cash in their expensive Greater Toronto Area homes and buy cheaper in the Windsor region are all driving the rising prices in the local housing market.
“I also believe there’s a density concern when we look at people moving from the GTA to here,” Winney said. “People are seeking space.
“They can get a four-to-five bedroom home with space for a home office, larger yard, better lifestyle and a better cost of living.”
Bungalows were the most popular choice for buyers in January followed by two-storey dwellings.
Greater Victoria’s real estate market showed no signs of slowing down in February, with both condo and single-family home sales increasing from the month before.
In total, 863 properties were sold in the Greater Victoria region in February, up 33.6 per cent from January, and up 53.3 per cent compared to the same time last year.
According to the Victoria Real Estate Board (VREB), limited inventory in the region is causing the price of real estate to increase, especially when it comes to single family homes.
“The good news is that we have seen some stabilization in listings and condo pricing between January and February, but we continue to see huge pressure on single-family homes – new listings are snapped up as soon as they are listed,” said VREB president David Langlois in a release Monday.
“As a result, the pressure on single family homes continues to ramp up,” he said.
The real estate board says that there were 1,318 active listings available at the end of February, down nearly 40 per cent compared what was available at the end of February 2020.
As low inventory continues to drive up prices in the region, the Victoria Real Estate Board is asking residents to call on local governments to fast track construction in Greater Victoria.
In a rare move, VREB said that more work was required to make sure housing prices were brought back down, after it says the provincial government failed to improve market conditions.
“Demand-suppression measures have not worked and their failure to moderate housing prices in our community has only exacerbated the pressure on the supply that was constrained 10 years ago but is now at historically low levels,” said Langlois.
“If you are concerned about housing prices and availability of housing in general in our community, please support development in your municipality,” he said. “Gentle density and the building of new homes are the only pathway to moderate housing prices in our area.”
The average price of a single-family home sold in Greater Victoria in February was $1.16 million. The median price of a single-family home was $978,000.
Meanwhile, the average price of a condo sold in Greater Victoria last month was $542,564, while the median price was $454,900.
During pandemic-plagued 2020, the total value of residential real estate in B.C.’s Lower Mainland increased by $50 billion, according to the BC Assessment Authority. Geographically and historically, Metro Vancouver represents perhaps the best opportunity on the planet to make money in real estate. Mortgage rates are at 100-year lows and the Vancouver area has the second-most expensive and among the fastest-rising home prices in the world.
For novice investors, however, the daunting price of real estate – the Vancouver region composite home price is around $1 milllion – appears such a barrier that many believe they are frozen out of the market forever.
In this first of a four-part Western Investor series on real estate investing, we outline how strategic investing can allow non-accredited buyers to get onto a real estate ladder that could carry them to their first home and beyond.
Let’s start with how to get a share of Greater Vancouver real estate by investing in a real estate investment limited partnership– in this case, a platform with the lowest entry price point.
Start-up addy Invest has launched a web-based platform that provides an opportunity to purchase a share of selected real estate properties for as little as $1, with maximum non-accredited investments capped at $1,500. (Non-accredited refers to those who have net assets of less than $5 million (not including a private home) and incomes of less than $200,000 per year. In other words, most of Canada’s population.)
Addy works with deep-pocket partners to secure a property and then takes a stake in the building, usually from $500,000 to $1 million, as a limited partner. It then breaks its share into $1 allotments, which it sells to investors.
On launch day, Addy releases the property on their online platform, and members have the opportunity to purchase as many units in the property as they desire, up to the $1,500 maximum for non-accredited members. The members can choose which of the current properties they want to invest in, explained Addy co-founder Stephen Jagger.
A recent Addy project was a new-built commercial property in Chilliwack, B.C., tenanted by Starbucks under a long-term, triple-net lease. The Addy offering sold out in 36 days during November and December 2020, and the 833 investors will be paid a quarterly dividend starting April 15, 2021.
Some Addy properties pay a quarterly or annual dividend, but others are buy-hold-and-sell opportunities where the investor takes a share of the appreciation when the property is sold, or the offering can be a mix of rental income and a share of the exit appreciation.
The platform is attracting some very small investors.
Jagger said one 25-year-old member is transferring small amounts of $1 to $20 per week into his Addy “wallet”, allowing it to build up. The average member invests about $500.
Addy’s current project is an existing 22-unit rental apartment building in North Vancouver, where the general partner is Stephen Evans, who founded Pure Multi-Family Real Estate Investment Trust in 2012, built it into a 22-building U.S. portfolio and sold it in 2019 for $1.6 billion. Addy has a $1 million share in the fully-rented North Vancouver property and, so far, 999 members have invested an average of $386 each in the project. Members get a share of the rental income and a split of the proceeds when the building is sold – in this case within five years. Addy said the North Vancouver property is close to being fully subscribed, but the firm has a second property, a Granville Street downtown mixed-use residential- commercial building that will come to the platform within weeks. A Kelowna multi-family property, a Toronto rental portfolio, and two more North Vancouver apartment buildings are also coming to the platform shortly.
Once members sign up for free to the Addy website, they open a wallet and put in as much as they can afford. All of the properties are listed online, along with due diligence information and regular tracking of how the investment is performing. Funds from the member’s wallet can be transferred into the limited partnership of any property that the member chooses, or the funds can be split among different properties.
“You can follow along with any property online. It is totally transparent. You can become a landlord without the land lording,” Jagger said.
Jagger said Addy itself has not yet turned a profit, but the company plans on eventually having paid membership, “like Costco”, as the platform expands.
“Most limited partnerships are meant for high-net worth individuals who can afford to invest $100,000 to $500,000 or more,” said Jagger, who started Addy with co-founder Michael Stephenson. “Our idea is to help the vast majority of regular Canadians get a share in the real estate market.”
Jagger concedes that there are no guarantees with the Addy invest, but notes that real estate, particularly in Metro Vancouver, has historically been a consistent money maker.
Next in the series: investing in new multi-family projects and condominium as limited partnerships in Victoria, Metro Vancouver and Kelowna.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.