Canadians need to stop focusing so much on the U.S. dollar or else they will miss the boat, says one seasoned investor.
The fluctuating Loonie in recent months may have stalled many expansion plans of late, but one investor says it is time to stop obsessing about the currency rates.
“I would encourage clients that it is important to consider all market fundamentals above all else,” says Sean M. Greene from Platinum Investment Real Estate Group. “There are some extraordinary opportunities for Canadians investing in U.S. real estate these days that far outweigh the shift in the Canadian dollar.”
To safeguard investments against any future fluctuations, many Canadians are changing the way they finance deals, according to Ryan Kohl from Express Capital Mortgage Inc. in Arizona.
“Instead of moving money over from Canada, we are performing ‘cash out’ or equity loans on properties that were purchased for cash,” he says. “Many Canadians have been paying cash for years and have a lot of equity that we can leverage for them to re-invest in additional property. This way they don’t have the added losses from moving money across the border.”
He adds that more companies are setting up limited companies in the U.S. to access finance from lending institutions there, while fix-and-flippers are turning to hard money lenders to fund such projects.
More Canadian investors are taking advantage of attractive commercial real estate opportunities down south.
Thanks to tougher lending conditions, more investors are looking to move into the commercial arena…and they are heading south to avail of the attractive prices and market supply.
Canadians purchased, on average, between $15 and $19 billion worth of U.S. commercial real estate property per year since 2009, according to the Royal Bank of Canada.
This spending spree means that Canadians accounted for a third of the $38.7 billion of foreign capital invested in 2013 alone, according to the Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
A lack of domestic opportunities and price are two of the main reasons for this trend. The entire Canadian office market is about 400-million sq. ft., roughly similar to the size of Manhattan.
Canada’s commercial property market is also estimated to be worth about $1-trillion (U.S.) compared with $11-trillion for the U.S. market.
"The bulk of Canada’s international real estate investment has traditionally taken place in the U.S. and Western Europe, but we are seeing Canadian investors in the Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Southern and Eastern Europe,” said David Green-Morgan, global capital markets research director for Jones Lang LaSalle.
Commercial investors are reportedly targeting such markets as Tampa Bay, Chicago and Phoenix with ample supply of under-valued properties.
From Miami Beach to Orlando, Florida remains the top destination for Canadians. But are there still bargain properties available the savvy investor?
Real estate investing anywhere in Florida starts with the weather. Throw in world-famous attractions, a large student population and economic development projects and you’ve got all the ingredients for a successful investment.
Home to Disney World, the University of Central Florida and a short distance to the Atlantic Ocean and places like The Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, the area is an investor’s paradise, according to Steve Perez, managing partner of Altura Investment Realty in Orlando.
He concurs that weather is an advantage, especially when it comes to renovating investment properties, as construction can continue year-round. With the population continuing to grow, Perez says demand for housing is strong, as is the supply.
“We’ve had 35 per cent appreciation over the past two years,” he says. Prices have dipped though recently after a hyper-exaggerated market due to large institutional buyers snatching up thousands of homes. “Many of them have now stopped and the market has begun to stabilize. 2014 looks much better for the individual investor because the market is less competitive.”
Homes prices increased throughout Central Florida compared to statewide during 2013, according to a report released by Florida Realtors. In the Orlando Metropolitan area, which includes Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties, the median home price rose 20 per cent to a median price of $165,000 – exceeding the 15.9 per cent statewide increase and edging the region closer to the statewide median home sales price of $168,000.
According to Perez, single-family units in established neighbourhoods are the best investment and the average price for these in $60,000 to $100,000 for rentals and $80,000 to $150,000 for flips. He says their average rental deals goes for about $70,000 and expected rents of $1,100, with cap rates anywhere between 12 to 15 per cent.
In the communities near Orlando’s theme parks, yields are even better, renting out properties to tourists for weekly rents of $1,000 to $1,500.
Perez says the supply of housing in the area is steady, as Florida is a judicial state when it comes to foreclosures. “This means that the banks have to go through a lengthy foreclosure process and have a back log of homes or shadow inventory. The banks have been releasing this inventory slowly and we feel there are at least three years left of undervalued inventory.” Perez says there are currently 14,732 homes listed on the Orlando MLS and that thousands of FSBOS that will be sold in 2014.
With a zero per cent vacancy rate, it is clear that something is abuzz in Whitecourt. Its local economy thrives on the back of its oil and gas production, with three forestry-related mills also a major source for employment within the district.
The town’s population has been growing steadily over the years as more migrant workers choose to settle permanently in the community. Its central location in Alberta and proximity to urban cities such as Edmonton are vital for residents and investors.
Whitecourt offers a positive business environment – there is no Provincial Sales Tax, low municipal tax (amongst the lowest in the province), low utility costs, modern infrastructure and an abundance of natural resources. This young and vibrant community is continually expanding with the majority of its population between the ages of 25 and 44 years old, and an average family income of over $99,000.
With the average home selling for $391,460, the cost of market entry in Whitecourt remains an obstacle for many first-time buyers. As such, they remain in rental properties to save up for deposits, says Janet Kuehn, associate with RE/MAX Advantage Whitecourt.
“A lot of local people are also investing in the area, which indicates the level of confidence that they have for its long-term potential,” she adds.
Kuehn states that given the small area size, almost all of the high-density residential areas are a good investment choice. “It all depends on how much you are willing to invest, be that $200,000 to $450,000.”
Single-family homes dominate the property inventory in Whitecourt, with demand ‘exceptionally high’ for this type, explains Kuehn.
“When single-family homes come onto the market they tend to go quickly, so investors need to jump on the opportunities when they arise,” she advises.
Townhouses with three to four units are an alternative for investors, says Kuehn, especially for migrant workers.
Located north of the island of Montreal, the city of Laval has experienced rapid population growth in recent years, a trend that investors are keen to tap into.
Despite being an island city itself, there is an abundance of undeveloped land in Laval. Most of this land is being converted into new residential developments to keep pace with that burgeoning population.
Laval is divided into a number of subdivisions, Chomedy being one. Situated near the centre of the island, Chomedy’s prices and population have climbed since 2012, particularly in its northwest corridor. There, the average price has increased by 3.53 per cent to $315,750, according to Brookfield RPS market data.
Chomedy Northwest provides residents with easy access to a number of key services and amenities. RE/MAX 2000 agent Anto Hindoyan notes that they include two major highways, several shopping malls, and a reliable local transit system. The bus network, in addition to several bridges, provides direct links to Montreal, the employment centre for Laval residents.
The relative tranquility of the neighbourhood also makes it both an ideal place to live and invest in. “The only people who drive into it are people who live there,” Hindoyan says. “In general, it’s a very calm residential (enclave).”
Investors looking to capitalize on the demand in Chomedy Northwest will find it rife with opportunities. Hindoyan believes the best profits can be made with a certain type of property.
“In this area, cottage-style single-family homes would be the best buy,” he says. “These (properties) were built between 1985 and 1990 and are generally well-maintained. They can be rented out for up to $1,200 per month.”
Located northwest of downtown Hamilton, the town of Dundas is nicknamed “Valley Town” due to its location at the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment.
That it is surrounded by the Bruce Trail with easy access to several waterfalls including Webster’s Falls and Tew’s Falls only adds to its growing appeal. It is a historical town with a population that has remained stable for decades, mainly because land, which is part of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area is protected. But change is coming.
Dundas’s population has experienced nearly 8 per cent growth over the last five years, and its average home prices are also trending upward. The average property price in Dundas is $403,360, marking a 4.11 per cent year over year increase.
Dundas’s property market has remained relatively stable over the years – a factor which may attract investors. Conrad Zurini, a broker with Record of RE/MAX Escarpment Realty believes that the time for investors to enter this sub-market is now.
“There is less than 3 per cent of land left to develop in Dundas,” Zurini reveals. “It’s a pretty mature city with one of the most thriving downtowns of all the neighbouring communities that make up Hamilton.”
Zurini notes that Dundas has inventory available for investors at all experience levels, ranging from mid-range residential properties to higher-end homes. For residents, there are direct links to downtown Hamilton via various public transit routes and major arteries.
Dundas is also located near McMaster University and houses many student tenants. Zurini advises investors to purchase single-family homes, if they are interested in tapping into the student-housing market. These properties have strong revenue potential.
“Because of its proximity to the university, I think [investors] should probably look at mid-range, single-detached homes that can be rented out to people who will only be there for a year or two,” says Zurini. “On average, you can rent these [properties] out for close to $3,000 per month.”
The high-rent expectations in this neighbourhood can easily generate up to $1,573 in monthly cash flow for landlords.
Not every renovation or fix-up project ends in smiles and a pat on the back. If you want to know the six renovation undertakings to avoid at all costs, read on…
1. Removing all the trees: It might be tempting to pull out the chainsaw and sought that depressing looking willow tree out once and for all, but be cautious. Contrary to many people’s belief, removing trees can sometimes cause more damage to the value of a home than simply leaving them there. A large attractive tree can add $10,000 - $15,000 to the value of a property in some areas.
2. Expensive, but unnecessary fittings: A reno that gives you the best house on the street, won’t necessarily get you the best price. If you are an owner occupier in an area where there are a lot of rental properties that have been neglected and not well-looked after, it won’t matter how much you spend on improvements, the rest of the neighbourhood will drag the value down.
3. DIY fails: Homeowner-installed wiring and plumbing often spell instant devaluation on a property. It is illegal and dangerous and may be picked up by a pre-purchase inspection. Unless, you’re a professional yourself, leave complex projects to those who know what they’re doing.
4. Pulling out the ugly stick: Renovations should be sympathetic to the original building. Starting an extension without considering the form or visual impact of the exterior materials being used so that the renovation appears as an add-on rather than part of the house, can potentially devalue your property by at least $28,000 on average.
5. No playground, no barbeque: Poorly considered site planning, including extensions that can leave unusable outdoor spaces or are overwhelmed by fences and retaining walls close to important rooms will devalue the whole property.If you look at the new home designs that are current at the moment, you’ll see that there’s a really big emphasis on lifestyle or an outdoor living. Whether you’re buying a new home or an old home, people are looking for these features these days.
6. Illegal building and faulty structures: Undertaking construction work without a permit normally results in an instant fail. A prospective buyer having a pre-purchase inspection when you try to sell usually picks this up. Illegal building ultimately costs some owners $30,000 or more to make it comply with regulations. The same can be said for installing new kitchens and bathrooms without first checking that the sub-floor structures are sound. Many new kitchens are virtually destroyed in the first four years by floor subsidence.
Located just north of the Halifax metropolitan area, Bedford is a small but vibrant community. Many of its residents commute to downtown Halifax each day for work or school, and direct links are provided via Highway 102 and Halifax’s transit system.
According to data from Brookfield RPS, the town’s average price for a house is $328,670, a 5.56 per cent year-over-year increase. Bedford’s population has also increased by nearly 12 per cent over the last decade.
Bedford may be a smaller district, but it has a lot to offer its residents.
“It’s definitely a growing community,” says Matt Honsberger, an agent with Royal LePage Atlantic. “It’s one of the areas within the greater HRM that has grown the quickest.”
Proof of this growth, says Honsberger, can be found in the high concentration of new developments in the area. A new high school is being built, as are a number of new houses and commercial properties.
Bedford will soon be home to a number of new residential builds, and Honsberger indicates that newly-built, single-family homes offer the best investment opportunity. “The new constructions in Bedford West are particularly attractive,” Honsberger says. “There’s a condo development going up there, along with a few row houses, but for the most part, single-family homes are the best buy.”
Owning one of these new homes can prove to be very profitable for investors, as they command higher rents. On average, Honsberger says they can be rented out for up to $2,000 per month.
**Bedford West was listed as in the 2013 Top 100 Neighbourhoods listing by Canadian Real Estate Wealth. Subscribe here today.