How to maximize your ROI on a Vancouver condo flip

by Neil Sharma13 Nov 2020

Vancouver has long been Canada’s most expensive real estate market, which can make flipping homes a tricky endeavour. In a city where the benchmark price of a detached house increased by 8.5% year-over-year in October to $1,523,800, condos and townhouses offer the best bang for your buck.

According to Alice Yang, a real estate specialist, investor, and sales agent with Sutton Westcoast Realty, choosing a neighbourhood with an extremely low vacancy rate is key, because rather than immediately flip her investment, she likes to hold onto them for a little while and earn rental income. Kitsilano, which is near the beach, downtown and the University of British Columbia, is one of Vancouver’s most desirable neighbourhoods and, therefore, in high demand among triple A tenants from whom she can extract higher rents. It’s also a neighbourhood with condos that are over a half-century old, making the few modern units in the neighbourhood even more desirable.

What Yang steers clear of are units with structural issues because, naturally, repairing them drives up costs and depletes her reserve money. Nevertheless, cosmetic upgrades, says Yang, are cost-efficient ways up augmenting a unit’s value.

The bathroom

Yang advises looking for things that have recently been renovated and leaving them in place—for example, a toilet that was installed within the last couple of years—but be prepared to spend about $5,000-10,000 on bathroom upgrades.

“Tiling is very important in a bathroom,” she said. “For a rental property, the most popular type of tiling you use is ceramic because it’s the most popular among tenants.”

Additionally, wide-plank laminate flooring makes the bathroom look bigger, and adding a nice backsplash is an easy way to make a big difference, as is changing the vanity lighting. A heated bathroom floor is a bonus that doesn’t go unnoticed by tenants. These are all cost effective ways of enhancing value.

Flooring

If it’s a wood frame building, the condo board will almost certainly be strict about what kind of flooring upgrades can be made because reducing sound is imperative to being a good neighbour. Again, Yang recommends wide-plank laminate flooring.

“However, dark colours in a small room doesn’t make the room look bigger,” she said. “Lighter is better, and pay attention to how much light enters the room to begin with.”

Wall colours

The unit’s colour is crucial to widen a relatively crammed unit, at least optically. If the ceiling has a dark colour, it will make the ceiling appear lower than it actually is.

“Like the flooring, lighter is better,” said Yang. “That includes the tone of the white ceiling paint because all of these things play off of each other. A darker wall colour gives the appearance of a lower ceiling.”

Most tenants prefer neutral wall colours, like a grey, light creamy brown, and off-white.

“You don’t want anything bright and personal. Sometimes tenants will ask if they can make the place their own and detail one wall, and as long as they return it to its original colour it’s something I allow.”

Living room

This one, Yang says, is quite straightforward. If the unit is unfurnished, all you have to ensure is that the flooring, walls and window coverings are in order.

“Window coverings, depending on which way the window is facing, should be neutral. Sometimes tenants put their own blinds in.”

Bedroom

The most important part of an unfurnished bedroom is functional closet space, and achieving that is inexpensive.

“I put a simple closet system in there that won’t cost and arm and a leg,” said Yang.

Bottom line

In Vancouver, condos and townhouses cash flow the best. Yang prefers renovating and holding her properties, especially because upgraded units can command 50-60% higher rents. While condos cash flow relatively well in Vancouver, there’s real money to be made not just when the upgraded unit is being rented, but after it’s flipped on the market.

“The last flip we did, we made a 25% ROI, and that’s just based on the renovation and not the cash flow,” said Yang.

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