Is investing in Canadian real estate still viable?

When a series of tax and mortgage rules was introduced in Canada in 2016 to prevent a housing market bubble, activity slowed down significantly in the years that followed. Given the current circumstances, is it still viable to invest in property?

In a think piece in Macleans, market watcher Romana King said even with fears of a global recession, real estate is still a smart way to invest.

"For investors, the key to making strategically smart decisions is to consider the underlying economic factors that impact your investment," she said.

Also read: Housing, economic risks remain heightened – BoC

King said the housing market could climb out of negative growth forecasts this year. Citing figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association, she said the national sales activity was on target to increase by 5% in 2019 and could expand further by 7.5% in 2020.

"Canada boasts strong population growth, and government budgetary decisions are acting as stimulants for the national housing market, all of which point to a healthy future for Canada's real estate market," she said.

Investing in real estate, however, is not without risks. For investors, it is crucial to know some strategies to lessen the potential risks, King said. The first is to be aware of additional debt. Investors must keep an eye on their credit scores and pay bills on time.

"Most investors will require a mortgage to purchase rental real estate. This can alter your debt ratios, which can impact whether or not you get the best mortgage or loan rates. Talk to an advisor before applying for new credit or renewing a current loan," King said.

Read more: How to 'plan, invest and retire wealthy'

Another must-have strategy is budgetting. King said investors need to control how much they spend on maintenance and repairs to ensure that their rental properties are cash-flow positive.

"An investor needs to budget for a contingency fund. If the anticipated monthly rent covers all monthly expenses, including a repair fund, then the property is cash-flow positive, which is fundamental for a good investment," she said.

Getting insurance could also mitigate the risks of catastrophic events.

"Virtually all insurance policies will cover a catastrophic loss of a building, but as a real estate investor, you must also consider the loss of income due to damage or destruction. A comprehensive rental policy will provide a landlord with income to replace lost rent at fair market value," she said.

Overall, investors need to treat real estate investing as a business. Citing Edmonton-based investor Jim Yih, King said the key to successful real estate investing is positive cash flow, and not just the purchase price and the potential sale price.

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