Montreal and Vancouver's east side have investment upside

A new CENTURY 21 study of the country shed light on real estate prices as measured by their price per square foot, and Vancouver unsurprisingly topped the list. However, according to Brian Rushton, executive vice president of CENTURY 21 Canada, Vancouver’s east side is a little-known gem investors can take advantage of.

While the Vancouver East Side is notorious for being one of the most impoverished, drug-addled areas in the country, it’s mostly contained within a few short blocks. Further east, however, Rushton says that enough redevelopment is occurring, and at investor-friendly prices, to yield healthy ROIs.

“Some of the areas that have done very well from an investor’s point of view, at least in the Vancouver marketplace, are in the east side of Vancouver,” said Rushton. “A lot of the older communities have been revamped and their existing structures lifted with new foundation, but the character has been left. The developers, the builders, the renovators have been able to capitalize on that quite effectively the last five, six years, and maybe even a bit longer.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the only place, but of the boroughs directly related to Vancouver, you’re better off east from a square footage basis. A lot of investors in the Vancouver condo market are in the presale market. The Investor might buy four or five units on presale, but they’re usually short-term investments that they’re going to cash out of.”

Montreal has recently been making headlines as an emergent real estate market. Although it is the second-largest city in the country, it’s been a casualty of the political instability fraught by the provincial secessionist movement, which is one reason Vancouver – Canada’s third-largest city – has leapfrogged it in most national conversations.

The average price per square foot in downtown Montreal is $533.30, which is an astronomical 468% increase over 20 years, making the Québécois metropolis’s PPSF the second-fastest growing in the country.

“I think what you’re seeing with the tremendous increase in square footage value is Montreal started out at a very low baseline when you look at the 1997 and 2006 reports,” said Rushton. “The baseline was considerably lower than in other major centres. That’s certainly a factor. There are a lot more rental tenants in Montreal as opposed to ownership, like in Toronto and Vancouver. It just hasn’t been a priority for a lot of Montrealers. Location and convenience and lifestyle were ranked very highly.”

However, the change is well underway. Cranes are becoming a familiar site in Montreal’s skies, and Rushton extolled their potential.

“I look at Montreal, and from an investor’s point of view, that would be a market an investor would be very interested in,” said Rushton. “The overall market in Montreal has been a bit undervalued for a number of years.  Toronto and Vancouver always seem to get most of the dues as it relates to the market, and, yes, Quebec has their own internal issues every once in a while – the political issue pops up – but it hasn’t really scared off investment as such. Overall, whether it’s getting in long-term to some of the multi-unit buildings there, or as a small-time investor, I think it’s a great place to gain equity over the next few years.”

 Alberta has fallen on hard times in recent years, but Rushton sees firmly-rooted recovery, and as such, Calgary and Edmonton are investor-friendly cities.

He also called the Manitoban capital a smart bet for investors.

“Winnipeg is one of those markets that just goes along with nice reasonable increases year-to-year,” said Rushton. “It gets a bad rep from a location of point of view, but it’s a great city with lots of nice developed areas, and it offers a reasonable lifestyle.”


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