Nary a negative word was said regarding the outlook for B.C. housing activity over the next two years at Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.’s (CMHC) annual housing outlook conference on November 4.
CMHC analysts were more tortoise-like than bullish, so far as they heralded a steady market over the next 24 months, disturbed only by the potential of interest rate hikes in late 2015 and the impact affordability – or its lack – could have on transactions.
“Housing demand will remain strong,” opined Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, in an overview of national activity.
“Housing starts will follow resale activity,” Carol Frketich, B.C. regional economist, said of the provincial situation.
“What we’re seeing is a very balanced housing market,” concluded Robyn Adamache, senior market analyst for Vancouver with CMHC.
Housing starts in metropolitan Vancouver are expected to hit 18,700 in 2015, down from a forecast of 18,900 for 2014. Projections peg them to reach 19,250 in 2016.
Veteran condo marketer Bob Rennie was the keynote speaker at the CMHC housing outlook conference, and he dished his own take on Vancouver’s residential market as well as the state of discourse regarding housing issues in advance of civic elections on November 15.
“‘I am pro-affordability, and I am anti-development.’ I think that will get you elected today, and they don’t make sense – the two can’t go together,” he said.
Sizing up the main contenders for Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s job, Rennie dissed – without naming names – Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe for shying away from meeting with developers.
“He doesn’t live in Vancouver, vote in Vancouver or pay taxes in Vancouver and has never held political office,” Rennie said. “Not meeting with developers says to me, if elected as mayor, he will stay out of touch.”
Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) contender Meena Wong also came under fire for proposals such as a duty on vacant homes that would interfere with property rights.
“If we have a problem with vacant west-side homes, let’s deal with it as a community improvement issue, not the colour of someone’s skin,” Rennie said.
Rennie also pushed back against developers critical of burdensome community amenity contributions, which are assessed to fund community amenities. Reducing them could leave municipalities passing costs onto taxpayers, Rennie said, creating the politically unpalatable and divisive situation Melbourne faces.
“We are not going to solve homelessness, affordable rental or family housing without taking the planning and political risks,” he summarized. “We really need parental guidance out there, is my view. The city of Vancouver and every city and municipality is going to need to champion some form of development.”
Whatever worries plague the Vancouver housing market, at least there’s housing here to worry about.
That’s not always the case in other countries, where having a roof over your head (let alone four walls around you) is a greater concern. Without stable housing – as advocates in Vancouver know – multiple other basic needs risk not being met.
Providing stable housing in some of the world’s poorest communities is the goal of Vancouver-based World Housing community contribution company, a social enterprise launched last year that seeks partnerships with developers to build a unit of housing in less developed communities for each unit developed elsewhere.
Its first partner is Westbank Properties Corp., which is supporting the development of one unit of housing in Stung Meanchey, Cambodia, for each unit sold at Vancouver House – the 52-storey collaboration between Westbank and Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.
Sales to date of units in the 378-unit tower have resulted in gifts of 120 homes, while an additional 70 homes are built and awaiting donation.
The homes are 132 square feet each and elevated six feet off the ground. The cost of approximately $2,500 apiece includes a common washroom for every six dwellings.
Occupancy is overseen through the Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF), which has secured leases of up to 20 years for the home sites.
Recipients are typically the families or guardians of schoolchildren. Children must attend school and be well cared for – not abused – for the families to be eligible.
“It makes a massive difference. It’s one of the many motivators to get the child into school on a regular basis,” said Scott Neeson, CCF founder and executive director.
World Housing expects to announce a second project in Taiwan later this month and is discussing partnerships with Canada and U.S. developers active in the San Diego, San Francisco and Waikiki markets.
Commercial real estate investing. This combination
of words seems to always evoke a heady mixture
of thoughts and emotions in my clients: attainable wealth, uncertainty, tentative excitement, fear, and an affluent retirement lifestyle. I would postulate that both the positive and negative thoughts evoked are usually the result of an incorrect assumption and a lack of knowledge with regards to investing in commercial properties.
A lack of knowledge is the biggest difference clients can face when considering the merits of commercial real estate investing and other types of investing, including residential. It takes real knowledge of retail, industrial, multi-family, the commercial real estate market, property management, financing, and more, to avoid making costly mistakes.
Most people investing in condominium units can afford to make a mistake or two. Usually the sums of money involved in such investments are smaller ($300,000-$500,000 is a typical investment condominium price) than in commercial real estate investments. Not only are the purchase prices of commercial properties higher than those of residential properties, but the amount of down payment you have to commit to a transaction is also more - often 30 to 50 per cent down.
At this point you might be wondering if you will ever be able to stomach the risk and take the plunge into commercial real estate investing. However, the two largest benefits commercial real estate investing offers over residential are as follows;
1. The landlord has more power than the tenant (anyone who is a residential landlord in Canada is aware that more often than not, landlords are at the mercy of their tenants); and
2. The owner has myriad opportunities to increase the value of the real estate asset by decreasing expenses, replacing a tenant with a better paying one, dividing space and charging more per square foot, changing the allowed use of the property, redeveloping the property, and so on.
If you really want to learn about commercial investing, ask investors who are actively in this property area. You should also reach out to Realtors, lawyers, and friends that are involved in this sector, and get them to tell of the bad stories they may not be keen to recall. Feel free to shoot us an e-mail or leave a comment in the section below.
When did they lose money? What went wrong? What would they do differently now if they faced the same situation. As I regularly say to my students: The most important thing in commercial real estate investing is to know what questions to ask and who to ask them of.
These questions alone will not only keep you out of trouble (i.e., keep you from losing money), but will likely allow you to create more wealth for yourself in commercial real estate.