Mar 092020
 

There are lots of low rise condos like this popping up around the lower mainland

Owning a piece of the suburb

The recent stock market mayhem is a crucial reminder of how important it is to maintain a well diversified portfolio. After selling my farm last year I was too overweight in stocks so I decided to rebalance. 😉 At the beginning of this year I welcomed a new investment property into my growing portfolio. 🙂 It’s a one bedroom apartment in a low-rise building – less than 10 years old. It features an open floor plan that measures about 650 sf, and has a large balcony.

In today’s post I will explain why this purchase makes financial sense for me, and break down the numbers.

Why invest in Vancouver real estate? 

In a previous post I explained how to improve investment returns by primarily focusing on broad asset class trends instead of analyzing individual assets. In late 2019 I was trying to find the most undervalued asset class. At the time, stocks were at record highs. The expected return for the TSX index was just 5% a year. Likewise bond yields were a joke – and still is today. So nothing looked attractive. 🙁 I was starting to lose hope.

But then I looked at the real estate market. To my surprise the expected return was 10% or higher. Hey, now we’re getting somewhere. 😀 I have discovered an undervalued asset class with terrific return potential. Ka-ching!

Mr. Krabs is my role model

The next step was figuring out where to buy real estate. For tax purposes I planned to stay within Canada. I also wanted to buy in a large city with steady population growth. After looking at Montreal and Toronto I ultimately decided to stay around Vancouver due to the following reasons.

  • Prices in Vancouver recently pulled back about 12% from all time highs in 2018.
  • The capitalization rate has greatly improved over previous years.
  • Insanely low vacancy rate of just 1% helps keep rental rates high.
  • Relatively high population growth.
  • Home city advantage. I can manage the investment myself instead of paying a property manager.

Choosing the right investment property

The last step was to narrow down my choices by making a list of criteria – such as the price range, rental restrictions, building age, capitalization rate, etc. The capitalization rate is a measurement of profitability. It’s the net income generated from the property divided by the property’s price. A good cap rate in Vancouver is 3.5% or higher.

A couple of years ago Vancouver was a terrible place to buy rental properties because the projected returns were abysmal. According to Colliers International, the cap rate here was as low as 2%. Ouch. Here’s the data for Q1 2018.

Low rise condos have higher cap rates than high rise condos

However, things turned around over the next 2 years. By the end of 2019 the cap rate climbed as high as 4.25% in some segments of the market. 🙂 It’s still not as lucrative as in other cities, but it’s comparatively better than before. Here’s the data for Q4 2019.

An investment property in the prairie provinces would have a high cap rate

At this point I knew exactly what I’m looking for. So I was finally ready to head out and find me some prime real estate. 🙂

finding the right investment property requires a good realtor

I started searching in October on the website zealty.ca. I also hired a realtor to help me filter listings and write offers. By the way, if you’re looking to buy or sell I recommend finding yourself a British real estate agent. They’re all about the proper-tea. 😀

Anyway, in the beginning all my offers were falling through. Then one day in December I came across a very promising condo in Burnaby, a vibrant city east of Vancouver.

Burnaby has about 250,000 residents and the population is growing fast

I attended the open house and liked the property right away. It satisfied about 90% of my buying criteria which was excellent. 🙂 The asking price was also reasonable. The market was heating up so I knew I had to act fast. I made an offer shortly after viewing the place. After some back and forth an agreement was reached, and I paid a small deposit – or as I like to say, a condo-minimum. 😀 I removed my conditions after getting a home inspection and mortgage confirmation. A few weeks later the property was mine. 🙂

Rental Property Criteria

So here are the reasons why I like this condo.

  • Low strata (HOA) fee which works out to just $0.28 per square feet.  (See fee schedule here)
  • High cap rate of 3.6% to 4.0% range according to comparable rents in the area.
  • Built by a reputable developer.
  • High walk score and transit score – over 80% for both. This makes it easier to find renters.
  • Safe neighborhood, with a relatively young demographic.
  • Area has a high level of education and high median household income (~$110,000 according to StatCan.)
  • Unit not facing south or west so it doesn’t become a sauna in the summer.
  • No upcoming special assessments or deficiencies in the building.
  • Friendly neighbors.

Now here are some things I don’t like the about property.

  • The underground parking spot is a bit far from the elevator.
  • Can be a little noisy due to construction down the street.

So there’s not much to complain about. Overall I’m very happy with this purchase. 🙂

In any case it was finally time to make some money from my new investment. Do you know how many ants you’ll need to fill an apartment? The answer is tenants. 😀 I showed the apartment to more than a dozen potential tenants. There were a few goofballs who didn’t show up to their appointments. 😕

But eventually I found a young, middle class couple with a cat. One of them (not the cat) has a credit score in the high 700s, – surprisingly good for someone in his mid 20s. They moved in at the end of February and pay a monthly rent of $1800 – which they can easily afford on their combined gross income of $100,000/year.

This puts my rental unit’s cap rate at 3.9% – which is on the high side for a Vancouver area condo according to the Colliers table shown above. 🙂

 

Breaking down the numbers

From the beginning I wanted an investment property that would be cash flow positive. A conventional 20% down payment wouldn’t cut it. So instead, I decided to proceed with a 30% down payment.

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Mar 282015
 

According to a Financial Post report the average price of detached homes in Toronto passed the $1 million mark for the first time last month. 🙂 The GTA has experienced a housing bull market for almost 2 decades and there is no sign of it stopping.

I want to congratulate Torontonians for reaching the $1 million milestone. Welcome to the club. 🙂 Meanwhile the average detached home in Vancouver now stands at about $1.4 million. But hey, it’s not a competition. 😉 And extreme cases like the Point Grey mansion that was sold a few months ago for nearly $52 million will skew the average results. Can you imagine the commission real estate agents make around here?

We often hear complaints about how unaffordable housing is in Canada. But there are two sides to each coin. My friend’s parents bought a home for $70,000 over 40 years ago. They have since paid off their mortgage, and their home is now worth over $1 million. 😀 They plan to sell their house soon in order to downsize and will become liquid millionaires. That sounds great to me. The majority of Americans and Canadians are home owners. So financially speaking rising home prices should benefit most of us. 🙂

Recently a Vancouver house sold for $567,000 over the asking price. It was listed for $1,600,000, but sold at $2,167,000. People are even making jokes about how insane the housing market is. Below is a short video I found of a Vancouver real estate agent talking about his inexperienced clients. It captures the ridiculous nature of the current market around here. 😆

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Jan 022015
 

To understand why the Canadian housing market is performing so well we have to look at where the demand is coming from. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, one person households are “expected to show the fastest pace of growth, making it the single biggest type of household by the 2020s.” As the population ages more senior women are becoming widowed. More young women are also delaying marriage and opting to buy smaller homes. As a result, the CMHC says that females today are over-represented in the singles condo market.

In 2011 Canadian women already represented 65% of all condo owners who are single. If we look at the statistics for people who are 55 and older, that number rises to 76%.

Back in 1971 couples with children made up 50% of all households in Canada, while only 13% of homes were occupied by unattached individuals like myself. But today couples with children households have shrunken down to 29%, and singles now represent 28% of all households. Gee willikers! 😯 How the times have changed.

14-12-women-drive-condo-prices-Canadian-housing-market

In the hot Canadian condo market, particularly in Vancouver and Toronto, the one-bedroom units are what’s selling today. “This is a very important force: more single people living by themselves, mainly women,” CIBC deputy chief economist Benjamin Tal says.

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Jun 172014
 

The Canadian housing market continues to defy gravity! 🙂 According to CREA the average home price in May increased to $416,584, a 7.1% jump from a year ago. The number of homes sold also increased by 5.9% month over month, which is the largest gain in several years.

A lot of people feel concerned that this kind of growth is unsustainable. They question how prices can increase so much without personal incomes growing at the same pace. Many have concluded that we are surely headed for a correction soon.

I hope I can explain what’s going on, and why it would be perfectly normal for home prices to move even higher.

As an investor I know from experience that personal income has very little to do with purchasing power or prices. For example I spent over $200,000 on stuff in 2013 (mostly financial assets) even though my take home income last year was less than $50,000. Living in a debt based economy means we have the privilege to borrow money from other people so we may buy things even if we don’t have the cash 🙂

Local incomes also don’t account for the massive amounts of foreign money that gets pumped into the Canadian housing market each year. But what really affects the price of homes is the cost of financing. Over the last year mortgage rates went down in this country. A 5 year fixed rate term is under 3% now.  Cheaper financing options means people can buy more expensive homes.

Mortgage and down payment real estate market canada

If the Bank of Canada lowers its Key rate by 1%, bond yields would fall to almost nothing, and mortgage rates would be even lower than today. You could probably get a $300,000 mortgage for 2%, which would cost a new home buyer just $6,000 a year in interest to live there. That’s cheaper than renting a comparable property! On the other hand if the Key rate increases by 1%, mortgage rates will also climb, and many people wouldn’t be able to afford a $300,000 home anymore so home prices would drop across the board. If rates don’t move at all, home prices should simply increase at roughly the pace of economic growth, which is about 2% a year.

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Nov 242013
 

Hello friends in Regina! 😮 What a fantastic game over the weekend 🙂 Our household debt to personal disposable income in Canada is around 163% today. In the U.S. the ratio is only 140%. This ratio is greatly affected by the price of homes. The Canadian housing market has done well since the last recession, but home prices in the U.S. have fallen. So Canadian indebtedness has continued to grow while U.S. households have deleveraged which has lowered their debt to income ratio.

So why do home prices continue to climb up here? I believe there are many reasons but by far the main contributor is the monetary policy of keeping interest rates low for so long. Interest rates have been overall falling for the past 3 decades. When interest rates are lower borrowers can afford to borrow more, which they often do 🙂 And banks are willing to lend more because they only consider ratios, incomes, and whether or not the borrower can afford the minimum payments.

13-11-mortgagerategraph

So with such a high debt to income ratio (163%) are we in a lot of financial risk like the U.S. was back in 2007 when their ratio was also 163% at the time? I recently read a study by an economist on TD Bank’s website (It’s in PDF format) that looks at the differences between Canadian and U.S. debt-to-income ratios and explores why they should NOT be directly compared.

The study suggests the methodologies used to calculate the ratios are different in Canada and the U.S. For example we have different ways to fund health care and tax personal incomes that should be factored into the disposable income amount. But after adjusting for various methodological differences, the Canadian indebtedness ratio in 2013 is lowered to just 156%. And instead of 140%, the U.S. ratio increases to 152%. So we’re not all that different after all 🙂

Mortgage rates have not gone up in Canada for quite some time now. But Canadian wages HAVE been increasing every year since the recession. What happens when our incomes rise, but our mortgage payments stay the same? Yup, it becomes relatively easier to service that mortgage 🙂 The interest costs we pay to own a home relative to our incomes have never been more affordable in my life 😯 Continue reading »