With national forecasts citing an overheated market in decline and calling for a further correction in real estate values, it’s curious to watch the Calgary Real Estate market out-perform most every other City and region in the country. Much of this performance is due to the hang-over from the recent run of strong net in-migration, due to a buoyant job market in Alberta. The question is when will the hang-over end and will Calgary succumb to the negative national trend despite our favourable geography and oil economy?
Calgary employment growth for 2013 is forecast to decline, yet remain positive at 2.3% with net migration for Calgary expected to slow to just over 15,000 over the next two years. This steady stream of new residents has fueled an increased demand for rental accommodation resulting in an apartment vacancy rate under 1.3%. This all points to a positive, yet somewhat reduced pace of activity that fuels the Calgary real estate market.
With the recent surge in rental activity and subsequent increase in rental rates one could be tempted to purchase rental property based on the recent higher returns, but are these rents sustainable for the long term? We advise that any rental properties are evaluated using conservative rent estimates especially those based on furnished rentals. Also note that vacancy for furnished rentals is similar to that of Hotel properties (in the 20-40% range) so don’t be fooled into using unfurnished vacancy rates and applying these to furnished properties, despite our current hot market. One exception could be buying rental properties that have a high component of land value, especially in inner city communities. These properties could derive good income from the building for many years, yet the land value may surpass its’ income value, if the trend toward inner-city community development continues.
Farmland also has potential as a solid income producing vehicle, but be sure to know what you’re buying. While crop rents have increased dramatically (proportional to crop prices), soil types, local geography, irrigation and overburdened crops all have a profound effect on the return a farmer can extract from a section of land. Again there may be other exit options for farm land such as future development potential or subdivision to smaller parcels. This can yield large returns but not for the faint of heart or uninitiated. If you are not the expert, be certain to obtain expert advice (the cost of which could yield you the best return for your investment).
One of the best strategies today for those who already hold real estate is to optimize your investment. That means reducing your operating costs and improving efficiency of the property. Some of the greatest benefits can be derived from reducing the energy requirements and greening your real estate. This not only reduces your consumption and cost of energy, but also improves the desirability of your property. Green Calgary offers a valuable home audit that provides excellent advice on greening your home and reducing its energy footprint. With the cost of solar electric continuing to decline we are now coming into an age that photo-voltaic systems are becoming cost effective. It won’t be long before you may be asking “how much energy does this property generate and how much income does it produce?” Don’t overlook these possibilities and the potential value of solar exposure when evaluating your next property.
Overall, it appears that the market may reduce from a rolling boil to a slow simmer over the next few years which calls for a return to a more sober, long term view of any real estate investment. Reducing operating costs could help you weather future bumps in the road, and exploring alternate exit strategies can add tremendous value if the need for Return Of Investment becomes more important than the need for Return On Investment.