Buying A Condo As An Investment

A lot of people ask us as part of their search for a condo, which ones are better investments. Personally, if I knew the answer to that 100%, I would be writing this from my own private island. Alas, that is not the case and I write in my home office, looking out at the snow.

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to investment condos. A lot of it depends on what exactly you are looking to get out of it. Some people think of investment condos as rentals, while others are thinking of sales value down the road.

If you are looking to buy a condo to rent out, then there are a few factors you need to consider.

First, don’t just buy the smallest and/or cheapest unit you can find. Not too many people are going to want to live in it – would you? Instead, think of who your target market is going to be. If you want singles, then one bedroom condos would be fine. Once you get to couples (with the possibility of children), then you are going to want to think more in terms of larger units with two bedrooms.

Speaking of which, there has been a recent hue and cry over the lack of condos that are suitable for families. Sure, there are a few tired old buildings with three bedroom units, but they are few and far between. Where are the new units? What are the options for the families that don’t want a house? Or those than can’t afford a house? Before I get to really ranting, I just wanted to point out that condos need to be equal opportunity. They are not just for singles or couples or empty-nesters. Some people want to raise a family in the sky. Time to do something about it. Anyway, on with the article…

Location is also going to have a bearing on your target market, or on the available pool of renters who will make up your market. If you want primarily university students, then look to buy near U of T, York, Ryerson, etc. Don’t forget the smaller schools and colleges, such as George Brown or Sheridan. There are a lot of students in Toronto, so there are a lot of options for you to appeal to them.

The flip side of course, is that if you don’t want student renters, don’t buy near where they would want to live!

If you want doctors and nurses and interns and the like, then you are going to want to buy along Hospital Row, or not too far from it. Yes, there are more isolated facilties around the city, but stay close to where the biggest renter pool is likely to be.

Many people often ask about new condos versus resale as rental properties. This is a hard one, but my gut feel is that new buildings are not the best bet. Maybe if you are going for a 1,200 square foot penthouse with a view to die for, but a simple one bedroom just puts you in the pack with everyone else. If a 300-unit building has 30 people buy to rent out, you are going to be facing some stiff competition to get a renter into your unit. You may be best to simply avoid that sort of competition and look for resales or smaller new developments.

Speaking of competition, this might be a good time to delve into a discussion of rents and their recent decline. With all the condo action in Toronto the past few years, many units have been built and many have been bought to rent out. As with any market, supply and demand dictate pricing. When there are more units than renters, there is more and more competition to get those lease dollars. Thus, rents go down.

Even with a decline in rental amounts, if you are buying as an investment, you need to look at the larger picture. Don’t expect to pay your mortage and condo fees – and make a profit. Those days are gone. But add up all the monthly expenses and if you get a rental amount that is not so much less than you are spending, then you have to think about it more in terms of your mortgage only costing you $100 a month. Even if it is $300 a month, that is significantly less than if you were paying everything yourself. You don’t get much for nothing these days, so be happy that someone is helping subsidize your mortage.

Now, there is another group of people who are thinking more about sales in the future. Some may be buying a condo off plans with the thought of flipping it once the building is done. I don’t want to repeat myself, but basically re-read what I said above about buying in a new development to rent. Being one of the herd is not always a good thing.

It used to be that buying new and selling it after living in it for a few years was guaranteed profits. Not so much anymore. Land costs and building costs are up, plus builders know they can get more for their product. Thus you have to think more strategically these days.

There are three things I generally advise when people ask me what to buy that will increase over the years.

First is to buy large. Buy as big a condo as you can afford. This is for two main reasons. The first is as above, so as not to be one of 100 one bedroom units for sale in a building. The second is that a large segment of future condo buyers are going to be empty-nesters and downsizers. Many older couples will be leaving their larger homes and they are not going to want to live in a 650-square-foot one-bedroom condo.

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