5 top towns for real estate investors in 2023

Western Investor's picks for the top towns in Western Canada for real estate investors in 2023

No. 1, Calgary: With 2,600 new high-paying jobs pledged in September alone, real estate prices a fraction of Vancouver, no rent controls and oil prices flirting with US$100, Alberta's biggest city is ripe for real estate investors right now.

In late September, De Havilland Aircraft of Canada said it plans to build a manufacturing and maintenance facility on a 3,700-acre site it bought in Wheatland County, just east of Calgary, that will employ 1,500 people.

That brilliant news was followed just days later by the announcement that India-based global tech giant Infosys is bringing 1,000 jobs to downtown Calgary.

Infosys, a leader in next-generation digital systems, has doubled its original hiring commitment from when the company first expanded into Canada in 2021.

“Today is the beginning of our next chapter in Canada,” said Ravi Kumar, president, Infosys. “Calgary’s IT innovation potential is unlimited, and we are delighted to be a part of its future.”

Infosys officially opened its new Digital Centre in Calgary Centre on September 26 and will take an estimated 200,000 square feet of office space, analysts say.

Calgary is the top Canadian city for real estate investors now and into 2023. The price of oil hit US$130 per barrel this spring and though it has retreated to the US$89 range as of October, it is twice as high as its bottom in 2014 and will continue to transform the Alberta economy next year.

Calgary real GDP is forecast to expand by 6.3 per cent in 2022 and grow by 3.8 per cent in 2023, according to the Conference Board of Canada, far ahead of Canada’s projected 1.2 per cent growth.

The commercial real estate market is led by the industrial sector, with a tight vacancy rate of 2.2 per cent and average lease rates of $11.65 per square foot, about half the price of Vancouver, which is attracting B.C. players to Calgary.

 

Investors are also piling into Calgary’s retail sector, drawn by consistent consumer spending of $8 billion per month; and to the multiple-family residential market, where prices are a fraction of Vancouver or Toronto.

With strong job creation, lower provincial taxes, high immigration and a business-friendly environment, Calgary is the place to be in 2023.

No. 2, East Vancouver. The Broadway Subway and Millennium SkyTrain line extensions; the new $2 billion St. Paul's Hospital; detached houses less costly than in the suburbs and half that of Vancouver’s West Side; and a government pledge for higher density. If a real estate investor can't make money here next year they should get into another business.

A detached house price in East Vancouver is now $1.5 million, which is lower than in Burnaby, Richmond or the North Shore suburbs and half the price of the neighbouring West Side of Vancouver. It also represents perhaps the top residential real estate play in Canada.

East Vancouver includes the 450-acre False Creek Flats, where 17-acre St. Paul’s Hospital campus is now under construction, along with other job-generating commercial buildings. But the Flats is not zoned for housing: that will be served by surrounding East Vancouver.  At the same time, the $3 billion extension of the SkyTrain system, which pivots from East Vancouver, has convinced the city to massively boost density around planned stations. Rents in Vancouver are the highest in Canada and East Vancouver will be the most in-demand rental market in the country next year.

As for other commercial sectors, before a new 102,000-square-foot strata office building was about to launch marketing last month in the Flats, a U.S. medical firm bought the entire building. Industrial land in East Vancouver is selling for $13 million an acre; multi-family land at $19 million per acre; and retail sites at more than $1,000 per square foot. Get in now and these prices will seem a bargain in a year or two.

No. 3, Bamfield: The first highway into this tiny Pacific Rim town is now open and completes early in 2023. Land and home prices have shot in the past year in a hamlet with raw freehold land and massive sandy beaches that is being called "the next Tofino.”

What if you could have bought in Whistler or Tofino 30 ago? That is the type of opportunity we see for recreational property in Bamfield on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.

This year a 76-kilometre “sealed” and partly paved highway replaced a rough logging road linking Bamfield with Port Alberni and the rest of Vancouver Island. The highway will officially open in 2023, but pioneers have already bid prices higher.

“There were major increases in housing prices of about 50 per cent to 75 per cent once the road announcement was made in 2020,” Craig Filipchuk of Remax Mid Island Realty told the local Ha-Shilth-Sa newspaper.

The average cost of a home in Bamfield was $261,391 a decade ago. In 2022, the average home price is $644,300. REW.CA had four Bamfield listings in mid-October, priced from $549,000 up to a five-bedroom waterfront house at $1.3 million, which is less than the price of a bungalow in Vancouver and perhaps a third of the cost of Tofino waterfront.

Bamfield is a quaint place reminiscent of an Atlantic fishing village, but we believe it is about to experience the West Coast real estate experience.

No. 4, Penticton and the South Okanagan:   Penticton is challenging Kelowna as the hot spot in the Okanagan. Facing two lakes, it is the centre of the South Okanagan which will lead B.C.'s recreational market in 2023, drawing investors from the Lower Mainland and Alberta.

Best investment: waterfront. This year 23 waterfront homes have sold in the South Okanagan, with average prices down 47 per cent from a year earlier to $1.57 million as of September 2022. This compares with an average waterfront home price of $4.5 million in the Central Okanagan, which is further away from the Lower Mainland. Detached house prices in the South Okanagan, which includes the popular lakefront town of Osoyoos, are now $779,500, the lowest price in the entire Okanagan. Penticton also has a near-zero rental vacancy rate and REW.CA had a dozen condos in the town listed at $275,000 or less in mid-October.

Buy the dip. Penticton is the best recreational and resort residential market in B.C.’s Interior for 2023.

No. 5, Nanaimo: Multi-family​ land is now selling for $3 million an acre; there is huge expansion at Nanaimo's container port; major employers are recession-resistant hospital, medical services and universities – and there is a large influx of people from across Canada. 

Nanaimo has a population north of 100,000 and, according to the 2021 census, is among the fastest-growing cities in Canada, tied for third place with Kamloops, B.C.

Of the record $319 million in building permit values through the first six months of 2022, residential projects account for $238 million.

A recent project includes a hotel and about 700 homes planned for the northern edge of downtown Nanaimo on a seven-acre site near the Millstone River.

The buy here is rental properties, residential – price of both are well below that of Victoria – plus industrial land and industrial strata.

A $100 million-dollar expansion of Nanaimo’s container port led by DP World, a Dubai-based global leader in ­shipping and port logistics, will be a game-changer for the local economy. It is estimated the site’s 30 acres will create about 1,000 new jobs.

The Port Authority has industrial land for lease for industrial, but surrounding land is already in the hands of two major landholders: Harmac Pacific, which owns more than 1,250 acres at Duke Point that it purchased in 2008; and Seacliff Properties which bought 726 acres four years ago and is planning a massive mixed-use development.

Colliers International in Nanaimo estimates that serviced industrial land at Duke Point could eventually be valued at a $1 million per acre, up from around $400,000 per acre today.

Newcomers and a tight commercial real estate market are forcing prices higher, but we feel Vancouver Island’s Harbour City is just beginning its real estate ascension.

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