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Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.
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# Monday, November 28, 2022

Trajan's Market, Rome


Over the past two and a half years, many of us (especially those who live and work in urban areas) have become more cognizant of the need to be in communities where we can operate our day-to-day activities without straying too far from home. Perhaps, this has been born out of necessity for those who faced multiple lockdowns, or perhaps out of convenience for others who discovered that working from home meant more time to fit in those mundane daily tasks between the sixth and seventh Zoom calls of the day. We’ve all heard stories of the lunch break gym sessions, popping in a load of laundry while your computer runs its weekly update, and using the previously-typical evening commute time to visit the neighbourhood grocery store for that night’s dinner necessities. Saving time and checking off the to-do list is a win-win!

 

So, how can current real estate development make all of these habits even more accessible and convenient? Enter the Mixed-Use building. By common definition, a Mixed-Use development is “any building, or series of buildings in a complex or estate, which incorporates both residential and commercial units, often with common or shared facilities”. Take a drive down virtually any street in an urban centre (at least in the HRM!), and you’ll doubtless see a number of newly-constructed or recently-renovated multi-level buildings with one or two lower levels of commercial space (typically occupied by retail or service tenants), and several floors of residential units stretching into the sky above. Developers and tenants are becoming increasingly drawn to this type of building because of the convenience of amenities and numerous other benefits they tend to offer. Commercial units in Mixed-Use buildings help create a sense of community for building residents, but also serve those who make their daily commute into the business district. Mixed-Use buildings located in densely-populated areas often make more efficient use of their land footprint, help improve the walkability score of the neighbourhood, and provide residents with greater levels of convenience and variety which otherwise would be out of reach.

 

Mixed-Use developments are by no means a new concept—one of the earliest recorded examples is the Ancient Roman Trajan’s Market; a multi-level complex built in 110 AD and comprised of retail shops, offices, and apartments—however more and more iterations of the concept are cropping up in our markets. It is crucial to both landlord and tenant that space within these buildings is accurately measured and accounted for. Over the past several years, our Lasercad® Division has been contracted to undertake the measurement of tenant spaces in these unique developments, with particular focus on the lower-level commercial portions. However, accurate measurements can only be achieved with proper tools, and most notably an established and an internationally recognised Measurement Standard.

 

The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) is the most recognized name in the field of space Measurement Standards.  Though most commonly known for their Office Standard, BOMA has developed a series of Measurements Standards which are designed to address the need for accurate measurement within many classes of building.  In 2012, BOMA released its first Mixed-Use Measurement Standard.  In the simplest of terms, the Mixed-Use Standard worked as follows:

 

Step 1: Split the building up into its various single use components (ie office, retail, residential, etc.).


Step 2: Identify the various common areas which service multiple uses within the building.


Step 3: Allocate the Mixed Use Common Area amongst the various uses.


Step 4: Apply the single use Measurement Standard to each of the various building uses.

 

For example—let’s consider a Mixed-Use building which has office and retail levels, and apartments above.  The Standard works by breaking this building into three buildings—a retail building, an office building, and an apartment building, then allocates the common areas between those three “buildings”, and then applies a Retail Measurement Standard to the retail building, the Office Standard to the office building, and the Apartment Standard to the apartment building.

 

Of particular note with the Mixed-Use, is that it is designed to allocate each common area only to those who benefit from it. For example, if a building containing office, retail, and residential tenants has an elevator room on the roof, which only services the residential units, but not the lower-level office and retail tenants, the elevator mechanical room would only be allocated amongst the residential tenants. Similarly, if that same building has a loading bay which only services the retail units on the lower level, the area occupied by the loading bay will only be allocated to the retail tenants, an not to the office and residential tenants.

 

After years of exposure and use within the industry, the need for refinements to the Standard became evident.  And so in 2021, BOMA released an updated version of their Mixed-Use Measurement Standard. The updated Standard has simplified the methodology for determining the allocation of Mixed-Use Common Area and provided greater capability to ensure space is being fairly and accurately distributed amongst tenants. The simplification and clarity of the 2021 Standard also enhances the ability of our team to provide advice to building owners and managers faced with challenging building layouts and the division of space.

 

If you are a building owner or manager interested in ensuring your space is used efficiently and common areas allocated accurately, reach out to our Lasercad® Division today. We would be happy to provide advice, or schedule an on-site visit to certify your property to the latest BOMA Standard Method of Measurement.




Emily McClelland is the Manager of our Lasercad® Division and also highly involved in our Brokerage Division.  For further information on how to maximise your property’s value through space certification please don’t hesitate to contact her. Emily can be reached at emcclelland@turnerdrake.com or by phone at 902-429-1811.


Monday, November 28, 2022 1:08:48 PM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Lasercad | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Tuesday, September 13, 2022

There’s an old episode of the Freakonomics podcast entitled Why Are Japanese Homes Disposable?, which originally aired in 2014.  The upshot of the pod is that while land in Japan retains its value over time (sort of…the pod is worth a listen!), the houses on it do not, so when “used” houses are sold, they are frequently demolished and replaced.  When I came across the episode, we were in the midst of record high lumber prices, not to mention a climate crisis, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of houses only lasting 40 years or so.  And then I thought I’d like to look a little more into construction costs and their impact on housing prices here.   


There are three common methods of valuing property: the income approach, the direct comparison approach, and the cost approach.  The income approach is only relevant for valuing income producing properties, so not applicable to housing prices per se (though would be relevant for rental properties, but that’s another story).  The direct comparison approach and the cost approach are both based on the general premise that similar things will have similar values.  In direct comparison, you’d pay for a house what everyone else is willing to pay for a comparable house in the same or a similar location.  In the cost approach, the premise is that you’d pay for a house the same amount it would cost to buy some comparable land and build the same house.  Thus, rising construction costs should push up housing prices and vice versa. 


One of the key components of most houses in Atlantic Canada is lumber.  The following graph shows the Nasdaq prices for Random Length Lumber futures contracts (i.e., lumber prices on the stock market) over the past five years.  The orange line shows the daily closing price (values on the left axis) and the blue line shows the aggregate demand for the stock (values on the right axis, measured in thousands of dollars), which I calculated by multiplying the closing price by the volume traded that day, so it’s a rough estimate because prices fluctuated throughout each day.  I find it interesting that as prices climbed in 2020, the gap between the lines for price and aggregate demand grew, and that while there are definitely some sharp spikes in it over the past two years, aggregate demand did not follow the same upward trajectory as did prices.  There is only so much money to be spent on lumber, and when prices go up, demand drops.  But, more to the point on housing prices: when lumber prices go up, so too does the cost to construct, and thus on a cost approach to valuation, house values rise.  

Source: https://www.nasdaq.com/market-activity/commodities/lbs/historical with slightly questionable calculations displayed by the author…maybe those demand spikes occurred when there was a price drop on a particular day, and volume traded shot up, then I’m calculating it on the end of day price…it’s an imperfect analysis!


Labour costs also feed into the cost to construct, and with a noticeable shortage of availability of skilled trades in recent times, it stands to reason that labour costs are up.  The following table shows average hourly wage rates for industrial, electrical, and construction trades; percentages at the end of the lines are the total change over the period 2017 – 2021.    Note the convergence in wages amongst the three Maritime provinces: could this be a marker of increased willingness to move around within the region? 

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 14-10-0340-01  Employee wages by occupation, annual


These are inputs into construction prices, which have tidy price indexes available, and it’s interesting to look at the difference in price changes between types of residential construction: single family houses and townhouses have had the sharpest increase, followed by low-rise apartments, with high-rise apartments bringing up the rear.  The intuitive difference maker is construction material: high-rises are not typically made of wood (yet – here’s one sample article of many on the topic).  The following graph shows the construction price index, quarterly, for a composite of eleven CMA cities, including from Atlantic Canada Halifax, St. John’s, and Moncton.  The patterns for each of these cities individually are similar. 

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 18-10-0135-01  Building construction price indexes, by type of building


Back in February, we published a blog that looked at interest rates and housing prices.  For a quick reference point, I’ll recycle one of the charts from that post:

Source: Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. Compuval™ Residential Database; Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada.


The next chart brings a few of the previous factors together.  It’s got lumber prices looking like the heart rate of someone doing sprints, the mortgage rate looking quite lifeless in comparison, and the year-over-year percentage change in house prices annually throughout the chart.  Benchmark MLS® prices are shown with little diamonds and are July to July changes; these prices will include some new construction, but the majority of the inventory feeding into the data is existing housing stock (the sort that might be torn down and replaced in Japan).  New construction prices are shown with circles and are October to October changes.  Notice how the two housing price metrics track each other, and also follow the change in the price of lumber, especially towards the end of the period, when lumber prices were particularly volatile.      

Sources: www.nasdaq.com; Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada; The Canadian Real Estate Association; CMHC Starts and Completions Survey.


Our Planning team is currently working on a Housing Needs Assessment for the province of Nova Scotia.  Neil Lovitt wrote a blog post on that topic in April of this year, and in it, he noted that “housing affordability has rapidly eroded over the course of the pandemic, and was being degraded more slowly for years before that.”  Lumber prices appear to be coming back to relatively normal levels, though that can change in a heartbeat (take a look at late 2021 to early 2022 on the chart above); interest rates are certainly on the way up, and potentially holding there for a prolonged period.  Inflation has been at generational highs over the past few months, and labour costs will have to continue to increase if wages are to keep pace with the cost of living.  The latter three make construction less appealing, but we cannot afford to slow provision of new housing options if we want any semblance of affordability or attainability in the housing market.  In overly simplistic terms, a lot could be riding on lumber prices.    



Alex Baird Allen is the Manager of Turner Drake's Economic Intelligence Unit. In her role, Alex frequently undertakes market surveys, site selection studies, trade area analyses, supply & demand analyses, and demographic reports for a wide range of property types throughout Atlantic Canada. If you'd like more information on market research or our semi-annual Market Survey (recently updated and published with December 2021 results), you can reach Alex at 902-429-1811 Ext.323 (HRM), 1-800-567-3033 (toll free), or email ABairdAllen@turnerdrake.com
Tuesday, September 13, 2022 10:56:58 AM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Economic Intelligence Unit | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Monday, July 11, 2022


Picture this: your business is booming, clients who have held off on visiting your office over the past two years are comfortable with meeting in-person again, and your business projections for the next few years look promising. Sounds great, right? But with all of this positivity comes a fairly significant challenge: your current lease is soon coming to an end, and you need to upsize your spatial footprint to keep up with rapidly-increasing business demands.


After setting aside some time in your busy schedule to scout out new locations, you find the building you think may be the perfect place for your company’s new home. It’s a brand-new building (the last sheet of Gyproc was just put up yesterday), close to all amenities and complementary services, and you’d be located in a great part of town. All you need to do is decide how you’d like to demise the space for offices and your showroom, find suppliers for your furniture and lighting needs, hire a contractor to put up a few demising walls and install a staff kitchenette and bathroom. You have the names of some reliable contacts for all the services you think you’ll need, so you’re confident that the finishing process will move quickly and everything will fall into place. A couple weeks later, however, after spending far too many hours of valuable time researching all your options, you reach the conclusion that you’re just a little bit outside of your comfort zone and need a professional to carry some of the load.


That’s where a broker can step in to help. First, they will review your space wish list. They’ll provide you with any other space options they believe will match your wish list, and can inquire as to the details of any vacancies you’ve had your eye on. Some of the options they suggest may currently be built-out with full offices, boardrooms, meeting rooms, kitchens, washrooms etc., but when you review your options, you may decide that none of them completely suit your needs, especially compared to your original choice: the brand-new space, fresh on the market, that’s ready to be built-out in such a way that you can achieve the exact layout desired to maximise efficiency in your space.


Brokers will tour through the space with you, taking stock of all the key components that will need attention: they notice the unfinished concrete floor, exposed ceiling, unpainted Gyproc walls, and anything else that catches their trained eyes. They’ll notice the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical that is only running to your unit, not yet throughout the whole building. They will discuss potential layouts based on your needs, and the landlord may provide a space planner to help bring to life your vision for the space. Once a solid plan is in place, you’re feeling confident that the price of the project will be pretty manageable. When the space plan comes back and the budget is calculated, you are shocked with the quote from the general contractor… “I could build a new house for that price!”.


According to recent research, the average cost to fully build out a typical office space ranges between $221 and $323 per square foot, depending on geographical location and the desired quality of finishes.  This figure has increased significantly over recent years, due in part to supply-chain shortages, rising costs of materials, general fluctuations within the market, and inflation; however, we can use it as a starting point.  Typically, a landlord will include a tenant improvement allowance within the asking net rent to help offset these costs.  The remainder is to be paid by the tenant.  There are a few options of handling these costs: a tenant can cut a cheque for the entire amount (this may have an accounting benefit), the tenant may amortise the amount over the lease term and pay back to the landlord as part of the rental payments (this helps spread the costs over the lease term, but the landlord typically charges interest on this amount) and/or a combination of both options. The landlord will make these concessions based on the strength of the covenant of the tenant and the length of the lease term.



Construction items to consider when building a space from a raw state:



Partition Walls (Metal Studs and Gyproc):  Even in an open concept space, washrooms, meeting rooms, etc. must be partitioned from the main space.


Flooring:  Flooring can range from carpet tiles to laminate flooring to ceramic tiles and anything in between. Carpet tiles can be among the more cost-effective flooring options, while ceramic and porcelain tile are among the more expensive flooring types.


Paint: Fortunately, paint is paint.


Ceiling Tiles: A suspended T-bar ceiling grid can help improve sound nuisances within an office.


Lighting: There are many lighting options available today, including more efficient LED lighting.


Electrical Distribution: In a new build, the landlord typically brings electrical into the unit, but in some cases, it is the tenant’s obligation to install a transformer and then distribute the electrical throughout the unit (outlets, drops, etc.).


HVAC Distribution: Again, the landlord will typically run HVAC to the unit, but it then becomes the tenant's responsibility to distribute the HVAC throughout the unit. This will depend on the unit layout; an open concept office will require less distribution and diffusers than a fully built-out space with all private offices.


Plumbing: The landlord will have a plumbing stack to the unit, but it then becomes the tenant’s responsibility to distribute throughout the unit. It is more cost effective to keep all plumbing in the same vicinity as this avoids the need to cut into concrete to run pipes (which significantly drives up construction costs).


Millwork: Millwork comprises of kitchen cabinets, storage cabinets, washroom counters, etc. These items will depend on the space design.


All of these items add up, and tackling them by yourself may be quite overwhelming. That is why a broker is committed to working tirelessly on your behalf to ensure your vision can come to life, while sticking to your budget as closely as possible!



Our Brokerage Team has extensive experience in handling complex leasing and sales transactions, which often include assisting clients in navigating the sometimes-complex build-out and fit-up process. If you need help with your commercial property acquisition or leasing requirements, a member of our Team will be happy to assist you through every step of the transaction. Contact Ashley, Emily, or James via email or at (902) 429-1811.


Monday, July 11, 2022 1:08:39 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Brokerage | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Thursday, April 28, 2022

Recently, you may have come across some news coverage of a project we’ve started; from now until early 2023 we will be working on a Housing Needs Assessment for the entirety of Nova Scotia. It’s a bit unusual for us to be fielding media requests about the beginning of a project, usually the interest comes at the end when we actually have some results to talk about… if the interest comes at all. Yet, we shouldn’t be too surprised. Housing challenges continue to grow across Canada, and in many ways Nova Scotia has been particularly impacted. This is an issue we’ve been engaged in for some years now, building up our experience from Truro, NS to Terrace, BC. We are very excited at the opportunity this project creates for us to set a new standard for conducting these types of analyses, all right here in our home province.

I would be remiss to not prominently mention the collaborating firms we have on our team. While Turner Drake is getting the name recognition due to our role as project manager, the reality is this is very much a combined effort. In fact, the budget for this project is more directed to public engagement than data analysis – my excel file doesn’t care if I load in data for 1 municipality or 49, but talking to people can’t scale like that. We have an enormous geography to cover, and a diversity of stakeholders in each community to engage with. So, we are thrilled to have Upland Planning & Design Studio as well as Colab undertaking that process with us. Back closer to our focus, we are excited to be collaborating with MountainMath on the analytics and data dissemination.

Beyond the team itself, the scope of work we have gives us even more to look forward to. The RFP issued by the Province for this study was thorough enough to ensure the right questions will be answered, but was also flexible enough that we were able to put our own spin on things to ultimately propose a Needs Assessment as we think they should be done. We can’t get into everything, but here are a few highlights:

  • We are excited to finally undertake this work with the benefit of data from the 2021 Census as it is released over the course of this year. While data sets related to the housing market and inventory are updated at least annually, this is not the case for many important socio-economic indicators that tell us about the people who are trying to access and maintain that housing. The 2021 Census will give us a contemporary view into these factors, something that has been an increasing challenge with this work over the last number of years. Until this point, we’ve had to rely on the 2016 Census, which predates virtually every important trend affecting our housing situation today.
  • We are also eager to introduce a much more detailed understanding of Short Term Rental activity (i.e. AirBNB) across the province. This is a fraught topic; the use of our housing stock for short-term rental purposes has very clear negative and positive impacts, and these are highly variable between communities, and even across different neighbourhoods in the same community. Up to this point a lack of detailed data has prevented us from clearly understanding where the problems are, and how severe they may be. We’re looking forward to pulling back the curtain on this facet of the housing market!
  • Finally, this project is an opportunity for us to up the ante in terms of making our work useful and accessible. While government is our client, housing issues are top of mind for many across the province and we want our efforts to benefit anyone working toward housing solutions. It is incredibly difficult to write a static report that presents such a breadth of information (both thematic and geographic) in a way that is useful to more than a few end users. That is why we are exploring how to better share our results so more people across the province can adapt it to their needs, interests, and locations. A more dynamic, web-based, and customizable approach to disseminating housing-related data and insights is one of the outcomes I am most excited for.

While this project will provide our client with key information they need to design and target public policy responses, the unfortunate reality is that our work will take time, and across the board we are playing a game of catchup where time is the most precious commodity. Housing affordability has rapidly eroded over the course of the pandemic, and was being degraded more slowly for years before that. Take a look at trends just in the owner-occupied market (which has lagged the rental market in terms of demand pressure):



This is only a narrow view of a larger and more complex picture, but it helps to illustrate just how severe the problem is for lower income households. Not long ago, a household earning $40,000 had a shot at about half of the ownership opportunities across HRM, these days they’re fighting it out for the cheapest 10% of the market. While across Canada we are starting to see more serious engagement in the issue and more on-the-ground interventions, my perspective is that no jurisdiction is yet grappling with the elephant in the room; that a sizable proportion of the population is now firmly outside the boundaries of what market-rate housing can serve. None of the low hanging fruit or amount of “innovative” policy and partnership that is comfortably within the boundaries of government intervention is going to get around this basic fact, and it’s going to take time for government to tool up and get back to engaging with this issue at a scale that approaches historic precedents.




Neil Lovitt is the Vice President of Turner Drake's Planning and Economic Intelligence divisions. He engages in numerous consulting assignments, including non-market housing feasibility studies, Housing Needs Assessments from coast to coast, land inventory analyses, and infrastructure studies. To see how you can benefit from the unique expertise of our Planning and Economic Intelligence team, call Neil at (902) 429-1811 or nlovitt@turnerdrake.com.

Thursday, April 28, 2022 10:20:38 AM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Monday, March 21, 2022

In 2010, the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) released their first Standard Method of Measurement specifically designed for Retail Space.  Prior to this, BOMA did not address the measurement of retail space, except where it existed within office buildings, and so measurement of retail space was done solely as a sub-set of the Office Standard.  With a Standard dedicated specifically to retail space, BOMA was able address a much wider variety of retail space as well as incorporate industry-specific scenarios.

In 2020, BOMA released an updated version of the Retail Standard.  The updated version was more comprehensive and provided greater clarity over its previous original version.  It also introduced the following advancements:

·        Two levels of measurement:

o   Partial Measurement

o   Overall Measurement

·        “Inter-Building Area”

·        The concept of the “Retail Experience”

Two Levels of Measurement

Partial Measurement

When a building contains multiple leased units, partial measurement may be employed in order to calculate the Gross Leasable Area (GLA) for a single unit.  This allows landlords to calculate a certified GLA for any individual unit, without the need to measure the entire building.  Leasable Exclusions benefitting the measured space can be measured in order to complete Inter-Building area calculations. This helps landlords determine the common area and maintenance fees for the occupant.

Although Partial Measurement allows a single space to be certified, any adjacent spaces may still need to be accessed in order to determine the thickness of demising walls, and confirm wall priority between spaces.

Overall Measurement

As the name suggests, this is a complete measurement of the retail property.  The Overall Measurement of a retail space is recommended by BOMA over the Partial Measurement since it provides a complete picture of the building (it is also less invasive to tenants since units only need to be visited once).  When landlords have access to more information (available through Overall Measurement) they are able to make better-informed decisions regarding the efficient use of space in their building.

Inter-Building Area

In the original BOMA Retail Standard, the GLA of a tenant space was effectively defined as the space physically occupied by a particular tenant—parking lots, major vertical penetrations, and the various common areas were not allocated to the occupants of a retail building.  The latest Standard changes this by providing landlords with the option to allocate this space (called “Inter-Building Area”) to the various occupants who benefit from it.

A simple example of Inter-Building Area can be found with a shopping mall with available on-site parking.  The standard allows us to take this parking area and proportionately allocate it amongst the occupants of the mall.

Example: Imagine a building with a total GLA of 30,0000 ft2 and an associated parking lot of 10,000 ft2.  We can calculate how much can be allocated to a tenant based on the percentage of total GLA that they occupy. If Occupant #1 has a GLA of 5,000 ft2, their proportionate share of the building is 5,000 ft2 / 30,000 ft2 = 16.67%.  The tenant will then be allocated 16.67% of the parking lot, in this case 16.67% X 10,000 ft2 = 1,667 ft2.

The “Retail Experience”

When you walk into a nice restaurant, there are several factors which contribute to your overall experience—the nice carpet, fancy lighting, music, an outdoor patio or rooftop terrace, etc.  All these factors contribute to the “Retail Experience”, a concept that is introduced in the 2020 BOMA Retail Standard.

This concept allows landlords to define (and capture) unenclosed areas of a retail property which contribute to the overall shopping environment.  These factors are most notable in strip malls and restaurants since they often include permanent outdoor areas.  Covid-19 restrictions led to a surge in patio dining, however in the past, landlords had no way of capturing these areas within a tenant’s retail space. If these features are permanent, and under the exclusive use of a particular tenant, landlords now have the ability to capitalise on these features by including them in the certified GLA of the tenant space.

Are you unsure if you are efficiently utilising every square foot in you building? Our Lasercad® division would be happy to certify your space to the latest measurement standard, ensuring that you know exactly what you’re working with!



Tyler Manning is a consultant in our Valuation Division and is heavily involved in many of our Lasercad® projects. For more information about our range of Lasercad® services, feel free to contact Tyler at (902) 429-1811 or tmanning@turnerdrake.com.

Monday, March 21, 2022 12:43:35 PM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Lasercad | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Thursday, February 3, 2022


We’re all well aware of the trajectory of housing prices since the start of the pandemic: The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) reported a 17.7% increase in average housing prices nationally between December 2020 and 2021.  Reported increases in Atlantic Canada range from 9.3% in St. John’s NL, to 41.9% in Yarmouth NS.  We’ve arranged the following table of reported Atlantic Canadian areas in descending order by rate of increase, and included the dollar value that increase translates to.


Source: CREA.  * MLS® HPI benchmark prices; all other areas are average prices.  We don’t know why Charlottetown is not reported. 


Another thing we’re all aware of is current rock bottom interest rates, which were lowered from already low levels at the outset of the pandemic in an effort to keep the economy from coming to a crashing halt.  As someone who first bought a house when interest rates seemed low to those who held a mortgage in the 1980s, but high to those who weren’t yet born in the 1980s, I wanted to take a look at the cost of buying a home with a mortgage over the course of the past few decades, and how that relates to income. 


The following charts show average income for “economic families[i] and persons not in an economic family[ii]”.   The available data goes as far forward as 2019 and it was provided in constant 2019 dollars.  I wanted to look also at current dollar income, so I adjusted it using the relevant consumer price index (CPI).  Over the past four decades, average incomes have approximately quadrupled in Canada (+290%) and the Atlantic provinces (NL +318%; PE +291%; NS +284%; NB +295%; maybe a little more since 2019?)


Source: Statistics Canada.  Table 11-10-0191-01  Income statistics by economic family type and income source; and Table 18-10-0005-01  Consumer Price Index, annual average, not seasonally adjusted.


Source: Statistics Canada.  Table 11-10-0191-01  Income statistics by economic family type and income source.


Historic lending rates are provided on a weekly basis.  From the start of 1980 to the start of 2022, lending rates have declined substantially, by 8.46 percentage points (pp) for posted mortgage rates and 13.5 pp for the bank rate.  Mortgage rates peaked at 21.75% for a 10-week period in 1981 and reached their lowest between 2015 and 2017, at 4.64%.


Source: Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada.


And the final piece of the puzzle is housing prices.  Part of our Compuval™ suite of databases is our residential database, which captures details of housing sales transactions in Halifax Regional Municipality, dating back to the mid-1970s.  So, with apologies to all the other areas, for this portion, we are looking only at the housing prices for HRM.  The average price for a house in 1981 was $60,738; in 2021, it was $486,861, an increase of just over 700%, well above the quadrupling of incomes over the period.


Source: Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. Compuval™ Residential Database; Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada.


We also used the CPI to adjust average housing prices to 2021 levels: the increase over the forty years was 187%, even accounting for inflation. 


Source: Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. Compuval™ Residential Database; Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada.


No matter which way you look at, adjusted or otherwise, housing prices have increased over the past 40 years (what??!), and quite sharply over the past 2 years.  But interest rates have declined, so where does that put mortgage payments?  The following two tables show mortgage payments on the average priced home annually since 1981.  The mortgage rates are necessarily approximate because mortgage rates vary throughout the year – these are the annual averages of the reported weekly rates – and because there are other factors at play that might mean someone pays a different rate from that posted (negotiation, general discounts off the posted rate, etc.), but the purpose here is to show the trend over time.  I’ve also ignored down payments, so these payments are based on the full average price of houses, purely for simplicity.  The first table shows the five-year fixed rate, while the second shows the variable rate; payments are shown on average house prices in current dollars, and also adjusted to 2021 dollars using the CPI. 


Source: Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. Compuval™ Residential Database; Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada (for fixed mortgage rates); Super Brokers Mortgage Rate History https://www.superbrokers.ca/tools/mortgage-rate-history (for variable rates).


Source: Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. Compuval™ Residential Database; Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada (for fixed mortgage rates); Super Brokers Mortgage Rate History https://www.superbrokers.ca/tools/mortgage-rate-history (for variable rates).


The analysis shows that interest rates and mortgage payments followed a similar pattern until approximately the year 2000 for fixed rate mortgages, and 2009 for variable rate mortgages, at which points the two diverge, with interest rates continuing their downward trajectory while mortgage payments climbed with relative consistency to the present day (side note: over the study period, there were just three years where the annual average for variable rates was higher than that of fixed rates: 1981, 1989, and 1990). 


“Affordability” for housing is relatively refined in its definition (you can read a bit about it in our blog from June of last year), and this next table isn’t intended to comment on affordability in that regard, but rather to show the pattern of change in average incomes, annual mortgage payments, and consumer prices (CPI), all indexed to a common starting point (1980).  It is noteworthy how closely together the three moved between 1980 and 1990, at which point annual mortgage payments dropped relative to income and CPI; the latter two continued apace for about the next eight years, till incomes started to outpace consumer prices.  Even in 2020, the index for annual mortgage payments fell below that of income, but in 2021, these two came back together, suggesting that mortgage costs (index value in 2021 = 411.7) relative to income (index value in 2021 = 414.4) is now approximately equivalent to where it was in 1980 (both 100), or 1990 (index values 181.7 and 184.8, respectively).  


Source: Turner Drake & Partners Ltd. Compuval™ Residential Database; Statistics Canada. Table 10-10-0145-01  Financial market statistics, as at Wednesday, Bank of Canada (for fixed mortgage rates); Statistics Canada. Table 18-10-0005-01  Consumer Price Index, annual average, not seasonally adjusted; and Statistics Canada.  Table 11-10-0191-01  Income statistics by economic family type and income source.


One more exercise in modelling prices, payments, and interest rates: what would someone pay, including interest, if they bought an average house in 1981, versus in 2021?  In order to estimate this, I used a 25-year amortization period with 5-year terms.  For the first 5-year term, I used the average house price and fixed mortgage rate in the year of purchase, and then used an amortization schedule to determine the balance owing at the end of the term.  I repeated the process for each of the 5-year terms, using the end balance for the previous term as the mortgage amount, reducing the amortization period by five years, and using the prevailing interest rate of the first year of each term.  This is reasonable for the 1981 purchase, but the 2021 purchase is trickier because future interest rates are unknown.  Therefore, I simply modelled it looking backwards at interest rates in five-year increments, on the assumption that maybe rates will work their way back up.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it reasonable?  Probably.  Is it interesting to speculate?  I think so.



The results: an average house purchased in 1981 cost $60,738; when fully paid off 25 years later, the total cost of principal and interest was $196,564 (note that the starting principal and total principal are off by $91, likely due to rounding).  The average house purchased in 2021 cost $486,681.  The full cost including principal and interest 25 years hence is modelled to be $858,865.  



Alex Baird Allen is the Manager of Turner Drake's Economic Intelligence Unit. In her role, Alex frequently undertakes market surveys, site selection studies, trade area analyses, supply & demand analyses, and demographic reports for a wide range of property types throughout Atlantic Canada. If you'd like more information on market research or our semi-annual Market Survey (recently updated and published with December 2021 results), you can reach Alex at 902-429-1811 Ext.323 (HRM), 1-800-567-3033 (toll free), or email ABairdAllen@turnerdrake.com


[i]An economic family refers to a group of two or more persons who live in the same dwelling and are related to each other by blood, marriage, common-law, adoption or a foster relationship.” – Statistics Canada.

[ii]A person not in an economic family is a person living either alone or with others to whom he or she is unrelated, such as roommates or a lodger.” – also Statistics Canada.

 


Thursday, February 3, 2022 10:38:43 AM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Economic Intelligence Unit | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Accurate Space Requirements:

Carefully study your real estate needs. When budgeting, it’s important to consider not just the purchase price (or if leasing—the base rent), but also any additional costs associated with the property. It is easy to overlook or underestimate extras such as: renovations, due diligence costs, legal fees, production downtime during the transition, recurring operational expenses for the property and (in the case of a lease) possible leasehold improvements. The lender wants to see evidence of solid planning. Determining whether you want to buy or lease and how you’ll accommodate projected growth is important in determining  your square footage needs.


The Subject Property:

If you don’t already have a property in mind, a lender may agree to a preliminary meeting to give you a ballpark idea of how much financing it could provide. However, such a meeting is generally advisable only if you already have a good relationship with the loans officer. You can leave a poor impression if it looks like you’re not a serious buyer and are wasting the lender’s time. Lenders decide how much to lend based not only on your finances, but also on the type of building, and its condition, age, resale potential, ability to generate a cash flow (which will support the debt service and marketability). Without a specific property, it’s hard for a lender to be precise on how much financing it can offer.


Business Plan:

Do you have a property in mind? You should. Prepare the documents you’ll need to show the lender. These will include a solid business plan, up-to-date financial statements, and details of the property you’re interested in. You should plan to make a good first impression and be well prepared.


How do your books look?

Start by making sure your company’s finances are in order and organised. One of the most important requirements for getting financing is having a profitable and growing company. A business with no profitability hurts your chances at obtaining a loan. Lenders like to see a proven record of profits year over year.


Meet the lender to clarify the terms and conditions:

It’s best to meet the lender before bidding on the property you have in mind, especially if it’s your first venture into commercial real estate. The lender will also advise you on its conditions for granting financing. Those may include obtaining environmental and building condition assessments, an appraisal, and a title search. It helps to use approved experts for this kind of due diligence, and each lender has its own list of such experts. If you use someone else, the lender may require a second opinion and the transaction could be delayed.


Don't rush the conditional period:

Your purchase offer should give the lender enough time to review the terms of the deal. It’s common for offers to provide 4 weeks of “conditional acceptance” while lenders often need six to eight weeks and possibly more (especially if due diligence issues arise). The last thing you will want to do is ask for an extension, especially on a “hot” property or “remove conditions” without having the full approval from the lender. 



James Dunnett is a Consultant in our Brokerage Division and has extensive experience in handling complex leasing and sales transactions. If you need help with your commercial property acquisition or leasing requirements, James will be happy to assist you through every step of the transaction. Contact him at (902) 429-1811 or jdunnett@turnerdrake.com.
Wednesday, December 15, 2021 11:02:14 AM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Brokerage | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Monday, November 22, 2021


During the first week of November, the reminders were everywhere: “Change your clocks, check your batteries”. The end of Daylight Savings is a great time to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are in good working order. Although the majority of properties are equipped with this equipment, many are overlooked. Functioning smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are critical to fire safety and reduce the risk of fire related death by nearly 50%. Another key aspect of fire safety is having up-to-date Fire Emergency and Fire Exit plans. When was the last time you reviewed yours? 


According to the National Fire Code of Canada, the fire safety plan of a building must be reviewed at least every 12 months, but in reality, your fire plan should be reviewed whenever there are changes to the floor plan. As noted in our April blog post, changing trends in remote work have created opportunities to alter workspaces, renovate offices, or even convert buildings to adapt to today’s commercial real estate environment. It is important to review your Fire Emergency and Fire Exit plans whenever these changes take place to ensure they are an accurate representation of your space’s current configuration and use. An outdated fire safety plan may be of little help in the event of a fire. 


Having a fresh look at your Fire Safety Plan can also identify opportunities to make changes to your fire safety equipment—especially if your property is undergoing renovations. Regular reviews of your fire safety plans also helps to ensure adherence to evolving building codes and fire safety regulations.


Don’t have a Fire Emergency or Fire Exit plan? Our Lasercad® division can assist in creating or updating these by measuring the space and laying out a clear exit path, as well as identifying the locations of safety equipment for your tenants.



Christine Spurr is a consultant in our Valuation Division and is involved in many of our Lasercad® projects. For more information about our range of Lasercad® services, feel free to contact Christine at (902) 429-1811 or cspurr@turnerdrake.com.


Monday, November 22, 2021 11:28:42 AM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Lasercad | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Wednesday, November 3, 2021


HST Self-Supply on new apartment buildings has been around for a long time. We were first introduced to the world of HST (or GST as it was then known) back in 1990 at a seminar put on by one of the leading accounting companies to help the appraisal profession adjust to the new rules.  GST was officially launched in January 1991 and the world of Self-Supply was unleashed. For the first 35 years or so it lay relatively dormant with scarcely a call to our offices from new apartment builders, who are the most affected by the new rules. Rarely were we consulted on Self-Supply valuations.  Everyone was seemingly happy in apartment land. But the last 5 years has erupted with calls coming in on a regular basis from clients old and new, anxious to escape the inevitable battle with CRA’s auditors and appraisers. (For those looking for a tutorial, see our blog post of August 24th, 2016, “HST Self-Supply Rules: Is CRA on the Warpath”.  And feel the pain).

 

Undoubtedly the biggest practical problem for apartment builders is the uncertainty it leaves after the building has been completed. HST on new buildings is based on “Fair Market Value”, not on the cost of construction.  The latter is easily calculated because ITC’s (Input Tax Credits) will have been filed with CRA throughout the construction process. The former – “Fair Market Value” - cannot be calculated until the building is completed and it is, like any market value figure, just an opinion.  But CRA’s opinion increasingly is at odds with the builder’s opinion. To make matters worse, CRA’s review will come along well after the building has been finished, and therefore well after the mortgage financing has been committed, and occasionally even after the building has been sold.  In jurisdictions with regulatory rent controls, rents too will have been committed. In short, the final HST tax bill comes in well after all the dust has (literally) settled. Too bad that it can’t be agreed in advance, or based on something more predictable than “Fair Market Value”.


 "Just levelling the playing field..."

The reasoning behind the Self-Supply rules is succinctly laid out in an official CRA publication (GST/HST Memoranda series 19.2.3, paragraph 5) which begins “Purpose of self-supply rules: level playing field”. In essence, it is an attempt to put the builder who wants to keep the building on the same footing as an investor who wants to buy it. The selling price will (fingers crossed) include a profit component for the builder and that’s what CRA wants a piece of.  It’s difficult to argue with the principle, but what it overlooks is that HST is just another construction cost to be recovered through the eventual selling price. If HST is charged on the elusive profit component, it simply adds to the cost of the building and hence adds to the selling price. The builder pays tax on the profit and recovers it from the purchaser as part of the selling price. The playing field is level. But if no tax is charged on the elusive profit component, the cost of the building is marginally lower and, assuming a balanced market, the selling price will be marginally lower.  The playing field remains level, just slightly smaller. CRA’s concern is that the tax on the builder’s profit will simply end up in the builder’s pocket, but a competitive market will address that. Viewed from that angle, the pain, anguish and sleepless nights endured by the builder waiting to settle the tax bill with CRA is more to do with the size of the playing field than its degree of tilt. All of that pain and anguish could be removed if the tax on profit were a predictable formula, agreed in advance, rather than an elusive opinion coming after the show is over.


HST on Apartment Rents

So, what if the profit – or rather the tax thereon – is occasionally underestimated? Eventually it is the end user who pays the HST on goods and services anyway. That’s how value-added taxes work. For apartment buildings that means the tenant ultimately bears the cost of the builder’s HST, even though residential rental property is, for the most part, officially exempt from HST. Rents must be sufficient to recover all of the costs or else buildings don’t get built. So that troublesome tax on the builder’s profit ultimately shuffles through to the tenants.  Is it a bad thing to give tenants a break these days?  And for more on THAT debate, check out our recent June 21st blog, “Affordable, Attainable, Available”. 



Lee Weatherby is the Vice President of our Counselling Division. If you'd like more information about our counselling services, feel free to contact Lee at (902) 429-1811 or lweatherby@turnerdrake.com
Wednesday, November 3, 2021 3:32:11 PM (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Counselling | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Tuesday, August 24, 2021


Boy howdy, let me tell you how tempting it is today to write another blog post about housing, what with a new majority provincial government, and the shameful campaign of homelessness evictions launched by HRM. It's a topic we will be sure to revisit soon, but the honest truth is a while ago I started writing this piece about a different issue in pressing need of attention, and there just is not the time to pivot. 


That other issue, of course, is the long emergency of climate change. A long emergency that is rapidly becoming shorter according to the recently released 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The outlook is grim, with some irreversible effects of climate change now baked into our future, and an ever-diminishing window of opportunity to take action and head off the worst. This is ‘code red for humanity’ as put by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.


A few months ago, I turned 35. Old man, I know. But even from here, just past the threshold of maturity, let me tell you that aging is a hell of a trip. With a few decades and milestones under my belt, I can now regularly perceive the arc of time, but still hold clearly in my mind the memories of early childhood when nothing existed beyond the “now”. I can vividly remember, for example, sitting in the school library in Grade 4 and learning about the Montreal Protocol and how it reversed the depletion of the ozone layer (something very topical to a pasty redhead with British genes). I remember learning how something called the Kyoto Protocol was going to help prevent a different environmental crisis called Global Warming. It felt like an imperceptible eon away at the time, what a different world we would be facing if that had panned out.



My daughter turned 5 this spring and at the moment her “now” is a lot more focused on Covid than climate, but that will probably change soon. That long arc of time leading to climate-driven environmental and social crises has converged with the now. As the IPCC report lays out, our window of opportunity to shape future impacts and head off the worst is running out. Not in imperceptible eons, not in generations, but in a decade (singular), in near-term political cycles. In all likeliness, I will know whether or not my daughter is inheriting a disastrous +2°C world before I know whether or not she’s passed her driver’s test.


But even that sentiment downplays the issue. In fact, we are already living with the impacts of climate change and it’s easy to find the real estate angle. Earlier this week our social media accounts shared this article from the CBC examining the lack of climate risk information in the typical real estate transaction process. The topic is presented against the background of raging wildfires in the BC interior, which have destroyed numerous homes and disrupted even more communities. This is already leading to some early musings that the housing markets of Vancouver Island could see a groundswell of demand pressure over the long term as people are increasingly motivated to move upwind of areas where “50-year fires” are now happening multiple times in a decade, threatening life and shelter, and choking out the rest.


So far, the smoke is dissipating before it reaches this side of the continent, so our concerns are not so focused on forest fires (though, not to be ignored). Sea level rise and flooding are the risks du jour. We’ve visited this topic a number of times already, in research articles from 2006, 2007, 2013, 2016, and most recently 2019. It’s a subject that we care about and have integrated into our valuation practice, adding a climate risk section to our standard reports just a few years ago. But as one small firm in this big industry it is difficult for us to push that envelope.


Well, reality is on its way to force the issue. Back in the fall of last year the National Bureau of Economic Research published a working paper from a couple good eggs at the Wharton School examining the capitalization of climate risk in real estate prices. More specifically, their analysis of home sales in coastal areas of Florida noted that properties more exposed to the risks of Sea Level Rise started to see lagging sales volumes in the early 2010s, with price appreciation starting its underperformance a few years later. Their conclusion is this is a demand-side trend, buyers are now thinking about climate change in the timespan of their own mortgage term! Here’s the money chart:


This trend is just starting, and with the IPCC telling us that a +1.5°C world is now unavoidable, it will only grow in impact in the years to come. Not eons, not generations, years. We’ll continue to look for ways to integrate climate risk assessment into our work, and we recommend that anyone considering a real estate acquisition these days do the same. Even if you don’t expect to own the property long enough for sea level rise and other climate impacts to physically threaten your asset, the next buyer sure could be, and property values look to be a leading indicator now, not a trailing one. In other words, without due care, your mortgage could be underwater long before the property itself is.




Neil Lovitt is the Vice President of Turner Drake's Planning and Economic Intelligence divisions. He engages in numerous consulting assignments, including non-market housing feasibility studies, Housing Needs Assessments from coast to coast, land inventory analyses, and infrastructure studies. To see how you can benefit from the unique expertise of our Planning and Economic Intelligence team, call Neil at (902) 429-1811 or nlovitt@turnerdrake.com.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021 1:02:49 PM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake