Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dear Santa: Our Real Estate Wish List for 2017

Can you believe it's Christmas this weekend already? Wow, the fall really flew by. Hopefully you are staying warm out there as our area has really gotten an unseasonably cold and snowy start to the winter.  Anyways, in honour of everyone’s favourite present-bearing, cookie-eating jolly fellow, we present our real estate wish list for a prosperous 2017.

Continued Economic Growth
2016 was a great year for our local economy.  A strong economy is the backbone of a healthy real estate market.  Things look primed to continue in 2017 and hopefully that rings true.

Continued Migration To The Windsor Area
Without a doubt, the local real estate market has gotten a boost from retirees moving here for the low real estate prices and warmer climate.  We are also seeing a return of people who went out west (Alberta) for jobs and are returning after our local economy is creating jobs again.  More immigrants are also choosing the area as opposed to the large centres (GTA, Calgary) for the same reasons.  Hopefully this trend continues for 2017 and beyond.

More Industrial Inventory
The industrial market started 2016 very tight and only got tighter as the year went along.  Everyone seems to need more space for the contracts they have and they’ll have to start turning away work due to not having the space to produce.  The area seems ripe now for new construction of industrial buildings.  This ties into our next wish…

More Serviced Industrial Land
Continuing the theme of industrial space shortage, the only way to meet the current demand seems to be to build more buildings.  The problem is we don’t have much in the way of serviced industrial land that is “shovel ready”.  This is a complicated problem that involves city zoning, planning, servicing, etc and needs to be discussed.  Companies could start skipping over the area as a potential destination for their plant due to not being able to get the facilities they need.

Local Employers Successfully Filling More Open Positions
Everyday we deal with business owners.  The most common complaint we hear is, “I can’t find or keep staff”.  Across all industries and all sizes, this seems to be a consistent problem.  This, like the previous wish, is a complicated problem. We need to do a better job producing workers as a city and country that matches the needs of employers.  Some of this could be solved by wish number two, but not entirely.  This isn’t a problem specific to this area but seems to be striking in an area that went through a long period of high unemployment.  The future of our economy depends on this getting figured out.

Well, that does it for our posts for the year.  Hopefully you’ve been good! What’s on your wish list for Santa?

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Local Real Estate Stats Examined

Last week we made a few general observations about our local real estate market from 2016.  This week we are going to dive a little deeper and look into some relevant statistics.  Note: Some of these statistics are based on the first 11 months of the year, as we still have a couple weeks left in December.  Also, these stats refer to our home market of Windsor, Ontario.

Units Sold Increased 10% Year Over Year
The headline is pretty self explanatory.  The number of units (houses) sold are on pace to top last year by 10%.  This is generally positive as more transactions are taking place so the market is more active.  Obviously this is a great thing for sellers.

Listings Increased 2% Year Over Year
Again a pretty straightforward headline.  The number of houses listed for sale are on track to increase by 2% compared to last year.  All other things being equal, this is positive for buyers as there is more inventory for sale and negative for sellers as there is more competition when selling your home.  When comparing the increase in listings with the increase in sales, sales have increased significantly more than listings, so one should expect to see an increase in prices during this period.

Average Sales Price Increased 13% Year Over Year
Good news for sellers!  Average Prices increased from $200,823 to $226,193.  After seeing sales up 10% and listings up only 2%, there was not enough supply to meet demand and there was upward pressure on prices.  Some of this gain can also be attributed to a higher share of high priced homes being sold this year compared to last year.  Obviously this is not so good for first time home buyers, or people who have been renting for the last year as it will be more expensive for them to find a home.

Housing Starts Increased 30% Year Over Year
This is great news all around.  Sales of new construction houses have really boomed this year.  This is also great for the local economy as the builders hire skilled trades which boosts local employment, the city or town expands its tax base, and additional services must be added (retail) to service this additional density and demography.  Hopefully this continues.

The Rental Vacancy Rate Decreased from 3.9% to 2.9% Year Over Year
This is another overwhelmingly positive statistic.  On a percentage basis this means there are 25.6% less vacant apartments in the area.  This continues the improving trend from 2009 when vacancy rates were 12%+.  Vacancy rate declines are generally indicative of economic growth and population growth (both province migration ie Alberta to Ontario, and immigration).  With an improving economy, robust sales activity and a tight rental market, it is clear people are moving to the area.  The area now seems ripe for new construction of rental units.

So after reviewing the stats it's clear to see that 2016 was a pretty healthy year for the real estate market.  Those are our takeaways from the stats.  What are yours?

*Sources WECAR & CMHC

Friday, December 9, 2016

2016 Year End Real Estate & Related Observations

 As the holidays draw closer we are going to do a few posts wrapping up the year.  And what a year it has been for our real estate market and many other markets in Canada and the US.  Today we are going to discuss some observations we’ve made throughout the year.

The Year of Multiple Offers
Multiple offers seemed to be a way of life this year.  Bidding wars were everywhere, in all parts of town and all price ranges.  This even spread to the commercial market as some retail, multifamily, and industrial buildings had multiple offers.

New Construction Is Back In A Big Way
New construction was a bit of a tough business since the recession of 2008 in our market.  That changed in a big way as sales of new construction boomed all over the area.  Clearly there was some pent up demand from the last several years and that translated into huge numbers.

The Local Economy Is Finally A Tailwind
We deal with lots of business owners, and so many of them talk about having way more business than they can handle.  This applies across all industries.  The local unemployment rate has plummeted from being one of the worst in Canada to below average.  This bodes well for a continued buoyant, local real estate market.

We Need to Build More Condos
There are not enough condos out there to meet demand.  With an aging demographic, mixed with the  acceptance of condo living by Millennials, the once stagnant demand for condos locally is long gone.  We expect to see more new condos being constructed in the next few years with brisk demand to meet them.

Downtown Is Still A Sore Spot
The downtown hasn’t really been able ride the coattails of the improvements in the local economy and real estate market as much as it was hoped for.  We still need more people living down there to change the demographics to support more retail and attractions that people like to speak about.  Hopefully the University opening in the near future will be a catalyst, but time will tell.
Those are some of our observations from 2016.  What were yours?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: First Right of Refusal

As  we wrap up this series on leasing terms for the year, another confusing term/subject is on deck.  Although the definition is pretty literal, the application of it in the commercial leasing world isn’t so straightforward.

What Exactly Is A First Right of Refusal (FROR)?
A right of first refusal is a contractual right of an entity to be given the opportunity to enter into a business transaction with a person or company before anyone else can. If the entity with the first right of refusal declines to enter into a transaction, the owner of the asset is free to open the bidding up to other interested parties.  In the real estate world, this business transaction refers to the real estate premises in subject, be it commercial space, land, etc.

When Would A First Right of Refusal Apply?
The most common time when you see a first right of refusal applicable would be when a tenant is leasing a space, the landlord decides to sell, and the tenant has a first right of refusal to purchase the property.  Another common application would be when a tenant in a building is growing and as a neighbouring space becomes vacant, the tenant would have a first right of refusal to lease the additional space before the landlord can lease it to another tenant.

What Else Should I Know About A First Right of Refusal?
A first right of refusal is a term of a lease agreement that should be negotiated along with other terms at time of lease negotiations.  It usually states a date that relates to the first right and the mechanism for administering it.  The more thoroughly stated the better, so there are no disagreements later.  

To use an example: if a tenant has a first right of refusal on the building they occupy that states that should the landlord get a bonafide offer to purchase from a third party, the tenant will have seven days to match the terms of that offer.

The actual clause in the lease agreement will be more detailed but that covers the basis of it.

Obviously, a first right of refusal is a benefit to a tenant if they desire to own the building they are in someday.  It is a nice perk.  It is also a benefit to have a first right on neighbouring space, as being able to expand without moving is attractive.

On the landlord’s side, it is sometimes a detriment to have a first right of refusal when selling their building.  If a third party buyer knows that the tenant has a first right of refusal to match their offer, they might decide to not bother.  It really depends on the situation though.

As always, make sure to hire an experienced commercial realtor to negotiate terms in your lease, including first right of refusals!  Once again, this wraps up our series on explaining leasing terms for the year.  Hope it was informative.  If you ever have questions don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Personal Guarantee

Let’s say you are an aspiring entrepreneur and you have an idea for a small business. You work on your business plan, get approved for some financing at the bank and as everything looks promising, you are ready to start looking for commercial space. After your commercial realtor finds you the perfect space, you negotiate a deal with agreeable terms but one issue has come up that you didn’t foresee – a personal guarantee.  Today we are going to discuss personal guarantees.

What is a Personal Guarantee/Indemnity?

A personal guarantee (also often referred to as an indemnity), is really exactly what it sounds like – an unsecured written promise from an individual to repay any obligations of a business. So in the above case, should your business not go as planned and you decide to close down, you will be personally liable for the lease obligation remaining. When we say the guarantee is unsecured, we mean that your guarantee is not tied to a specific asset (ie your home) but in the event of default the landlord could go after any of your assets to settle the debts.

Why Would a Landlord Want a Personal Guarantee?

A personal guarantee is essentially an extra level of security for the Landlord. These are especially prevalent and common when doing leases with small businesses. Small businesses generally have less in the way of assets and therefore the financial health and creditworthiness is tied to the owner’s personal finances.

Take the example of a new startup business with zero in assets and the landlord who is agreeing to renovate the space on the behalf of the tenant for their needs. There is high risk of failure in this situation, and as such it is prudent for the landlord to request a personal guarantee. It should also be noted that in the above example, when the tenant was approved for financing from the bank, this would’ve come with personal guarantees at the bank without a doubt!

Once a business is established with assets and a history of profits, the needs for a personal guarantee is lessened. At that point, a landlord and likely the lender as well will look to the financial health and creditworthiness of the corporation. A personal guarantee is also less necessary in certain other situations, like when a tenant is renovating their own space or if the term is short enough to not have it worthwhile.

What Else Should I Know About Personal Guarantees?

The issue of personal guarantees is a term that should be discussed as part of an offer to lease. That way there are no surprises when the lease draft comes out. A personal guarantee can also be offered by a third party. Take the example of a young professional with limited assets or credit history and their parent agreeing to personally guarantee their lease. Lastly, a personal guarantee can be negotiated for a period of time (ie say you signed a 10 year lease, but only agreed to a personal guarantee for the first 5 years).

Make sure if a personal guarantee is applicable to your lease deal that your commercial realtor negotiates the terms on your behalf. And also make sure your lawyer signs off on the clause or related indemnity agreement in your lease. In the (hopefully unlikely) event that it becomes an issue, you’ll be glad you did.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Sublet

You may have heard the term sublet or sublease before, as in “my friend is subletting their space”.  But do you know what that means?  This is an important topic as a Tenant or Landlord in commercial leasing and one that is rarely understood properly, until the situation arises…

What Exactly Is a Sublet?
A sublet occurs when a Tenant no longer needs their space or it no longer suits their needs, but still is responsible for the remainder of the term of the lease they signed. So, instead of letting the space sit dark while continuing to pay, they sublet the space to another Tenant. When some sort of arrangement is agreed to, a sublease agreement is signed by both parties.

How Does a Sublet Work?
After a sublease is signed, the sub-tenant starts to pay rent to the sub-landlord. The Tenant in turn continues to pay rent to the Landlord. Even though the sub-tenant is now occupying the space, the original Tenant is responsible for all the terms under the original lease.

What Else Should I Know About Subletting?
If a Tenant wants to sublet their space, they require a Landlord’s written approval. Landlord’s are not allowed to unreasonably refuse a request for a sublet. Usually your lease agreement will speak to the ability to sublet and any mechanisms that apply. Should you have any issues with subletting, contact your lawyer.

From a sub-tenant perspective, sometimes subleasing space comes with risk, as it doesn’t come with any renewal options. This can put you in a bind when your term runs out. Therefore, when we have strong Tenants considering a sublet space, often times the deal goes back to the Landlord for them to deal with directly (instead of on a sublet basis) on the space so that proper terms can be negotiated for the tenant and then a termination is negotiated between the Landlord and the existing Tenant.

With careful thought and planning, sublets can be pulled off without a hitch. Make sure to hire an experienced commercial realtor to guide you through the process towards a smooth transaction.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Renewal Option

Say you are a commercial tenant in a plaza and business is pretty good. You are established now and planning for the future. Before you know it, a few years have gone by and you realize that your lease must be coming up for renewal later this year. But do you really understand what a renewal option is and what rights and obligations you have? Today we are going to discuss the important topic of renewal options.  

What Exactly Is A Renewal Option?
A renewal option is a clause within your lease that outlines the terms for renewing or extending a lease agreement. Obviously this renewal option comes into play as you approach the end of your lease term.  These renewal options are at the right of the tenant and not an obligation.

How Do Renewal Options Work?
Renewal options generally spell out how (usually in writing to the Landlord), and when (usually a time period before the expiration of the lease, ie 6 months), this option can be exercised. There is also usually a number of renewal options (ie. 3 options of renewal), and a lease term (ie. 5 years), tied to a renewal option. This also assumes the Tenant is in good standing not in default of any of the covenants of the lease. The wording of your renewal option will be a clause included in your lease agreement.  Make sure to have your lawyer read over the clause to protect your interests.

What Else Should I Know About Renewal Options?
Sometimes renewals also spell out the rental rate. The rest of the time the rate in the renewal is at “a rate to be negotiated”. This rate to be negotiated is supposed to be at a market rate at the time of the renewal. In Ontario (our market where we practice real estate), in the case where a Landlord and Tenant can’t come to terms on a rate, there is an arbitration process to resolve the matter.

In the event a Tenant doesn’t exercise their right to renew, they end up holding over month to month and lose all additional renewal options. If you’d like to read up on this situation, be sure to read our blog on this topic here.

Renewal options are a negotiating term when negotiating a commercial lease. Make sure you get a good commercial realtor to negotiate your renewal options on your behalf and be sure to understand this renewal option for the future.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Month to Month

In your business travels, you may have come across a Tenant or Landlord that is leasing a space month to month. But do you know exactly what that means and what the ramifications are for both parties? Today we are going to explain month to month tenancies.

On a side note: Our discussion will be in regards to commercial leasing month to month. Residential month to month tenancies is another topic and can get very technical depending on your jurisdiction (ours being Ontario). Read up on your residential Landlord-Tenant laws to learn more about residential month to month tenancies.

What Exactly is a Month to Month Tenancy?
A month to month tenancy is technically a lease arrangement that is terminable by either party on 30 days notice (hence the term month to month). This terminable aspect of the lease goes both ways, for both the Tenant and the Landlord.

Why Would I Find Myself In A Month to Month Tenancy?
You could have entered into a month to month tenancy at the beginning of a lease, either as a Landlord or Tenant, by agreeing to not have a lease term (ie. 1 year) attached to your tenancy. The other way you could be involved in a month to month tenancy, is when the Tenant’s lease term is up and is either out of options to extend, or has decided to not exercise their right to extend, and is therefore holding over on their lease month to month.

What Are the Pros to a Month to Month Lease?
The pros of a month to month tenancy as a Tenant are obviously that should things turn sour in your business, you could close down in 30 days and not be on the hook for a long lease term. Or, if you are a tenant looking for a better location or space for your business, holding over month to month allows you to continue to operate while searching out new premises. The pros for the Landlord would be that it creates flexibility should a long tenant user come along to take the existing tenants space, or if you had a multi-unit building and needed to accommodate a larger user tenant.

What Are The Cons to a Month to Month Lease?
Obviously the con to a month to month tenancy is a lack of security both ways. As a Tenant if you are holding over month to month, the Landlord could at any time lease the space to someone else with 30 days notice. Likewise for the Landlord you could have any empty unit with only 30 days notice to prepare. Also as a Landlord, month to month tenancies will make it harder to finance and sell for proper value.

As always your lease agreement will have clauses in it relating to this topic. Make sure you understand those clauses and how they relate to your situation. If you have a question about your month to month tenancy, feel free to drop us a line!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Tenant Improvements

Continuing on in our series of explaining real estate and related terms, now that you understand the types of commercial leases we are going to touch on some terms you will often come across. Today we are going to be talking about a subject that many potential tenants find confusing: Tenant Improvements.

What are Tenant Improvements?
Tenant Improvements are alterations made to a commercial or industrial premises in order to customize it for the specific need of a tenant. Examples of Tenant Improvements would include walls, flooring, ceilings, lighting, kitchens, paint, etc. Many people in the industry use the short form "T.I.s" when referring to Tenant Improvements.

Who Pays for the Tenant Improvements?
Every situation is different and often it depends on what you are able to negotiate. On one end of the spectrum the Tenant pays for all their own tenant improvements. On the other end the Landlord pays for all the Tenant Improvements (often referred to as a “turn-key”). Often they meet somewhere in the middle. Landlords will sometimes quote a base rent that includes a Tenant improvement allowance built in when leasing over a long term ($15/ft base rent, includes a $25/ft Tenant Improvements allowance on a 10 year term).

What Else Should I Know About Tenant Improvements?
Often times as a Tenant you can make your best deal taking the space as-is and pay for the Tenant improvements yourself. This better deal can result in lower rent over the long term and generous rent free periods at the beginning of the lease. On the flip side, it's possible as a Tenant that you don’t have the capital to fund all your own Tenant improvements or don’t have the time or skill to manage the project.

As a Landlord, there are also pros and cons to participating in the cost of Tenant Improvements. The pros include you can usually command a higher rent and longer terms. This can make your rent roll look good and increase the potential sale price should you plan to sell in the near future. The cons are obviously that you need to come up with the capital and also that you need to be sure to qualify the Tenant and their creditworthiness. Essentially, you're loaning them the money for Tenant Improvements that you will recoup over the term of the lease.

With the cost of construction increasing all over the place, it's important to factor in Tenant Improvement costs and who will be responsible for paying what. A knowledgeable commercial real estate specialist should be able to educate you on the dynamics of your market and how best to position yourself.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Gross Lease

 As we continue on in our series of explaining real estate related terms, the streak of leasing-related topics continues. Over the last few weeks we have discussed triple net leasing and some related terms. Today we are going to touch on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to leasing… gross leasing.

What Is A Gross Lease?
A gross lease is a type of lease where the Landlord pays for the building’s operating costs, including the property taxes, insurance, maintenance, etc. From the Tenant’s perspective this equates to a flat fee or monthly rent in exchange for using the space. This is the opposite of how a triple net lease is administered, where the Tenant pays their proportionate share of the building’s operating cost.

How Is A Gross Lease Administered?
A gross lease is either administered as $/ft figure (ie $10.00/ft), or as a flat dollar amount per month ($2000/Month). Obviously from a Tenant’s perspective, a gross lease is simpler as the cost every month is fixed. Naturally, some Tenants prefer this type of lease arrangement, compared to triple net leasing.

What Else Should I Know About Gross Leasing?
Gross leases can sometimes include utilities cost and sometimes they are separately metered. It is important to understand how utilities are charged in the gross lease deals you are looking at. As a Tenant in a gross lease building, even though you aren’t paying additional rent to cover your share of operating costs, you will want to also ensure that the maintenance of the property has been kept up (landscaping, snow removal, etc). This can be done with language speaking to this in your lease agreement.

Sometimes you will run across a building that is run somewhere between a net and gross lease arrangement. These can be referred to as semi-net or semi-gross leases with an adjustment for part of the operating cost (ie. property taxes or utilities). The Landlord will set up a gross lease, but charge you back for your share of utilities or property taxes. Your lease agreement should speak to any special arrangements like this.

On the Landlord side generally lenders and other investors won’t view investment properties with gross leases as favourably. As opposed to net leasing where the Landlord is collecting a net rent yearly, with gross leases the Landlord is responsible for the expenses. This can lead to variability in the net income of the property and therefore leads to a lower applicable cap rate (valuation) when selling or financing the property.

Now you know the difference between a gross and a net lease. If any of these concepts are still confusing for you, feel free to drop us a line. We are here to help!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: CAM

Next up in our series on explaining real estate and related terms is another about commercial leasing. The term is actually an acronym and the concept ties into additional rent, which we discussed last week.

What is CAM?
CAM stands for common area maintenance. CAM comes into play in a multi-unit property where tenants share a common area(s). This common area can include common hallways, elevators, parking lot, landscaping area, utility rooms, common restrooms, and more.

How are CAM charges administered?
CAM charges are usually administered as part of the additional rent. Each tenant pays their proportionate share of the common area maintenance charges. Generally they come up with a figure per sq ft (ie. $2.00/ft, which would be the tenant’s share of common area maintenance for the year).  This budgeted CAM cost is usually billed monthly based on the budget and then reconciled with actual expenses at year end.

What else should I know about CAM?
CAM charges are sometimes advertised totalled with property taxes to give you a total additional rent figure. Sometimes they are advertised separate where they disclose a property tax number, plus a CAM number (ie. $5.00/ft for taxes and $2.00/ft for CAM total $7.00/ft additional rent). Certain types of properties will have higher CAM costs than others. A 20 storey office tower with several elevators and lots of common hallways and facilities will have higher maintenance costs than a small strip plaza with minimal parking and no common entrances or hallways. Sometimes CAM can also include a management or administrative cost to administer the bookkeeping of the common area maintenance and additional rent. This should be apparent when viewing the operating cost budget.

CAMs are another confusing topic for many people. Its important to understand what common areas you are responsible for as a tenant, what the maintenance of these areas is costing you, and what you are getting for those charges. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Additional Rent

Last week to kick off our new series, we discussed a term related to commercial leasing (one of our specialities), triple net. Unfortunately, there are many confusing and interchangeable terms used in commercial leasing. Today we are going to explain additional rent, so you understand the breakdown of your rent payment every month.

What is Additional Rent?
The technical definition of additional rent is "any rent in addition to the base rent payable by the tenant". So this additional rent, in a triple net lease, would usually include the tenant’s share of the costs of the property, including property taxes, insurance, snow removal, repairs, and more.

What Else Should I Know About Additional Rent?
Additional rent is usually quoted as a dollar amount per sq ft (ie $7.00/ft). In our market, there is a field on MLS where you can input the additional rent figure for each commercial lease listing. That way you know what your total rent will be as a tenant. Add the additional rent figure to the base rent and multiply it by the square footage to get your total annual rent. Divide that number by 12 to get your monthly rent total. You should also know that additional rent is usually a budgeted number and it will be reconciled with the landlord every year depending on the actual operating costs of the plaza.

Why Does This Additional Rent Figure Vary By Property?
The additional rent will vary by property because the operating cost of each property is different.  One property could have a higher assessment value than another and therefore their property taxes are higher. Or if there are more common areas in a building, the utilities and maintenance cost of this space will add to the additional rent.  

If you see a property with an extremely low number, that can be a red flag that they are under estimating the operating costs and you will most likely see them increase substantially over the budget. Another general observation you can make about additional rent is that the newer the property is, the lower the repairs and maintenance costs generally are, therefore the lower the additional rent figure will be. The opposite is generally true of older buildings.

Additional rent is a confusing topic, so don’t be afraid to ask an expert. If you have any questions about additional rent in your situation, feel free to email us anytime .

Friday, September 2, 2016

Real Estate & Related Terms Explained: Triple Net

Considering we do lots of commercial leasing, we come across triple net leasing every day. Very often we hear from potential tenants the same question: what does triple net mean? Today we are going to explain triple net leasing, so the next time you lease commercial space you’ll be able to understand your lease obligations.

What is a Triple Net Lease?

The technical definition of triple net leasing goes like this: a lease arrangement in which the tenant is responsible for paying in addition to their base rent all of operating expenses of the property. This includes property taxes, insurance and maintenance. Basically, you pay a base rent (or net rent as it is sometimes called) to the landlord, and you also pay your proportionate share of the operating costs of the property. So that the landlord is not out of pocket for any of the operating costs of the plaza, the tenant pays their share as they would if they owned the property. Typical operating cost items can include all of the following: property taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs, common utilities, snow removal, landscaping, property management and janitorial (in some cases).

How is a Triple Net Lease Administered?

To use a plaza with multiple tenants as an example, the landlord will come up with a budget for operating costs (typically referred to as an operating cost budget), that sets out the yearly costs of operating the property, including the typical items mentioned above. They usually take that total and divide it by the total square footage of the property to come up with $/sqft amount (ie $100,000 operating cost budget, divided by 10,000’ in the plaza, equates to $10.00/sqft for operating costs).  This operating cost amount is then added to your base rent to get to your gross rent (ie base rent of $15.00/ft plus $10.00/ft operating costs equals $25.00/ft). You multiply this amount by your square footage and this gives you your total annual rent. Divide that by 12 and that will give you your monthly rent. By doing the operating costs this way, it smoothes out the costs over the year for the tenant, instead of giving them lump sum bills as they come up. Essentially the landlord pays the operating costs and then charges them back to the tenant throughout the year. In the case where you are leasing an entire building, this can be simpler and the tenant can pay the operating costs directly themselves as there isn’t a proportionate amount to share with other tenants.

What Else Should I Know About Triple Net Leasing?

By year's end, the landlord should reconcile the actual operating costs in relation to what was budgeted. At that point they will most likely either owe you a balance if the actual comes in less than the budgeted, or you owe them if the actual comes higher than budgeted. Some of the volatile operating expenses that can swing year to year include snow removal, common utilities and repairs/maintenance.

All triple net leases are slightly different in the way they are administered, but this gives you a basic understanding of the concept of triple net and what you should know.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Series: Real Estate and Related Terms Explained

Over the next several weeks we will be doing a new series on the blog. In a nutshell, each week we are going to choose a term that we often find that is either confusing or misunderstood in our travels with our clients. We will define the term in verbiage that is easy to understand and expand on the concepts where necessary.

After this series we hope that you will be able to talk confidently about many real estate related topics. Sometimes, there are different terms for different items in different jurisdictions. For example, in Ontario (where we live and sell real estate), we use the term Condo for condominium ownership, whereas in British Columbia, they use the term Strata. So therefore, as experts in Ontario only, we will focus on terms used in our market.

The first post next week will be regarding a term that we get asked about a lot…triple net.

Readers: are there any terms you find confusing that you’d like us to touch on? We’d like to make this series informative so we’d love to hear from you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

THE TENANT PLAYBOOK: Negotiating with the Landlord

Having now identified the 'premises' of your operation, what are the next steps to follow as you approach the Landlord? As noted earlier, hopefully you have engaged the services of a qualified leasing specialist to assist in negotiating a lease deal with a particular Landlord.
The first step is to qualify yourself or your operation with the Landlord. In short, this is a background/bio of your business and your credentials as a Tenant.  This might include years in business, expanding/downsizing, number of employees, and why these new premises are "fit for the future".  Depending on the situation, you may need to provide financials (particularly if the Landlord is providing significant TI dollars), a credit report and/or references.
In the case of a ‘new start-up’, you may need to provide a Business Plan which lays out your sales projections, expenses, capital investment requirements, and working capital needs. Given the fact the business is new, this should be supported by your credentials on a personal basis. Landlords are typically adverse to new start-ups. The more details you can provide at the outset the better. Be prepared to have a conversation on a PERSONAL GUARANTEE, particularly if the Landlord is investing capital on your behalf into the premises.
Beyond lease rate terms (the dollars of the deal), what item or items are most significant to your future in this location? Is it a suitable TI allowance? An extended rent free period? Dedicated parking? Early termination rights? Restrictive covenants on neighbouring businesses? Whatever the key elements of the deal are, you need to make sure they are front and centre as you begin the negotiation. The key points need to be 'on the table' now when finalizing the formal lease document, not left for the lawyers to deal with.
Successful lease negotiations do not just happen, but are planned for and well-executed by Tenants and their Leasing Representatives. As with everything in life, you do not get what you deserve, but rather what you negotiate. 
Next up from the TENANT PLAYBOOK: papering the transaction and types of documentation. As always, we're just a click or call away from discussing investment opportunities here in Windsor – Essex!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Bonus: Investing In Real Estate – Building the Right Team: Mentors & Education

Ask any successful real estate investor and they’ll be sure to admit that they haven’t invented the wheel. They have taken ideas and concepts from other landlords and incorporated them into their investing business. The learning curve is much easier when you aren’t starting at square one.
Why do I need a mentor?
One of the best ways to learn the tricks of the trade is to find a mentor who is a successful real estate investor.  It's often that successful landlords enjoy talking real estate and will be happy to share some info. Pick their brain. Even if you take a few concepts, or learn to avoid a few mistakes over time, they can make you money or save you big money long term.
How do I find a mentor?
The best way to find a mentor, or like minded real estate investor, is to network. Look to see if there is some sort of real estate investment club in your local area. Talk to your realtor or other professionals on your team to see if they know of anyone they can refer you to. Networking is key in any business and having successful contacts can very much help you investing business.
What else should I know about staying educated?
Besides having a mentor, it is important to keep investing in yourself as a real estate investor. Continual learning will improve your understanding of the business and keep you sharp. There are numerous books on the subject, online classes, in-person seminars, and of course, blogs (like this one ) that have lots of information to keep you up-to-date on what is happening and what you need to know in your market.
Don’t be lazy. Aim to improve yourself continually and your investment business will thrive. Readers, do you have a mentor? What do you do to keep continuing your real estate education?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Investing In Real Estate – Building The Right Team: Series Recap

As a real estate investor, you have a lot at stake. It's important to remember to treat your investing as a business. As the CEO of your investing business, it's important to run your business properly to ensure its success.

As any good CEO will do, you need to surround yourself with the right help. It's hard to do it properly all on your own. Focus on your strengths and outsource the rest to the proper professionals.   You might not need every one of the team members we discussed in our series, but they should all be considerations for the future.

Make sure to value your time as an investor. Why spend your time mowing the lawn of your property when it could be spent analyzing your next deal? If you're busy with your career or family life and don’t have the time to take care of everything yourself, it doesn’t mean you don’t have time for investing in real estate, it just means you need to outsource.

One of the main reasons people hold back from investing in real estate is the horror stories they have heard about problem tenants or problems with the property (ie. flooded basement). One of the great benefits of outsourcing to professionals is that it minimizes your mistakes and potential liability as an investor. You don’t have to learn the hard way.

Remember, the path to real estate investing success and future wealth is a marathon, not a sprint.  Surrounding yourself with the right people will help you keep a steady pace on your journey and not stumble along the way. Now get moving!

This wraps up our series on building the right team as a real estate investor. Hopefully it was insightful and made you think differently about your chances of becoming a real estate investor.  We’d love to hear from you!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Investing In Real Estate – Building The Right Team #8: General Maintenance Professionals

Just like at your principle residence, general maintenance items must be done to ensure the property is safe and well maintained. This is general labour type maintenance such as grass cutting, landscaping, snow removal & cleaning of common areas (if in a multi-unit building). Today we are going to elaborate on this subject and discuss a few items you should be aware of.

Can I do this general maintenance myself?

You certainly can get your hands dirty and tackle these items yourself, as long as you have the time and will be completing them on a timely basis. Saving money on these items will certainly increase your cash flow but make sure to put a value on your time. Don’t let the place go in between visits, as poor curb appeal or lack of general maintenance can be a large turn off for tenants and can negatively affect your occupancy rates and rental rates. Maybe you want to start with handling these items yourself when you are just getting started, but as you progress as an investor, and as your portfolio grows, it may be prudent to outsource some help.  

If I hire out my general maintenance, who should I hire?

Grass, landscaping and snow removal can usually be done by a local landscaping company. You can consider hiring your tenant or a tenant in your building to handle these items, but beware of the pitfalls. Especially with snow, if they don’t do their job in a timely manner, you could end up with someone falling and injuring themselves on your property and inheriting legal trouble. On the cleaning of common areas, it is common to see one of the on-site tenants handle the job. Usually the cleaning of the common areas, or handling of grass cutting or snow removal can be done with a reduction in the rent, just make sure it is stated in writing.

How much should I budget for maintenance on my property?

You should budget an ongoing expense for maintenance items regardless of if you do them yourself or contract them out. A good rule of thumb is to budget 5% of gross rent, or up to one month’s gross rent per year, towards repairs and maintenance. This amount will also include large repairs such as roof, furnace, etc. which will be amortized over their expected life to smooth out your repairs and maintenance budgeting year to year. You don’t want to overspend on these maintenance items so you should err on the cheaper side when allocating expense dollars to these items.

Make sure you budget for these maintenance items in your income property and ensure the work is done in a timely manner. You'll be thankful you did!

Readers, do you do your own maintenance on your income properties or do you outsource them?

Friday, July 15, 2016

Investing In Real Estate – Building The Right Team #7: Bookkeeper

No one will ever care as much about your investment property as you do. But what exactly should you care about most as an investor? The short answer is: how much money you’re making! The funny thing is a lot of investors don’t actually know how well their investment property is performing. Don’t be one of those people! Today we are going to talk about the next member of your team, which will help you with this problem…your bookkeeper.

Do I really need a bookkeeper?

Technically, you don’t need one. You can do the bookkeeping yourself if you work with a simple spreadsheet or an accounting software such as quickbooks or simply accounting. Just make sure you keep detailed records and ensure you input all the income, expenses, etc, properly and allocate it to the right property. When you start out, it's often a good idea to start doing your own books so you can learn. As your portfolio grows, you will want to consider delegating the task to a bookkeeper.

What will my bookkeeper do for me?

A bookkeeper will input all income and expenses into whatever accounting software you use. They will keep neat records so when tax time rolls around, you have everything handy. They will also run regular reports (ie. monthly, quarterly) so you can track the performance of your investments.

What else should I know about bookkeeping?

The biggest aspect of bookkeeping is measuring performance. If things are going well and as good or better than expected then you want to keep up the good work to make sure things don’t slip. If things aren’t performing so well, it allows you to look at where the numbers are going wrong and make some changes (ie. increase rents, renovate, implement energy efficiency updates). And if after doing all you can, and after continuing to monitor the performance, it doesn’t turn around, maybe it wasn’t a good investment and its time to sell and move on.

How much will my bookkeeper cost?

As in the rest of the your team members the cost will vary, but bookkeeping is a highly automated process so the rates in your area should be pretty standardized. Either a per hour amount or a monthly fee is most common. Also make sure to check the work to make sure they are doing a good job with minimal errors and making it worthwhile for you.

The bottomline is that understanding your investment properties performance is very important and not a task to be taken lightly. Consider hiring a bookkeeper to make sure this is taken care of properly.

Do you do your own bookkeeping or outsource it for a bookkeeper?

Friday, July 8, 2016


Tenants considering new premises are often overwhelmed by the complexity of the task. In addition, they most often continue to run their operation from their present location, while at the same time planning to move/relocate. Talk about a heavy workload!

As with everything in real estate, DON'T GO IT ALONE! Engage the services of a qualified commercial leasing specialist on Day One. Interview only qualified specialists in your market area and select the one who appears best suited to assist you in finding new premises.

Now that you have engaged your Tenant Representative, what are the key elements of your relocation plan that need to be determined? A typical list would be as follows:
  • Lease Commitment Period (5, 10-20 years)
  • Locational Parameters (based on your clientele and market priorities)
  • Premises Size & Design (sq. ft. range, ground floor/above ground, multi-unit/freestanding)
  • Interior Layout (floor plan requirements, staffing size, windows/exterior light)
  • Parking Needs (on site, street parking, municipal parking, no parking)
  • Signage (facia box, multi-tenant pylon sign, window signage, directory board)
  • Accessibility (key in most jurisdictions across North America)
  • Networks (fibre cable, high speed internet, satellite)
  • Landlord Incentives (rent free period, TI allowance, turn-key/build to suit)
  • Availability (to commence both the tenant's work and business operations)
  • Options to Expand/First Rights on Adjoining Space

Although not necessarily a conclusive list, this forms a solid basis for the objectives needed to secure new premises. As a tenant, you need to present your requirements in a very clear manner, based on your foreseeable needs. This is a vital part of the Tenant Playbook. It forms the basis of the properties which you consider. It will also ultimately form the basis in your decision making as you create a short list of viable property options and compare them.

Next up from the Tenant Playbook: the most effective approaches in negotiating with the Landlord. As always, we're just a click or call away from discussing the investment opportunities here in Windsor-Essex!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Investing In Real Estate – Building The Right Team #6: Contractor/Handyman/Trades

Not very handy? Don’t feel bad…we aren’t either. But that shouldn’t discourage you from investing in real estate. By building a team that includes a contractor or handyman to handle your renovations and repairs, you won’t have to slave doing manual labor jobs that you either don’t have the time for or the skills to do properly. Today we are going to talk about how having the right guys for the job will help make your investment properties more successful in the long run. We are using the terms contractor/handyman/trades interchangeably, as who you need can vary depending on your situation.

Why Do I Need A Contractor/Handyman/Trades?

If you are truly good with your hands and know the ins and outs of construction, including trades, pulling permits, etc, then maybe you don’t need a good contractor. But for the rest of us, they are very important. They will carry out necessary renovations to your rental properties that will attract the right tenants for top rents and keep your real estate values high. Time is money in real estate investing. The longer a job takes the more potential vacancy you have and the larger the hit to your potential rent. You should also be doing routine maintenance to your property, so the improvements you have will last longer, ie. servicing of the mechanical.

What Should I Look For In A Contractor/Handyman/Trades?

You should look for an experienced contractor that can handle the type of jobs you need done for your properties. Check references and assess their work with due diligence. Having a contractor that has rentals or has a background in them is a bonus. They will understand where you are coming from when it comes to smartly investing in your properties. You are not making decisions the same way you would if you were renovating your own home.

What Else Will My Contractor/Handyman/Trades Do?

They will give you advice on general updates that need to be done. Sometimes things can wait another year or two. Sometimes, an item needing repair can be a money pit and a full replacement is better in the long run. They should also have good referrals for you. For example, if you were renovating a basement and had a leak in the foundation, they should be able to refer you to some potential specialists outside of their expertise.

How Much Will My Contractor/Handyman/Trades Cost?

As with most team members in our series, the costs will vary depending on the person and the job.  Make sure to get multiple, detailed quotes in writing so you fully understand what is included in the price. Also, you usually get what you pay for in construction, so choosing team members solely on who is the lowest price isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes they are the cheapest for a reason and getting the job done right can save you money in the long term.

So there you have it, real estate investors. Do you have a team of construction experts for your properties? How has your experience been in finding the right help?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Investing in Real Estate – Building The Right Team #5: Property Manager

One of the first concerns we hear about when talking to new real estate investors goes something like this: “I heard real estate investing is a pain because I’ll be getting calls about clogged toilets at two in the morning from my tenants.” Is this something that has made you hesitant about investing in real estate? Today we are going to alleviate some of these concerns by talking about the next member of your team – the property manager.

What Will A Property Manager Do?

The property manager will be the main contact for the landlord in the day to day dealings of the property. They will collect rent, hand out any necessary notices to tenants, market vacant units, handle any complaints, deal with minor repairs and maintenance, etc.

What Should I Look For In A Property Manager?

Ideally your property manager should have lots of experience in handling similar types of rental properties to yours. They should have knowledge of the local rental market and tenant profiles. They should also know how to legally deal with problem tenants, including serving proper notices, keeping records of correspondence, and taking the proper steps up to possible hearings with Landlord Tenant Board. This last part is very important as not handling evictions and other tenant issues properly can get very expensive for the landlord. Make sure to interview them the same way anyone you would hire and get references. Sometimes it is prudent to manage a building yourself at the beginning so you understand the property, the tenants, etc. to get your feet wet and be able to properly manage your property manager.

How Will My Property Manager Help Me As A Real Estate Investor?

As a specialist in property management, your property manager should have the skills to ensure your investment property runs smoothly. Lots of real estate investors do not have the time or the desire to learn the management side of the business, so this frees up time for the investor to work on acquiring more properties, spend more time focusing on other employment or to spend free time with family or friends. And you won’t be getting any late night tenant complaint phone calls, so you can sleep easier!

How Much Will My Property Manager Cost?

Property management fees can vary as with any other professional services. On larger multi-unit buildings, we see fees such as a 5-8% of gross rent, one month’s rent per year or a $/per door per month. There can also be additional fees for renting/leasing of vacant units and you should inquire about that as they can add up. Usually there are also à la carte items available such as evicting tenants, going to landlord tenant hearings, etc. that they can provide for one-time fees. Get multiple quotes to understand the market prices in your area but be sure not to only focus on costs, make sure to also understand the service that comes with each. Also make sure to budget the costs of management into the financials of any investment properties you are looking at going forward.  Having your property properly managed is too important to cheap out on!

Get a good property manager on your side…you’ll be glad you did. Readers, do you manage your own investment properties?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Investing in Real Estate – Building The Right Team #4: Accountant

As the saying goes, “The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.” Continuing on in your journey of investing in real estate and building your team, you’ll need a good accountant to figure out the latter. Today we are going to talk about why you need a good accountant on your team and how they can help you succeed.

Why Do I Need An Accountant?

The main function of your accountant in relation to your real estate investing is to help figure out the taxable rental income attributable to your rental properties. They will help with filing your tax return, and provide advice relative to your situation and any tax planning that is necessary. All this would also apply to your employment income (if your employed) as this would all go on the same tax return.

How Will My Accountant Help?

Outside of the filing of tax returns, your accountant will help with general tax advice and planning.  Decisions an accountant can help with include:
  • Can you expense or amortize a certain repair or renovation?
  • How much depreciation expense should you take?
  • When is a good time to sell based on tax consequences?

An accountant will also help should you ever get audited by CRA. Basically they will help you within existing tax laws to maximize your after tax rental income, which is really what investing is all about.

What Should I Look For In An Accountant?

As a real estate investor, it is a definite plus to deal with an accountant that has lots of experience with real estate investors. Ask for references from other investor colleagues. Having an accountant with a Chartered Accountant designation is also huge plus.

How Much Will My Accountant Cost?

This will vary depending on your tax situation and the accountant you use. Some charge a flat rate for a comprehensive tax return and some charge per hour. One way to lower your bill will be to have all your paperwork organized for tax time so your accountant isn’t drowning in paperwork. This can be done with bookkeeping software such as Simply Accounting or by hiring a bookkeeper to keep proper records of everything.

In the business of real estate investing, it’s not what you make, it’s what you keep. You also need to be aware of exactly how much your investment properties are making so you can make any necessary changes to ensure your success. Keep diligent records with the help of your accountant and your cheque book will be happy you did!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Investing In Real Estate – Building The Right Team #3: Mortgage Broker/Professional

As you continue your journey in real estate investing, unless you are buying a property with all cash (in that case can you lend us some ?), you’ll eventually need to get a mortgage. But how do you go about doing that? Today, we are going to talk about the next member in building your real estate team: the mortgage broker/professional.

Why do I need a Mortgage Broker/Professional?

The main function will be securing the mortgage for your property purchase. They will also run your credit and applications and move the mortgage along from the initial application phase to giving mortgage instructions to your lawyer for closing.

What will my Mortgage Broker/Professional Do For Me?

Aside from the actual securing of the mortgage, they will shop around to get you best rates, advise you on the best products for your needs and make you aware of any potential pitfalls of a certain type of mortgage. They basically work with you to ensure your interests are taken care of in securing the mortgage.

How Is Financing My Investment Real Estate Different From My Personal Residence?

Financing a personal residence is typically much easier than investment properties. On a personal residence the lender will look at your income and based on that decide how much you can qualify for based on certain ratios. Investment properties are different as they incorporate rental income and so weight is given to income and expenses of the property. There are also different rules ie. you can put as low as a 5% down payment on a principle residence(with mortgage insurance), with investment properties that is usually 20-25% down.

What Else Should I know And Will My Mortgage Broker Be Aware Of?

It is important that your mortgage broker/professional be aware of your goals as an investor. The planning for the future can be much different if you plan on only owning 1 or 2 properties as opposed to 10 or 20. Sometimes it is better to choose lenders with higher rates or less attractive terms, if it helps you down the road qualifying for more mortgages as your portfolio grows. They should help immensely in this regard. Therefore it is a real bonus to work with a mortgage broker/professional that has plenty of experience working with investors.

How Much Will My Mortgage Broker Cost?

Typically the mortgage broker/professional is compensated by the lender with a built in commission into the interest rate. So essentially they are working for you, at no direct cost to you as a buyer!  Check with them on this though as your situation may be unique and may require different services. Note: You will typically have to pay an appraisal fee once you have a property under contract and a mortgage commitment has been given. This will range between $200-500 for a residential property. Sometimes the lender or mortgage professional/broker will take care of this fee.

So there you have it readers. You now know about how important financing is to your real estate investment future. Choose your team member wisely and you’ll be thankful later!