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Welcome to Manitoba, one of the most fascinating real estate environments in the whole of Canada. Years of flux in the Manitoba market are giving way to several prime investment opportunities for the savvy entrepreneur. Of course, to make the most of investing in Manitoba, you have to know the territory and the rules of the game.
A Land of Natural Wonder
Manitoba is perhaps best known for the incredible bounty of its land. As one of Canada’s Prairie Provinces, Manitoba often conjures images of flatlands covered in farms. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however. The province is home to towering mountains, fertile plains and a lengthy shoreline along the Hudson Bay. Space in between is a patchwork quilt of forests and prairies that are a constant draw to outdoor enthusiasts. Indeed, Canada is a nation of immense geographic diversity. However, in each province and territory, it seems that for every stream brimming with trout, there are ten miles of barren Arctic tundra. At least that seems the most common case. Until you get to Manitoba. In a nation where the land is equally inviting and hostile, you could make the argument that Manitoba ended up with all the best bits.
Perhaps that’s why campers, canoers, hikers, bikers and fishers flock to Manitoba year-round to bask in the province’s splendour. That makes Manitoba a fantastic place for real estate investors hoping to break into either the residential or short-term rental market (more on that in a bit).
The changes in geography across the province are reflected in Manitoba’s climate, as well. The province has what’s known as a continental climate. That is, the temperature and overall weather of Manitoba are largely determined by where you’re standing at any given moment.
Manitoba, by the numbers
All that stunning natural beauty takes up a lot of Manitoba’s 650,000 square kilometres. As a result, only 1.3 million people call the province home. That’s roughly one-third the number of people who live in Toronto alone. For those keeping track, that makes Manitoba the fifth most populous Canadian province. A big chunk of that permanent population is located in just a few spots. The residents of Manitoba love a pleasant weekend excursion to one of the rivers, lakes and mountains that dot the area. Still, most of them reside permanently in either Winnipeg or Brandon.
The province’s capital and biggest city is Winnipeg. Seven hundred and fifty thousand people call the provincial capital home. The next largest city, Brandon, is home to another 50,000-plus people. After that, the closest thing to a population center is Steinbach, a town with a population just north of 15,000.
To most investors, cities with a population so low may not seem like worth the effort. Just because the population density starts to fall outside Winnipeg, however, is no reason to overlook the outlying cities.
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The ‘sleeper’ cities
Over the last several years, a growing number of industrial and commercial projects have set their sights on the cities outside of Manitoba’s capital. Though towns like Steinham, Portage la Prairie and Churchill can’t even boast populations of 20,000 people, they are gaining interest among outside investors.
Portage la Prairie, a town of 13,300, has secured more than a billion dollars in new investments since 2017. Most of those come from businesses opening factories and warehouses that will see the job market flooded with new possibilities for employees at every skill level. Steinbach (pop: 15,800) has nearly doubled its taxable income in the last decade (up to almost a billion dollars in 2019) because of the rapid industrial, commercial and residential expansion. After being cut off from the rest of Canada for two years, the port city of Churchill is rebounding quickly after a bevy of outside investments. In the words of Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, “The port has intrinsic advantages. With climate change, the port will have a broader season, potentially, than it’s had.” Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.
The more significant point, however, is that businesses are beginning to realize the immense potential of every corner of Manitoba. They are investing in operations that will require a significant number of workers to complete and then keep running. That means that even the smaller towns throughout Manitoba may not stay small for very long. Anyone investing in Manitoba would do well to take note of that fact and keep an ear to the ground for promising opportunities.
A chance at rebirth
While no one ever enjoys an economic downturn, the current slump in Manitoba may serve to revitalize the housing market in the long term. Last year, a study indicated that the average home price in Manitoba was 12 percent more expensive than what a millennial could afford. The study said that the average home price in Manitoba would need to drop by about $34,000 to fall into a range where people between the ages of 25 and 34 could afford a downpayment.
Then, a terrible and entirely unforeseen pandemic spread throughout the world. Though Canada has resisted the infiltration of COVID-19 somewhat more competently than other nations in the world, the economic impact of the outbreak has not spared Manitoba. Over the last several months, the average cost of homes has dropped considerably across the province. Suddenly, millennials saving for a home may find themselves significantly closer to a downpayment than they were at the end of 2019.
Most experts expect the downturn in average housing costs to be temporary, however. Manitoba’s bustling economy is set to cast off the impact of the outbreak in due course. Even the direst of predictions has the market to begin rising once more in 2021. Some optimistic outlooks have the housing market rebounding as early as June. In short, if you have the capital to invest in Manitoba, now is the time to strike.
The sportsmen’s province
Across the world, savvy outdoor enthusiasts are flocking to Manitoba’s cities to get a bit closer to nature. Unfortunately, the local governments and the hotel industry are taking notice, and that’s bad news for individuals making a go at the short-term rental market. In recent months, local legislators have been put under pressure to impose on short-term rentals like Airbnb the same taxes it doles out to hotels.
Of course, that’s only fair, but it does shave off some of the potential revenue for investors hoping to make big bucks investing in Manitoba’s real estate market.
The rental market is strong and stable
You may believe that the natural course of events is to rent for a few years while saving up for a home of your own. That may not be the philosophy held by the average citizen of Manitoba.
Most residents of Manitoba consider themselves permanent renters. One recent study showed that the people of Manitoba are second only to Nova Scotians in believing that they will never need or want to own their own home. That could be particularly helpful information for someone hoping to set up a real estate portfolio that’s focused on the rental market.
As with most other major Canadian cities reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Winnipeg’s housing market has seen some depression. In January, the average cost of a home in Winnipeg started at $291,000 and change. As of April, that number has fallen to $275,000. The falling house prices could prove a perfect opportunity to cruise the housing market in Manitoba for good deals on homes that may have previously fallen outside your investment price range.
The average annual income in Winnipeg is roughly $52,000, approximately ten thousand dollars less than elsewhere in the province. That means that residents in Winnipeg are prone to the same issues affording a downpayment that occasionally crop up in other cities in Manitoba.
As the price of a home falls, the average rent in Winnipeg is rising accordingly. A two-bedroom unit in Manitoba’s largest city currently costs about $1,200. A one-bedroom, by comparison, runs an average of $957. The rise in rents reflects a year-over-year increase in rent of 3.5 percent. That said, vacancy rates for most rental units throughout the city continued to rise, though only marginally. The one exception, there, is two-bedroom units. From a practical standpoint, this just means that while you’re looking for real estate rental opportunities, you may likely find better deals in bachelor units, as well as one and three-bedroom apartments. On the other end of the spectrum, two-bedroom units might be pricier, but demand is slightly higher.
Just because Brandon can’t boast the same population numbers as Winnipeg doesn’t mean the blue-collar community isn’t a wonderful place to live. Brandon is consistently voted one of Canada’s most desirable cities for several reasons. Brandon has a good record of safety, for starters. It is also home to ample job opportunities for immigrants and citizens alike. Brandon has gone to great lengths to reinforce that interest with a business-friendly environment that encourages relocation.
Those necessities belie the general charm of Brandon, however. Residents take great pride in maintaining the city’s small-town feel. Even with a “smile and nod at your neighbour” philosophy, Brandon is a very complete city. Brandon was the only city in Canada with a population under 50,000 to boast its university, community college and emergency services college until it surpassed that population metric in 2019.
Because of the relatively steady business presence in Brandon, the average annual income is high at $84,386. Meanwhile, the average hourly worker makes roughly $18.50 an hour. As a result, the average home cost in Brandon When compared to the city’s average home cost of around $227,900, it means that the housing market in Brandon has a wide range in price and quality.
Average rent in Brandon runs $925 a month for a one-bedroom and $1,135 for a two-bedroom unit.
Learn the ropes among friends
If you’re new at investing in Manitoba, there’s no shame. You must learn the ins and outs before you commit any kind of serious capital. If you’re one of the three-quarters-of-a-million people who call Winnipeg home, then you’re in luck. There’s the Winnipeg Real Estate Investors Network.
This family-friendly social group invites investors, real estate professionals, mortgage brokers and legal experts to collect and commiserate on the latest trends and laws in the Manitoba real estate network. When the network is not forced to go solely online, they’re a regular source for webinars and paid events and apprenticeships.
Meet the Real Estate Brokers Act
If you want to succeed in real estate investment, you have to build a team of professionals who can represent you and fill in the gaps in your knowledge. As you expand investments to Manitoba, you must begin to enlist local professionals familiar with the laws of the land.
Most provinces throughout Canada have some regulations on the books designed to protect home buyers and real estate professionals alike. In Manitoba, however, they take those laws very seriously. First passed in 2011, Manitoba’s Real Estate Brokers Act — ominously referred to as “the Act” by insiders — is a series of qualifications that real estate professionals must meet before they can legally deal in property in Manitoba.
When it comes to meeting regulations, all roads go through the Manitoba Real Estate Association. The MREA has their fingers in every aspect of real estate in Manitoba, and they participate in legislation and regulation at a national level, as well. In other words, if you’re working with a salesman or broker who doesn’t have the REALTOR® stamp of approval, it might be wise to take your business elsewhere.