Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast

Providing real-time insight into today's commercial real estate industry.

Podcast Image
August 16, 2023
VCREP #107: Vancouver Island’s Best Development Markets with Santanna Portman

Powered by RedCircle

Join hosts Cory and Melisa as they welcome Santanna Portman, a seasoned Commercial Sales and Leasing Specialist at William Wright Commercial.

Santanna brings her wealth of expertise to the table, diving deep into the vibrant commercial landscape that defines Vancouver Island.

She offers invaluable insights and perspectives on the current state of the market, shedding light on key trends, emerging opportunities, and the evolving dynamics that shape this ever-changing landscape.

Another insightful episode into the life and the market on the Island. Let's go!

Cory and Melisa sit down with William Wright Commercial Sales & Leasing Specialist Santanna Portman to discuss all things commercial real estate in the Central Vancouver Island region. What are lease rates like in Nanaimo? How does the Central Island feel about developers? And where are Vancouver Island’s best development markets?

Who is Santanna Portman?

I moved to the Island three years ago and have been working in brokerage for about 12 years. I was working with a multifamily developer helping them with land acquisition, which brought me out to Vancouver Island.

Why is so much development happening on Central Vancouver Island right now?

In Parksville, Qualicum and Nanaimo it’s been easier for developers to get in on the action. In Victoria and Vancouver, it’s trickier because land is more limited and timeframes are longer. But in these other areas the councils are willing to work with you and they need housing badly.

There’s a better appetite for developers who want to get in on something more affordable in the Central Island, but with the same investment opportunity as Victoria or Vancouver.

How is the population changing on Vancouver Island?

Covid was a big eye opener for a lot of people. I’m 30 years old and I’m living in Parksville, so it’s not just a retirement community. Young people want to be in an area where they can enjoy their lifestyle.

If you can work remotely, why would you want to be crammed into a small downtown Vancouver condo paying four times as much as you would pay for a nice place in Parksville with the same amenities? There are a lot of opportunities for growth given the changing demographics.

When you talk to people who just moved to Vancouver Island, you see that a lot of people came over from Saskatchewan or Alberta. There are a lot of Europeans too, so we’re attracting people internationally. It’s a place you won’t find anywhere else!

How is the industrial market on the Central Island?

I’m actually working on an industrial property with my colleague, Marianne, right now. There’s more land for sale than product, so the owner-operator and small-bay properties are lacking. A lot of companies come into the port in Nanaimo so there’s a lot of potential for growth, but the product is just lacking. It’s the same story in Parksville. They are working on an industrial park right now but it’s a slow go.

The lowest lease rate I’ve seen is $13.50 but decent properties are in the $16-20 range in Nanaimo. So you’re getting the same lease rates as the mainland but without the hassle. The vacancy rate is also very low, which is great for investors.

How is the retail market on the Central Island?

Retail is another industry that’s starting to take off in the Central Island. There’s a developer in Parksville who has a highway-facing property coming up. Retailers are interested in coming into these areas with the changing demographics. And lease rates aren’t cheap! So this is a great opportunity for investors. $10 lease rates don’t exist anymore.

How will the new fast ferry impact development on the Island?

Any improvement with the ferry system is great news. It will make it easier for people to commute back and forth. People who didn’t want to go through the hassle of taking the ferry and driving from one port to the other may be more interested in taking the direct fast ferry.

We already have a strong tourism market but people will be able to enjoy their time a lot more if they can just walk on and off the ferry. A lot of people on the Island have family, businesses, appointments or shopping they want to do on the mainland, so this makes it easier for them to live on the Island and not feel trapped here.

How is the office market on the Central Island?

It’s different from the Vancouver or Victoria office market because we don’t have the same type of product. It’s hard to say what the future holds with office. I think there will always be a market for it. The vacancy rate isn’t as high as you would see in larger cities. So many people are still coming to the Island and there are jobs where you still do need to be in the office.

With Nanaimo, Parksville and the Comox Valley, there’s more focus on multifamily, while retail and office are more on the sidelines. But I think there will be a demand for office and retail in a few years.

As accessibility improves and lifestyles change, we may see different companies coming out to the Central Island. We now have some of the biggest multifamily developers with main offices in Campbell River, a place people had never even heard of. But it’s easier for them to pencil it out in Campbell River compared to Vancouver or Victoria.

What are residential rental rates like in the Central Island region?

A basic one bedroom would rent for $1600-1800; new product might see $2000. As a multifamily developer, you have a low vacancy rate, high rents and a low land acquisition cost. The carrying costs are also much more affordable because you have jurisdictions that are willing to work with you.

What is the attitude towards developers on the Island?

When you say “developer” people think of skyscrapers and obnoxiously huge developments. But here on the Island, while some of the developers have done those big skyscrapers in Vancouver or Ottawa, they’re trying to get the public to better understand the story of their development.

It’s a sensitive topic; everyone has moved to the Island for the natural scenery and amenities. So developers are having to get better at communicating their whys and how their development will improve a community instead of hindering it.

Where is the Central Vancouver market in 3-5 years? What would you invest in?

You have to look at multi-family. The amount of people coming to the Central Vancouver market exceeds what is coming online. You also have to look at retail. Because of the population growth, there is going to be a need for more services. I’m working with a lot of groups that see they need to add more amenities.

With retail, it’s not just franchises but services that people need like doctors, dentists, etc. That’s not going away. Places like Campbell River have put in policies to attract the skilled professionals needed for those services.

Industrial in the Nanaimo area is another market to watch, especially with the ferry system and the supply chain issues hopefully improving.

The 6 Pack: Getting to Know William Wright Commercial Sales and Leasing Specialist, Santanna Portman

What is your favourite bar or restaurant in the Central Island area?

My favourite bar in Nanaimo is Carlos O’Bryan’s and my new favourite in Qualicum is Deez. Deez is such a great environment – it’s a bunch of locals where the bartender knows your name. Island time is very evident when you go to these kinds of pubs.

What would your last meal be on death row?

Probably a poutine from Leopold’s.

Favourite band or musician?

This will get me cancelled but I’m a Kanye West fan. Don’t hate me!

What is your go-to karaoke song?

I’ll go with a classic Journey song or maybe I’ll try Bohemian Rhapsody.

What is one book you recommend people read?

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. It’s basically about how you can adapt to changes in your life.

What is something you’ve bought recently for under $1500 that has had a positive impact on your life?

I don’t buy anything anymore but I guess I will say downloading this podcast for free!

View Episode Summary

More Episodes

View All Episodes

Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast

For all the curious minds interested in commercial real estate investing, grab a coffee and pull up a chair because we have exclusive stories and tips from commercial real estate brokers, investors, developers, economists, urban planners, and everyone in-between. From the successes and failures to the motivations and lessons learned, the Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast is your insight into commercial real estate in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, and beyond.

What's the best real estate market to invest in? What are the commercial real estate asset classes and property types? Hosted by Cory Wright, founder of William Wright Commercial, and co-hosts Adam and Matt Scalena of the Vancouver Real Estate Podcast, our podcast opens the door to real estate investing for everyone from beginner investors to experienced real estate professionals. New episodes are released every Tuesday. Follow the Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or your favourite streaming platforms.

Podcast images
Follow @vcrepodcast

This communication is not intended to cause or induce breach of an existing agency agreement. E&OE: All information contained herein is from sources deemed reliable, and have no reason to doubt its accuracy; however, no guarantee or responsibility is assumed thereof, and it shall not form any part of future contracts. Properties are submitted subject to errors and omissions and all information should be carefully verified. All measurements quoted herein are approximate.