Vancouver Commercial Real Estate Podcast

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October 12, 2022
VCREP #69: Is Canada’s Fastest Growing City the Best Investment in 2022? with Jeff Brown

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Recently, Kelowna was named the fastest growing city in Canada and if you have been there lately, you can see why. This week, Cory and special guest co-host Melisa Moretti welcome William Wright Kelowna's Team Leader Jeff Brown to check in and see if Kelowna has felt any slow down like most markets have experienced. Jeff shares his insight on what impact, if any, interest rates and inflation have had on the market, what asset classes continue to outperform, and what's next for Canada's fastest growing population. He also lets you in on where he would invest his money in today's commercial real estate market. An all-round charismatic guy with great CRE knowledge, Jeff never disappoints.

Who is Jeff Brown?

I’ve been in Kelowna for 7 years, working with the William Wright team for two years. We opened the office here just over a year ago to focus on commercial real estate in Kelowna. Kelowna has been on an upward trajectory ever since I got here. It’s exciting to see the growth happening.

What’s happening in Kelowna right now?

We’re still seeing lots of demand and movement in Kelowna. I believe Kelowna is going to prove to be very resilient, especially on the commercial side of things.

The residential markets have taken a bit more of a hit with the rising interest rates but the commercial side is quite resilient. We’re seeing record transactions, high demand, new projects being launched and permits being pushed through. People are confident in the Kelowna area.

Are people worried about oversaturation in Kelowna?

The only people worried about oversaturation in Kelowna are people who have been here for a while, who might have a bit of NIMBY-ism. That’s just natural in a growing city. But for the most part, the phone is still ringing. We’re getting lots of inquiries from people in Vancouver, Alberta and Toronto. A lot of people have already decided to move to Kelowna and now it’s just a matter of when and exactly where in the area.

What’s the best performing commercial asset class in Kelowna?

Industrial strata has definitely seen the most demand in Kelowna. We’re still seeing a lot of owner-occupiers flock to these opportunities. The price in Kelowna is 65% of what you would pay in the Lower Mainland. There’s value to be had, but we are starting to see prices creep up. Overall, industrial is still performing very well.

We’re also getting a lot of calls for multi-family projects. When the numbers work, developers want in. Anything related to strata office or strata retail is also popular because there are so few owner-occupier opportunities. So when one becomes available, there is a lot of demand and it doesn’t last long.

How have issues in the construction industry affected Kelowna?

Construction issues have been a big problem in Kelowna. Timelines and budgets are not being met and the cost of that ends up being transferred to the end user. The price per square foot or the lease rates have to come up.

Things are taking much longer than they used to. Part of that is due to the time it takes for resources to get to Kelowna. Another issue is not having enough trades here to do the work. So construction has had a huge impact on the real estate industry in Kelowna.

How will the municipal election affect Kelowna’s commercial real estate market?

I think, or I hope, the political landscape in Kelowna stays the same. That’s a personal opinion. I’m supportive of the growth in Kelowna as long as there is infrastructure to support that growth. I support the redevelopment of UBCO and the multi-family projects coming up, as long as we have transportation and other resources to sustain the growth.

I think the growth Kelowna has seen in recent years has been impressive, but it’s also been well thought out. So I hope the people who get elected or re-elected continue on a path of making conscious decisions and understanding the benefits of a growing city.

Is there fear that a new mayor won’t have the same vision for Kelowna?

The topic has come up in conversations with buyers. Developers want to have conditions that can be removed based on the outcome of the upcoming election. But that happens anywhere; there’s always hesitancy ahead of an election. Until we see the results of the election, I think we’ll see properties go under contract but we won’t see conditionless deals.

We have to see how the new council and mayor will approach development in the city. As Kelowna becomes more expensive, eyes start to turn to nearby cities, like Penticton. Will they take the same approach or slow down? If they see the same demand, will they be prepared for it?

How is the office real estate market doing in Kelowna?

There’s a growing sense that people are coming back to the office. Some operations will downsize or keep remote workers, but some people will need to be in the office. The impact of collaboration when you’re face to face can’t be matched.

The recent Landmark office project is seeing excellent absorption. Office probably has the largest vacancy rate compared to retail, multi-family and industrial. But that’s the same anywhere you go. We are seeing more interest in office space in Kelowna. A lot of businesses are starting out small with just a 1000-2000 square foot space. But they’re testing the waters and big businesses may be planning to move in soon.

How has Vernon been impacted by Kelowna’s growth?

Our office is doing more work in Vernon right now than I’ve done in the last seven years. Vernon has seen the most spike in activity. They have commercial properties with a lot of upside.

We’re also seeing activity in Penticton and Kamloops. But Vernon is the market that stands out. They’re gaining a lot of momentum.

What are your thoughts on the Kamloops commercial real estate market?

There’s definitely an increased demand in Kamloops. With the university and government employers, there is a workforce to support the resurgence in Kamloops. The investment in Kamloops will bring life back to the area.

Are you seeing more in-person activity in Kelowna real estate?

Absolutely. There’s pent up anticipation for these in-person real estate events. At our recent event, there was a great turnout and we were impressed by the engagement of the brokerage community. Anything within 10-12 blocks of downtown Kelowna is where people want to be. We’re excited to be part of that interest!

The resiliency of Kelowna is going to show in the next 12-18 months. Where other areas may dip, I believe Kelowna will just plateau. And then we’ll be on the way up!

What would you buy with $10 million in Kelowna?

I would invest in strata office or strata retail for sure. I’d invest in areas like Rutland where there hasn’t been as much price increase but there’s still a lot of migration demand. I may also look at available land with long term development potential. If you can sit on land for 3-5 years, you’ll see significant appreciation in some areas outside the heart of downtown.

What is the minimum investment to get into Kelowna real estate?

I think $750,000 is what you need to get into the Kelowna commercial real estate market. If you were looking in Vernon or a similar nearby area, you wouldn’t need that much. $500,000-750,000 would be more than enough to get your foot in the door and do really well in Vernon.

Find out more: Jeff Brown

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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.

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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.