4378-4384 Rue de Bordeaux
In some of the most popular neighbourhoods in Montreal practically every block is filled with ‘plexes: duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, you name it. In the Plateau neighbourhood the tell-tale exterior stairs to a second or third level are often a clue if a building is subdivided, but that isn’t to say it’s all renters.
“If you’re going to buy a triplex and live in one of the units, it will help to cover your mortgage and expenses. The bank will grant you a bigger mortgage amount if you have rental revenue,” said Geneviève Borduas, broker with Les Immeubles M W Inc., who has several listings for ‘plexes around Montreal. There are also pure rental investors who recognize the right ‘plex can be a great return on capital. “It tends to be cheaper to buy a triplex versus buying three condo apartments,” Ms. Borduas said.
There are four apartments in the Rue de Bordeaux building, which is your standard three-storey on a street that’s chock-a-block with similar style buildings. On the main level are two recently renovated a one-bedroom apartments; on both the second floor and third floor there are stand-alone three-bedroom apartments. Ms. Borduas’s listing said the annual rent revenues for the building are above $65,000, which could more than cover mortgage bills depending on the size of the loan.
There’s often interest from buyers looking to convert a ‘plex into a single-family home in Montreal’s once working-class but now increasingly affluent downtown neighbourhoods, though Quebec’s strong tenant protections can make it easier to add new units than to take them away. That’s what happened here, the previous owner spent money on roof and foundation fixes and subdivided the main floor so the two smallest apartments are now earning the most rent per square foot in the building.
39 Major St.
Toronto is a mixed bag for those looking at investing in small-scale rental ‘plexes: On the one hand rental rates in the city are soaring (up 25 per cent since 2021 for apartments according Rentals.ca). On the other hand, home prices are still stubbornly high even as rising interest rates makes it harder to borrow a lot of money cheaply.
“They were really easy to sell six to seven months ago,” said Toni Martens, with Re/Max Ultimate Realty Inc. “Now, with interest rates going up, that’s why some [investors] are the sidelines.” He’s been listing a Victorian row-house triplex (with a basement apartment) on Major Street – a block away from the University of Toronto’s western edge – since March, 2022. The current owner bought it for $1.5-million in 2018, and Mr. Martens initially listed it almost $250,000 higher than his current $2.099-million asking price. Even though it has been renovated by the current owner, some of the tenants are paying below-market rent, which can be a deterrent for investors looking at ‘plexes in Toronto.
“Long-term tenants with the low rent - nobody wants to touch it,” said Mr. Martens. “The cost to evict the tenants, it’s really high. Even if you offer $30,000, they won’t take it.”
The challenge is the capitalization rate: As interest rates rise, a potential investor either needs to invest more money into a down payment to keep the mortgage payments low enough for rents to create cashflow, or have a building with high enough rents to justify paying more. The bumping up of rental revenues by a few thousand dollars a month could mean posting hundreds of thousands less in down payment.
“One of the buyers we sold [another plex] to got dividends from a company he works for, plus part of an estate. They want to invest money on a safe place, not a stock market,” Mr. Martins said. “It was easy to sell because it was vacant: the new owner can paint the house and get market value rents.”
1034 Bland St.
The house at 1034 Bland St., presents a unique prospect: the upper two levels are a huge five-bedroom home that’s been fully renovated and restored, while the completely remodeled half-basement holds three apartments with four bedrooms between them. Technically that’s a fourplex, but it’s also in a heritage protection zone, which does allow it to be converted to a six-plex (as the adjoining house is organized).
“It would be a shame to brick it up, but you are allowed to do that. … I think the person that buys it will live upstairs, and have the rental income downstairs, which should pretty much pay all your expenses and taxes,” said listing agent Stephen Patterson of Parachute Realty.
The basement apartments are tenanted, and recently, pulling in more than $4,000 a month between two studios and a two-bedroom.
“That’s crazy,” Mr. Patterson said. “It’s really tight in Nova Scotia for housing right now, it’s definitely a housing crunch. I think Dalhousie University is reporting 20-30 students still haven’t found housing.”
The building was renovated by a local developer who included some unique touches such as a fenced-in patio in the backyard accessible only to the upstairs five-bedroom house. The main living space was opened up so the kitchen and family room flow together and the living room/dining room fills the front half of the house. Mr. Patterson has fielded inquiries from both local rental investors to folks from away looking for flexibility. “I’ve got a doctor moving here from out west. He might eventually have his parents move to the basement.”
It’s not exactly cheap at $2-million, but as Mr. Patterson puts it, if the rents pay for half the mortgage then it’s a real bargain to get an updated five-bedroom house in downtown Halifax for under $1-million.
10746 (and 10748) 75 Ave. NW
In 2019, Edmonton became one of the first cities in Canada to essentially do away with what’s known as exclusionary zoning when it allowed duplexes and semi-detached homes to be built on any existing single-family residential lot. That has allowed for a boom in duplexes and fourplexes across the city, particularly in the areas near the city’s core introducing loads of what’s called missing-middle density (home types that sit between one-family per structure and a multi-storey residential towers).
Kristyn Rost of MaxWell Polaris sells homes for a select group of builders who are redeveloping homes to create some affordable options in this fashion. She has the listing for two nearly identical semi-detached homes with basement apartments in the Queen Alexandra area (near the University of Alberta and the city’s main drag, Whyte Avenue). The homes at 10746 and 10748 75 Ave. NW are two sides of one semi-detached structure and, aside from a few cosmetic touches – one favours a raw-lumber-style flooring, the other something a little more barn-board grey and muted, they have the same price and the same layout: The upstairs apartment is about 1,680 square feet with three bedrooms and 2½ bathrooms. The basement apartment has two bedrooms in addition to kitchen, laundry and bathroom.
“For some people, it’s strictly for investment,” said Ms. Rost, she’s recently sold ‘plexes to investors from Ontario and British Columbia. But she also sees a lot of locals who see it as a way into the housing market. “Professionals who want to have the option to rent out the basement suite,” for example, she said.
Unfortunately, the new frontier in zoning has also opened up a bit of a wild west in terms of builders without qualifications throwing up homes. “It’s such an unregulated industry,” Ms. Rost said. “Where it comes to home warranties; it’s garbage, they don’t follow through on anything. Homes are being turned over in really crummy condition.” That’s why she’s careful about who she works with. “These guys, the ones I choose to work with, they do good work … for me I need to feel good about what I’m selling to somebody. I know these guys will make it right.”
2756 Point Grey Rd.
Vancouver has some of the most expensive land in Canada, so it’s not surprising that in some highly sought-after areas a duplex often times isn’t so much a rental property as way to find a slightly more affordable home.
That’s very true of this duplex on the desirable Point Grey Road section of Kitsilano, where, as listing agent Allie Lau put it, you can “be part of multi-billionaire living.”
Indeed, on the north side of Point Grey Road there are homes on the water that sell between $10- and $20-million. Ms. Lau’s listing is on the south side, across the street from an oceanfront park, though it does have a million dollar view from the second and third floors looking across Burrard Inlet to the mountains on the North Shore.
It has a garage off the laneway, the kitchen and living room on the second level to maximize those views, with three bedrooms on the third floor. The primary bedroom faces the water, and there’s a roof-deck access here as well.
“Mainly [buyers] like the location; it’s on the ‘Golden Mile’; a lot of people want to live in Point Grey,” she said. The house has been on the market for more than 180 days, and last sold in 2016 for $2.8-million, but so far the three-level home has deterred buyers of a certain age. “Lots of buyers are older, for them, too many steps,” Ms. Lau said.