Apartment buildings: Fighting rising interest rates

Interest rates are the lifeline of our real estate world. Without the lenders and financial leverage, all investors would have to buy any investment properties in cash, completely removing the whole concept of leverage, ROI and yields from our business.

Real estate ownership is generally a long-term play, however, and an owner will see rates go up and down during the duration of asset holding. Managing the financial aspect of leverage (debt) can make the difference between winning and losing the game of returns.

Currently, the central banks have made the unfortunate decision of fighting inflation by penalizing the debtors and hence we have seen a massive push of rate hikes since last year.

A five-year insured mortgage would have had an interest rate of 1.80 per cent in June 2020, 2.30 per cent in June 2021 and 4.60 per cent as of June 2022.

Not only will these rate hikes cause problems to the cash flow of the borrower, but they will also significantly impact the financing obtained, as the loan amount obtained will be lowered by 33 per cent, which has to be made up by either lowering the sale price or providing a higher down payment.

The solution

How should multiresidential owners combat this rate hike?

The only property owners who will be able to navigate properly in this kind of environment will be those able to increase their net operating income to make up the difference (net operating income is the income left after all the fixed costs like property taxes, insurance, utilities are removed from the gross revenues), since one of the most important criteria that the lenders use when evaluating a property is its net operating income in place.

These solutions that follow will seem very basic to the experienced landlords, yet in our brokerage business most properties that we sell are hardly optimized.

There are three main ways to increase the net income:

Renovations of units

Beautifully renovating one unit and increasing its monthly rent by $200 per month seems trivial, yet this means an increase in the property valuation by approximately $50,000. Repeating this process four times gives $200,000 of increased asset valuation.

Property insurance

Each dollar saved monthly on the insurance bill will potentially increase the property value by $240. This by itself is a 1,900 per cent return on investment annually, and it does not cost anything more than shopping around for the right insurer or the right insurance broker, because there are major discrepancies between insurers in terms of rates.

Energy costs

Energy is an entire other problem we are seeing these days.

The high prices paid by all of us at the pumps are a real problem, but a bigger problem is natural gas prices year-over-year. The average natural gas bill has gone up approximately 25 per cent in 2022 versus 2021.

If the natural gas bill in 2021 for a given property was $20,000, that same property is now going to pay $25,000.

This $5,000 increase in the gas bill means a $100,000 decrease in asset valuation. This issue cannot be left uncorrected.

The owner must know all the energy programs available to perhaps change the in-place heating furnaces to more efficient ones, or learn about the various CMHC energy programs, which are always updated and changed and may provide high benefits to the landlords based on specific situations.

In conclusion

We have seen a significant change in the capitalization rates between 2021 and 2022. However, the capitalization rate is not the only measuring factor in property valuation. The net income of the property remains the most important element.

By doing the needed renovations to the units when they become vacant, by managing the property expenses including insurance and energy maintenance, the prudent property owner will come out much ahead versus those that are not pro-active in our current higher interest rate environment.

More details in an interview with STOREYS: Interview Link 

Baron Realty specializes in matching buyers and sellers of apartment buildings. Ramona works in partnership with Mikael Kurkdjian and a team of real estate professionals to bring the best boutique-brokerage services to the apartment transactional space in Ontario and Quebec.

Work with Baron Realty. Reach out today!


Apartment Buildings – Value not immune to interest rate increase

With the governments “printing” money and the inflation creeping into all aspects of our daily lives, it was only a matter of time before the federal government increased the interest rate to curb the spending. But a lot of people were surprised at just how fast this happened.

Let’s take a fictitious example of an apartment building a broker may have evaluated at $8M six months ago.

Note the down payment requirement changed by more than half a million dollars over the last 6 months, i.e., the buyer would need to have half a million dollars more in non-borrowed funds in order to be able to close this transaction.

Why does this matter? The down payment requirement is key in successful sales. The rate of down payment used to be 20-30%, further increased last few years to 40-50%, and now an almost impossible 60%+. Sure, there are all cash buyers in the market; these buyers know “their value” and will act accordingly (buying at a discount, because they know the majority of regular buyers will not be able to produce or justify the down payment required today).

Vendors need to be aware that in a fast-shifting interest rate market, deals can fall apart at financing stage just because the down payment can increase so drastically from one month to the next. Hence, if a buyer showed proof of funds with offer in October, but had to wait for the Vendor to finalize the environmental report until this April, the same buyer may not be able to close the deal.

Ways to navigate the current market (for Vendors):

  • Hold on to the asset until a significant interest rate decrease happens, to maximize the number of buyers available and willing to purchase. Of course, nobody has a crystal ball as to when this will occur; this strategy can be an issue if the building has maximized its value and is now on the decline, or for private owners who are sellers for different reasons (dissolutions of partnerships, changing life directions, no longer being able or manage the building, etc.)
  • Be prepared with all the documents needed in the sale process, most important of which being environmental reports (which can take 6 weeks to 6+ months, depending*) – without a “clean” environmental report, the buyer will not be able to obtain financing.
  • Watch for deal-delays and know that short delays are very valuable – as long as you trust the buyer has not simply committed to short-delays to tie up the deal with the intention to come and renegotiate the timelines later (buyer reputation is key*).
  • Buyers must be willing to commit in writing (offer stage) to put more down payment than required at offer-time.
  • The value of an apartment building should always be taken as the value today; in a fast-changing world, even the “safest” real estate investment asset class is not immune; if you have an evaluation from 6 months ago, it will surely not be accurate today.
  • The marketing of a property should keep in line with the changing market dynamic. Based on the asset and timing, a bid process, an asking price process or a process of no price (just a range with its respective loan potentials) and “offers anytime” may be appropriate – but the best way to market will be best determined at listing time, not based on the broker’s record from last year*.

Baron Realty custom-tailors each marketing process, and brings the right buyers based on the asset and vendor requirements for deal timelines. We have generated 5-12 offers on each of the listings we have taken over the last 18 months. *Ask us why; we are happy to talk to you about how to best navigate the current environment to achieve your end goal.

Baron Realty specializes in matching buyers and sellers of apartment buildings. Ramona works in partnership with Mikael Kurkdjian and a team of real estate professionals to bring the best boutique-brokerage services to the apartment transactional space in Ontario and Quebec.

Work with Baron Realty. Reach out today!

Baron Realty - Real Estate Agents in Montreal and Toronto

All-Cash Offers: Here’s What You Need to Know

Have you ever had an all-cash offer for your building, and did it make you wonder if the price offered equated to a discount on the asset’s market value, or if it was simply a fair price with few conditions?

Why would a Buyer commit itself to an offer with no-financing? Unless the Buyer is a trusted institution whose financing is not in question, the motivation to submit an all-cash offer has to do with securing the asset from competing interests, and/or solidifying the Buyer’s credibility to close the transaction.

However, sometimes the all-cash offer is simply used as a negotiating tactic by entities who have no control over the funds, or who simply try to raise the money after they put the property under contract.

How do you protect yourself from accepting an all-cash offer that is not really “all-cash”? Is it better to take an all-cash offer with a quick closing, or an offer with a financing condition (provided there is proof of sufficient down payment)?

A few elements to consider:

Know the Buyer

Ask yourself, who is the Buyer? Is the buyer a REIT or a reputable institution that has closed on thousands of units in the last few years? If so, there is less reason to be cautious.

Ask for proof of funds

Is the money available in cash (liquid) or is it in assets that need to be (re)financed? If the latter, there is no real guarantee nor secure timeline; even if the asset is financeable, the owner may not like the rate they get; or worse, there may not be enough equity in the existing asset to pull out. We once had a buyer assert that a $30M asset of theirs would serve as collateral for their potential acquisition loan. We did out due diligence though and noted it was carrying $28M in debt – leaving no room for additional leverage.

Question the motives of your all-cash offer

If this a competitive bid environment and this is your only all-cash offer, be particularly careful. Some buyers intentionally lock up a property to eliminate the other buyers, then come back and ask for renegotiations, or VTBs, or (most commonly) price reductions weeks later when the other buyers have cooled off and the vendor it too caught up in closing the deal.

Question the buyer’s track record, and their acquisition team

The market has changed substantially in the last few years. If the Buyer has a large portfolio, but has not transacted in the last 2-3 years, it is unlikely that they will be as familiar with the timelines, requirements and transparency of the current market. New standards such as environmental tests or structural inspections may scare them off weeks or months after an accepted offer.

Find out about the buyer’s conditions and delays

More importantly, all cash offers (if the cash is truly available), should include a substantial deposit delivered within 5 business days. Otherwise, question the availability of cash. If an all-cash offer misses putting the stated deposit within the timeframe provided, you can be certain that there will be additional delays. Long closing delays signal the need to raise funds.

Find out if the buyer is raising money

Is this a real all-cash offer, or will the buyer, upon acceptance, begin to pray that he can raise the capital in time? A long-closing date will be the first signal of this (which is of course, just the normal timeframe for business for a reputable but bureaucratic institution, but not so for private funds that should be immediately ready to deploy their capital).

In today’s market, financing, environmental, and inspection periods are taking increasingly long. The temptation to take the “simple” offer – the all-cash-minimal-conditions deal can be great. It’s clear through that caution needs to be advised to steer the boat past the Siren Song, and towards a successful transaction.

Baron Realty specializes in matching buyers and sellers of apartment buildings. Ramona works in partnership with Mikael Kurkdjian and a team of real estate professionals to bring the best boutique-brokerage services to the apartment transactional space in Ontario and Quebec.

Work with Us Today. Reach Out Now!


Baron Realty / Immobilier Baron
400 – 6500 Transcanadienne
Pointe-Claire, Québec H9R 0A5
Telephone: 514 932 9000


Baron Realty, Brokerage
303-225 Duncan Mill Road
Toronto, Ontario M3B 3K9
Telephone: 416 301 3931

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