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Brad Lamb says this market is the best in Canada to invest in right now

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Brad Lamb is back on the show to discuss what he says is the hottest real estate market in Canada. Listen to learn more about why this market is so great to invest in right now, and a very special investment opportunity that condo investors will not want to miss.

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Andrew la Fleur: What’s the best real estate market in Canada right now? Well, the answer might surprise you. Coming up on today’s episode.

Speaker 3: Welcome to the True Condos Podcast, with Andrew la Fleur. The place to get the truth on the Toronto condo market, and condo investing in Toronto.

Andrew la Fleur: Alright, on today’s episode we have a very special guest. Brad Lamb. Brad Lamb is here, back again. Today we’re going to be talking about a special opportunity that has come up that we have exclusive access to here at truecondos.com, and it is called Soba. It’s a condominium in Ottawa, Soba. It’s in Ottawa and you can get all the details at truecondos.com. You can email me, andrew@truecondos.com. You can call me 416-371-2333 to get all the details, so I won’t go into it too much here, now.

Make sure you do get all the details, ideally before you listen to this interview with Brad. Without further adieu, here is my interview with Brad Lamb talking about Soba condos in Ottawa.

Alright, welcome back to the show Brad. Thanks for being here again.

Brad Lamb: No problem, thanks for having me again.

Andrew la Fleur: This time we’re here to talk about Ottawa. You’ve got a very interesting that I want to bring to our investors in Ottawa. Soba, Ottawa it’s called. I’ll just briefly run through the offer here that you’ve put together for us. Tell me if I’m missing anything: 5% deposit, two year rental guarantee, two years of free property management, discounts off the pricing, pricing is by the way starting from low 200s, around mid 500s per square foot. I think that’s about it. Seems like an amazing deal. Maybe it seems too good to be true, some people might be thinking as they’re looking at this offer. What do you say to that? Is it too good to be true? Is there a catch? Are we missing something here, Brad? What’s going on?

Brad Lamb: I think that the most interesting markets for investors are currently sub-markets. I would say Calgary, Hamilton, Ottawa, Montreal, these kinds of cities have not benefited tremendously in the valuations of real estate. Yes, Hamilton prices have gone up and so have all the other cities I’ve mentioned, but nothing like we see in Toronto. The fundamentals in Ottawa currently went from horrible four years ago, to very good today. So, it’s a market in transition.

It is rated the number one place to buy real estate in Canada by pretty well every economist in the country. It’s on the top of every list as where to buy, where the value is, and it won’t last. Is it too good to be true? Right now if we were to launch a project of Soba’s style and type, we would probably start at the 600 a foot with an expectation of delivering the product in four years and believing that we’re probably gonna end up with 675 a foot in five years in Ottawa.

Our prices at 550 a foot are excellent, but they’re a little bit better than you might find in another style of building. It wouldn’t be Soba, because Soba is beautiful and it’s a typical project that has spectacular finishes. We haven’t changed our model anywhere we work, it’s the same cool stuff. Recognizing that we’re doing this offering mostly in Toronto, what does a Toronto investor worry about? They’re gonna worry about … I think they’re gonna see the value ’cause it’s half price to Toronto, and the prices are very competitive.

I think the scary part for investors is, “how do I manage it? I don’t live in Ottawa. How do I take care of it?” So, we wanted to take that part of the equation away and make it easier for people to get their head around buying in a city they don’t live in. I think that’s for us … we have a property management company that manages hundreds of properties on my behalf, and I own … in our first project that we did there at Gotham, I owned 30 units myself, and my holding company …

They always ran, ’cause then it’s not a problem to manage them. In Soba, I’ll end up with 20 units in my holding company. We’re in Ottawa as a landlord for the long term, so it’s not a problem for us to manage another 50 or 60 units in the grand scheme of things, because we have the infrastructure to do it. Long-winded answer. The answer is, no I don’t think it’s too good to be true, but I think it’s a really good offer and it won’t last. We don’t have that many suites left.

We started this building with it being 50% sold. We were able to get bank financing and start with a far lower threshold, and so we have some excellent suites left, and we wanted to wait ’til the very end where people could buy with a low down payment, take occupancy in 6 months, have time to rent it. We had plenty of time to get them rented, and know that you’re not buying something that’s gonna get canceled or might change or get delayed. They’re gonna be earning cash flow, positive returns on their investment day one with this, and it’s gonna happen in 6 months.

Andrew la Fleur: Talk to us about the floor plans. Maybe two things. One question people are asking is “Why are these units still available?” You obviously launched this project a number of years back. So, first question is why are these units still available, and the second question people have is are these just the junky, crappy floor plans leftover that nobody else wanted?

Brad Lamb: Basically, to answer the first question about why do we have stuff left over. When we first started selling Soba in, I’m gonna say it was probably four years ago, Ottawa was in a terrible overbuilt situation where there were too many, Toronto developers by the way, and side developers adding a lot of product to the city. So the inventory two years ago in Ottawa was 18 months of unsold inventory, in the new business. So, built, unsold suites was 18 months of inventory. Horrendous for any city.

It’s since come down to 60 days, so it’s actually about Toronto’s level. That’s because over the last four years nobody has launched anything new. They’ve built what they’ve started, but there’s only one project that has come out in the last four years and it’s a Toronto developer who’s doing the Tower [Bleurn and Young 00:07:28], and he’s doing a high end building at 700 dollars a foot, and that’s the only one that’s come out.

So now the fundamentals have changed, and there’s huge demand for homes in Ottawa. There’s huge demand for condos. It’s the highest growing segment of the market place, and it wasn’t four years ago. We wanted to get started four years ago and our bank said “We believe in the product, we believe in the project. We’ll let you start with something half sold.” The units that we sold … generally, the units that we sell mostly from floor plans, are the ones that are smaller. From 400 to 700 square feet.

This building is almost entirely 400 to 700 square feet. We have some 850s and we do have a couple units that are larger, but 220 units, I’m gonna say 180 of those to 190 are 700 square feet-ish, or less. We have a lot of really great units left to sell, we just had a very hard time in 2014 in the city. Everybody did, and it’s not changed. We were smart to wait to the very end, because now the market’s here and we have great product.

If you look at the floor plans, Andrew, they’re similar to the wide-shallows we did at King Charlotte, which are amongst the most expensive units to buy in the city now, because every foot is used. We don’t have any of the long bowling alley type suits. It’s a tower, so most of the units are wide-shallow, with a 21 foot expansive windows, so you get a 10 foot bedroom and an 11 or 12 foot living room, dining room, and [whip 00:09:12]. It’s the perfect one bedroom, 500 square feet.

The [One in Dens 00:09:14] are spectacularly open, amazing floor plans. Every single plan in Soba is good. It was a big piece of property and we were able to design the kind of building we wanted without the constraints of setbacks forcing us to have a building that might be really deep.

Andrew la Fleur: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve looked through the floor plans myself, and that was the first thing I noticed was “Wait a minute. Usually when you’re selling a project at the very and, as we’re doing here, the floor plans you’re talking about are the crappy ones that don’t have the characteristics that you just described.” So, to be able to get into a project like this and get the floor plans that you’re getting at this stage of the game with all the other incentives that you’re offering, it is a rare opportunity, for sure.

Brad Lamb: Listen, Andrew, we’ll never do it again. It’ll never happen again. It’s just that everything occurred in this project to set it up for this moment. Bad stuff happened to us in the marketplace in 2013 and 14, and now good stuff’s happening because it’s the best market to have inventory in the country, and we just happen to have 45% of the building available to be sold.

Your buyers and customers are lucky, because this is not gonna happen again, ever in my career. It’s a one and only shot that this kind of thing will happen, so they should jump in ’cause it’s gonna go fast.

Andrew la Fleur: Talk to us about the location. Some people are familiar with Ottawa, others are not. What do we need to know? What do investors need to know about where Soba, where the building is, the neighborhood and what’s around it, and is it a good area?

Brad Lamb: The name Soba came from [South on Bank 00:11:05]. Bank street is the spine of Ottawa, it runs North-South from Carlton University down to parliament, really. The city runs off to the east and west of it. We are the southern part of Bank. The highway that takes you out of the city to Montreal or Toronto is to the South of us, on the other side of Catherine street. Bank street is sort of the gay part of Ottawa is very near by. The restaurant strip that all the pubs and bars and restaurants is very close by.

All the bank or the commercial arteries … so you’ve got on that street lots of restaurants too. Lot’s of pharmacies and bars and furniture stores. Then just south of us Glebe, The Glebe, which is considered probably one of the most livable neighborhoods in Canada, a very desirable place to live and we’re a five minute walk to The Glebe. We’re very close to the new football stadium, and the new park area and retail area that has since been part of the renovation there.

It’s center-ice. If you can walk to the canal, you can … the transit’s very close by. Everything that you need … Dow’s lake is near here. Anything that you want that is an attraction in Ottawa is very close to Soba. It’s a great location. I’ll say, the really cool thing about this building is it’s the tallest building because Bank street, the height starts at Catherine where we are, everything to the North of us, towards parliament and the downtown is six to 8 stories. The views in this building are spectacular. You’ve got some of the best views in any city in this building.

By the way, there not just North to parliament, they’re East and West to the river and to the canal, and also South to the residential part of The Glebe and the rest of Ottawa which is very green and low-rise, so the view is amazing too.

Andrew la Fleur: You only need to be the 7th or 8th floor I believe, and you’ve pretty much got a clear view in every direction in the building because, like you said, everything is pretty much low-rise around the area.

Brad Lamb: Yeah. I would say maybe even the 7th or 6th floor, the views are good. To the North of us is a street where they’re all houses, they’re all single family homes. It’s the tallest building by a mile in the area, it offers great views and it’s a great location. The architecture, this is [Core 00:14:17] who did this for us. They did also Gotham. It is the best most striking condo in the city, and it will be used again. At this building we used our favorite obsidian brick from South Caroline. Very expensive stuff and it looks amazing. The architecture here is these three oscillating blocks that look like they’re sliding off each other, and I’ll tell you it cost us a fortune to build this building.

This is not an Ottawa building. This is a Toronto or New York building.

Andrew la Fleur: To the investor again, here in Toronto, why invest invest in Ottawa right now? You’ve talked about obviously the market is very good right now. The conditions are favorable. After a number of slow years, things are picking up to the point where like you said, not just you but everybody is saying Ottawa is the best market to buy in right now.

So we know that, but as an investor why do I want to buy in a place like Ottawa if I’m living in the GTA? If it’s so far away from me? How do you wrap your head around that, or how do you explain that to somebody who is thinking “I need to invest only in my back yard.”

Brad Lamb: I think what a smart investor should do is they should seek out opportunity wherever opportunity is. We’re not talking about buying a house in Colombia. It’s a condominium in Ottawa and it’s being managed by a company that … we’re a large real estate operation that handles billions of dollars of real estate. If you can find a managed real estate investment in the number one rated city that turns out to be half price of the city you live in, or less than half price, and the rents are about 70% or 65% of what they are in Toronto, I don’t see how you can lose. It’s why I have so many units in the first building we did there at Gotham.

I’ve never bought 30 units in any of my buildings, and I’m taking 20 or 22 in Soba. You can buy a condo here and the rent will cover … we’re not gonna lose any money on our rent guarantee. These are rents we’ve achieved in Gotham, so we know what the rents are. If you can buy a property and earn an 8% return on rent alone, that’s not possible in any city in the world right now that has 1.2 million people in it. You can’t buy a condo anywhere and do that, you can do it in Ottawa. Can’t do it in Montreal, but you can do it in Ottawa, for now.

The next building we do there, if we do one, will be in the 650 to 700 a square foot range. These are in the 550 range. The rents are in the 3 dollar, to 3.25 range. It’s almost a 6 to 6.5 cap on the fully managed investment. The condo, anyway, is pretty managed from the standpoint of a condo corp taking care of all the common area. As a property manager here all we have to do is take care of the rent, collect the rent and make sure it gets to our investors.

I think investors need to take opportunity where it happens, and if it’s a managed opportunity like this … there are people who are investing in houses in the United States, in the sun belt with the funds and making a fortune 1500 miles away, and it works because it’s managed, because there’s someone taking care of it. I think that’s why the opportunity makes sense. When we looked at this and though “What do Torontonians want?” I think they want to find other opportunities ’cause I think a lot of them think Toronto is expensive.

I think they’re also having a hard time making sense of 1200 a foot and 4 dollars a foot rent. There’s some opportunities where you can do better than that, but I think in this case, where else are you gonna buy in Canada and do better than you will in Ottawa? I don’t think there is any place. That’s why I think it’s very compelling.

Andrew la Fleur: How is the rental market in Ottawa? I don’t know if you have any more specifics on that.

Brad Lamb: The vacancy rate is … the interesting thing about Ottawa is, it has the highest economic growth rate of any city in Canada. Right now it’s operating over 4%. It has the lowest unemployment rate of any city in Canada. It has one of the lowest vacancy rates of any city in Canada, for residential. It’s below 1.5%. It might even be pressing towards 1%. The other great thing about being a landlord is that nobody was building or bringing out any new product for four years, so there is a serious problem.

It takes five years to do a building. There’s a serious problem here. By over-building and creating this … the overbuilding and then the complete lack of building. By doing this, it’s put the city in a crisis where rents are rising at a very high clip. Condo prices are rising by 78% a year, now. As a landlord, I can tell you from my experience, we don’t have any vacancies ever in the 30 units that I have at Gotham, and we never have.

If someone wants to leave because they maybe got a transfer or they got a better job, they rent right away. It’s just like Toronto. It’s very similar from the landlord’s standpoint in terms of the demand for rentals, just like Toronto.

Andrew la Fleur: Where do you see Ottawa real estate values going over the next five years?

Brad Lamb: I don’t see any reason why … Condo prices in cities like Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, these kind of million-person cities, they go lock-step with free hold. If you can buy a fantastic house in The Glebe for 600 thousand dollars, you’re not going to buy a condo, typically, for 600 thousand dollars in that neighborhood. That’s a harder thing to do. Why people start gravitating to these condos in these tier 2 cities is because of the cost, the affordability. Sometimes the convenience, but mostly it has to be less money than a house, or people will gravitate to a house.

What’s happened in Ottawa is there’s no new houses being built in the city. There’s no place to put them. It’s just like Toronto. They have these neighborhoods where, as Zack was saying, you can’t add anything to them. If you want to buy a house in The Glebe now, you’re going to pay a million bucks for a nice brick attach place. So now condos are 600 or 500 thousand dollars for a 900 square foot 2 bedroom, they make sense. So that’s going to continue. These houses that are in short supply as Ottawa grows, and by the way we have a liberal government who just loves spending money and that guy will be prime minister as long as he wants to be.

We’re talking probably 15-20 years adjusting through those big spending. That means lots of employment in the public sector, that which deploys into the public sector ricochets into the private sector because governments build buildings. Governments hire people and they spend money and buy furniture and go out to dinner. The economic boom is happening in Ottawa. It’s no small coincidence it happened when Justin Trudeau came to town. This was one of the main [impotences 00:22:13] for this to happen. The future of Ottawa … if you look at the Condo Millionaire book we published about Ottawa, you see the very steady growth in real estate. 5.2, 5.4% pretty well every year.

If you look at the cart, it doesn’t get affected by recessions. It’s pretty well a straight line up at a 5.2 progression. I think that the future of Ottawa is amazing, steady growth. These condos will be 600 a foot in a year, maybe 6 and quarter. I think anyone who launches anything in Ottawa, it cost me more money to build in Ottawa than in Toronto. Land prices are in Ottawa now what they were in Toronto about 10 years ago, about 40 or 50 bucks a billable foot.

We’re at 300 to build and we’re 50 or so for land and soft costs are about 200, so your cost there is getting close to 600 dollars a foot. When people start to launch new condo buildings, and you’re gonna see these all popping up soon, they’re gonna be North of 600 a foot, 600-700 a foot. Interestingly, in the LeBreton Flats, which is down by the Ottawa River basin, they just approved a 65 story tower in a cluster of three buildings. The highest one that got approved was 65 stories. They’ve never had anything higher 35 in Ottawa, it caused a huge sensation and it passed the government council.

Ottawa is growing up and becoming a big cosmopolitan city. They have a new hockey arena, moving from [Kinada 00:23:55], suburbs, [Purell Center 00:23:58] it use to be called. Anyway, there moving it. [Melnick 00:24:02] is bringing it downtown to LeBreton Flats, and it’s a massive new development taking place on [Domtower Island 00:24:09], an island between Hull and Ottawa, which is a tech village with a thousand or 1100 units, lots of restaurants and bars. It’s a whole new zone where this is being zone.

Ottawa is on fire and-

Andrew la Fleur: You got the subway opening up where the LRT subway system.

Brad Lamb: Yeah. Beautiful system there. It’s a lovely small city. It’s beautiful. Great outdoors in the Summer, it’s very pleasant to be there. I think it’s a great future. I wouldn’t be surprised if 700 dollars a foot was there in 2 or 3 years.

Andrew la Fleur: Right. I think a big part of the story too, I don’t know if you buy into this, but my theory has always been money chases a return. Capital chases a return, and when cities like Toronto reach a certain point where, like you said, the numbers just don’t really work anymore from a cash flow perspective, investment dollars, capital, looks for a return. If it can go to another city, if it can go to a Hamilton, if it can go into an Ottawa, if it can go to a Calgary and get a better return, the money is gonna flow there and it’s gonna keep flowing there until it can’t get that return. Then the cycle continues. It goes somewhere else.

Brad Lamb: Absolutely. Money is smart. People do their homework. They see where there’s opportunity, they find it. The great thing about this Ottawa story right now, I wish I had another building to sell, because this is the time we can do really well. There’s a lot of interest in Ottawa and there’s not a lot of product. Like I said, we have this one and only building that’s got some of this old inventory that’s amazingly priced. Not a whole lot different than we started at before, years ago maybe.

It might be a little bit more expensive in that five years, but the bottom line is the market in Ottawa was sideways for four and five years, and it’s about to explode. It hasn’t yet, but it’s going to. If you can’t build at 6 or 6.50 a foot and make money and you can buy at 5.50 or 5.60 or 5.40 a foot, that’s the idea to this.

Andrew la Fleur: You’re sort of buying below cost, in a way. Like you said, if you were to build a brand new condo today, just the cost of the land and the materials and everything to build thing would essentially cost you more than what you’re able to buy into Soba right now. Like you said, the way that the market has unfolded, the way that you sold the building in the beginning, and just the fact that you’re at the end of the building, it’s almost done, as a developer you don’t want to sit on these units, you want to move them and get rid of them and move on to the next project.

I think the stars are aligning for an investor to get into the opportunity right now.

Brad Lamb: Absolutely.

Andrew la Fleur: That’s great. Well, thank you so much, Brad. I really appreciate your time today, as always. Looking forward to working with you again on this project with our investors. Anything else you wanted to add, or anything I didn’t ask you about the project, or Ottawa or anything?

Brad Lamb: No. I think we talked about it in a pretty complete fashion. I think all the information is there and I think my office has done a great job in giving people the full story in our marketing materials. There’s not a lot of questions that need to be answered. I think it’s all there in black and white. Like I said, it’s an opportunity that’s going to last, and then it’s gonna go. It won’t be coming back.

Andrew la Fleur: Awesome, great. Thanks so much, Brad.

Brad Lamb: Alright. Good luck.

Andrew la Fleur: Okay, there you have it. That was my interview with Brad Lamb. I hope you enjoyed that, as always. Brad dropping some great insights and knowledge on us. One of the best people to talk to, as always, about investing in condos. Hope you gained some knowledge from that. If you haven’t heard previous interviews with Brad, make sure you go back and check those out on the podcast. Just go to truecondos.com, search for Brad Lamb. You can pull up several videos and audios and other things that we’ve got.

If you have any trouble finding them just send me an email, give me a call. Andrew@truecondos.com, 416-371-2333. Once again, make sure you sign up if you haven’t already, and let us know if you’re having any issues at all finding all the information for this opportunity. Soba in Ottawa. Like Brad said, it’s limited, it’s time sensitive. There’s only so many units. The pricing is phenomenal, everything about it makes sense. It’s just such a great opportunity if you’re looking to invest, low down payment, low deposits, guaranteed rent. Turn key, hands free, nothing to worry about, and you’re getting income right away. You’re not waiting for years. You’re gonna be getting income pretty much right away, within a few months.

January 2019 is the scheduled occupancy for these units, so just a few months away as of recording this podcast. You’re looking at starting to get your income coming in, which again is appealing to a lot of investors who have capital now, and are looking for returns on their money right now. Okay. Until next time, happy investing. We’ll talk to you soon.

Speaker 3: Thanks for listening to the True Condos Podcast. Remember, your positive reviews make a big difference to the show. To learn more about condo investing, become a True Condo subscriber by visiting truecondos.com.

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