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Norma Walton Talks: Retail Real Estate Predictions

Over the past two years, I have watched with interest and some consternation as more major retailers than I have fingers and toes have gone into receivership or bankruptcy.  COVID has accelerated trends that were already happening in the marketplace.  Four of those trends bear highlighting.

Apparel retailers are in trouble.  Any apparel retailer with significant debt will fail in the next two years.  COVID has caused those stores to be completely closed for the past three months.  Now that they are permitted to re-open, the restrictions being placed upon them coupled with the general anxiety amongst a large portion of the population about venturing outside of their homes will work together to significantly reduce their sales.  This reduction in revenue will leave them unable to cover their debts.  That means receivership or bankruptcy.

Even those apparel retailers who don’t have a lot of debt will be forced to dramatically reduce their real estate footprint and significantly increase their online sales and web presence.  That trend is unstoppable.  Stores will be smaller and more reliant upon online sales in the future.  They will have to push their brand online and ensure their websites can accommodate and promote online sales.

That rolls into my third prediction, which is that warehousing space will become more expensive and warehouse fulfillment centres will boom over the next two years.  Any landlords who have warehouse space available will be able to ask more per square foot because as retailers reduce their real estate footprint, they will need a place to receive, store and ship out their clothing.   Warehouse fulfillment and distribution centres will be in demand given the shift to online shopping.

The final prediction concerns malls.  Malls will have to diversify their sources of income and their revenues to survive going forward.  They will not be able to rely solely upon retailers.  This trend has already started.  The Shops of Don Mills has ringed the mall with residential towers, providing built-in shoppers.  The retailers there still struggle but the restaurants, movie theatres, grocery stores and drug stores are thriving.  Bayview Village and Yorkdale malls are trying to replicate that trend, adding significant residential density to the mall and adding more restaurants and entertainment centres to service the residents they propose to move in.  Malls in Canada will need to move in that direction to survive.

Those are my four retail real estate predictions for Canada for the next two years.  I will continue to watch with interest to see what comes to pass.

Posted in Finance, Real Estate

Norma Walton Talks: Predictions for Residential Real Estate

I predict that the price of houses in towns and cities that are within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket in value over the next two years, outpacing the average price appreciation for all residential real estate in Ontario.  There are three reasons I make this prediction.

First, with the onset of COVID, a lot of employers have been forced to permit their employees to work from home.  This is a trend that is here to stay.  Even bankers and lawyers are working from home.  That flexibility and the concept that you may only need to attend the office in person two to three days a week removes the need for people to live in or near the big city.  Commuting a few days a week is not as onerous as commuting every single weekday.  This provides flexibility and opens up a much larger radius around the city for purchasing a home.  The smaller towns are far more affordable than Toronto.  A colleague of mine recently bought a brand new home in Bracebridge for less than $500,000.  That is an attractive metric for many people who currently live in the city.

Second, there are so many condominium dwellers and apartment dwellers who are sick of waiting 45 minutes or more for the elevator due to social distancing.  They are also tired of heading up and down the emergency exit stairs trying to keep their distance.  They are desperate to breathe the fresh air and spend some time outdoors given the state of emergency orders that have been in place.  Many condominiums and apartments have no outdoor space.  Those feelings of having been cooped up in a box will drive many of those condominium owners to sell their condominiums and purchase houses that they can afford…and those affordable communities are typically at least an hour outside of Toronto and often as far away as two hours away.

Macleans photo

Finally, the price of houses in the city of Toronto remains incredibly high.  The prices are completely unaffordable for most families.  Anyone coming into the city from elsewhere in Canada cannot afford to buy in Toronto.  That lack of access to affordable houses in the city will drive people who want a backyard and their own house further and further outside of the city limits.

Those three trends support my prediction that homes in the surrounding communities within one to two hours of Toronto will skyrocket over the next two years.  We’ll see if the prediction comes to fruition.