Calgary's condo surplus during slump tough on investment property owners
'All of a sudden, instead of a cash-flow positive investment, you've got a millstone around your neck'
The downturn is making it much more difficult for condo owners to find renters for their investment properties.
Brehn Eichel bought a two-bedroom luxury condo in a highrise near the Stampede grounds two years ago. He listed it as an executive furnished rental in December for $3,600 per month when he relocated to Ottawa.
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"From the time I listed it there was not even a phone call," he said.
"It's disappointing and frankly a little bit embarrassing."
Eichel didn't get renters until he lowered his price to $2,500 — about $300 less than what the condo costs him per month.
"I don't think anybody expected the economy in Calgary to shift as much as it did. I do consider myself extremely fortunate to even find a renter," he said.
"It is costing money out of my pocket but I think I'm in a bit of a good position compared to some, in that I had options."
Hilliard Macbeth, author of the book When the Bubble Bursts: Surviving the Canadian Real Estate Crash, argues that condos just aren't a good investment.
"There's kind of a myth about investing in condos about price appreciation. All of my research shows that the only thing that really goes up in value is the land value," he said.
"When you talk about condos, there's very little land involved."
But especially now, speculators in Calgary are fighting a losing battle, because the construction boom is continuing despite the economic downturn.
"It's kind of a perfect storm. Too much supply, people leaving, and salaries declining," he said.
"All it takes is a downturn in the economy like we're getting now, a few vacancies here and there, and all of a sudden instead of a cash-flow positive investment, you've got a millstone around your neck basically."
Macbeth says in this situation, it's better to sell now rather than continue to lose hundreds of dollars every month.
Don Campbell, a senior analyst with the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN), says economic downturns seem to catch many less sophisticated investors off guard.
"When times are booming, many people begin to decrease the amount of due diligence and planning they undertake before jumping into an investment or speculative purchase," he told CBC News.
"Unless the economy begins to pick up and in-migration increases again, this trend should continue for a minimum of this year and possibly longer."
With files from the CBC's Natasha Frakes