Real estate investors hoping to cash in on MUHC superhospital
Flippers coming converting homes in anticipation of hospital's housing demand
Nick Attardo's company bought a quaint blue bungalow in Ville-Émard for $200,000 in January. He's hoping to sell it for double that by May.
"The superhospital is 10 minutes away by car, not even. Maybe a 15 minutes bike ride. It's really well-located in terms of its proximity to the superhospital," he said.
Real estate developers like Attardo are banking on the draw of the MUHC superhospital — and the demand for housing they expect will come with it.
The new hospital, which will merge several of the MUHC sites scattered across downtown, is slated to officially open in April.
But the anticipation of the doctors, nurses and support staff looking for a home close to work has enticed many developers to pick up older properties in the area in need of an update.
The Ville-Émard home Attardo's company, Groupe Alt-Imo, is flipping is a 1946 pre-fabricated house located on Monk Boulevard, not far from the metro. It's close to the Lachine Canal and new bistros and restaurants popping up in the increasingly trendy neighbourhood.
But the location of the house was the biggest draw for Attardo. If you peer down the street, you can just make out the red on one of the buildings linked to the superhospital.
"We like to be very, very close to that proximity," he said, adding that his company is looking to purchase more houses in the area of the new MUHC buildings.
"As we saw it build up, as we saw it coming to life, we knew it would add natural value and I think the opportunity still lies ahead in terms of people wanting to move into this neighbourhood. So it has, in my mind, a really big impact in terms of the location we are trying to sell here."
The first house Attardo flipped in Pointe St-Charles was bought by a surgeon.
Attardo bought it for $345,000. It ended up selling for about $600,000 within two weeks of going on the market.
Not so fast . . .
Georges Gaucher, general manager of Royal Lepage Ville-Marie, thinks the link between the superhospital and higher housing prices is, so far, all hype.
NDG has always been a hot market and sales are up, he said, but the superhospital isn't the sole driver.
Gaucher says a semi-detached home recently sold for $1.2 million and another is up for $1.3 million. His realtors recently sold one for $1.1 million.
"So obviously, a well-priced house offering the value and the renovations that people are looking for will sell quickly and at the right price," Gaucher says.
People thought there would be a similar housing boom when a new hospital opened in Ottawa, but the speculation never bore out, says Gaucher.
He says most doctors who work at the Montreal Children's Hospital or the Royal Victoria, located only about five kilometres from the new Glen site, probably already have homes and are unlikely to move to be closer to work.
"Think of the doctor who has this house in St-Lambert with a pool and everything and he goes to the Children's everyday," he said.
"He's going to move? Really? I don't think so. Going to the superhospital will be exactly the same mileage and the same times. So why would they?"
If the superhospital does have an effect, it will probably be on the rental market, he said.
Some community groups in Montreal's South-West borough say they have already noticed the impact of the neighbourhood's transition.
In the west end of St-Henri, rent has gone up, on average, about 15 per cent, according to the housing advocacy organization, POPIR.
"Good luck finding a 4.5 for less than $750 to $800, which is a gigantic explosion and significantly above what the majority of people who live here can afford," said Fred Burrill, who works for POPIR.
In the past 10 years, St-Henri has experienced an intense economic transformation and a displacement of the traditional population, which has been historically working-class.
Properties are being bought up and renovated or torn down for new condo development.
"As condos get built, property values go up, speculation becomes the new practice that rules the market and rents increase as a side effect," said Burrill.
"So people are being progressively pushed out not only because their apartments may get knocked down and rebuilt as condos, but also because all the rents increase."