Invest in multifamily, industrial in 2021: PwC

Uncertainty is a dominant theme going into 2021, according to a new report from PwC, but there are some sure bets.

According to PwC’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2021 report, which studied residential and commercial property markets in the U.S. and Canada, the COVID-19 crisis has created a scenario in which so-called “alternative assets,” or niche sectors, have emerged as robust income-producing vehicles. Single-family rental housing, suggests the PwC report, is a safe asset class going into 2021 because, as more people work from home, they will desire more space.

That partially explains why condo markets in major Canadian cities are feeling the pandemic’s squeeze. Although single-family detached houses on the peripheries of Toronto and Vancouver are selling quickly, the laws of supply and demand dictate that most people who live in them will need to rent, as the PwC report believes they will.

Moreover, multifamily housing in Canada’s expensive cities will always be in demand, and PwC advises that it’s a safe asset in which to invest in 2021.

“Although some pandemic impacts—notably, reduced immigration, the desire for more size, and unemployment—may put a damper on demand for very dense housing types, interviewees emphasized that shelter remains a core need and noted the stability that the multifamily category can offer right now,” the report read. “But demand may shift, with renters and homebuyers looking to live in townhouses and mid-rise buildings rather than larger towers that have been the trend in urban centers in recent years. Interviewees also emphasized that the best prospects are for more affordable multifamily housing options, especially in light of uncertainty about jobs and the economy.”

Outside the residential market, investors would be wise putting their money into the industrial sector, particularly warehousing and fulfilment facilities, which can’t be built fast enough as e-commerce continues supplanting brick and mortar retail. Although the trend began before the pandemic, it has certainly become exacerbated by it.

“This category topped the list of both investment and development prospects in our survey this year,” read the report. “The growth of e-commerce is a significant factor, but interviewees also cite supply chain disruptions during the pandemic as a key contributor, since some companies respond to these challenges by holding more inventory.”

Facilities that offer last-mile delivery in urban areas, the report cited interviewees as extoling, offer value because they’re rapid delivery solutions.

“The interest in warehousing and fulfillment is consistent with interviewees across the country, although certain centers—notably, Calgary, Ottawa, and port cities in Atlantic Canada like Halifax—have particularly strong sentiment. The biggest challenge is finding available space, although some interviewees mentioned opportunities in adapting mixed-use properties to incorporate fulfilment.”

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