Investment opportunities in Ottawa’s commercial real estate market

Farm Boy
Retail properties with an essential business tenant – such as a grocery store – are seen as a top commodity for commercial investors. Photo by Jessica Alberga.
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by the Ottawa Real Estate Board

While Ottawa has maintained its status as a safe city for commercial investment, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way investors think about commercial properties in the capital. 

Throughout the last 18 months, the commercial real estate market has seen unprecedented stress on landlords and tenants alike, as companies canceled their leases, malls sat empty and mainstreet retailers shut their doors for good. 

Because of this uncertainty, members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board’s Commercial Network say a slowdown in commercial real estate investment was inevitable as buyers were hesitant to purchase properties without a guarantee of financial return. 

However, as Ottawa inches further down the road to recovery, investors are eager to capitalize on new real estate opportunities in the capital region, says Michael Pyman, vice-president of national investment services at Colliers. 

“Coming off a banner year like 2019 where we saw record trading volumes, you could say the last two years have been sleepy,” says Pyman. “But, real estate remains an investment strategy and we are already seeing signs of the market coming alive with some big transactions on the books.”

Finding safety in retail

While mainstreet retailers and local shops bore the brunt of pandemic closures, one retail market segment remains a hot commodity for investors. 

Properties with essential service retailers – a grocery store, drug store or Walmart – are in high demand, as they are considered more pandemic-proof and less likely to experience tenant turnover. 

“From an investor’s perspective, they’re looking at these buildings with these tenants and they’re seeing the most stable asset they can buy in the retail sector right now,” says Graeme Webster, partner and co-founder of KOBLE Commercial Real Estate & Brokerage. “We’ve been through a very tough time, and they’ve proven that they can withstand the economic uncertainty so that it is a big draw for investors.”

Commercial agents are also seeing increased demand for these properties outside of the city. 

As residents continue to stay closer to home, investors are taking a similar approach – purchasing properties outside of large urban areas, says Webster. 

Retail properties in Peterborough, Pembroke and Carleton Place are all of interest to investors, especially since they carry a lower price tag. 

“These secondary and tertiary markets are just as strong because of these investment opportunities,” adds Webster. “A Tim Hortons or Giant Tiger in Arnprior is arguably just as valuable as in Ottawa. Essential retail is essential everywhere you look.”

Race for industrial space continues 

Ottawa is also a very tightly contested market when it comes to industrial space – a market both investors and tenants are vying to get their hands on, says Pyman.

Interest in the capital has continued to climb as vacancy rates in industrial properties remain low and lease rates rise. 

However, given Ottawa’s lack of new product or large scale land developments available, it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet client demand. 

“Investors come from all over the place looking for products in Ottawa, but there are very few 500,000 square foot properties available for larger pension fund or REIT investors,” says Pyman. “And when they do hit the market, there is a lot of competition, bid depth and we continue to see prices climb.”

As Ottawa’s commercial real estate market continues to evolve and adjust to pandemic trends, it is more important than ever to work with a commercial member of OREB to navigate the market, adds Pyman. With so much economic uncertainty, a trusted commercial Realtor can ensure you’re making a good investment for years to come.  

What is a commercial Realtor?

Not all real estate agents are Realtors. REALTOR® is a trademark of the Canadian Real Estate Association and stands for service, competence, and high ethical practice. OREB’s Commercial Services Network Members must meet high standards of education and experience.  To find a Commercial Realtor go to https://www.oreb.ca/find-a-realtor/commercial-result/

How can an OREB member help you? 

Commercial Realtors provide professional services including:

  • Exclusive access to thousands of listings through the MLS System;
  • Professional advice based on market knowledge, experience and education;
  • Tenant and landlord representation;
  • Advice on real estate investment purchases and leasing