Weighing real estate options: Kris Thorkelson on why renting may be worth a closer look

Renting could be a necessary, and preferred alternative to owning a property in Winnipeg, especially if the market is not there, according to Kris Thorkelson, president of My Place Realty in Winnipeg.

“With less listings on the market to buy, many residents may consider the idea of renting,” said Thorkelson.

He’s referring to the latest in real estate market reports.

Real estate sales in Winnipeg, the capital and the largest city of Manitoba, had a strong showing in August, registering 1,845 sales for Winnipeg REALTORS, a 28 percent increase over August 2019 sales.

While Winnipeg real estate seems to be making positive strides in sales of single family homes, it’s listings are not catching up, according to Catherine Schellenberg, president of Winnipeg REALTORS.

“Following three months of overall heightened sales activity we are not seeing the same response with listings coming on the market,” she said. “The impact is a shortage of listings for eager buyers.”

Some families or single people are being economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and may not have the money, or want to put the money into, purchasing a permanent residence.

For instance, multifamily rental properties in Winnipeg are making a comeback, with a slow, but steady, annual growth rate, according to the Winnipeg and Manitoba Housing Data March 2019.

While the report notes the number of units has slowly risen annually since 2012, it hasn’t caught up to Winnipeg’s growing population. However, some insist renting has become a preferred alternative. A May Yahoo!Finance article states in a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center that 65 percent of households held by those younger than 35 are renting.

But how can one spot a quality rental or lease with good management?

“It’s important to see if the multi-family property owners strive for excellence when purchasing and renovating multi-family homes,” said Thorkelson. My Place Realty deals in leasing several types of property in and around Winnipeg, providing quality homes with a mix of modern and heritage styles.

Families with children, or those who live by themselves, may feel more secure when a neighbor is close by. And there are many pet-friendly rentals.

Apartments can run high, depending on what a renter wants. But the flip side is there is a host of savings.

There’s a lower level of maintenance, a lower cost of utilities, lower insurance costs and less money needed up front, according to apartments.com. And a renter doesn’t have to pay pricey property taxes.

Thorkelson said high-quality rental living at the right price is doable. Just do research or get a property management company to help, he said.

It’s important to research what areas are a best fit for a person or family, taking in consideration what’s important – such as walkability, local amenities or stores, and school districts, safety.

Thorkelson, for instance, takes an active part in ensuring the communities surrounding his tenants are what he would want for his family.

“We built partnerships with many local businesses near their listings to help maintain and improve our buildings within the community. We want to keep our tenants happy,” he said.

Another great idea is Thorkelson’s MPR Benefits Program, which provides discounted rates to tenants from local participating businesses.

And renters should really be involved in the apartment inspection process. Check for overall cleanliness, or the condition of electrical outlets, lighting and cable hookups. Is there a functioning smoke detector, or other safety issues?  Cracks in the walls or ceilings could mean water leaks.

Also, think about the flexibility. If a renter is in an unstable time in their life, buying is not recommended.

“If you’re not planning to stay in the same place for more than a few years, you should rent to avoid serious financial problems,” said Deb Tomaro, a broker associate with RE/MAX Acclaimed Properties in Bloomington, Indiana. If someone’s going through a major life change, Tomaro said “it’s just not quite the time to buy.”