Real Estate Investing in Carlington

Investors who diligently select, and manage, their investments may realize superior yields from their investments in this neighbourhood.

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Overview

Cash-flow focused investors will be attracted to Carlington for the superior capitalization its rental properties produce. However, the potential pit-falls are noteworthy. Appreciation has favoured some areas of the neighbourhood more than others, with some areas appreciating at one third the rate of others. Delinquency, while relatively low on a national basis, is the highest in Ottawa.

Careful consideration of the data will help investors realize robust cash-flow and appreciation while minimizing the risk of delinquency. To help investors in their research, this article has aggregated the relevant data and paired it with context and insight.

Neighbourhood at a Glance

 OttawaCarlington
Average Capitalization*4.6%6.8%
Real Appreciation Since 2010*38% 41%
Average Credit Rating759703
Crime Rate4.9%4.3%
Vacancy1.8%1.7%

Operating Income

How much is rent in Carlington?

The median rent in Carlington is 12% less than the median rent in Ottawa*(October 2019)
Column graph showing differences in rents generated by income property in different parts of Carlington
Data: Q3 2019 median 2-bedroom rent.

Rents in Carlington are highest in the far east of the neighbourhood where demand from Carleton University students has an uplifting effect on rents.

Interestingly, proximity to the notorious Caldwell community housing projects has little effect on rents. In fact, it may have an uplifting effect on long-term income: In Ottawa, market rents rise faster than the maximum rental increase allowed by the Province. As such, a higher rate of tenant turnover produces higher rents when averaged over several years. Crime correlates with tenant turnover. The crime rate in Caldwell is one of the highest in the city. So it stands to reason that tenant turnover may be higher around Caldwell. Indeed, since 2018, within a 500m of Caldwell (the south west quarter) there were 90 rental listings. That figure is three times the number of rental listings (30) within 500m of the center of the north east quarter of Carlington; five times the number of rental listings (18) within 500m of the center of the north west quarter; and twice the number of rental listings (45) within 500m of the center of the south east quarter. That said, high-turnover tenants can also be found in Carleton University students who are often willing to rent units near Fisher.

Multifamily properties

On a per-unit basis, the median sale price of a purpose built habitable multiplex is 37% less than in Ottawa overall.

Column graph showing prices of income properties in Ottawa compared to prices in Carlington
Data: Q3 2019 median 2-bedroom rentData: Q2 2019-Q2 2020 per unit prices of multi-family properties in Carlington calculated from representative sales recorded on OREB’s MLS system.

Single family homes

One storey and split-level homes predominante the stock of single family homes in Carlington. The median sale price of a detached home with fewer than two stories in Carlington is 6% less than elsewhere in Ottawa. The aggregate data suggests that the west of the neighbourhood carries a premium. However, that difference is largely attributable to the small sample size. If we control for various features (such as number of bedrooms, parking type, etc.) the difference vanishes.

Column graph showing prices of houses in Ottawa compared to prices in various parts of Carlington
Data: Q2 2019-Q2 2020 per unit prices of single family properties in Carlington calculated from representative sales recorded on OREB’s MLS system

What are capitalization rates like?

The average capitalization rate in Carlington is 48% higher than the average capitalization rate within the urban boundary of Ottawa. Student demand near fisher drives up rents in the east of the neighbourhood. Consequently, capitalization rates are higher. Moreover, given the higher turnover of student rentals, over averaged several years, cap rates will be even higher for student rentals than the figures below suggest.

Column graph showing cap rates in various parts of Carlington
Data: (Q3 2019 Median market rental rates less utilities, property taxes, and insurance)/ Q2 2019 - Q2 2020 Median per-unit sale price. Note that market rents are generally higher than rents paid by long-standing tenants. These figures assume the property has been recently tenanted.

Prospective Tenant Statistics & Insight

Do tenants miss payments?

In so much as credit scores indicate reliability, the data suggest that residents reliably pay their rent. The average TransUnion credit score, for neighbourhood residents, is 703. In comparison, the average score for the city is 759, and 655 for all of Canada. 703 is within the high end of the range deemed average.

Histogram comparing risk of delinquency in the Byward Market with other neighbourhoods
Credit score percentile deviation from the national average credit score

It may be tempting to chalk up the lower credit score to some correlation between credit scores and rental housing. In Ottawa, that correlation is not especially clear. The average credit score in many of the neighbourhoods where rental dwellings are prevalent is within a single percent of the city’s average.

That said, Carlington’s score is the lowest in Ottawa. Although only within a few points of other neighbourhoods with similar socioeconomic characteristics.

Are tenants able to afford their units?

For the most part, they are.

According to the 2016 census, median household employment income in Carlington ( $48,570) is 55% lower than in the rest of the city ($65,546). Despite that difference, the percentage of renting households spending over a third of their income on shelter is comparable to the rest of the city: 35% in Carlington vs 38% in Ottawa.

There is a distinct difference between the incomes of households west of Merivale ($36,857k) compared to those of households east of Merivale ($59,930). However, despite that difference, the number of renting households spending over a third of their income on shelter is, for all intents and purposes, the same on both sides of Merivale: 35.5% in the east and 36% in the west. That ostensible inconsistency is attributable to the significant number of social-housing units in the south-west of the neighbourhood.

How prevalent is fraud?

Overall, defrauding landlords is difficult. The number of ways to do so is limited, and is easily recognized by any manager with even minimal experience. Nevertheless, some investors contemplating an investment in a high-crime area may be concerned about the risk of fraud. Those investors will be happy to learn that the rate of fraud in the neighbourhood (1/3030) residents) is 25% lower than the rate for the city (1/2272).

How can I ensure that I get good tenants?

Do all your homework. Check credit; get proof of current employment, and proof of current, and previous, income; call the applicant’s current, and previous, employers; call the applicant’s current, and previous, landlords. Verify that the reference contact information they provided was in fact their actual landlord or employer: check land registries, call the number on their employer’s website (not the one provided), and so on. Alternatively, you can check with your property manager to ensure that she’s taking these steps in screening tenants. Alternatively, some real estate brokers (e.g. yours truly) offer this service add a no-charge value add for their investor clients.

If you’re renting to students, obtain as much of the foregoing as possible as well as a guarantee, and credit check, from a full-time income earner (e.g. their parents).

Summary

Residents are capable of affording their rent. Credit checks are the lowest in our exceptionally credit-worthy city; thorough background checks should all but eliminate risk.Crime affecting tenants is higher, but crime that may affect non-resident landlords is minimal.

Supply and Demand Indicators

Are there many vacancies?

The rate of vacancy in Carlington is (1.74%) is similar to the vacancy rate throughout the city (1.8%). However, there is a marked difference between the vacancy rates in the east (0.8%), and the west (2.7%), sides of the neighbourhood. The lower vacancy rate in the east is driven by student demand and does not stand out when compared to other nearby student neighbourhoods.

Is there new supply coming online?

Since 2019, there have been five new housing starts. None of which were apartment units.

How many residents rent their house or apartment?

Residents of the neighbourhood are twice as likely to rent their dwellings as residents of the city are: 68% of Carlington residents reside in rented dwellings vs 34% of Ottawa residents. The proportion of renters in the west of Carlington (77%) is higher than in the east (60%).

Culumn chart comparing the prevalence of renting in Carlington with Ottawa overall
Historical appreciation and current cap rates of residential income property in Ottawa

Prospective Appreciation: Statistics & Insight

How quickly are properties in Carlington appreciating?

Between Q2 2010 and Q2 2020 properties in Carlington appreciated, on average, 41%; whereas, properties across the city appreciated, on average 38%. Carlington’s appreciation is dichotomous: the fastest appreciation (84%) occurred in the east of the neighbourhood; the west of the neighbourhood appreciated at just 28%.

Data: Differences between average real estate sale prices in 2010 and 2020 expressed as an annualized change.

Appreciation Accelerators

There is no reason to believe that the character of Carlington will begin to change significantly within the foreseeable future: there are few infill projects and the neighbourhood barely creates a blip on Council’s radar. However, that does not mean that appreciation will be lackluster. It only means that there is no reason for us to expect it to be any higher than what it might be should the status quo persist.

That said, the status quo looks promising: there is an abundance of cheap (under $500k) freehold properties, which are rare in Ottawa’s market. Across the city, fast rising home prices have added demand for the cheap properties (no matter how modest the structures are). Consequently, the bottom of the Ottawa market has enjoyed greater appreciation than other market segments.

The corollary here is that the appreciation enjoyed by the west of the neighbourhood is not so much a result of demand for any of the neighbourhood’s features, but rather a result of the prevalence of inexpensive properties within the neighbourhood.

How to Effectively Invest in Carlington

Buy and hold a multi-family property

Each year, about two multi-family (6+ units) trade hands in Carlington. Most are near Merivale. However, there is a smattering of them near Fisher. The properties near Fisher enjoy the lowest vacancies and the highest multi-year capitalization rates.

Speculate on value

The abundance of inexpensive freehold homes presents plenty of opportunities to benefit from the effect that the shortage of inexpensive properties is having on the values of the least expensive properties in the city. Look for small single family homes under $450k.

Summary

The management challenges related to Carlington’s socioeconomic issues are more pronounced than elsewhere in the city. Nevertheless, diligent managers will have no difficulty guarding their investments against those challenges. By most measures, investment performance correlates with proximity to Fisher Ave. However, there are excellent investment options throughout the neighbourhood. For assistance locating and acquiring a superior investment in this neighbourhood contact John Castle or another expert investment real estate advisor.
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