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“We are having unprecedented demand that is met by very little vacancy.” — Jesse Greenwell
Welcome back to another episode of the Sync or Swim Podcast. Today we are joined by David Frattini from Rentals For Newcomers and Jesse Greenwell, the head of communications, partnerships, culture, and inclusion at Mainstreet Equity. Tuning in, you’ll hear all about why there is a high increase in the demand for student rentals in Canada, how Mainstreet Equity has accommodated this demand, how they avoid unreliable tenants, and how they are promoting themselves as all-inclusive in order to attract student renters. We also discuss how Rentals For Newcomers are avoiding scammers online, how to seek student accommodation later in the year, how to be the best possible prospect for a landlord, the importance of rental insurance, how Covid has changed renting in Canada, and the financial benefit of seeking housing outside of your gateway city. Jesse and David also share some advice for international students looking to rent in Canada. You won’t want to miss out on this discussion!
Key Points From This Episode:
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
JG: “We're here for the long haul, because this is home. This isn't an appliance that they purchased or something very transitory. This is the most important place in most people's lives.”
[00:00:11] NS: Hello, and welcome to Sync or Swim, a weekly podcast, brought to you by Rentsync. Where we take a deep dive into the PropTech, multifamily and rental housing industry. In each episode, we uncover the technologies and strategies used to help overcome operational challenges and increase the value of your multi-family investments. Let’s get into our conversation today.
[00:00:36] NS: Welcome back to Sync or Swim. I’m your host Nicolina Savelli. On this podcast, I chat with multifamily and PropTech experts to learn how you can reach more renters, sign more leases and maximize the value of your assets. Today, I have two special guests on the show. David Frattini, Managing Partner at Rentals For Newcomers, who I interviewed over a year ago on the podcast. And Jesse Greenwell, Head of Communications Culture and Inclusivity at Mainstreet Equity, Canada's leading real estate corporation on the TSX specializing and mid market apartment buildings in Western Canada. David, Jesse, thank you so much for joining me today.
[00:01:13] JG: Thank you so much for having us.
[00:01:15] DF: Pleasure to be here. Excited to speak with your audience.
[00:01:18] NS: No problem. That was a bit of a mouthful. I'm almost out of breath, but let's get going. This conversation has been months, I would say years in the works, and I'll discuss that later. But I spoke to Bob Dhillon, actually, Mitch, our former host also spoke to Bob more than a year ago, early pandemic days. This is really just kind of bringing that conversation almost two years I think in the making. Canada will hit its 1.4 million immigrants target this year, and has the same target for the next three years. Obviously, the demand for rental units – I mean, it's already huge within the country, but as immigration continues to come through, it's going to remain incredibly competitive. This continuous, unending vital string of newcomers to Canada is going to have a tremendous impact not only on landlords and availability, but also on multifamily and individual rental investments for years to come.
I'd love to hear from both of you about how Rentals For Newcomers and Mainstreet Equity are navigating this increasing demand for student rentals. I recall last year, like I said, two years ago, we had a conversation with Bob Dhillon, founder and CEO of Mainstreet Equity, and he mentioned a number of statistics about the growth in Calgary, especially in Alberta for international students. He mentioned that according to the Government of Canada, international students contribute 16.2 billion and 19.7 billion to Canada's GDP in 2017 and 2018. Mainstreet equity has been heavily investing in revitalizing multifamily rentals to cater to these types of renters. Jesse, can you elaborate on what you've seen in Western Canada over the past year or two years, and how Mainstreet has created additional supply for student rental housing?
[00:03:08] JG: I'm very happy to. Thank you for the great question. Again, thank you for having us on. It's such a great podcast. We're big fans at Mainstreet.
[00:03:15] NS: Awesome. That’s great to hear.
[00:03:18] JG: Just as Bob said two years ago, the surge in demand is exceptional. I mean, I don't think he even was able to foresee the extent to which Calgary and how quickly Calgary in particular among our Western Canadian markets would see an unprecedented surge in demand. Now, in order to sort of address what we saw coming, what he did see coming in terms of that surge, it was really important to us that we continued our expansion throughout this period, where there was a lot of questions about – there’s a lot of uncertainty. We saw that there was nevertheless, despite that climate, no substantial change in the housing supply, coming not in terms of policy, not in terms of new construction announcements, et cetera.
For us, it made sense given the fiscal environment at the time especially, but especially anticipating that demand to continue to require more buildings and put them through our value cycle so that we're able to reposition them as quality, affordable apartments for new Canadians, including international students. In particular, international students, including buildings like university tower, purchased near the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Which has just been a great, great success in terms of making sure that we're able to provide affordable rentals near campus to international students.
[00:04:40] NS: Awesome. I will ask and I know this isn't part of my questions, but are you seeing full occupancy in these buildings? I mean, as student rentals usually, I would assume that they would be, but what are you kind of seeing right now. I know that maybe there's some trickling students coming in. It's been a weird kind of like start to the school year, the first year back for everybody. So, yeah.
[00:05:04] JG: Again, there's still unfortunately, we're still hearing so much about the IRCC processing delays that otherwise we'd have even more students right now. But yeah, you're making a really good point. The reality is that, it's become incredibly competitive, even for traditional renters in these markets, domestic renters, that would normally occupy this with or without the presence of international students. But then the presence of student populations, obviously, really creates – it exacerbates the problem to an extent.
[00:05:34] NS: Exactly.
[00:05:34] JG: These students are major benefit to Canada, right?
[00:05:37] NS: Totally.
[00:05:38] JG: I want to make it clear, the problems with our housing supply, not with these great people that want to come and take advantage of our educational institutions contribute to our economy. But this is creating a lot of issues across the board. Basically, the way I sum this up is, at the end of the day, we are having unprecedented levels of demand that are met by very little vacancy. So as quickly as we can try and get units turned over, we're doing that so that we can make sure we have supply, but it doesn't matter how quickly we acquire, we are not gaining in terms of having more to offer people, because that demand is so – I’m sorry, that expansion, everything is so outpaced by the demand. This is as you know from your recent report in primary and secondary
[00:06:25] NS: Right. Now, I'm leading to my next question to David. Now that we are entering kind of the fall market and majority of on-campus housing, normally has been scooped up at this point. What are your recommendations for those who may be entering the country later in the year? How can they best locate off-campus accommodations at this time?
[00:06:49] DF: Well, thank you, Nicolina for the question. Just before I answer that question, I also wanted to address those numbers that you raised that Bob Dhillon had – you referenced the 1.4 million people arriving. It’s really important, I think for your audience to understand as well. What is that composition? Because some of that group is temporary foreign workers, who have completely different needs. Some of that group is international students. Well, there are more than 700,000 international students studying in Canada, there's almost 250,000 that are arriving who are net new into the Canadian marketplace every year. And in addition, and included in that number, there are 460,000 permanent residents that are arriving in Canada.
When you think about that number, and think about household size, we are estimating that really, that permanent resident number suggest there's probably a need for 200,000 households. The bulk of these people are looking for rental accommodation. As Jesse was talking about, the surge in demand is certainly outpacing supply, which brings us back to then, what should students be doing and what should permanent residents be doing. We really focus in on trying to make sure our audience of both international students, and permanent residents understand three really important things. They need to be doing their research early in the game before they arrived, and not after they arrived. So they need to research the marketplace in which they intend to land.
Secondly, they need to really understand how they have to sell themselves as potential tenants and valuable tenants right from that initial inquiry. Thirdly, when they arrive for that meeting with that discussion with the landlord, they better be prepared. Landlords have the pick of the crop. So you need to understand what does the marketplace look like in the first place, how do you make sure you get the attention of that perspective superintendent who's evaluating that first inquiry. And when you show up, how do you make sure you are really prepared so that if that unit is right for you, you're ready to sign the deal. Those three things are really critically important for our audience, whether they be international students or permanent residents.
We're really working hard to make sure that our audience understand each of these stages, and we go into great detail both on our site through webinars that we conduct, et cetera. I think the relevance for your audience that's listening is, we want to make sure that we're sending really high-quality leads to you as a prospective landlord. It's really important for us to make sure that our audience knows how they can make sure they're selling themselves to prospective landlords.
[00:10:20] NS: I'm going to kind of move a little bit through this and come back to another question later. But given that, I mean, obviously, not every landlord feels confident in renting to students. How can student renters best secure a rental with prospective landlords? What are the steps they need to take in order to really shine and be seen as quality and not potentially delinquent renters? Either of you can chime in, I'm sure you both have knowledge on this. But Jesse, by all means, go ahead.
[00:10:52] JG: Of course. You know my passion for this particular question, only because we've recently had a discussion onto ourselves. Look, the main thing is credibility, credibility, credibility. You need to be the most attractive prospect to that landlord. That means putting in everything from – I mean, you want to make sure that you're showered wearing clean clothes on the day that you show up. References, if you don't have the traditional references, try and find some ersatz references. Let's say that most applications, of course, one thing we generally look for is another landlord reference to say, “This was another person I did business with, they were – my experience with them was, they paid on time, blah, blah, blah.” Well, many newcomers obviously don't have that, and they also don't have credit established in Canada.
In that case, I would say, whatever you can get. If you can get letters from your teachers back home, saying, “You were a quiet student.” That should address some of the concerns that people generally have about students. If you are working, you've landed in Canada, and you've managed to obtain employment before you found a permanent home. But you know what I mean, a rental home. It's literally anything you can do to make yourself stand out. Have all of your financials easily presented. That means if you're showing financial account statements, sorry, from another country, in another currency, even have a Google printout next to it showing a date and time what the currency was worth and what it translates to Canadian dollars. Leave the smallest room possible for error, so that there's almost no room for error whatsoever, no room for misinterpretation, and do everything you can. Treat it like a job interview. You are not the traditional customer going in where they need to impress you. You are now the one who's trying to sell them on yourself in order to get a place.
[00:12:42] NS: Yeah, I mean, I even feel like that's becoming the norm for casual renters, who are local as well, too. They're really having to compete. I mean, knowing that the general population who already lives here is competing with one another. You know you've got to really bring all your cards on the table and really have a solid deck.
[00:13:03] JG: You have to step up your game. No question. Absolutely.
[00:13:07] NS: Yeah. And I will ask Jesse, what are some of the protocols you are taking to safeguard against potentially delinquent renters?
[00:13:16] JG: For us, there's obviously, there's a number of things that we put into place. We do run credit checks, we do get landlord references, et cetera. But of course, with new Canadians, it's much harder for them. They don't have the credit history, so we'll bypass it, but we generally try and take a more holistic approach to those applications. We want to see why they're in Canada. It's important to remember as well, landlords should know, by virtue of having study permits, work permits, whatever, a degree of vetting has already been performed by the Government of Canada. I doubt that most landlords, as proud as we are of our internal systems and our teams, I don't think we have resources that don't strip them on evaluating prospects in that sense. We also don't work with a lot of excellent partner agencies.
Well, Rentals For Newcomers are a great example of a partner agency in one phase of the process. There are other partner agencies as well. For instance, when we had Ukrainian refugees coming in, their first point of contact will generally be Ukrainian Congress, who made them refer them to a city-based – through the referral, through those programs, they're also further bedded a little bit, right?
[00:14:31] NS: Of course.
[00:14:31] JG: They're making sure that they're presenting the best prospects. It's honestly, in every situation, it's a little bit unique, and we try to make sure that we're doing whatever we can to give each application the fairest fullest evaluation, because it's also in our interest to make sure that we're not losing a great prospect, right?
[00:14:54] NS: Of course. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You don't want to overlook someone that could be a long-term renter in one of your Mainstreet buildings for 10, 15, 20 years. You never know, right?
[00:15:06] JG: We've got some people who've been in the same place that long and longer.
[00:15:09] NS: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Another question for you, Jesse. This will be the last one until I move on to a question for David. But how are you best reaching your ideal renter profile with your marketing right now? We are a marketing podcast as well. I'd love to hear kind of how you're reaching them, and kind of letting them know, “We are open to student renters. This is what our bread and butter is, is this type of young, up and coming renters.” So, yeah.
[00:15:40] JG: Of course, a big part of that – I mean, we use every avenue available to establish a really strong brand identity that lets people know who we are, so they can already kind of tell that we're a good fit, and that we have buildings everywhere helps as well. We're not like other companies in a lot of the ways we do business. That's one big thing, I think. But we need to communicate that of course. So how do we get that message to market? That is through stuff like our partnership with RFN, where we coproduce content to some extent. We'll work with them; they'll work with us. Together, we're able to get that message out to our target audience. We also, of course, social media is absolutely huge. Whenever someone is going to our Instagram, there's a lot of companies, and you can take a look at their social media. It's basically just, “Here's something we want you to know. Here's 10 days that we thought we should recognize on social media.” It almost looks like a calendar with a few employee photos scattered in.
We've really tried to take a different tack, and we've tried to say, “Look, it's not about what we want you to know about us. It's, what do you need to want to hear from us? What do you want to know about us?” We really try and take that customer-facing perspective, take the customer's perspective. That means, content design to inform people about renting in Canada. We've got lobby screens partnership with a company called Vertical City, that puts screens at our elevators, in many of our lobbies. We have multiple ways to communicate there as well. What's interesting is, based on the linguistic, whatever language is more dominant in a certain building, we can make sure that we're serving all of our clients. That includes referral business, which is also a great way of getting people in who are coming from tenants that we generally already know or good tenants tend to have great friends. Great customers have great friends as well.
We've taken a much more sort of gentle tone with a lot of our communications to customers since I started working on communications here a few years ago. We really are trying to be again, more empathetic. We want to work through this with them. We're here for the long haul, because this is home. This isn't an appliance that they purchased or something very transitory. This is the most important place in most people's lives. Beyond that, we make sure that we are inclusivity stickers and things to indicate everyone is welcome at all of our buildings. I think that puts us kind of a notch above a lot of a lot of the competition not to denigrate whatsoever.
[00:18:10] NS: That’s unique. That's unique. I haven't heard that one before.
[00:18:13] JG: You'll find that sticker on every Mainstreet building. It's to demonstrate that inclusivity and to say, everyone is welcome here. But it also lets everyone else in the building now, everyone is welcome here. Your ideas that might be less welcoming to other people can stay in your home, in your head, but really, we want to have a great community here, where everybody feels safe and welcome. Also, again, it's those organizations I mentioned previously, partnering with a lot of those groups like Calgary Catholic Immigration Services, the people who are on the ground as well. That's been incredibly helpful, because they're able to take our message forward. We don't give them a script, or any sort of [inaudible 00:18:52]. We just say, “Tell them the truth about your experience with us. Tell them what has happened” and it continues to draw people to us.
The last thing I would just mention is something incredibly basic. We put a lot of thought and strategy into where our signage is. We make it easy to find us, easy to know where our locations are. If you're interested in location, we make it easy to rent there. I think there's something about just having your brand, the address, and the phone number in very clear letters, and the website, of course URL. In very clear, basic format so that you're not putting all this copy in that on there, so that you're reaching the maximum audience possible with impactful branded signage. We get a lot of business that way as well. Old school, but still works.
[00:19:41] NS: It works for sure. I do agree with you. I mean, I'm a copywriter/communications person and marketer, so I always struggle often with trying to explain that you don't need a lot of copy to get the message across. You just need your main points. Where do you want them to go? That's the goal, right? You don't need to have eight different benefits and takeaways on your billboard. You just need that that call to action and make them visually engaged. I think that it is –
[00:20:16] JG: Exactly.
[00:20:16] NS: It boils down to the basics, right?
[00:20:18] JG: Sorry, but just to say, because you just – the visual engagement, meeting them where they are. That's one reason that one thing we've been doing a lot of lately, and it's just a resounding success is we have one of our own marketing people who wasn't international students themselves, Addie Brar. Just an absolute expert in the area. We've got him making TikToks for us, with just a series of them addressing different questions that people have, but also kind of giving the insights from the experience that only someone who has gone through it has done. They know that we get it, because we are a company that is comprised of immigrants. We are a company that is comprised of Canadians of all kinds. Someone here has lived your experience and can reach out to you with that empathy, and can make sure that our communications and our messaging is informed by that.
[00:21:07] NS: That's perfect. I think that that's a genius way to utilize TikTok in a way that's relatable to your target audience. So I think that's some wisdom there to share, and I'm sure some landlords will be listening to this being like, “Oh, I didn't even think about that.” I do have a question for you, David. Obviously, we've been seeing an increase in scammers on Facebook marketplace, much as what has happened with Kijiji and Craigslist. How does Rentals For Newcomers combat scammers on its site?
[00:21:41] DF: Well, we're lucky enough to have built our platform leveraging or the Rentsync backup. Most of your listeners will be familiar with Rentsync capabilities. Rentsync is certainly recognized in the industry as a leader in sort of both marketing and technology solutions.
[00:22:05] JG: Absolutely.
[00:22:05] DF: One part of those technology solutions are sort of, they’re automated, sort of listing verification processes. So that's been built into the backend. But also, importantly, our listings are managed, there's a manual process as well. So Rentsync personnel know who the people are that are getting these listings up. There's that manual check as well. That's one part of what we're doing to make sure that we’re verifying listings. It's both technology driven and manually driven. The other part of this is, we're working diligently to educate our audience on scam alerts. Through Rentals For Newcomers’ blog posts, we're constantly updating our blog post that is about scams in this category. So that we're educating our audience to be alert, and we're giving them updates on scams that they should be avoiding. Back to the significance for the audience listening, again, I want to reinforce that if you're putting your listings in our environment, because of this vetting process, we're trying to ensure that we're not posing reputational risks to your operation, because we've been lacks in vetting listings. It's really, really important to us.
[00:23:49] NS: Now, obviously, I just wanted to add to that and say, as an international student immigrant coming in, looking at rental listing sites that they may not be familiar with, they may not know what to look out for in terms of scammers and what they should keep their eye on as they're looking at a completely different listing site and just operation. It's important, like you said, to educate and inform them on how to spot those potential scammers so that they know the signs. Because they just don't know, they otherwise, they may be coming from – I feel like every country has a different way of listing, rental listings, and have their own dominant listing sites, so it's going to be all new to them. Everything is going to be new, so that's probably the last thing they’re thinking about, is someone's trying to scam me.
Now adding to that, not necessarily on the scamming side, but becoming a renter, becoming a renter in Canada. What are your thoughts on renter's insurance? Is it worth purchasing for an international student or an immigrant? Obviously, they probably don't have a surplus of extra money, but what does that give them, and is it worth it?
[00:25:05] NS: Like what you hear so far, make sure you never miss an episode by clicking the subscribe button now. This podcast is made possible by listeners like you. Thank you for your support. Now, let's get back to the show.
[00:25:19] DF: It's critically important, and we work really hard to educate our audience on the importance of renter's insurance. We explain to our audience that most landlords, if not all landlords, require tenant’s insurance to begin with. We educate our audience on why tenant’s insurance is of benefit to the individual renter, as well as the landlord, but why it's important to them as a renter. So we really want to make sure that they understand that. Also, we've made it very easy for our newcomer audience to purchase a tenant’s insurance. We partnered with Aha Insurance, we've got a great digital solution for permanent residents and international students. We've developed a program that is price competitive and very comprehensive. So we educate our audience on the fact that most landlords are going to require it. We educate them on the benefits of tenant’s insurance to them. We make it easy for them to purchase tenant’s insurance, and we stress, “This is an important selling point when you either make that first inquiry, and/or you show up for that meeting.” Stress that you understand the importance of tenant’s insurance, and that you are prepared to get it. So tenant’s insurance, critically important.
[00:26:57] NS: Jesse, do you have anything to add to that?
[00:26:59] JG: Absolutely. Only because – David, excellent points, excellent points, everything he said, I 100% back. But just to even go further, people need to understand one thing about tenant’s insurance in particular. There's a lot of misunderstandings about what the landlord's duty is, what responsibilities they have in certain circumstances. The reason that so many landlords mandate and absolutely require as a condition of the lease that people have that is because – let's say, there was a company a couple of years ago. I'm trying to remember where it was. Somewhere anyway, it was in the midst of one of the coldest winters we had in a long time, and in one of the worst stretches in that winter. A boiler went out in this building. Now, it was COVID, there was – supply chain difficulties were just starting to emerge, but they were really beginning in earnest at that point. So getting this part, let alone a whole new boiler in, it was not going to be a quick process. Space heaters just don't cut it when you get to certain temperatures.
Every person in that building was able to make sure that they were comfortable, safe in a hotel, because they had tenant’s insurance. Anyone that didn't, it was – in some cases, the landlord may be nice, maybe they have the resources, maybe they're going to pay out of pocket to help you during that circumstance. But there's a lot of smaller landlords, and it's not even about whether or not they're kind enough to. They simply don't have the capital. They are running so slim already on the marches that they have with the buildings they run. Not everybody's an A Cap. Not every building’s an A Cap. It's important to remember that.
[00:28:41] NS: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:28:43] JG: Right? So tenant’s insurance will ensure that you are never left outside in the middle of Canadian winter, or inside feeling like it's outside because it's so bloody cold. What I'd really advise is, carry it. Because that $10 to $15 a month, sometimes it may be – I've heard as high as $20, but it's such a small amount of money relative to the amount of security it affords you. Especially when you're coming from outside of Canada, you think you know Canadian winter, even Canadians that have lived here for 50 years are still learning new things occasionally about Canadian winter, I promise you.
[00:29:23] NS: Absolutely. As someone from Southern Ontario, I feel like I still don't fully know Canadian winter compared to BC winter. It's a very vast country and there's a lot of variances. I even saw someone actually on TikTok say that they were, I think they were in BC right now, and it was six degrees. I'm like, it's 22 here, what's going on? How is that even possible that it's six degrees right now somewhere in the same country, but it is.
[00:29:49] JG: Nothing makes sense there.
[00:29:50] NS: I mean, other than the northern part. But he wasn't in the northern territories, or none of it, or anything. He’s somewhere relatively within the same region, but not that close. So yeah, it's definitely a shock for a lot of people. I've seen even when it's 15, 16 degrees, the culture and climate shock of people wearing like coats in offices and stuff like that. They're like, “Why is it so cold?” Yeah, definitely important just based on that alone to have tenant insurance and to make sure that you're safe in case a boiler goes out, as they do in the wintertime, and pipes burst and all of that stuff can happen.
[00:30:31] JG: It's just the nature of a building, right?
[00:30:33] NS: It is the nature of a building, and especially if you're not, like you said, in a class A building. There's nothing wrong with being in a class B, or class C building, because some of them are beautiful, and well maintained, and people take good care of them. But they have older, they may have been constructed in the 1970s, and maybe just have older kind of mechanisms. So you just never know, right?
[00:30:54] JG: Exactly. Anything can go at any point. Everything has to go eventually. But sorry, yeah, great points.
[00:31:01] NS: It does. Yes, it does. I mean, I have one rental and I counted the amount of times that things did not go right this past summer, where someone was there. And I was just like, “How is this possible?” You get prepared, you make it all happen for them, and you think you've got everything ready, and then you can never fully prepare for what might happen. It just happens.
[00:31:26] JG: That’s it.
[00:31:27] NS: So you try to do your best. A lot of people, they give landlords a lot of flack, but it is it is work. It is a full-time job for a lot of them. It’s not just easy. If you've got multiple rentals, and you're managing them all, and more than one is having issues, then that's just – there's only so many people on so many hands.
[00:31:50] JG: That's it.
[00:31:50] NS: So anyway, I digress. I digress. From a more general perspective, Jesse, since we spoke to Mainstreet, like I said, quite early on in the pandemic. Would you be able to share some of the kind of the long-term changes you made as a result over the last two and a half years, in terms of kind of how you market, what you've kind of told me about, how you sign leases, and even your resident experience?
[00:32:14] JG: Absolutely. Obviously, COVID created so much changed for so many organizations. Everything shifted remotely as we know it, to the greatest extent possible. That included viewings of apartments, showings of apartments. But in many cases, even rentals, because people were – occasionally, you'd have a well funded sort of adventurous student who was hoping that their application, that they wouldn't be able to get over to Canada, and so they were willing to pay the first month's rent, just to make sure that they could secure a place because they were worried about the market conditions and that. So you needed to have – you ended up doing a lot of sort of bespoke sort of specially tailored sort of rentals during that time only. But there's only a certain number of those policies that really persisted, and have become almost the course of doing business. I would say, virtual showings and renting remotely, huge. We've accelerated, in fact, because of that. The implementation of our online application software. Now, we do have a variant of an online, sort of an ersatz online applications that's been in place since COVID started, but it's not fully integrated with the rest of our management system. We're getting that official implementation, and then it'll be just a seamless process for everybody. At present, we're proud that it's at least seamless for the customer.
Beyond that, we have, I have to say, resident experiences have remained relatively consistent, just because we're already a company that does full service, everything in-house. We've stepped up our sanitisation throughout that period. But one thing I would say is, again, that more frequent cleaning, that has stayed. We've also created with our acquisition, there are lot more options for transferring. So as jobs started to – employment situations became really volatile, and the employment market became really volatile over the last few years. People need to be able to move and transfer sometimes. Now, less so with students who are generally in one building because of post school. But other newcomers, David, I'm sure you're having similar feedback on your end are also in a position where they may need to move for work. Maybe even it's just across town. Sometimes it can be to another province.
With a company like Mainstreet, because we've been on these acquisition streaks, because we're at, I believe, nearly 16,000 units at this point, we can help them to make sure they're doing that without incurring the financial penalties of lease breaks, without all the headaches of, is this company going to be – they’re moving within the same company. It's nice, seamless process for them. Also, just for the number of people that because of inflationary costs, and then the pressure that's put on their households, sometimes they need to – some people need to downgrade, they need something that is maybe just – it’s a little less than what they would prefer, but it's still a very comfortable quality place. We can accommodate that, because we have so many types of mid market residential buildings and properties as well, including our heritage collection. That's one thing students really seem to like, I'll say. But really, it's just about being responsive, and building in proactivity. But at the same time, and I realize how counterintuitive it sounds, proactively in terms of making sure we're anticipating whatever we can, but responsiveness and making sure that we are immediately creating solutions for anything that we didn't anticipate. Of course, in the rental business, as you know, so much is not easily anticipated.
[00:35:53] NS: Of course, yeah. But having the right people on the front lines on that are probably crucial as well, to being able to handle those kinds of situations and work under pressure.
[00:36:04] JG: And our ground team have been incredible. Ninety percent of the solutions come to the executive from the ground team. That's one reason that it's so important for us to have an open door, non-hierarchical. That's the way that Mainstreet is structured. Bob has always been passionate about that. It also promotes that inclusivity that we're so proud of, but that's the whole thing, is team feedback, factoring that in immediately. Good point.
[00:36:27] NS: Awesome. Awesome. Now, this is almost my last question. It's a very simple question, it’s to David. Do you have any final words of advice for international students looking to rent in Canada over the next three years, and the best way to obtain safe and affordable accommodations?
[00:36:45] DF: Well, I'll reiterate the things that we focus in on. That is, one, make sure you're doing your research before you arrive. Vacancy rates are so tight, that if you're thinking about showing up here in Canada, and then simply waltzing into your first rental unit, you're going to be sadly disappointed. There's huge financial risk associated with not doing your research. Research is critical, number one. As it gets closer to that date of making that first inquiry, make sure that you're filling that inquiry out properly, so that you're really selling yourself as a prospective tenant, so that you get the attention of the person at the other end of that inquiry. Selling yourself as a prospective tenant, really important. Three, when you arrive for that first meeting, make sure you show up prepared for that meeting. Can't reinforce those three steps enough.
As well, we've always encouraged people to be diligent, and make sure that they are up to date on the latest scams, because scam artists are changing all the time. We always say, it's not an endemic problem. But when it happens to you, it's a really big problem. So make sure that you're constantly aware of what's going on in the marketplace. As much as we give that advice, and particularly stress the importance of research to our international students and permanent resident audience, reinforce this message to the landlords who are listening in on this. Our Rentals For Newcomers site is a great opportunity for landlords to research and get to know better the value of newcomers, permanent residents and international students as prospective tenants.
Some people in the audience may have long-held belief that, newcomers that are arriving are not – simply because they don't have that job offer or credit history, they're going to be a real risk. The profile of who's arriving is changing all the time. There's a real return on investment opportunity with this audience. I think we only have to look at Mainstreet Equity Corp as proof of that. Their financial performance as a publicly traded company shows that you're able to make money on a strategy of accommodating newcomers and international students. As important as it is for newcomers to do their research, international students to do the research, I really encourage landlords to revisit newcomers as tenants and valuable tenants.
[00:39:55] NS: Right. It's funny, because I have an international student coming in, who is coming in for two weeks and staying at my rental, basically doing their research on the ground and looking around to kind of – but they're staying in a place that is not in Toronto, not in the urban metropolitan area because it's expensive. So they're doing it in a way that's probably cost effective for them before they come and actually find their permanent place. If you have the means to potentially do that, then I would recommend potentially doing something like that, so that you can actually see and feel where you're renting. If you have to drive an hour to get there, then it's not the worst thing for you to have to do, or Uber, or whatever it is. But that was just something that came up, and it was kind of funny that we're having this conversation where this person came to me and said, they were an international student looking for housing.
[00:40:50] DF: Well, just add to that point. Sorry, Jesse, for inter interjecting. One other thing that we stress to our overseas audience as well, is exactly what you’re alluding to, Nicolina. That is, if you haven't already made that decision around what school you're going to if you're an international student, or if you haven't already made that decision around what city that you're going to land in, if you're coming as a permanent resident. We’re encouraging our audience to think about options that are outside of the gateway cities, because there's a real opportunity. Either as an international student or as a permanent resident, there's a greater likelihood of building a better, more affordable lifestyle in other cities outside of the gateway cities. And bringing this back to you know that the landlords who are in our audience, if you've got a place in Fredericton, if you've got a place as Mainstreet does have across Winnipeg and Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton. We are encouraging our audience to look at these places, because research has shown that there's going to be a better financial outcome for newcomers and international students. So that's a piece of advice that we're really focused in on with our pre-arrival audience, and that comes back to researcher as well.
[00:42:17] NS: Right. That doesn't mean that you don't – you can't go to a high-class Ivy League school either with remote options and other things with online virtual schooling too. It's like, you can potentially be a student, and live comfortably and not spend too much while also getting an education in Canada. I mean, explore those options as well, I think if it's an opportunity or a possibility for you too.
[00:42:42] DF: Absolutely.
[00:42:43] NS: Now, Jesse, I wanted to extend the question to you, just because I feel like you might have something more to add here as well.
[00:42:50] JG: Thank you so much. Well, I appreciate that opportunity. There's just a couple of things that I want to make sure that we get a chance to air in here, because David just raised such an excellent point about landlords need to realize the value proposition for themselves, not just that they present to the customer. We have seen tremendous success with these demographics. Really, it's incredibly important that at this point in the housing crisis, we're not overlooking any demographic, especially one that a recent report indicates, some cases are paying 25% higher rents than many other rental renters on the market. But I think the key issue that we need to really drive home here is that, at the end of the day, the reason you need to plan ahead, the reason you need to stand out, the reason we need landlords looking at these prospects with new eyes, and with getting rid of some of the maybe old myths, et cetera that are associated with student rentals. Is because, we have no new supply coming online that's anything significant enough that we can speak about it. CMHC, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said in June that 3.5 million more homes need to be built by 2030 to reach affordability. We're miles away from that, first of all. We know that.
There are many hurdles to this in terms of land costs, et cetera, for development. So you know, then we also see challenges where BC and Toronto cap their rent increases at two and a half percent this year, despite inflation being significantly higher, which puts landlords in a tough position again there. The reality is that. student housing is rarely accounted for in urban planning. We see at a municipal level that they are dealing with a lot of the fallout from this, but they're not involved in the policy right making decisions that’s too often happening at a provincial or at Federal level. We definitely need to hope that we can get all three levels of government talking. But at the end of all of it, really, I know there's also continuing pressure on post-secondary institutions to start building their own. This is prohibitive as well. They're quite often in densely populated areas, and with very expensive land around them that prohibits it.
But then, further, universities are generally in the property management business. They've not always necessarily done the best job in terms of delivery, especially when it comes to affordability historically with that. So it's really something where we need a lot of private sector initiative here to start. We can't wait for government to move; we can't wait for universities to hopefully get everything in place that they would need to build these. We have the students coming, and we need to make sure that as a country, as landlords, we're doing everything possible to make sure they have a place to land so they can make that incredible economic contribution, make that cultural contribution, and come and participate in this incredible project called Canada that we're also proud to be a part of, and to continue building together. I think we should be flattered by the incredible numbers of people that want to come here, that want to participate, want to join us, and I think we should do everything we can to welcome them. That means it starts with housing.
[00:46:06] NS: Perfect, Jesse. I think you just solidified your title at Mainstreet with that whole spiel of culture inclusivity, on communications. You got it all right there.
[00:46:16] JS: Thank you. I appreciate it, Nicolina.
[00:46:20] NS: I want to thank you both so much for joining me on this episode of Sync or Swim. If you don't mind sharing where listeners can learn more about Rentals For Newcomers and where they can access resources. David, do you want to share that? Then, Jesse, can you share where renters can find more information on Main Street Equity?
[00:46:38] DF: Absolutely. So for all of you listening here, you can visit rentalsfornewcomers.com. I think as well that it's important that you understand rentalsfornewcomers.com is part of a network of sites, and our sister site is Prepare for Canada, prepareforcanada.com. So you can do a little bit more research about us through the prepareforcanada.com site as well. But we've been in the business of helping newcomers for – and I personally been in this business for over 15 years. But as Prepare For Canada and Rentals For Newcomers, we've been operating for 12 years. Rentals For Newcomers has just been in the business for a year. We launched through the pandemic. Now that the borders have reopened, we're starting to see a great participation.
To everyone who's listening, if you are a Rentsync customer, it is easy to get your listings integrated into the Rentals For Newcomers site, through their listings integrations program. Our listings are free. If you are prepared to entertain newcomers as tenants, get your listings on our site for free through the listings integration. I'm just going to close with one anecdote. We previously – Nicolina and Jesse, you are both talking about the benefits and the economic impact of newcomers. Just to illustrate that, we'll give you an example of a newcomer who showed up here in Canada. I mentioned this example to Jesse before. He and his wife arrived on Christmas Day in 2021 with no job offer, no credit history. But we know what it's like arriving at that period of time. There's a slowdown around –
[00:48:34] NS: Everything.
[00:48:36] DF: – employers looking to hire, there's a slowdown around everything, hiring, housing, everything. By mid January, when the HR departments were open and active for business again, this guy had been knocking on doors. He was at his desk in his first job in Canada by February 1 with a great paying job as a project management manager in a big food distribution company. His wife, who was a chemical engineer, landed a job not as an engineer, but in a related field a couple of months shortly after that. They had knocked on the doors of nine organizations before someone said, “We'll give you a chance.” I think for those nine doors that were knocked on that the doors were slammed on this fellow's face and his wife, you lost out on an opportunity for a client who has homeownership in his line of sight, three years down the road. He's going to be a great paying customer that is not going to risk his credit history, because of that goal.
[00:49:52] NS: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:49:53] JG: So you really want to reinforce the value of these people as tenants. I think that example just illustrates that.
[00:50:00] NS: Absolutely.
[00:50:01] JG: Definitely.
[00:50:02] NS: Okay, Jesse, can you share with us how people can get to know and connect with Mainstreet and get to know your buildings and all that if they don't already?
[00:50:11] JG: The best place to learn about the company and see everything that we have to offer is mainst.biz. That is our website. So mainst.biz. But I also want to just say to any other Rentsync customers, first of all, obviously, we're huge fans of Rentsync. We've had nothing but great experiences. Same with Rentals For Newcomers, there's a reason that we work together so frequently on projects, and it's not because RFN doesn't deliver anything, it's because they deliver everything and they're excellent partners. But Nicolina, the other thing I really just want to make sure that everyone knows is, the most exciting and fun place to find us and please make sure you like, follow, subscribe is on our socials. Find us on Instagram. Find us on Twitter at Mainstreet. If you go to mainst.biz, you'll be able to find the links to all of our socials. We've just made a couple changes. But we're on Facebook, we're on TikTok now. We'd love to show you some of these incredible tips for student rentals. So yeah, come and find us.
[00:51:17] NS: Yeah, I think I'll be going to follow after this.
[00:51:20] JG: About time.
[00:51:23] NS: Awesome. Thank you both for sharing all your knowledge and wisdom with us today and for taking the time to join me on this episode of Sync or Swim. Until next time, keep swimming.
[00:51:34] NS: You’ve reached the end of another episode of Sync or Swim. Make sure to visit us at rentsync.com/podcast to access show notes, key takeaways and where you can sign up to our newslette
E78:The Housing Pulse: Toronto Star's Business Reporter on Canada's Rental Landscape
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