Real estate analysts say incentives meant to woo renters to expensive homes have become less common in recent months and that the trend is a symptom of heavily competitive housing markets in cities such as Toronto and Vancouver.
Paul Danison at Rentals.ca said landlords were coming up with creative ways to fill vacant apartments during the early days of the pandemic, such as free months of rent, cable subscriptions or even extravagant offers including skydiving tickets and fully stocked wine fridges.
But he said those deals are drying up as the rental landscape becomes competitive because of rising interest rates that are pushing would-be homeowners to the rental market, and as some people return to cities now that the worst of the pandemic is over.
Rentals.ca, which releases quarterly reports on rental incentive trends, found no incentives on offer in Vancouver on their platform, and fewer than usual in Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.
“Landlords no longer have to come up with creative ways to get the best renters,” said Mr. Danison, who said incentives have been drying up since September.
John Pasalis, president of Realosophy Realty, said rental incentives are usually most prominent when a housing market is reaching its top end in rental rates. Even after massive year-over-year increases in rental rates across the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver, Mr. Pasalis said it could be months before rental prices hit a ceiling.
“When resale home sales are at 20-year lows, the people who just need housing are going to move to the rental market. That has certainly been one of the factors contributing to the boom in rents in the last year,” Mr. Pasalis said.
However, Mr. Pasalis added that the winter months are typically slow for the rental market, and that could be a reason for some of the incentives still out there.
Recent data from Rentals.ca showed the first sign of slowing growth in rental costs, as month-over-month changes in rates for a one-bedroom apartment were down in Vancouver by 1.4 per cent to $2,596, and down 3 per cent to $2,457 in Toronto. Those numbers were still up 16.8 per cent year-over-year in Vancouver and 21.3 per cent in Toronto.
“I haven’t seen that kind of drop in past months,” said Mr. Danison, referring to the decrease. He added that many other major cities around Vancouver and Toronto experienced meagre increases, compared with large ones in previous months.
“Even in places where it’s up, it’s up just 0.1 per cent or something.”
While rental incentives can fluctuate alongside rental costs, Mr. Danison and Mr. Pasalis both said they aren’t always a red flag that you’re signing on to a high monthly payment.
Incentives used to be common in expensive condo units in neighbourhoods such as Toronto’s CityPlace. These days, however, Mr. Pasalis said incentives are more common in older units that might be in less desirable locations.
Mr. Danison said incentives are often a way for a landlord to drum up more interest and give them more options when looking for the best possible tenant. If the monthly cost seems reasonable and a landlord is offering one or two free months of rent, Mr. Danison said it’s worth looking at the apartment.
He added that in Winnipeg and Edmonton there are ample rental incentives, such as multiple months of free rent or free cable subscriptions.
Those locations, which still have largely uncompetitive rental markets when compared with other Canadian cities, could provide good opportunities for people to capitalize on such deals, Mr. Danison said.
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