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Shannon Dumont stands between two of the homes she owns in Windsor, Ont.Emanuel Sousa/Emanuel Sousa

If you ever get the feeling there are more small “mom and pop” landlords than ever in Canada, you’re right.

New data published by Statistics Canada suggests that while the share of Canadians reporting rental income has grown modestly since 2000, thanks to the growing population the net number of small landlords is up about 32 per cent just since 2008.

In a report published online, Statistics Canada says it obtained data from tax filings that showed 1,356,650 households reported income from rentals. The report led housing observers to coin the term “artisanal landlords” to describe these households because the data excludes those rental income reported by trusts or corporations, which accounts for the vast majority of the multibillion dollar multifamily rental sector.

In total about 7.9 per cent of Canadian households reported a median rental income of $2,750 (up from 2000 when 7.4 per cent reported a median rental income of $790).

Statcan’s data shows landlord life has also gotten more lucrative: In 2000, 65 per cent of landlord households reported their rental income was net positive (in other words, profitable), by 2020 with vastly more landlords to compete against 76.3 per cent reported profitable rental income. (The low point in that stretch came during the 2008 financial crisis when only 63 per cent reported profits.)

There’s also a significant wealth gap between those with rental income and those without: Artisinal landlords had a median annual income of $113,030, nearly double that of the 15,751,670 families with no rental income ($63,040).

Shannon Dumont has been adding to her property portfolio since 2008 when she convinced her husband to downsize from a big house in Windsor’s LaSalle suburb to a downtown duplex and rent out two of the three apartments in it.

“We bought our first duplex for $135,000. Now it’s worth $500,000,” said Ms. Dumont, 52. “Once we did that and became mortgage free, we bought the house next door.” The extra income from her three rental properties allowed her to go down to part-time work and the couple have recently purchased their retirement home.

Ms. Dumont had friends with income properties, but the main reason for the switch was just running the numbers on rising rents versus her mortgage costs. But things accelerated in the middle of the last decade.

“I swear to god someone had a class on how to buy real estate and all of a sudden every young guy I could think of started buying properties in town,” she said. “This was a big mom and pop region, we only had one property management company in the city; now there are four or five.”

The evidence does seem to confirm that “young guys” did get more into real estate and rentals in recent decades. Households with residents from the ages of 30 to 34 went from 4.1 per cent of landlords to 5.2 per cent between 2000 and 2020, according to Statscan; those 35 to 39 went from 5.3 per cent to 7.2 per cent, the 40 to 44 age bracket jumped from 6.1 per cent to 8.2 per cent, and the 45 to 49 bracket went from 7.3 to 9.2 per cent.

“For people 30 to 50 in that age bracket, they either have disposable income or have done a significant paydown on the mortgage of their private residence,” said Sundeep Bahl, a salesperson with Re/Max Plus City Team Inc. in Toronto, who has built up a clientele of condominium apartment investors who purchase in preconstruction and then look to him to service and rent those units for income when they are completed. As property values soared and debt got cheap, a lot of his clients added one or more properties leveraging their equity in existing homes.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh my God, my home was worth $1-million, now it’s $1.8 million!’ You can take $200,000 out [in a home equity line of credit] to buy an investment property,” Mr. Bahl said.

But The Bank of Canada raising interest rates rapidly in 2022 to combat inflation has meant borrowing from Peter to invest in Paul has slowed down.

“I don’t see anybody making those moves in this market, but in the past there were a lot of those investors,” he said.

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One of Mr. Bahl’s clients willing to leverage his home equity in 2018 to buy his second rental condominium apartment says he’s not looking for more right now.

“We purchased an investment condo before we bought for ourselves,” said Guri Pannu, 44, who was still renting a downtown apartment when he put a deposit on a preconstruction project in 2011. In the interim, he and his wife bought their own home, and earlier this year Mr. Pannu closed on that second condo, but despite strong rents from tenants, he’s taking a pause on investing in more.

“One project I was looking at – in a good area where I knew it would have strong rents down the road – we couldn’t make that feasible unless we were able to put in 50 per cent of the [purchase price]. Without that, we’re looking at significant negative cash flow. It didn’t look very attractive,” he said.

Many rental investors are increasingly looking farther afield of Canada’s biggest cities for more lucrative opportunities. Vancouver and Victoria are in a class of their own as Canadian cities with the highest percentage of landlord households (11.2 and 10.4 per cent, respectively). But they are the most lucrative markets as well, with median rental income of $5,250 and $5,490. Toronto is in third place with 9.8 per cent of households collecting rent, with a median income of $2,870.

However, according to Statscan, 16 of the top 30 cities with more than 5 per cent of households reporting rental income were smaller centres in Ontario, including Windsor, Waterloo, Sudbury and Thunder Bay.

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