Predictions for Calgary’s Urban Residential Rental Market

"If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you can’t always predict what’s to come."

JEMM sat down for a socially distanced chat with Intelligence House Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Emmett Hartfield, to talk about what’s in store for Calgary’s residential rental market in 2021.

So, Emmett, did you bring your crystal ball?

Nope. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you can’t always predict what’s to come.

Does that mean that developers entering the rental market should brace for another bumpy year ahead?

Actually, so far so good. Absorption of new rental suites in Calgary has been respectable, especially for units priced below $2.75 per square foot. But the issue of the pandemic, lower inter-provincial migration and local job loss has meant that, at least for now, developers shouldn’t expect the uptake of 20+ units per month that we might have seen in the past.

For landlords, what challenges do you see for the coming year?

The phasing and timing of development impacts the optimal choice of product type. Near-term residential development should focus on mid or low-rise apartments and townhomes to capture the consumer market emerging from the pandemic. As always, it will be important for current landlords to manage their properties well and avoid turnover as best they can.

Covid made some urban renters question if they want to keep paying for amenities, like gyms and party rooms, that weren’t usable during the pandemic. Was that an anomaly or will renters’ appetite for amenities change?

Covid definitely has made things difficult with regard to utilizing building amenities; however, our surveys generally show that amenities like security, storage and fitness areas still rank as high priority for tenants.

Developers like JEMM, who have chosen to build in a great urban neighbourhood like Bridgeland, can offer tenants their must-have amenities plus all the timeless benefits of skyline views, proximity to mass transit and tons of local commercial options.

Has the pandemic changed the way you market buildings to renters?

Yes, absolutely. For the foreseeable future, we won’t be hosting launch events or other high-touch tours or experiences, so we’ve had to find ways to get prospective renters excited about the opportunities available to them. We are heavily leveraging digital advertising and communication tools over print or guerilla marketing-type activities. Our leasing specialists have adapted unit tours to take place over Facetime or under very strict in-person conditions.

What opportunities does Intelligence House see on the horizon for developers like JEMM, who are underway with mid-rise purpose-built rental?

By late 2022, when JEMM is ready to launch The Bridge in Bridgeland, we hope to see that the residential leasing market has evolved from the slow-and-steady pace we expect to see in 2021 back to a state where it can regain and sustain its momentum.

If Calgary’s rental market had a theme song, what would it be? 

“Baby Come Back” by Player. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4uSzrsOQr8]


Intelligence House Ltd. is a highly successful data research, marketing and sales agency for residential development. In the first six years of operations, Intelligence House Ltd is now marketing and selling/leasing over $600 million in Multi-Family assets in Canada and the United States. With offices in Edmonton and Calgary, the research, marketing and sales/leasing divisions combine for over 35 employees and in 2017, the organization was listed as the 14th fastest growing company in Alberta by the Alberta Venture Fast Growth 50. www.intelligencehouse.ca.

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