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Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.
6182 North Street
Halifax, N.S.
B3K 1P5
Canada

Tel.: (902) 429-1811
Toll Free: (800) 567-3033
Fax.: (902) 429-1891

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Saint John, N.B.
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Tel.: (506) 634-1811

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Charlottetown, P.E.
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St. John's, N.L.
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Tel.: (709) 722-1811

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111 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON.
M5C 1S2
Tel.: (416) 504-1811

E-Mail: tdp@turnerdrake.com
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# Friday, 18 August 2017

Of Heaven and Sea and Earth 

Please be suitably impressed by this photo: it has all three of a church, a lighthouse and a commercial heritage building


Five years ago, the Chronicle Herald reported that some of Nova Scotia’s churches were exploring the option of deregistering their buildings’ heritage status under the provincial Heritage Property Act.  Nova Scotia’s churches are often their town’s signature property, featuring architectural details ranging from elaborate stained glass windows to ceilings built by 19th century shipwrights using the same techniques used on the hulls of wooden ships.  But cultural and demographic shifts have reduced demand for churches in the province.  Dwindling congregations mean reduced budgets unable to cope with the high costs of maintaining and operating historic properties.  Deregistration is required for demolition, the only option some congregations saw in the face of financial realities: maintenance requirements outweighed the ability to keep these architectural gems standing.  Recent years have seen other churches amalgamate congregations, keeping and maintaining a single building while selling the rest off for (hopefully sympathetic) redevelopment.

Wolfville United Church as it was

A more literal beacon facing a similar threat of extinction is the Canadian lighthouse.  Changing technologies have rendered redundant their function, if not their cultural attraction.  In May 2008, Parliament passed the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, a bill to designate and preserve lighthouses of historic significance.  It took effect in May 2010, only to be followed in June by an announcement declaring almost all Canadian lighthouses surplus, no longer to be maintained by the Coast Guard.  Since then, community groups have become the champions of select historic lighthouses, while the rest, presumably, will suffer the same fate as many an unfortunate ship along our rocky coasts.  

Peggy’s Cove lighthouse, a likely survivor

The foregoing each illustrate the perils of functional obsolescence: when a building’s functionality no longer meets market demands only its cultural significance can protect it – and then only if a champion steps up, e.g. government, community group, or passionate property owner.  Urban heritage properties are particularly susceptible to rising functional obsolescence due to the high value of the land on which they sit: the financial rewards of redevelopment contrast starkly with the economic pitfalls of retaining and maintaining them. Demolition is tempting. 

This year we celebrate Canada 150.  With our history and heritage, for better or worse, on prominent display, we decided to turn our attention to the uphill battle faced by commercial heritage properties in Halifax.

Size Matters

Hemlines are the harbinger of stock prices.  Construction of the tallest skyscraper marks the dawn of recession.  Floorplates sound the death knell of heritage properties?  

Open concept office-in-waiting

Downtown heritage buildings in Atlantic Canada are at an inherent disadvantage versus modern construction because they are simply too small.  Even 30-year-old buildings are feeling the strain imposed by their new, more spacious contemporaries, whose design is able to accommodate demand for open concept offices.  In Halifax, total demand has yet to catch up with new supply. Rental rates are restricted and tenants can afford to move into the new buildings, leaving the last generation of Class A office space struggling to stay relevant – and occupied.  The trend is toward larger floorplates as companies are opting for large, open concept offices with collaborative workspaces and few individual offices.  Downtown Halifax doesn’t have a supply of unused historic warehouses with high ceilings and large floorplates ripe for conversion well suited to modern tastes. Instead, our heritage properties are mainly small buildings, 3-6 storeys high and with floor plates between 1,000 and 6,000 square feet (typically at the lower end of this range). 

Halifax has a few examples of what can be done to overcome this drawback.  Barrington Espace and the RBC Waterside Centre both maintained the façades of a number of adjacent heritage properties while completely overhauling their innards, joining the buildings within to allow for larger floorplates (Saint John’s CentreBeam Place is another example of where this technique was used successfully).  If done carefully, this can present a best of both worlds compromise.  If not, the result may be the Disneyfication of heritage: it looks about right, but there’s no soul.  Either way, it is not an option for detached heritage properties: they are left to find occupants happy with the original floorplates size.

Barrington Espace, RBC Waterside Centre, CentreBeam Place…thanks, Google Street View!

Finding a Fit

Heritage properties need a certain tenant.  The predominant competitor of the heritage office building is the home office: to attract a tenant away from this “free” space, a historic building must provide cachet and interest, and must find a tenant who wants (or needs) both as marketing tools for their business.  Heritage tenants are drawn from a pool of largely creative firms represented by public relations and marketing firms, IT companies, and (interestingly) employment recruiting agencies.  Often, these firms are start-ups; there is a symbiotic relationship between the two, with the heritage property providing an inspiring ambiance (and maybe cheap rent: see below), and the company providing income and life to the building.  What the heritage property has more trouble providing is a flexible workspace that can grow with the company.  When they become too large for their space, they must seek a larger floorplate in a more modern building.  There is a happy medium: mid-sized companies who could occupy an entire heritage property as a single tenant.  But in Atlantic Canada, most companies are either large or small, a by-product of provincial regulatory demands which force companies to “get large or go under” (Atlantic Canada is made up of four small provinces each with their own regulatory requirements for businesses: half the population and half the land area of any other province, but four times the regulations…but this is a topic for another day).         

The Champions

There are three classes of champions for heritage properties: passionate owners (hopefully with deep pockets), community groups who recognize the social benefit of maintaining our built heritage, and governments which either have a measure of both these characteristics or are open to the influence of those who do. 

Heritage property owners must appreciate the unique features of old buildings.  To quote one (you’ll never guess who), they “speak to you in a way new buildings don’t.  There is a sense of calm, a personality.  They have been there for centuries, and if the economics can work, they will be there long after you’ve turned to dust.”  Ah, the economics.  Heritage properties in Halifax do not attract a rental premium as they do in some larger cities, such as Toronto’s trendy Distillery District.  There may be a purchase premium, albeit not driven solely by heritage, but location as well, due to the prime situation some heritage properties enjoy by virtue of having gotten there first.  Halifax’s downtown is distinguished by its waterfront; heritage properties with a connection to it in particular may enjoy a purchase premium, provided this connection is maintained (pause now to be thankful for the public outcry that halted “Harbour Drive” before it started…and hopeful that the redevelopment of its first phase, the Cogswell Interchange, will be successful in repairing the fabric of the area). 

 

Toronto’s Distillery District, as modelled by a pair of junior TDPers

There is a social benefit to heritage properties, usually external to the site itself.  A 2011 study by Place Economics highlighted six areas of positive economic impact attributed to heritage preservation: jobs, property values, heritage tourism, environmental impact, social impact and downtown revitalization.  Heritage properties differentiate cities from one another, providing a unique draw to residents, visitors and immigrants alike.  The world’s most successful cities have vibrant heritage architecture, often interspersed with modern buildings.  Community groups recognize this and fight to preserve historic built environments, but it is often the building owners who fund these broader social benefits by bearing the increased costs of renovation and upkeep.  It is here that governments can play a vital role via heritage preservation policies, but they must take care that they get them right.       

Incentivise or incense?

Halifax Regional Municipality recently commissioned a study to investigate heritage incentives.  However structured, these are a means by which society as a whole, via taxes, can help pay for the social benefit of heritage properties.  Two of the largest pitfalls of which governments must be wary when enacting policies to protect heritage properties both involve the risk of (inadvertently) penalizing property owners. 

The first is the more obvious one, wherein the owner of a protected building is prevented from redeveloping a site to a more lucrative density, diminishing the ability to make money from the property and potentially its market value.  One avenue available to the city is to compensate the property owner for the diminished value by purchasing the air rights, i.e. the space above the building in which they would otherwise be allowed to build, but are prevented by heritage preservation policy.  This could be accomplished either directly, with the municipality retaining ownership of the air rights, or by opening the market for air rights trading, allowing heritage property owners to sell their air rights to developers of non-heritage sites to increase the allowable height on their sites.  (Yes, this has the potential to open another can of worms, but it’s a good theory if the policy is well thought out). 

The second potential pitfall lies in supporting some, but not all heritage properties; such as with the creation of a heritage preservation zone.  While those properties (and their owners) located within the zone stand to benefit from financial incentives offered by the municipality, any heritage properties outside the zone are placed at greater disadvantage.  Still competing against larger modern buildings, they are now on an uneven field against their direct (heritage) competition.  The supported properties have the money to modernize without deficit to their owners’ bottom line, while unsupported properties are further penalized physically and financially. 

For more on heritage rights and wrongs, don’t miss our Summer 2017 newsletter, coming soon to a mailbox near you.  If you are not already subscribed to this informative and gutsy publication, please get in touch with us at 902-429-1811 or tdp@turnerdrake.com.

Alexandra Baird Allen is the Manager of our Economic Intelligence Unit, a position which makes surprisingly good use of her liberal arts degree in history & cultural studies, as well as her expertise in GIS.  For more information on our Economic Intelligence Products, visit our website or contact Alex at 902-429-1811 ext. 323 or abairdallen@turnerdrake.com.

Friday, 18 August 2017 12:21:25 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Brokerage | Counselling | Economic Intelligence Unit | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Property Tax | Turner Drake  | Valuation
# Thursday, 01 June 2017

I can honestly say that these 13 weeks have been nothing short of amazing, over this time I have learned so much and gained experience that will help me throughout my life. I expected to come in one day a week for 8 hours a day and job shadow someone. I never thought that I would have my own space to work and be able to do so many things on my own. Every Tuesday morning I would meet with Ashley Urquhart (my boss for the day) and she would tell me the plan. If I had any questions that her door was always open, she was always very upbeat and happy, that made it extremely easy to talk to her.

I got into a morning routine of doing certain jobs, I would do Tenders, Google Analytics, and they even let me post on their social media accounts! I got to tweet about news that I thought was important, that was probably one of the best parts of my Co-Op experience. I never thought that they would give a Co-Op student in high school this much responsibility, I am beyond grateful that they did.  I always had someone close by to help me if I ever needed anything. The person sitting closest to me was Michael McCurdy, he made the day fun and I got to see how to be professional in the workplace and how to talk to clients over the phone. I worked with a great bunch of people that made this experience a lot of fun and helped me learn new things. My aunt, Patti Farewell, has work at Turner Drake & Partners for 26 years and now I see why, it is a very enjoyable place to work and everyone makes you feel welcome. The owner, Mike Turner, would always talk to me and ask me how things are going, along with his wife Verna, who would always make a point of talking to me and saying how nicely I was dressed, they were nice little conversations that made me smile. One day I got to sit in on a support staff meeting, we got lunch and talked about new ideas for TDP, I felt very included and like I was a part of the team.

The Co-Op interview was with Mark Turner (Vice President of the company) it was professional like a “real” interview would be so that I would be prepared for the actual thing when I go to apply for my full time job later in life. He was very nice and made me excited to start, I later got to work on a small project for him.

Right away I was being trained by two people who did exactly what I wanted to do. Ashley Urquhart and Alex Baird Allen were my safety nets throughout this time. The first few things they let me do on my own was, Tenders- finding new jobs and properties for the company to look at. The next job was Google Analytics- finding out how many people looked at the websites and how many people follow TDP’s social media accounts. They also trained me to do a few other jobs that would help me later, Data Mining- updating client’s information, Media Sheets- updating who they send things to. There were also basic jobs such as, photocopying, mail-outs and manuals. After a bit of time went by I was able to post on the company’s twitter. I was given the job of making a new flyer that would later be sent out to clients, I was surprised that they felt like I was doing well enough to be given a project that important. I spent many hours on it and got nothing but positive feedback. It’s going to be weird not seeing these people for a while, I would really like to come back for my grade 12 Co-Op and give it my all once more. Lastly I liked how much responsibility I had. They gave me my own place to work but it was also around people so I never alone. This is definitely a place I would love at work at after I finish school.

Help us prevent youth migration, hire a coop student today!


Thursday, 01 June 2017 16:08:11 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Brokerage | Counselling | Economic Intelligence Unit | Lasercad | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Property Tax | Turner Drake  | Valuation
# Monday, 08 May 2017


(Image via Global News)

Symptoms of an Election
In the run up to the now transpiring Nova Scotia provincial election, our governing party engaged in the time-honoured tradition of the spending announcement roadshow. A few million for a community centre here, a few million more for an overpass there, culminating finally in the double whammy of a new outpatient facility in suburban Halifax, and toll-free twinning of several sections of highway.

Unlike most spending announcements, the outpatient facility drew immediate criticism. While the highway twinning has started to attract some rightful critique, the patently foolish choice of locating a medical facility in the retail backlands of a dysfunctional industrial park was apparent to many; not the least of which being senior municipal staff who’d advised the Province of these issues months prior. Embarrassingly, the location is a miserable failure when measured against the Province’s own aging population action plan, Shift, which it had announced along with nearly $14 million in funding mere weeks before.

As an aside: of the opportunities for criticism of the outpatient location, and there are many, the purchase price of the land is not a fruitful one. Without the benefit of knowing the particular details of the deal, the $12.00/ft² paid by the Province for the raw land includes the cost to bring the site to a state of development-readiness. Land in this condition elsewhere in Bayers Lake has sold in the neighbourhood of $11.50/ft², so this is hardly the 12,000% markup insinuated by some reporters and rival politicians. (For future reference, comparing purchase price to assessed values for development land – or any real estate for that matter – can be extremely misleading. Media Types: if you’re looking for a real estate angle on a story, give me a call… I know some people.)

A Bad Prognosis if Left Untreated
So here’s the rub. Atlantic Canada, as we’ve described many times, is facing a serious demographic crunch that will constrain income tax revenue to the provinces, and property tax revenue to municipalities (in Nova Scotia, see Canso, Springhill, Hantsport, and Parrsboro for a preview). Given the scale of these trends, immigration is not likely to alleviate this difficulty. This means public investment utilises increasingly precious dollars; long gone is the time where we could rely on growth to overcome poor decisions.

Yet, public capital spending is and will remain one of the most significant factors in the trajectory of our communities. The provision and location of these facilities influences development trends for decades. A new medical facility is not just a site for convenient patient care. It is also a major employer, and consumer of both public and private services. It generates broader impacts; spinoffs that if harnessed properly can enhance the benefits of other facilities, strengthen neighbourhoods and local business, and mitigate future infrastructure costs. A newly twinned highway is not just a safety improvement for the travelling public, it is a half-billion dollars no longer available to be spent on other priorities. We’ve got to get serious, we’ve got to be scrappy, and we have to be careful to maximise the benefits our public spending generates. Opportunities of an equivalent scale from private-sector activity are few and far between.

By narrowly constraining their site selection study (I presume, as this information is also not publicly available), the government has perhaps saved money on the land for the outpatient facility, only to create far greater costs in the form of municipal servicing expenses, diminished economic spinoff, and foregone social benefits. This short-sightedness is not resigned only to our provincial overlords, municipalities large and small consistently miss opportunities to strengthen and improve neighbourhoods or commercial main streets. At best, we have a habit of placing community facilities in a location that only performs well on measures of land price and vehicular accessibility. At worst, it is directed by decades of parochial bickering and ends up in a location agreed to be equally terrible for everyone.


Nice wellness centre you have there, shame about the sidewalk.
(Image via Pictometry ©2015)

Prescription As the highway twinning issue has shown, no “overwhelming public consensus” is going to emerge on any policy or funding choice other than those promising a free lunch. It is going to take political guts to lead the way: the decisions we need to make are pound-wise at the risk of appearing penny-foolish. Better analysis can help identify the optimal site selection and communicate the wisdom of that choice. A paltry million saved in cheap land will pale in comparison to full lifecycle costs of poorly located public infrastructure. The property taxes generated by that good natured economic development project might never recoup its initial cost. And increasingly, methods are available to help quantify and communicate the broad community and economy strengthening effects that government undertakings can create. A complete approach to site selection and capital project analysis in a time where each dollar counts is the difference between spending decisions that achieve lasting public value instead of fleeting public relations.


Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and we have the skills required to evaluate your options in the context they deserve. Neil Lovitt, our Senior Manager of Planning & Economic Intelligence can be reached at 428-1811 ext. 349 (HRM), 1 (800) 567-3033 (toll free), or nlovitt@turnerdrake.com.

Monday, 08 May 2017 10:29:39 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Brokerage | Counselling | Economic Intelligence Unit | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Property Tax | Turner Drake  | Valuation
# Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Property tax is by far the most important source of revenue for municipalities in Canada, accounting for 49.5% of revenue in 2008 with an annual average growth rate of 1.6% (1988-2008). As reliance on property tax increases, so does the complexity of administering this regressive but necessary evil. Increased computing power in the mid-1960s prompted a shift towards automation of property tax systems, beginning with simple tasks and culminating in today’s fully automated assessment, notification, and payment systems. Modern Automated Valuation Models (AVMs) allow for rapid processing of data with minimised human-bias… but (and this is a large but) real estate appraisal is a nuanced trade: reducing the role of Appraiser to AVM Technician can have significant negative repercussions.

Service New Brunswick’s ongoing cleanup of their attempt at an AVM is a prospective case study in the dangers of a “hands-off” approach to the valuation process. Massive value errors were created by a computer-driven system with insufficient checks in place to alert users to suspicious results. When reviewed by human appraisers many of the shockingly incorrect valuations were easily overturned based on traditional market comparison valuation. Autopilot replaced the flight crew and actual appraisers are left cleaning up the crash, while their political and bureaucratic colleagues deal with the rightful public outcry.

While seemingly seductive, potential time and cost savings offered by an AVM should never mask the fact that, in order to operate successfully, an AVM must integrate human expertise throughout the valuation process. At Turner Drake the “A” in our in-house AVM stands for Accelerated to reflect the role that expert opinion plays in our two-stage computer-assisted mass appraisal model. Stage One combs through real property sales to select comparable properties based on locally relevant, value-defining attributes such as size, location, and design. Stage Two adjusts and weighs a unique set of comparable sales to create a market-based value estimate for each subject property in an assessment area. Throughout each stage of the model, a professional appraiser defines the selection criteria and adjustment values for comparable properties based on market evidence and local expertise. The model does the heavy lifting but certified appraisers evaluate and refine the results.



Outliers - which no system can avoid - can wreak havoc on the results of an AVM unequipped to handle the inherently diverse nature of real estate. It is critically important to flag potential outliers for review so the model can be adjusted for future assessments. During the initial rollout of an AVM model, refinement is time consuming but absolutely necessary for creating reliable, equitable assessments in successive years. In developing our Accelerated Valuation Model, we put the time in up front so the system flags out of the ordinary results, and the professional appraiser, made aware of the potential issue, is able to quickly and easily account for them.

In a Case Study of condominiums on the Halifax Peninsula, the Turner Drake AVM out-performed PVSC assessment values by a margin of up to 45%. That is, 86% of TDP value estimates were within 5% of an actual time-adjusted sale price versus PVSC’s 41% and 98% of TDP values were within 15% of actual sale price versus PVSC’s 84% in the same pool of properties. Our combination of custom programs and a traditional direct-comparison valuation can produce a list of unique comparables with adjustments for 1,000 properties in about two seconds.

Property tax administration systems are as diverse as the municipalities they serve and every region relies to a degree on the convenience of computers and automation. However, no matter the size or complexity of a property tax system it is important to follow best practices, and learn from the success - or failure - of others. When the pursuit of speed comes at the expense of quality there is a significant risk to the accuracy of valuations and the credibility of the property tax system as a whole.

For more information on how our AVM can benefit you, call James Stephens at 902-429-1811 ext. 346 or email jstephens@turnerdrake.com

Wednesday, 26 April 2017 10:21:10 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Brokerage | Counselling | Economic Intelligence Unit | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Property Tax | Turner Drake  | Valuation
# Monday, 03 April 2017



Our Economic Intelligence Unit is always on the hunt for new data sources to bolster our maps and feed our spreadsheets: any good analysis begins with high quality data. The majority of our databases are populated with a wealth of information via a process of blood, sweat, and tears (though increasingly data is graciously released by provincial gatekeepers) and it could be that our next trove of valuable data is being cultivated on farms across the Maritimes. The movement of food from field to plate involves numerous stops along the agricultural supply chain and, when property tracked, that data can prove valuable for a host of analytical tasks.

The ability to track an item from Point A to B in a large-scale supply chain is known as traceability. The theory behind it is relevant in all aspects of our lives: be it an Amazon package or a donair pizza, consumers - and businesses - have discovered that real-time knowledge of where a product is, physically, at any point in time is a competitive advantage in terms of marketing and efficiency. Agriculture is no exception. Traceability is already in use as a health risk management tool: it allows for rapid response to health emergencies by identifying exactly where and when afflicted produce or livestock stopped along the supply chain. Efficiently pin-pointing sources of contamination (think E.coli outbreaks) and creating cost-effective responses, such as targeted treatments and recalls, are critical in a modern, globally connected agricultural sector.

In addition to the obvious benefits of using traceability from an epidemiology perspective, there is also major potential for economic spinoff benefits from tracking the movement of agricultural goods. At a recent gathering of Nova Scotian Agrologists, speaker Chris deWaal of Getaway Farm (of Seaport Market fame) touted the very real benefits of offering consumers the entire life history of their food as a competitive advantage over mass-produced “mystery meat.” The introduction of the “Trace My Catch” program for canned seafood provides an example of how seafood processors are embracing traceability as a marketing tool, and provides an indication of the feasibility of doing so. In a province with a growing love affair for all things local it is no surprise that demand for local meat and produce is on the rise.

Benefits beyond health and marketing can be opened with traced agricultural data. Used in conjunction with GIS, the location and density of animals, farms, stockyards, abattoirs, and processing facilities become inputs for site selection and trade area analysis and indicators of economic health in rural economies - an issue of pressing concern for many Nova Scotian communities.

Imagine opening a meat processing and distribution facility to feed growing demand for local, organic products while still maintaining capacity for foreign exports. A standard GIS-based site selection analysis would use static location data (suppliers, purchasers) with network data (highway, rail, sea) to build a short-list of potential development sites which minimize transportation costs for both inputs and outputs. Additional variables such as workforce availability, machinery and equipment suppliers, veterinary services, and property taxes can all be integrated with locational data to suit the needs of the processor. But a standard analysis does not take into account how many animals are produced by individual farms or the variability in production from year to year.

Traceability data can enhance GIS analysis by optimizing site selection so it is based on not just the density of farms within a trade area, but the capacity to bring high volumes of livestock (or produce) efficiently to market. Historic tracking data of individual animals could forecast future production including where livestock are ultimately processed and sold. A savvy processor would use this data to identify opportunities for expansion and generate reliable, defendable business projections.

The agricultural sector already collects traceability data for use in health risk management; leveraging that same wealth of data for marketing and day-to-day business operations is the logical next step. The agricultural sector is a ray of light in the gloom of rural Nova Scotia: according to Statistics Canada’s census, between 2006 and 2011, Nova Scotia was the only province in Canada to see an increase in the number of farms, total farm area, and number of farm operators. Should the 2016 census indicate continued growth, it will clearly indicate that it’s time for all players in the agricultural game to leverage their existing data infrastructure to gain a competitive advantage at home and abroad.

For more information on how spatial analysis can benefit your business, call James Stephens at 902-429-1811 ext. 346 or visit: Economic Intelligence Unit

Monday, 03 April 2017 10:02:51 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Counselling | Economic Intelligence Unit | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake  | Valuation
# Thursday, 16 February 2017



Finding Answers in the Bottle

Recently our Brokerage Division closed a deal that will see a mid-century commercial building transition from a hair salon to Halifax’s first cidery – a business dedicated to the production and enjoyment of hard ciders. It is the city’s newest addition to the burgeoning craft beverage industry, and by my count, the fifth such business within short walking distance of our head office. Thanks to double digit year-over-year growth in the industry, such businesses have been setting up shop throughout our region, but I have good reason to believe we at Turner Drake are working in the very nexus of Beer Oriented Development.

The craft beverage industry is booming throughout the continent evidently. However, BOD is a specific variant distinguished by integrating the production element the brewery, with the social gathering element of a retail/food service business, wrapping it all in a locally authentic brand identity and plunking it in walking distance to residential neighbourhoods. The term itself was apparently coined in the weary rust-belt city of Buffalo where a pattern of revitalisation lead by the craft brewing industry has been observed in neighbourhoods otherwise dogged by the Midwest’s manufacturing decline and hard hit by the Great Financial Crisis.

Back in our corner of North America, we can certainly attest to the healthy “third place” function of Beer Oriented Development. That is to say, in addition to the production itself, many businesses serve as a nexus for community development outside of the home and workplace. They are small enough operations to revitalise defunct or underused properties without the timeline and complexity of projects requiring land assembly. The size and design of the retail operation typically creates an enjoyable atmosphere and promotes interaction between customers (who are often neighbours). Where the sale and service activities are able to spill outside onto a patio or sidewalk café, they further add to the vitality and liveliness of the entire street. With seemingly endless groups of engineering school buddies (it’s always those engineers) keen to start their own sudsy venture, why do some areas see a flourish of BOD while others simply get an increase in breweries?

The Broken Window Fallacy

There’s a classic economic parable that goes something like this: A baker’s shop window is broken and he hires a glazer to repair it. Passersby observe the glazer at work and remark on the economic activity stimulated by the broken window. Meanwhile, the baker having spent his money on the window now postpones his plan to purchase a larger oven to increase his production. In this way, the passersby are mistaken about the benefit of a broken window because they consider only what they see, and not what they can’t see. That is, they do not consider the opportunity cost; the lost benefits that would have been generated by things that were prevented, often without conscious purpose, from ever happening in the first place.

We don’t often think about opportunity cost in planning. We like to have the initiative; there are no problems that can’t be fixed through the application of more regulation or better policy. In this mindset, it is sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that many (perhaps even most) good things tend to happen on their own if we leave the space for it. Nevertheless, Halifax, like many Atlantic Canadian cities, does benefit from not having gone too far off the deep end when it comes to land use regulation… at least compared to standard practices west of our region. Consider the present (if outgoing) land use bylaw for the Halifax Peninsula area where residential land use is governed by 6 zones. Contrast that with London Ontario, a city of comparable population and municipal budget, where no less than 17 zones are needed just to regulate single detached housing! Clearly one approach provides more “regulatory space” than the other.

Six of One Ain’t Always a Half Dozen

London, like Halifax, is a university town with no shortage of thirsty students or courageous engineering buddies. Like Halifax, it has its own litany of recently launched microbreweries. And finally, like Halifax, London did not, and does, not specifically target or promote Beer Oriented Development. What London does have is its hyper specific approach to coding land use which classifies microbreweries as “Food, Tobacco, and Beverage Processing Industries” and among the 20+ flavours of commercial zoning, relegates such uses to the “General Industrial” areas of the city. In Halifax, some microbrewers also set up shop in the industrial areas, depending on their business model. However, Beer Oriented Development is mostly occurring under the General Business zone which allows – to paraphrase – basically any business that doesn’t create problems in the area.

The shocking result? All of London’s new microbreweries are segregated into soulless industrial parks. Sure, they’ve got a quality product, backed by the same witty, self-aware marketing, and most even have attached tasting rooms and offer brewery tours, but to access any of it you’ve got to drive out past electrical suppliers and find their docking bay among the other distributers and warehousers. So while both city economies are benefiting from growth in the craft beverage industry, only Halifax is gaining the additional benefits to neighbourhood revitalisation and contributions to a lively pedestrian atmosphere. These are not just intangible perks for urban hipsters. There is a hard dollar cost to London in terms of lost economics spinoffs and unrealised gains in property value, but that cost is the new oven, hidden behind a broken window.

The Future is Delicious

Beer Oriented Development is just a microcosm of a larger dynamic. No one was anticipating an explosion of craft brewing or the potential of BOD when the zoning codes were written twenty years ago, just as the codes we write today do not address a futuristic possibilities like the rise of distributed manufacturing, or an explosion of artificial intelligence. In truth, it’d be foolish if they did. In dealing with an ultimately unknowable future, it is basic human nature to play it safe; control what is knowable, and regulate the unexpected out of existence. The costs of this approach are easy to ignore because we are never fully aware of paying them. Yet, as Beer Oriented Development clearly demonstrates, there is a benefit, indeed a competitive advantage, to the city that sets itself up to embrace the unknowable future and capitalise on the unexpected.

Our Role

What can you build on your property? The answer to this is determined by interpreting the local planning policy and regulation. However these are living documents, and project timelines are often measured in years. Thus, it is essential to not only look at the present-day context, but peer into the future for additional opportunities. This is precisely why all our Planning Policy and Regulatory Review reports contain a Long-term Outlook section.

For a recent client, this feature paid dividends. For their property, the desired outcome would have required multiple amendments and the negotiation of a Development Agreement under present requirements; an expensive and risky process overall. However, by casting a wider gaze in our investigation, we identified an opportunity to pursue the same goals through a larger policy update the municipality was preparing to make. While this didn’t save our client any time, it lowered the risk, and greatly reduced the cost.

We’re finding our Planning Division lends vital assistance to our other areas of operation, improving the detail and delivery time of Valuation, Counselling, Economic Intelligence, Property Tax and Brokerage assignments. More importantly, it creates value for our clients, aiding with development projects big and small.



Whether you’re musing about options or working towards a clear goal, ask Neil Lovitt, our Planning Division Manager, how we can help: 1 (902) 429-1811 (HRM), 1 (800) 567-3033 (toll free), or nlovitt@turnerdrake.com

Thursday, 16 February 2017 12:26:42 (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Atlantic Canada | Brokerage | Counselling | Economic Intelligence Unit | New Brunswick | Newfoundland & Labrador | Nova Scotia | Planning | Prince Edward Island | Turner Drake
# Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Builders of multiple-unit residential apartment buildings will be all-too familiar with the GST/HST self-supply rules administered by Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) under the Excise Tax Act. Engaging with CRA at any level is a knee-trembling experience that is best avoided if at all possible, so spare a thought for apartment builders, who have no choice but to engage every time they finish a new project. The self-supply rules require that builders volunteer the value of their completed asset, remit the GST/HST due and then wait to be told if they got it right. Welcome to the unnerving world of self-supply.

Based on the number of calls we have been getting of late, CRA is growing increasingly suspicious of the values being declared by builders in this new age of ultra-low discount rates and ultra-high property values. They smell profit and want a bigger piece of it. If you’ve been targeted for scrutiny, it’s time to call for reinforcements.

How it works

For those who are unfamiliar with the process and want to follow along, this is how it works. Generally speaking, “used” residential property is exempt from GST/HST and no liability arises when it is sold in the marketplace. But new residential property is taxable upon completion, and for rental property the liability usually arises when the first unit is occupied, at which time GST/HST becomes payable based on the “Fair Market Value” of the asset. The most common situation, of course, is newly constructed rental apartment buildings, but the self-supply rules apply to other types of residential property, including condominiums if the builder chooses to rent them rather than sell them, an increasingly likely scenario in markets where the demand for condominiums has dried up. So on that happy day when the first unit is rented, the builder is deemed to have sold and repurchased the property at its declared (i.e. self-assessed) “Fair Market Value,” and gets to celebrate the occasion by remitting the required GST/HST.

The purpose of the GST/HST self-supply rules is to ensure the builder does not escape paying tax on value-added components of the project, such as the value of employed labour, financing costs and profit, the value of which would have been taxable had the asset been sold rather than rented upon completion. According to the official CRA publication (GST/HST Memoranda series 19.2.3, paragraph 5), the stated purpose of the self-supply rules is to create a “level playing field” and remove the potential tax advantage a builder would otherwise have in constructing a residential complex for rent.

So what is “Fair Market Value” and what does the Tax Court say?

CRA’s Policy P-165R gives some guidance and basically interprets it as the highest price that can be achieved in an unrestricted market – much the same as the industry-standard definition of Market Value. It also recognises the three traditional methods for determining Market Value, colloquially known as the “three approaches to value,” being the Cost, Income and Direct Comparison approaches. While the CRA Policy statement does say that no particular method should be excluded categorically, the Tax Court of Canada has tended to favour the Cost Approach in its rulings on GST/HST self-assessment cases. The most recent Tax Court ruling to cross our desk (Beaudet v. The Queen, 2014 TCC 52) adopted the Cost Approach method in favour of the other methods to establish the Fair Market Value of a residential apartment complex, but only after giving careful consideration to each of the other methods. So don’t be fooled into thinking the other valuation methods have no relevance: on the contrary, CRA will expect all the relevant valuation approaches to be examined and reconciled. They are deeply suspicious that reliance solely on the Cost Approach method conceals genuine profit, whereas the Income Approach method uncovers it. They might be right, but buildings which sell in the marketplace and generate those ultra-low discount rates are cash flow vehicles, delivering stable revenues backed up by full occupancy and a track record of success. New-builds have neither full occupancy nor a track record and must be valued accordingly for self-supply purposes.

Whether or not the final result matches other market valuations done on the same property for other purposes – typically mortgage financing – does not appear to distract the Court, which remains firmly focused on the specific issue at hand. That was perhaps most clearly expressed in an earlier Tax Court decision (Sira Enterprises v. The Queen 98-2463-GST-G) when it said “[t]he Court’s duty is to determine the fair market value of the properties for the purpose of the GST. The Court is not interested in the fair market value of these properties for the purpose of sale, and indeed there might be many factors which might have to be considered if the court were required to determine the fair market value for the purpose of sale, which may not be relevant for GST purposes.”

So protect yourself and sleep well

Our advice to builders is to be pre-emptive: have an independent assessment of the Fair Market Value done upon – or even in advance of – completion to support the self-assessed value being reported for GST/HST purposes. That puts you in the best possible position to defend a future challenge, and will undoubtedly help you sleep at night.

So if you, or someone close to you, is losing sleep at the prospect of engaging with CRA, give our Counselling Division a call.



Written by Lee Weatherby, Vice President of our Counselling Division. For more information about our counselling services, feel free to contact Lee at (902) 429-1811 or lweatherby@turnerdrake.com

Wednesday, 24 August 2016 14:55:06 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Counselling
# Monday, 15 August 2016

Linear projects such as transmission line rights of way (RoW) are fertile ground for seeds of suspicion, mistrust and hostility. The scale of the project which may involve dozens, if not hundreds of property owners ensures that the acquiring authority is required to deal with a similar number of individuals. The very nature of the scheme, the forcible taking of property from people who individually stand to gain little from its outcome, often fans the flame of opposition… an experience that pits the “little guy” against corporate Canada. This is worsened if the acquiring authority deploys agents who rely on bluff, bluster and bonhomie rather than real estate expertise, and consider it their mandate to minimize the compensation payable.

Few acquiring authorities assess compensation on a property-specific basis before opening negotiations, or follow the leadership of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal and agree to the owner retaining professional advice at the acquiring authority’s expense. Most regard the property owner as a hindrance. They wait until negotiations founder before preparing an accurate estimate of the compensation properly payable under the Expropriation Act presumably on the assumption that, since they have not expropriated the property, anything goes. Even when a formal estimate of loss is prepared by an independent appraiser, it may not address the entire compensation… little wonder then that property owners distrust authority.

As part of our Counselling Division, which has completed the valuation and negotiation of compensation for several large infrastructure projects, I have seen tension between the acquiring authority and landowners unfold. Based on those experiences, here are the Top 5 reasons property owners use to warn the acquiring authority to “Stay off my land!”

5. The Grudge

One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome is a landowner who simply does not trust the acquiring authority. Often this is because they have been forced to part with their land in the past to make way for an already established RoW, and their previous experience was not a good one. Landowners that are approached yet again may view the current acquisition as a way to “settle the score” for an acquisition they feel was handled poorly in the past. A landowner that has a longstanding negative view of the acquiring authority may be difficult to deal with from Day 1.

4. Uninvited Guests

Much like the stress caused by termites, cockroaches or your in-laws, many landowners worry about the uninvited guests that a new RoW across their land may bring: hunters, recreational vehicles or people looking for a quiet place to dump their garbage. These concerns generally involve worries about damage to the land, liability issues and environmental impact.

3. Au Naturel

Appearances can be deceiving, and sometimes scrub land that appears to have little value may offer far more than meets the eye. Land can harbour an abundance of natural resources from which its owners can profit, such as cultivated crops, gravel deposits, minerals and harvestable timber. Often overlooked is the cost to extract these valuable resources and the fact that market values in many areas already incorporate resource values. Remember to be conscious of over-counting and double-counting when it comes to compensation payments.

2. Nothing Will Ever Be the Same

The general impact of the new RoW is something that almost every landowner contemplates. Some consider the impact to be minimal and will be happy to support the project in exchange for fair compensation payment, but others view the impact as harmful and often have many legitimate concerns that should be addressed. Common concerns include changes to view planes, interference with access, increased noise levels, loss of windbreaks, parcel severance and health concerns.

1. The Greatest Subdivision that Never Was

If I had a nickel for every time I was told that a new RoW was impacting a future subdivision … well, I’d have at least a couple bucks! Impact on future development potential is hands down the most common theme that I have encountered. Sometimes legitimate subdivisions or lands ripe for development are disrupted by RoW projects, and in those instances landowners should be compensated accordingly. However, in my experience many of the “subdivisions” that RoWs just can’t seem to avoid are more of a dream than a reality.

Overall, I would say that the concerns expressed by landowners are often a blend of rational and irrational thought. The world is becoming a more sophisticated place, and landowners are better educated and have access to more information than ever before. In the past, liaison with landowners may have simply included a couple of phone calls and a pat on the back from an employee of the acquiring authority. Nowadays the representative of the acquiring authority should have an increasing number of abilities including exceptional interpersonal skills, above-average organizational skills, patience and training in real estate valuation techniques.

The representative of the acquiring authority should give all landowners the benefit of the doubt and listen carefully to all of their concerns without judgement. Listening to the concerns of a landowner and working with them to mitigate as many of these items as possible is a great way to gain a landowner’s trust. However it is important to be aware that some landowners will go to extreme lengths in order to disrupt the project or increase the compensation payable to them. Good record keeping and a genuine understanding of the burdens that a RoW may bring to a landowner are key.

In the end, you’ll rarely win over every landowner involved in a RoW acquisition, but by keeping these five points in mind, hopefully you can minimize the number of times you hear the phrase “STAY OFF MY LAND!”



Written by Matthew Smith, Manager of our Counselling Division. For more information about our counselling services, feel free to contact him at (902) 429-1811 or MSmith@TurnerDrake.com.

Monday, 15 August 2016 12:43:03 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Counselling
# Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The combined service of Turner Drake’s three most senior consultants is a staggering 110 years… and counting. Still swift of mind (if not of foot), they provide an unparalleled resource for our clients and give wise counsel to our own junior ranks. One of these senior consultants is Lee Weatherby, Vice President of our Counselling Division who is now well into his fourth decade of service with Turner Drake.

When Lee started with the company in 1981, we were operating nicely with cutting-edge typewriters, rotary-dial phones, and comfortable indoor plumbing. Already a veteran of the litigious world of expropriation, Lee was immediately able to share his training and experience with the local legal community. Over the years, he has worked alongside many lawyers, providing litigation support and forensic valuation advice. He has presented himself as an expert witness at countless trials, arbitrations, and mediation hearings, and while refusing to accept all the credit, it is worth noting that many of those who were once clients are now judges. And he was always nice to them.

Forensic valuation work is an invaluable tool when disputes arise. If you own real estate, you will have likely engaged with an irate tenant, landlord, insurance adjuster, assessor, or neighbour at one time or another. Any self-respecting lawyer will tell you that when serious disputes arise, negotiation is a far better solution than trial, and alternative dispute mechanisms are a happy middle ground for would-be combatants. Our own experience tells us that there are fewer litigants prepared to try their luck at trial, and for good reason. Inevitably, there will be some merit in both sides; when it comes to matters of real estate the challenge is to measure who has the best case and the best evidence to support it. The seasoned valuation expert will not only provide the underpinnings for your own case, but will also help to remove them from your opponent’s – presuming, of course, that your case is credible to start with. Exposing the frailties (and indeed the strengths) in your opponent will put you at a distinct advantage at the negotiating table, and greatly improve your chances of success should you decide to chance your luck at trial.

Thinking outside-the-box has long been a corporate philosophy within the halls of Turner Drake, and strategic thinking of one of the hallmarks of the Counselling Division. Challenging cases and unusual real estate assets are commonplace, and there aren’t many properties that Lee hasn’t encountered during his tenure with the company. He is never one to tire of the mundane, but tends to thrive on the more obscure challenges; from heavy water production plants to underwater burial grounds, from debunked bunkers of the cold war era to obsolete pulp and paper mills of the modern era. There is little that has not crossed his desk at one time or another and no challenge has ever been left unresolved. If you have a property that’s a real head scratcher, give Lee a call.




Lee Weatherby, Vice President of our Counselling Division. For more information about our counselling services, feel free to contact Lee at (902) 429-1811 or LWeatherby@TurnerDrake.com.
Tuesday, 29 March 2016 15:49:24 (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Counselling
# Thursday, 11 December 2014

Court work is one of the responsibilities - and hazards - of our profession. Valuation reports are often prepared to help settle disputes and assist with negotiations, but inevitably some cases will proceed to a court or arbitration hearing.  In my field of work, expropriations are the most common files to end up in the court room, where I will be obliged to attend and present evidence as an expert witness.  I can expect to be examined and questioned by lawyers for both sides, intent on casting me either as hero or villain depending on their client’s respective interests.  This is the ultimate test of professional accountability, and there is no doubt the role of expert witness can be an uncomfortable one even for the initiated.  The true objective is to survive with credibility still intact, but after 30 (plus) years in the business I have found there can be rewards.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

There will be no rewards if you are not properly prepared before entering the court room. It is not unusual for a case to be heard months, even years, after the work was done, by which time much of the detail will have been forgotten.  It is vital to take the time to review each page and every document in advance.  Fumbling through files in the witness box is unsettling - particularly if the client is watching.  It is akin to revising for exams; you know the information is in there, if only you could find it.  If the mantra of the real estate profession is location, location, location, then the slogan of the expert witness is prepare, prepare, prepare.  You’ll be glad you did.  This can be your finest hour… or your worst nightmare.

Taking charge of the witness box

Thorough preparation builds confidence and makes the presentation of your own evidence go much more smoothly, but most importantly it prepares you for the onslaught of cross examination. You rarely get an easy ride on cross examination.  The questions are intended to expose every flaw, magnify every error and batter the witness into submission.  But you are entitled to defend yourself; the witness box is your stage and you are entitled to perform when called upon.  

My colleague recalls an occasion before a particularly hostile and theatrical lawyer.  The cross examination began with a blistering attack, unleashed with menace and purpose, intended to reduce the witness to a quivering wreck right from the start.  He demanded an answer and was clearly prepared to wait all day till he got it.  The court room fell silent.  Not easily intimidated, the witness paused then calmly asked the court for a glass of water, drank it, and asked “Now, would you mind repeating the question, please”.  By which time the lawyer had forgotten the question and fumbled through papers trying to reconstruct the moment.  But it was lost. You could almost hear the applause.

The weight of the evidence

Don’t underestimate the power of paper.  “The one with the thickest file always wins” – or so they say, and I believe there is some truth to that when it comes to expert witnesses.  These days of course it’s the one with the most megabytes, but you can’t beat a thick file to demonstrate that the work was done thoroughly and diligently, full of supporting notes, data and analysis to defeat every question that might be asked.  Much of it might never be referred to but some of it will be entered into evidence and scrutinised.  I recently reached new heights at the weigh-in, hauling several boxes of material into the court room which were wheeled into place and unloaded in front of an expectant audience.  So effective was the reaction that I intend to repeat the performance on every occasion, filling boxes with dusty files from the basement if necessary.  “Question me at your peril; I have all the answers” is the message.

Testifying tips brought to you by our experienced expert witness and Vice President of our Counselling Division, Lee Weatherby. To learn more about Lee, visit our Team Leaders page or check out our Facebook page to get a little more intimate!

Thursday, 11 December 2014 12:54:47 (Atlantic Standard Time, UTC-04:00)  #    -
Counselling
# Thursday, 24 July 2014

1. Steel-Toe Boots/Shoes: Many industrial sites require steel-toe boots or shoes, however; they are handy to have at any inspection site, just in case you don’t see that raised curb or camouflaged sprinkler head. Better to be safe than sorry!

2. Camera: A picture is worth a thousand words… and will save you a lot of writing!  A good quality camera can help you relive that inspection experience firsthand once you’re back at the office.

3. Flashlight: The last place you want to be is under the street, in a dust covered 200 year old room that you just saw on Ghost Hunters last weekend... only to find out that the lights don’t work. Tip: If you’re often in the dark, invest in a headlamp… stylish and practical!

4. Batteries: Useful to power electronic measuring devices and the above referenced camera and flashlight. These tools aren’t much help without the juice!

5.      Extra Writing Utensils: Once I jogged across the street to quickly snap a picture of an apartment building but when I got back to the building I could not find my pencil for the life of me. So I stepped outside and looked around… only to find my pencil crushed to bits in the middle of the road.  Not to worry though, my back-up pencil and I completed the job just fine!

I recommend placing all of your inspection gear in a plastic tote that can easily be moved between the office and the trunk of your car.  By keeping everything in one place you will never forget to pack that one item you so desperately end up needing. 

Happy Inspecting!

Advice given by Matthew Smith, Consultant in Turner Drake’s Counselling division and Manager of our St. John’s office. For more real estate counselling advice, you can reach him at msmith@turnerdrake.com or 1 (800) 567-3033.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 15:41:07 (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Counselling