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Rental Property Mastery in Victoria, BC and Beyond: Tips for New Investors

Hey folks. Today, we're diving headfirst into the intriguing world of rental property investment, with some specific tips for those looking in Victoria, BC. So, if you're ready to embark on this real estate adventure, buckle up because we're about to share some great information!

Tips on Buying Your First Rental Property in Victoria, BC

Let's kick things off with some essential tips for those of you who are venturing into the world of rental properties in the heart of Greater Victoria.

Carefully Research each Neighborhood

First and foremost, it's all about location, my friends. Victoria is a gem with a diverse range of neighborhoods, each with their own unique character. Do your homework and study these areas like you're prepping for a final exam.

Victoria boasts a variety of neighborhoods, from the bustling downtown core to the quieter suburbs. Consider what kind of tenants you're targeting. Are you looking for young professionals, families, or retirees? Each neighborhood caters to different demographics. Some are bustling with nightlife, while others are serene and family-friendly.

For instance, the downtown area might attract young professionals who want to be close to work and entertainment. At the same time, families often make their way out to the suburbs of Westshore for a quieter environment and good schools and more affordable family homes.

In general it's crucial to understand the local vibes, the potential for growth, and the amenities nearby. Don't just look at today; think about the future. Is there an infrastructure development planned? What's the job market like? These factors can significantly impact your investment's success.

If you hear about a new tech company setting up shop in a particular neighborhood, it could lead to an influx of young professionals, increasing the demand for rental properties in that area. For example, downtown Victoria is currently developing the latest Telus Garden complex which is bound to attract tons of good paying tech jobs both within Telus and in the offices of other tech businesses that start leasing space in this upcoming commercial building. For real estate investors looking for high income tech professionals, a condo in the downtown core could be the perfect match.

Regardless of where you're looking though, local investors are in a great position. The Greater Victoria area has plenty of growth, jobs, and appeal. All things that bode well for a long-term property investment.

Be Wary of High Vacancy Rates

Now, let's talk about something often overlooked that can make or break your investment - vacancy rates. High vacancy rates can turn your dream rental property into a financial nightmare.

Victoria is, a vibrant city with a thriving job market, which enjoys low vacancy rates. However, it's not one size fits all. If the market had a dramatic shift, or you started looking in a different city you may start to see higher vacancies, which means more extended periods without rental income.

As an example, let's say you're looking at a property in a neighborhood with a history of high vacancies. Even though the property might seem like a great deal, the reality is that you might need help finding tenants, leading to unneeded financial stress.

Don't just take the seller's word for it. Dig into the local rental market statistics, talk to other landlords, and get a feel for the demand in your target area. Be aware of the market dynamics; it can save you from potential headaches.

One approach is to contact a local real estate agent or property management company to gather data on vacancy rates in different neighborhoods. This data will give you a more accurate picture of the rental market.

Another variable to keep in mind that's similar to vacancy, is property turnover. This is specific to strata complexes (i.e. condos/townhomes). If you find a property in a strata where you notice a lot of sales happening, take a closer look. This could be an early warning sign of a major red flag. While it could be a simple coincidence, sometimes a lot of owners are motivated to sell when they know a special assessment for a big expense is coming down the pipe. Unlike some Provinces like Ontario, BC gives stratas a lot of flexibility in how they manage their contingency reserve funds. That means that a strata that's not well run can get into trouble fast if they aren't keeping up with maintenance and putting away enough money for a rainy day.

Be Conservative When Estimating Expenses and Profits

Okay, let's get down to the nitty-gritty - the numbers. It's vital to be conservative when estimating your expenses and profits. Don't get caught up in the excitement, overestimate your potential rental income, or underestimate your costs.

Regarding expenses, consider property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, strata fees, and any other property management fees you might incur. Remember, unexpected repairs and renovations can hit you when you least expect them, so build a cushion into your budget. This is a little different if you're buying a condo unit or a townhouse, since part of your strata fee is put into a reserve fund to help pay for future maintenance. Keep in mind though, as mentioned above, every strata is managed differently. While some stratas do a good job of staying on top of maintenance, building up a healthy reserve fund, and regularly increasing strata fees to stay on top of expenses, not all stratas are the same. This is especially true with some of the older condo buildings near downtown Victoria. Some of these places haven't kept up with raising funds and taking care of necessary maintenance. If you find a property where the building/structure is in bad shape and the reserve fund is low, run! There's nothing worse than buying a property that has a bunch of expenses coming down the road in the form of one or more special assessments.

Now for single family homes that's a different story. Let's say you're considering a property requiring regular maintenance due to age. You need to factor in the cost of care and the potential downtime when the property is not generating rental income. Ideally, if your property needs a lot of work, it's best to get that done quickly before you start to rent out your home.

It's also a good idea to consider a property's potential for appreciation. While cash flow is essential, a property's value increase over time can be a significant financial boon. If you buy a property in a neighborhood undergoing gentrification, you might see substantial appreciation in just a few years.

Run the numbers repeatedly, and don't rush into a deal that doesn't make financial sense. It's better to pass on a property than be drowning in unexpected expenses.

Consider Hiring a Property Manager

Let's delve deeper into the significant game-changer in rental property ownership: hiring a property manager. Many aspiring landlords may initially lean towards managing their properties hands-on. This often makes a lot of sense for your first rental, and may be manageable with two or three. However, at a certain point you may need to lean on the expertise of a property manager. Overseeing a rental property is a substantial responsibility that demands your full attention. As life changes over time and your investment grows, this may become an option you want to consider.

A property manager can indeed become your secret weapon in this venture. They take on many tasks, from finding suitable tenants to handling maintenance requests and addressing challenging situations involving disruptive renters. While it's true that property managers come with a cost, typically taking a percentage of the monthly rent, the benefits they offer can often outweigh the expenses in the long term.

Imagine you have a tenant who consistently falls behind on rent payments and is causing disturbances within the property. In such a predicament, a property manager's invaluable experience and in-depth knowledge of local rental laws can make a difference. They can effectively mediate these situations, while keeping you compliant with all of the relevant regulations.

It's crucial to emphasize that hiring a property manager goes beyond mere convenience; it's about tapping into their expertise. These professionals are well-versed in the intricacies of rental laws and regulations, ensuring that you, as the property owner, avoid inadvertently finding yourself in legal trouble.

Property managers also often have an extensive network of reliable contractors and service providers, which can be especially beneficial when repairs or maintenance are required.

When contemplating your first rental property, consider hiring a property manager. Their ability to handle the day-to-day intricacies of property management and their expertise can save you time, reduce stress, and help safeguard your financial investment. It's a wise move that can contribute significantly to your success as a landlord in this beautiful part of Canada. So, pay attention to the importance of this decision as you embark on your real estate journey.

Look for a Move-in Ready Home

When searching for your inaugural rental property, the allure of a fixer-upper might be tempting, promising potential savings. However, tread cautiously, especially if you lack a background in construction or renovation. Opting for a move-in ready home is often the wiser choice.

The pitfalls of purchasing a property that needs extensive renovations can quickly transform your investment dreams into a nightmare. Unexpected structural issues can arise, blowing your budget and timeline out of proportion, which is particularly daunting for a first-time landlord.

Let's say you embark on a renovation project, optimistic about your abilities to handle it, only to encounter unforeseen challenges that strain your resources and patience. Suddenly your plans to start renting within the first couple of months have stretched into half a year due to contractor delays, and newly discovered home defects that have to be addressed for safety. All the while, that long anticipated sweet rental income has been swapped out for 6 months of unforeseen expenses as you continue to carry the mortgage and pay for ongoing renovations.

In contrast, an already well-maintained property eases your responsibilities and holds more significant appeal to potential tenants without having to make substantial changes. You can command higher rent and attract longer-term renters, reducing the risk of unforeseen, costly surprises.

Imagine a prospective tenant walking into a meticulously maintained, move-in-ready home. They're more likely to envision themselves residing there. They may also be willing to pay a premium for the convenience and peace of mind that comes with a property in excellent condition. You find the right tenant, collect the deposit, sign the lease, hand over the keys, and now you're making money!

So for a first time rental purchase, prioritizing a move-in-ready home for your first rental property investment can enhance your chances of success. If you still decide to purchase a project home, make sure the renovations are light and mainly aesthetic in nature, that way you don’t have to worry about substantial cost and delays.

Bottom Line

So, what's the bottom line, my friends? Buying your first rental property can be an exciting venture, but it's challenging. Take your time to research neighborhoods, be vigilant about vacancy rates and turn over, and run the numbers like a pro.

Be conservative in your estimates and consider hiring a property manager if it makes sense, that way you can save time and stress. If you're making a first rental purchase look for a move-in ready home to minimize the risk of unexpected renovations and to attract quality tenants without delay.

Remember, real estate investment is a long game. Take your time with finding deals that make financial sense. Do your due diligence, and when you find the right property, you'll be well on your way to becoming a successful landlord. It's a journey that can be both financially rewarding and personally fulfilling and with the right approach, you can make it work for you. Good luck out there!

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I am a Victoria-based local realtor with eXp Realty. My commitment to honesty, integrity, loyalty, and hard work have been essential pillars for me because they drive a high standard of excellent service for my clients. Helping you realize your dream is my goal!

I service Vancouver Island, but my focus is on Victoria, Sooke, Saanich, Malahat, Shawnigan Lake, Cobble Hill, Duncan, and the rest of the Cowichan Valley.



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