Investor Knowledge
June 10 2024

Enhancing Portfolio Performance Through a Leading Canadian Real Estate Solution

10 min read

What TD Asset Management Inc. (TDAM) has learned over 35 years of experience managing real estate investments with one of the longest tenured portfolios in Canada


At the core of the TD Greystone Real Estate Strategy is the conviction that sustainable income from quality assets and its growth are the primary drivers of long-term real estate returns.

Central to this strategy is the ownership of strategically significant real estate investments across Canada and not simply focusing on three major cities within the country.

The TD Greystone Real Estate Strategy emerges as one of Canada's premier open-ended real estate investment vehicles, with an impressive gross asset value exceeding $23 billion. Since its pooled fund inception in 2004, the strategy has delivered an annualized performance of over 9 percent, a testament to its effective management and strategic foresight.

Some of the members driving this success at TDAM's Global Real Estate Investment team are Luke Schmidt, Head of Transactions, Matt Sych, Head of Portfolio and Asset Management, and Mark Cooksley, Head of Development.


Prairie wisdom and portfolio management

Sych attributes the disciplined and risk-aware approach to the strategy's Prairie roots, emphasizing the importance of stability and long-term value in real estate investments. “We don’t overreact,” Sych states, highlighting a patient, measured approach to market fluctuations and trends.

He goes on to say, “With our firm initially established through Saskatchewan, we have a deep understanding of the critical, long-term role real estate plays in a pension portfolio."

Sych says that this understanding has always been fundamental to the firm's approach. "For over 35 years, we have managed every asset class, recognizing the long-term nature of real estate and the steady income and growth it contributes to the pension portfolio. Consequently, we maintain a steady course through various cycles, whether related to specific property types or broader financial crises, valuing the stability real estate brings to the overall pension portfolio's income.”

Sych also explains the decision to integrate multi-unit residential properties into the portfolio in 2008, citing a fundamental supply-demand imbalance and the segment's attractive attributes as an inflation hedge. Unlike commercial properties with longer lease terms, the shorter leases in residential real estate offer flexibility to adjust rents annually, capturing growth, while providing a very stable income stream.


Challenging CRE misconceptions

Within real estate, the office sector has largely been panned as dead. However, Cooksley confronts common misconceptions about commercial real estate (CRE), from the conflation with single-family housing markets to the premature obituaries of the office space sector. He argues for a nuanced understanding of CRE's unique value proposition, especially in terms of income growth potential.

“The notion that the office sector is dead is far from accurate. Despite facing challenges, the office market is alive and evolving. There has been a slower return to office spaces in both Canada and the U.S. compared to other parts of the world, yet there's a clear trend towards high-quality, well-located buildings with excellent transit connections and amenities. This shift is evident in our portfolio, reflected in both tenant demand and investment interest.”

Another misconception Cooksley addresses is that the single-family residential market cannot be accurately compared to commercial real estate. This is because income generation is not the primary factor considered when acquiring single-family residential properties.

Lastly, the idea that capitalization rates are directly tied to investment yields is a misconception. While cap rates do move with interest rates, their relationship isn't strictly linear. Unlike fixed rate bonds, cap rates can increase due to income rising faster than valuations, as was the case in 2022 and 2023. Moreover, commercial real estate's value is also influenced by its income potential and growth prospects, which can lead to a decrease in cap rates on a relative basis.


The cap rate environment

The current environment, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and reflation presents unique challenges and opportunities, with certain sectors like industrial and residential real estate seeing capital appreciation.

As Schmidt highlights, what sets this cycle apart is the varying impact on different property types. Unlike past cycles where all property types would generally rise or fall together, this downturn has seen a clear divergence. Industrial and residential sectors have experienced capital appreciation, a rarity in downturns.

Another distinctive aspect is the battle between rising cap rates and income growth, particularly notable in the industrial sector. Despite the upward pressure on cap rates and yields, the industrial sector saw significant income growth, offsetting these pressures and leading to value stability or even appreciation. The residential sector similarly kept pace due to strong income growth, unlike the office sector, which suffered from weaker fundamentals.

Diversification emerged as a key strategy in managing portfolio performance. Schmidt asserts, “By not being overly concentrated in any particular property type, we could maintain the stability and returns of our portfolio. The industrial sector, having led the market in recent years, was clearly an advantage for industrial-centric portfolios. However, it's now the residential sector that's taking the lead, and a more diversified portfolio will reap the benefits of this rotation.”

Schmidt notes that quality remains a constant factor in recovery from downturns. “Quality always tends to perform when we come out of down cycles. High-quality office, retail, and industrial properties will outperform.”

As to where the cap rates are going, Schmidt says, “At the start of this year, we're observing continued increased pressure on cap rates, particularly within the office and industrial sectors, and anticipate this trend might extend into the second quarter as well. However, with indications that interest rates may decrease later in the year, there's a growing sentiment that cap rates could be nearing their peak, potentially by the end of the second quarter or later into this year.”

The current outlook suggests we're nearing a turning point in the market cycle, with optimistic expectations for improvements in cap rates as we move into the latter half of the year. This nearing of the cycle's bottom is a positive development, signaling potential stabilization and recovery in the market's overall dynamics.


Embracing net-zero developments

The portfolio managers at TDAM take a very long-term perspective on all of their portfolio investments, and with that future-forward outlook, part of the strategy has been to look to net-zero developments where it makes sense.  

Cooksley says, “Our pioneering efforts in sustainable development have positioned us as a leader in the field, evidenced by our creation of Canada's first net-zero industrial building in Halifax, in partnership with Eastport Properties. This innovative project achieved a Zero Carbon Design certification from the Canadian Green Building Council, offering tenants the potential for negligible heating costs throughout the year, contingent on efficient building management. This achievement underscores our commitment to sustainability and the tangible benefits it brings.

“Our investment strategy is characterized by a long-term outlook, spanning 10 to 20 years, ensuring our portfolio remains aligned with future trends and values. This perspective extends to our development projects, where we prioritize sustainability alongside financial viability. By focusing on sectors like industrial and multi-family, we opt for slightly lower immediate yields in exchange for greater long-term income growth, liquidity, and asset value.

“Our commitment to sustainability is not only a fiduciary responsibility to our clients but also a strategic decision to future-proof our investments. For projects where net-zero construction is not immediately viable, we design with future electrification and conversion in mind, minimizing future costs and ensuring our buildings can adapt to evolving sustainability standards.”

By focusing on markets with strong growth metrics while avoiding capital-chasing assets, TDAM's real estate strategy has a track record of over 35 years which proves that strategic diversification and quality investment results in superior client outcomes in the ever-evolving real estate landscape.


The information contained herein is for information purposes only. The information has been drawn from sources believed to be reliable. Graphs and charts are used for illustrative purposes only and do not reflect future values or future performance of any investment. The information does not provide financial, legal, tax or investment advice. Particular investment, tax or trading strategies should be evaluated relative to each individual's objectives and risk tolerance.

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