Are Canadian Hotels Overpriced?

Brian Flood • 8/13/2019

In our role as commercial real estate appraisers, we are tasked with providing value estimates on hospitality assets across Canada. In the current hospitality landscape, most of the country has seen substantial increases in property values over the past five years.

As values have continued to rise, we are increasingly asked “are current values (in the hospitality sector) too high?” and, “are these values sustainable?”

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The answer to the first question might seem obvious since current hospitality values are at a record high in many parts of the country. However, “too high” is a relative term and needs to be given some context. Are values significantly above historic levels? Yes, they are; however, these elevated values should be considered in the context of stronger operating results, increased earnings, and strong investor demand driving bullish investment parameters. Numerous sources indicate a strong growth in top line results over the last five years, and this has continued to extend into 2019, albeit with slowing growth.

Another factor impacting values is the incredibly strong demand for hotel investments. Capital continues to be attracted to the sector with new lenders and investors looking for opportunities

Are Canadian Hotels Overpriced

In our Valuation & Advisory practice, the primary method of valuation for hotels remains the Income Approach – Direct Capitalization and Discounted Cash Flow. Applying market-based capitalization rates to higher income levels has resulted in record per-room values in markets such as Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal. Markets such as Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Halifax have also seen strong value growth.

To validate our values, we reference market transactions to benchmark the value estimated through the Income Approach analysis. This approach has been a challenge of late with relatively few transactions of better-quality assets trading in key markets. When values rise, the market takes time to adjust to the new pricing, and there are often considerable spreads between initial seller and buyer expectations. As well, owners are often reluctant to trade well-performing assets and reinvest their capital unless pricing becomes compelling.

This lack of available hotel investments has motivated some investors to consider development as a way to enter or expand market presence. As a result, when pricing existing assets, investors are keenly aware of the cost to develop hotels. They are also aware that these hotel development costs have escalated in the last three years with land becoming an increasingly rare and expensive commodity. When factoring in the time and risk in developing a new project, investors are far more motivated to acquire existing assets.

In Q2 2019, we are beginning to see transactions occur that confirm the rise in income-based values. As these transactions close over the next three months, new value benchmarks will be set.

Historically, the hotel market has seen cycles in earnings and values. As the economy progresses, so does the hotel sector. Like the economy, despite periodic setbacks, the long-term trend has been upward, and we do not expect this to change. Of some concern is additions to room supply; however, the barrier to entry is relatively high given the scarcity and cost of land, and the cost to develop. As with any investment, a long-term hold strategy underlies successful investment in the sector.

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