Dear Urbaneer: What Are The Buyer Profiles For Multiplex Properties?

For Buyers, For Sellers, Real Estate


Welcome to this month’s installment of Dear Urbaneer, where I answer real estate queries from clients and inquisitive readers.

This time, I am guiding a Buyer who is seeking a multiplex property to house his multi-generational family and is finding himself in a crowded Buyer pool.



Dear Urbaneer:

I’ve been looking for a property that can comfortably (or that has the potential to) accommodate my multi-generational family. I have seen a few contenders, including vintage purpose-built multiplexes, but have lost in competition against other buyers on a couple of properties.

I was told that multi-unit dwellings are favoured by investors but it seems like it’s not limited only to them. Do you have any insights on who else would be seeking this type of property, and who I might be competing against? What are some of their motivations to buy?


On a Multi-Unit Mission



Here is my reply:

Dear Mission:

Yours is a great question. Whether you’re a Buyer or a Seller, it’s always helpful to understand the various Buyer Profiles and their motivations, and how those inform buying strategy.

If you’re a potential Seller of a multiplex, understanding the wishes, wants & needs of the different Buyer Profiles of your property type allows you to present and position your property most efficiently to each target market. From presentation to pricing to marketing, motivation matters for a quick and profitable sale.

For Buyers such as yourself, knowing which Buyer Profiles you may be competing against, how they analyze the market, and what their purchasing capacity might be can potentially help you craft an Offer that a Seller may find more appealing. Not every property sells for the highest price. As I write in my post Dear Urbaneer: What Are Your ‘Tried & True’ Tips For Competing In A Bidding War? sometimes other factors like a strong deposit, a Seller’s preferred closing date, or even your personal story, can be what sways a Seller to favour a Buyer.

Think about the multiplex property market, for a moment. The Buyer Profiles, which I’ll explore in more detail, will either be an End User and their (chosen) family who will occupy a portion or all of the dwelling or it’s going to be an Investor who will rent the units. The lens by which each of these profiles approaches any property is different.

End Users may be willing to pay a premium for existing features that support or elevate their lifestyle, and are exactly to their taste. After all, when we enter a property that we immediately can see ourselves living in, our desire informs our pocketbook. Furthermore, a property located in an End User’s current neighbourhood, or the school district their children attend, may be a high priority or even a Must Have. If these types of dwellings are rare in an End User’s preferred location the motivation to secure it will likely translate into a purchase premium. End Users may be seeking a specific unit count or configuration, whereas Investors may be more flexible because their focus is on rentability rather than meeting their personal spatial requirements. Like any Buyer on their search, one realizes the greater the specificity in wishes, wants, and needs, the more difficult it is to find the ideal property match. For End Users seeking a multiplex, finding the right fit for their (multigenerational) household is almost always harder to come by, and those bidding for them (and by extension on behalf of their families) may be more emotionally motivated to lock one down.

An Investor will view a multiplex property with a different lens, where their focus may be less about fixtures and finishes but about how they might realize the maximum return on investment. This might include seeking a property where there is the opportunity for more surface parking that they can rent to tenants or area residents. They may look at how the existing space plan can be modified to increase income, perhaps by adding additional bedrooms, splitting a large unit into two smaller ones, or even building storage lockers in a basement for additional rent. End Users tend to prefer multiplexes in quiet residential areas, whereas Investors are open to multiplexes on busy arterial roads, especially if the bus stop pulls up in front of the property. After all, tenants like that sort of instant convenience. Investors tend to be highly aware of their Investor competition: including corporate or institutional investors who might have more access to capital. Because institutional investors have deep enough pockets and often buy for the long term, they can push bidding out of reach of the Mom & Pop investor, so the Mom & Pop investor might adapt their buying strategy to acquire the property more quickly and aggressively – perhaps with a bully offer.



If there was a gift in the pandemic, for listing realtors who were obliged to meet every viewing party at the property they were representing to ensure everyone entering was masked, had sufficient hand sanitizer on, and understood they had to follow the directional arrows and not touch anything, life with social distancing allowed us to meet and gently interview every prospective purchaser with their agent to find out who they were and why they were viewing the property. Accessing this level of specificity provided valuable insights and information, particularly because Buyer Profiles vary depending on the dwelling type. It always resulted in an interesting commentary on both the perception of value and the dynamics of the real estate market at that particular point in time. 

In mid-November 2021, we listed and sold a purpose-built Edwardian duplex located near High Park, which had been meticulously maintained (and recently renovated) by our clients during the 25 years they had owned the property. Check it out here: A Stately Edwardian Duplex With A Lower-Level SuiteThis sale allowed us to better understand how the specific requirements of each Buyer Profile – and the lens through which they assessed this multi-unit dwelling – reflected their Offer Submissions.

When we brought the property to market on MLS the upper unit was vacant and sparkling clean, the tidy main floor tenants (who were related to the Sellers) were vacating by intention, and the Lower-Level tenant was on a recent 2-year lease that my clients – who liked him – had purposefully crafted to ensure he had housing security.



Backstory On Multiplexes, Rental Potential & Roadblocks

Property investors have a specific motivation, tied to the possibility of profitability. With higher interest rates and policies that aren’t always landlord-friendly, there are specific criteria front and center when they are looking at multi-unit properties.

With a provincial rent control policy in place for 30+ years (which currently applies to all dwellings completed before November 15th, 2018), landlords can only increase the rent on a rental unit annually by a maximum capped percentage without approval from the Landlord and Tenant Board. For 2024, the rent increase guideline cap is 2.5%.

This sum is disappointing if you’re a landlord, given Canada’s current inflation rate is 2.86% (compared to 3.40% last month and 5.92% last year). In fact, over the past ten years, the maximum allowable annual rent increase has ranged from 0.0% to 2.5%, averaging out to be 1.79%.

What does this mean? It means a dwelling under rent control generally sees its returns diminish over time if its tenants never move. This is because the real costs to manage and operate an aging income property are always on an upward trajectory, while the annual rent control caps are not. Here is my post that offers more insights called The Other Side Of Rent Control And Toronto Real Estate.

Because of this, most Investors looking to purchase a Multiplex prefer to purchase something recently constructed or substantially renovated with permits that are fully occupied by credible tenants paying current market rents, or they seek properties where some or several units are vacant.

This is because once they take ownership, they can make immediate improvements and place a tenant of their choosing at a current market rent which is often hundreds of dollars more per month than the previous rent. What investors prefer to avoid are 100% tenant-occupied buildings with long-term residents.

In the case of our listing – we steered our Sellers to list the property when the conditions ensured it would have maximum cross-appeal to several Target Markets.

In other words, having two purpose-built ‘house-sized’ units of around 1060 square feet each – vacant and vacating (being relatives imminently closing on a condominium purchase) + a Lower Level Income Supplement on lease for 2 years (of which the rent covered all operating expenses plus an additional $4500 per year toward Maintenance & Repairs) meant we could create a Sales & Marketing Program that targeted the following Buyer Profiles:

1) Multi-Generational & Chosen Families

2) End Users Seeking An Income Supplement

3) Property Investors

4) Single-Family End Users Willing To Deconvert.




Why Sometimes Listing A Multi-Unit Property Mostly Vacant Is Better

Multi-unit dwellings have long been a staple of Mom & Pop real estate investors who rely on the dwelling’s rental income stream and its capital appreciation to generate a profit. However, this is not the only Buyer Profile keen to acquire this housing type. In fact, over the past decade, it’s the ‘End Users’ – Buyers who want to have an occupancy of one or more of the suites for their personal use or the use of a family member – who have become a significant market seeking this dwelling type. As a realtor who serves this growing niche, I frequently assess the opportunities and constraints of multi-unit dwellings, including analyzing how the size, configuration, condition, location, and highest and best use may appeal to the various Buyer Profiles.

Right now, in Toronto and many other Canadian urban centres, there are four types of End Users purchasing Multi-Unit dwellings. The largest group is Multi-Generational Families who want to collectively live together while maintaining their private quarters. While this Buyer Profile has been part of this shelter ecosystem for decades the COVID-19 Outbreaks In Long-Term Care Facilities Fueled The Demand For Multi-Generational Housing. And with good reason, as I explored in this post: As We Start Calculating The Impact Of COVID-19, The Failure Of The Government To Care For Its Senior Citizens Becomes Apparent.

The second end-user Buyer Profile is Couples Living Apart Together. This market segment consists of couples who recognize that life is better when they each have independent living quarters. It may be a mature couple beginning a committed relationship late in life who are accustomed to living alone. Instead of cohabitating and risking relationship failure, they may jointly purchase a purpose-built duplex so they have their own private quarters. Or, two divorced adults might purchase a multi-unit property so that each partner and their children can occupy their own space as they begin their journey to become a blended family. I’ve also assisted separated and divorced couples purchase duplexes so they can each live independently while jointly raising their kids.

The third end-user Buyer Profile is people committed to cohousing with their chosen family (however that may look), preferably in a co-ownership arrangement where each household purchases part of a dwelling to occupy and build equity. Although this Buyer Profile is sizable, they consistently face obstacles because there are no mortgage instruments in Canada that allow multiple people to share the title of a property while holding independent mortgages. Rather, all borrowers must be on one mortgage leaving all parties liable should someone default. Along with the lack of financing options, there are also increased legal risks which often cools the level of interest or commitment. Here’s my post that addresses these issues, and others, in Dear Urbaneer: Can I Sell Part Of My House For Co-Ownership? However, with the recent introduction of As-Of-Right Multiplexes On Single Family Lots I anticipate we’ll see more Boutique Condos of two to five units which I explored in this 2020 post called Trending In Toronto: Single Family Houses Replaced By Boutique Condo Townhomes

The fourth end-user Buyer Profile is actively engaged by default. They’re the traditional nuclear familial household willing to deconvert a multi-unit dwelling into a single-family residence because it’s in a location they covet and the size is suitable despite its multi-unit configuration. This isn’t their ideal, but the ongoing lack of supply continues to prompt people to explore and consider all options.




End Users Want Vacant Possession

End users seeking a multi-unit dwelling consistently tell me – after outlining their shopping list of domestic wishes, wants, and needs – that they will only consider properties where the suite(s) they would reside must either be occupied by the current owner or vacant. Along with their resistance to serving the requisite ‘Notices To End A Tenancy’ which includes the obligation to financially compensate any tenants being evicted, they fear they will discover on closing that a tenant who had agreed to vacate has not, resulting in their having a very costly stressful delay of months with nowhere to live while they navigate the Landlord and Tenant Board to get vacant possession.

As a result, we encourage our clients to explore completing a Cash For Keys exchange with the Tenants renting their most desirable unit(s) so the best unit(s) is vacant when the property comes to market. It is essential to attract this Buyer Profile who are willing to pay a premium.

At the time we brought this property onto MLS, the Toronto real estate market was bonkers. Using the List Low Holdback Approach – where a property is brought to market at a ‘Too Good To Be True Price’ to garner attention and Offers are received on a Set Offer Date about a week later. One of the benefits of this approach is being able to execute a comprehensive marketing program trumpeting the suitability of the product to each of the target markets in advance of the Offer Date.

Ultimately, this resulted in more showings and a higher market value, although for this to work there has to be sufficient synergy in the market for the specific dwelling type at the time of listing. This is not often the case in Toronto’s current real estate climate.




Stately Edwardian Duplex With A Lower Level Suite, Steps To High Park

Gross Income $95,400

Annual Operating Costs: $13,728

Net Income $81,672


Listed for $1,799,000 on MLS using the List Low Holdback Approach, this nearly 3000 square foot three-unit property on a generous landscaped lot with 6 car parking steps to High Park was exposed to the market for 7 days before the Sellers received offers. Because we were executing this sale during the pandemic, 15-minute viewings for each Buyer Party were scheduled in advance within a set time frame.

Urbaneer team member Cynthia was on site ensuring that everyone entering the house had a liberal serving of hand sanitizer and a mask on with instructions not to touch anything and to follow the demarcated path. She also interviewed every Buyer group to find out who they were and why they had come to see our listing. Over the week 75 appointments were booked to view the property (including return visits by several prospective purchasers), of which 24 parties requested a copy of the presale inspection report.



On the Offer Date, 12 bids were registered and submitted for the Sellers’ consideration. Here is a synopsis of the buyer profiles and their offering sums:


• Multi-generational Home Seekers

5 Offers Ranging from $1,880,000 to $2,250,000

Of the 12 Offers, 5 of them were submitted by Buyers seeking a multi-generational property. This Buyer Profile generally submits solid offers in competition, not only because of how limited the supply of this housing type is but because it’s rare for all of the stakeholders in this Buyer Profile to reach a consensus.

However, when the property is right and everyone is on board, this typically affluent group can lock a property down against their competition. In this situation, this Buyer Profile had stronger offers than the other target markets.

But getting to that point can be difficult when it’s a multigenerational family. Each of the households has its extensive list of wishes, wants, and needs which have to be reconciled by the limitations of their budget. And then that housing matrix has to be combined with all the others in the manner of a Rubik’s Cube to fit perfectly. Needle in a haystack, anyone?

The benefit of the List Low Holdback Approach is that Buyers have a full week to process, revisit, and reconvene, before making a joint decision. However, once they do submit an Offer, getting them to respond and act quickly isn’t easy because there is so much joint decision-making necessary without a leader.


• End-Users Seeking An Income Supplement 

3 Offers ranging from $1,995,000 to $2,200,000

Buyers who are purchasing as end-users with an income supplement are wearing two hats instead of one. Rationally, they know what their threshold of affordability is as well as how much each of the units can rent for. It’s as simple as doing the math, right? But it’s rarely that easy for this Buyer Profile, who is not only purchasing to live in a ‘home’ but to buy a multi-unit piece of the real estate pie because it aligns with their investment objectives. Which can mean three things. One: They’re risk averse, so tenants serve as an extra buffer in paying the mortgage if something goes sideways in their lives. Two: They’re risk takers so having tenants means they can pay down their debt and get richer faster. Three: They’re risk-takers by being risk-averse.

This Buyer Profile always begins their best-case scenario where the tenants are paying all of the debt while they cover the operating expenses, maintenance costs, and repairs. By the Offer Date, the pendulum may have swung as far as their offering bid being the total of their down payment & closing costs plus the largest amount of mortgage debt they are qualified to borrow – or – the entire rental income being directed toward the total annual cost of the property (mortgage debt, operating expenses, maintenance & repair) plus the Buyer making up whatever shortfall that remains. This may, initially at least, mean their portion of the total monthly expense to live in the Prince Charming of bricks and mortar they bought exceeds what their suite would garner in the current rental market. Why? Because that’s what happens when your focus is on buying a home. When a property ticks all your boxes the price of admission is every cent plus $1 more than you have.


• Income Property Investors

2 Offers at $2,127,000 & $2,162,000

The Property Investor Buyer Profile is all about the hard numbers. They want to know the Income Stream and the Property Expenses. Every other factor of the property may be something for consideration but it’s secondary.

As I wrote in Turning A Blind Eye To The Real Costs Of Toronto Real Estate Investment Properties the real estate industry has become accustomed to providing the least information possible, or so it seems. If any of the units are vacant, the listing realtor often suggests their ‘Estimated Market Rent’ which I often find completely unrealistic, or they might mention the rent is attainable with ‘cosmetic improvements’ without any mention of how much this will cost. It’s annoying and misleading. And, sadly, very few consumers request more information so there’s no need or demand for more specificity. This drives me cuckoo because – despite their being extremely spread-sheet-centric – this Buyer Profile doesn’t ask very many questions. And they should! When I have a real estate investor as a client and a property comes to market that appears to match their objectives, the first email I lob to the listing broker essentially asks for a laundry list of Must-Haves.

This includes an Income & Expense statement, clarification on what tenants are on month-to-month and which ones are on leases (and for how long they’ve been residents), and do the rents include utilities, parking or storage, and use of the garden. And the majority of the time the Listing Broker tells me they’ll have to reach out to their Seller and see if they can get the information. Seriously?

During the scorching hot market (pre-interest rate increases), investors would be very focused on the Revenue Stream of a property but they typically didn’t pay attention to the economic lifespan of major building components nor assess the imminent Maintenance & Repairs of a multi-unit dwelling which I write about in  Dear Urbaneer: For Toronto Property Investors, What Are The Pitfalls Of Buying Older Dwellings?. However, now that the speculators (who were presenting as investors) and institutional investors (see Allied Properties REIT slumps to 2009 level on muted outlook and $510-million writedown) have withdrawn from the market, those building property portfolios are much more savvy and asking a lot more questions.


• End Users Seeking To Convert From A Duplex To A Single Family Dwelling With Lower-Level Suite

2 Offers at $2,000,000 & $2,075,000

In a hot real estate market, if the property is in the location a Buyer desires, they’ll probably check it out even if it doesn’t fully align with their objectives.

In the case of this dwelling, where ‘Location Location Location’ got top marks (steps to the subway line, Bloor West Village shopping, High Park, and a coveted school district), plenty of prospective purchasers toured the property with the idea of de-converting the two purpose-built suites into a single-family residence.

But here was the kicker. Single-family users tend to discount multi-unit properties by how much it will cost for them to make it their own, even if it’s in superb condition as an income property. Because it doesn’t fully satisfy their criteria, they will pay less than the Buyer who finds it suitable. This was the situation here, with this Buyer Profile submitting the lowest bids of the four target markets.




** The Outcome **

I’m always looking for what I call the ‘Gold Nuggets’, which are little comments spoken over the phone by a realtor perhaps, or a sentence in a client email that is rich in its point of view yet subtle in its delivery. These unexpected insights often provide clues that inform me on how best to steer the outcome optimally.

In this case, the eventual Buyers – a couple who were End Users Seeking An Income Supplement – were being represented by a realtor who was also her father.

In a conversation with him during Offer submissions, he shared that he had raised his children in a house on the same street just around the corner and that his daughter, five months pregnant with her first child, had a deep desire to provide her children in the same idyllic setting.

That was a Gold Nugget. In the world of real estate, just as the Endowment Effect explains how individuals place a higher value on items they own, compared to items they do not own, the person who is physically closest to a property for sale is the person most likely to accord it the highest value. Of the 12 Buyers, the fact that this Buyer had grown up on the street indicated these were the folks most likely to pay Top Dollar.

To put the sale together, I had the cooperating broker resubmit a final offer with his commission excluded. With it included, the sale price would have been $2.306,000.

This was a fascinating sale. It provided a lot of insights into the dynamics of the multi-unit real estate market that has continued to serve me and my clients.


With a comprehensive approach, that includes deep research and relies heavily on data-driven strategy, for both Buyers and Sellers, I’m here to help!



If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy these other articles:


All Residential Properties In Toronto Can Now Become 4 Units As-Of-Right

The Other Side Of Rent Control And Toronto Real Estate

Dear Urbaneer: What Are The Important Considerations Surrounding Multi-Generational Housing?

Living Apart Together And Toronto Real Estate

The Number Of Owners With Multiple Properties Is Increasing In Toronto. Here’s Why!

Build A New Multi-Generational Family Residence, Co-Housing For 4 Friends, An Income Property Or A Small Condominium In East York, Toronto

Dear Urbaneer: What Are Your ‘Tried & True’ Tips For Competing In A Bidding War?



Want to have someone on your side?

Since 1989, I’ve steered my career through a real estate market crash and burn; survived a slow painful cross-country recession; completed an M.E.S. graduate degree from York University called ‘Planning Housing Environments’; executed the concept, sales & marketing of multiple new condo and vintage loft conversions; and guided hundreds of clients through the purchase and sale of hundreds of freehold and condominium dwellings across the original City of Toronto. From a gritty port industrial city into a glittering post-industrial global centre, I’ve navigated the ebbs and flows of a property market as a consistent Top Producer. And I remain as passionate about it today as when I started.

Consider contacting me at 416-845-9905 or email me at It would be my pleasure to personally introduce our services.

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Thanks for reading!


-The Urbaneer Team

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-800


– we’re here to earn your trust, then your business –

Celebrating Thirty-Four Years As A Top-Producing Toronto Realtor


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