Mainstreet Equity Corp. is a publicly traded (TSX: MEQ) residential real estate company in Canada. Established in 1998, Mainstreet has grown its portfolio from 272 units with a market value of approximately $17 million to 7,362 units and approximately $831 million market value. Mainstreet positions itself as a value creator by purchasing under-performing properties, renovating them to a branded standard, improving operating efficiencies and repositioning them in the market for greater returns. Mainstreet currently owns and operates properties in Surrey, BC; Abbotsford, BC; Calgary, AB; Edmonton, AB; Saskatoon, SK, and the Greater Toronto Area, ON.
Mainstreet focuses on the acquisition of mid-market multi-family properties. “Mid-market” is defined by size, location, condition, and state of management. Typically, mid-market properties have less than 100 units, making them less attractive to institutional investors. These buildings are often mismanaged and in poor condition, needing substantial renovations to bring them to market standards. The rents in these buildings are generally below market, which tends to attract tenants with weak credit. The state of the buildings and tenant base can create a downward spiral effect, where rents are slashed to attract tenants, but problem tenants create additional issues for the building management.
After Mainstreet purchases these undervalued buildings, we begin our renovation process. The units are transformed to Mainstreet specifications, with hardwood laminate flooring, ceramic tile, new bathroom fixtures, electrical upgrades, fresh paint, new countertops and energy efficient appliances, as necessary. In addition, Mainstreet often renovates the exterior of the building with vinyl siding and new windows where required. We landscape external common areas and install Mainstreet signage on all of our properties.
Mainstreet also reduces operating costs through professional management, information systems, and the use of energy saving equipment. We “cluster” buildings by purchasing a number of mid-market properties in a specific area. Where the property would generally require a live-in manager, Mainstreet positions one building manager to oversee approximately 150 – 200 units (four to seven buildings) in a specific area. This allows for substantial savings in management and maintenance costs, as well as marketing costs, including signage. Mainstreet also improves customer service by providing 24-hour access to emergency maintenance for tenants, managers close by to resolve issues and complaints, and a state-of-the-art information system to maintain tenant records and process payments.
After renovation, suites are re-positioned in the market at higher rents and attractive features for credit-worthy tenants. With the increase in rental income and reduction in vacancy and operating costs, cash flow increases significantly. That presents an opportunity for us to refinance the property with higher principal under long-term, CMHC-insured mortgages, typically resulting in the recovery of the entire capital expense and original equity investment. The funds raised through refinancing are used to acquire further under-performing assets, resulting in the continuous cycle of the Mainstreet Value Chain. Occasionally, Mainstreet will divest a stabilized property in order to redirect capital into properties with higher potential.