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Ranking Yellowknife’s Apartment Buildings

Under education and advocacy, rental markets, yellowknife

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Written on January 27th, 2021

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Every year, we at Century 21 Prospect Realty receive dozens of phone calls and e-mails from folks inquiring about rental options in our fine city.  Rentals are not really a core part of our business (although we do work closely with an excellent property management company – Direct Property Management), but when this many people come to us for information it seems like a good opportunity to provide a useful service.

This will be our first in a series of articles aimed at providing information to renters, and we figured we would start by trying to answer a very common question – What Are the Best Apartment Buildings in Yellowknife?

In most cities, the two principle ways to determine the quality of an apartment building or of an apartment unit would be to ask other renters, and to tour the unit in person.  In Yellowknife, we believe there is a third way – and we’ve used it to create our first annual ranking of apartment buildings.  But rather than lose a bunch of readers with a lengthy discussion about our methodology, let’s jump straight to the ranking and then we’ll discuss details later.  Here it is:

Important Notes About Our Ranking

  1. The list above is not exhaustive – there are other apartment buildings in town.  But we believe we have captured most of them, and in particular those that would be ranked in the top ten or fifteen.  If you live in an apartment building, or if you manage an apartment building and would like to see it added to our ranking, please e-mail us at prospectrealty@century21.ca.
  2. Some of the rental rates in the far right column were obtained from the property managers’ websites, but not all of them post their rates online.  So for some of them we obtained the information from actual tenants.  If you are a tenant or property manager and you disagree with the rental rates posted above, let us know and we’ll make adjustments.
  3. When it comes to rental rates, it can be difficult to know if we are comparing apples to apples.  For example, we do not know if the rates for the top two buildings include parking.  If you have information that would help us nail down these rental rates, please contact us.
  4. We will update this ranking annually to capture current rents and to account for renovations and other improvements.

How Our Ranking Works (Methodology)

To arrive at the ranking above, we took the assessed value of the buildings (not the land, just the buildings) and divided them by the total square footage of the buildings, to arrive at a value-per-square-foot figure.  In most cities in Canada a ranking like this would be meaningless, because in other cities the assessed value of property is based on market value.  So in Halifax or Vancouver you might end up with a really beat-up old apartment building on a pristine piece of land, and it would end up very high in a similar ranking.  But here in the Northwest Territories, the assessed value of a building has nothing to do with market value, it is based on the depreciated replacement cost of a building.  So buildings that were well built, well finished and are not very old rank highest on the list, as do buildings that have received a  lot of renovations (every time a landlord pulls a permit to renovate a bunch of units, or to replace the siding on a building, the assessed value goes up to reflect the new investment).

There are some wrinkles with our method, however, and they should be pointed out.  Sometimes the City’s property assessor makes mistakes.  The assessor does not inspect every house and building in town from top to bottom (because that would be incredibly expensive) so he or she makes certain assumptions about the condition of a building, and sometimes those assumptions turn out to be incorrect.  Building owners can appeal the assessment, and they often do, because they pay taxes based on assessed value and don’t want to overpay.  Usually the appeal process results in an accurate assessment of the building.  But not all mistakes are noticed by landlords, so there may still be some errors on the list above.  That might explain why, for example, Fort Gary Apartments ranked as high as it did using our method.  You can see from the advertised rent for Fort Gary (the far right column) that the landlord considers it to be worth less than several others. In fact it is tied for last place in terms of advertised rent.

Another possible problem is our square footage calculation – which is very simple and definitely not perfect.  What we’ve done is trace the roofline of the buildings using the City if Yellowknife’s geomatics platform, City Explorer, and then multiplied by the number of floors.  We’ve included our measurements in the table so that others, including landlords, can review them and let us know if they think an error has been made.

The biggest thing missing from the list above, of course, is condominium units that are available for rent directly from the unit owners.  Determining assessed values for condo buildings is not as simple,  but we’re working on slightly different type of ranking and we’ll be publishing it soon, so stay tuned.

There are a few asterisks in the chart above, and here are the explanations for those:

*We were unable to exclude the old pool building from the Fraser Tower assessment value, so the value per square foot should probably be slightly higher.

**Older and newer buildings on the property are mixed together – we were unable to isolate the assessment value for the older building.

***Assessment not provided on City Explorer