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The Black Triangle of East Edmonton Eats New Investors

First time Real Estate Investors, often out-of-town seminar grads, come charging into Edmonton and buy where the property is the cheapest.

It’s Cheap for a Reason

I shake my head whenever a client calls to tell me his new property is in East Edmonton. One client bought what he called a “3-plex.” In reality it was a 1935 2-storey house converted into 3 suites. The existing tenant profile included a hooker in the basement, a drunk on the main floor, and the hooker’s boyfriend upstairs. The client was able to get out 18 months later, and made out okay due to the rising market.

The Old Time Realtors chuckle as the new seminar grads arrive to buy the cheapest house they can find. The newbies are repeat business…they’ll be selling again shortly as they try to get out.

First time investors should stay out of the Black Triangle of East Edmonton

In Edmonton, 7 out of 10 of the cheapest listings are in areas like Boyle Street, Norwood and McCauley. They are to Edmonton what East Hastings is to Vancouver.

This can be a great area for experienced investors, but it’s not for the inexperienced. Specifically, avoid the area bounded by Yellowhead Trail to the North, the North Saskatchewan River to the south, 97th Street to the West and ending in Rundle Park to the east. (N.B. North-East Edmonton starts north of the Yellowhead Trail.)

Edmonton's Black Triangle of Real Estate Investment

(Chris’s note: It’s really more of a polygon, but
Edmonton’s Black Polygon just doesn’t have the same ring)

East Edmonton is a neighbourhood in transition. There are differing opinions as to whether it’s a transition up or a transition down. This area was a traditional blue collar or working class neighbourhood, and is home to many of Edmonton’s immigrant neighbourhoods. Little Italy, Little Portugal and China Town are all located in this area. There are pockets that are good areas, such as Highlands, but only if you’re very careful.

Currently drug houses and prostitution are two major activities in this area. The police are actively working on the crime issues, and there are a number of initiatives to try to revitalize the area, but these folks will still need somewhere to go, and it’s not perfect yet.

Foundationally Strong?

The typical house was constructed prior to World War II, or more than 65 years ago. Foundations run the full range from none at all or dugout basements to brick or rock, and full basements. The cold winters cause freeze/thaw damage; these basements eventually fail, and require major structural repairs. Electrical panels are typically too small and must be upgraded in order to get them insured. Gravity furnaces can still be found, although rarely. Capital Health, the local public health board, routinely condemns homes in East Edmonton, usually citing structural deficiencies.

Wood frame houses in Edmonton typically have a 75 year life span, so many areas of East Edmonton are at the end of their economic life, and the area may become a prime redevelopment zone in the next 25 years. In the mean time, it’s not the place for new investors.

Brent Davies

Property Manager
The King of Eastwood
Davies Management & Realty Ltd.

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Julie Broad December 1, 2010, 11:22 am

    What a great post! I don’t invest in Edmonton but we’ve definitely made the mistake of buying the cheapest properties because they have the best cash flow numbers (on the surface anyway). Gotta love this because I relate … not as the realtor but as that newbie so many years ago: The Old Time Realtors chuckle as the new seminar grads arrive to buy the cheapest house they can find. The newbies are repeat business…they’ll be selling again shortly as they try to get out.

    Hope folks investing in Edmonton or anywhere pay careful attention to what you’re sharing because every city has an area where properties are cheaper … most of the time they are cheaper for a reason … and if you’re not equipped to deal with that reason (and when you’re new you probably aren’t) then it’s not going to be a good deal at all.

    Great stuff!!!

    • Chris December 2, 2010, 9:24 pm

      Thanks Julie, it’s interesting to look back at this post now that I’m a Realtor myself.

  • Liam Copeland October 8, 2012, 9:01 am

    Thx for the knowledge, Chris and Brent. As the self-proclaimed “King Of Eastwood”, I’d expect a little more respect to the young families and home owners working hard at building their neighbourhood into a young multicultural central community filled with art, character and all around great people. The home owners in this community are working hard at removing the houses purchased by slum lords that rent to the people supporting crime, drugs and prostitution. The police in the area are working hard at recognizing these homes and hot spots and helping the community by increasing presence and removing them. Your ignorance disgusts me. Living in the suburbs is for soul-less citizens scared by the media and people like you, while their spoiled children create more pointless vandalism than any crime we see in our community. Your stab at anywhere in the “black triangle”, other than your precious Highlands is ridiculous, and your need to point out that the area is home to many of “Edmonton’s Immigrant Neighbourhoods” has me believing I’ve chosen the right place to bring my child up in our fine city, although you may have meant it to be a reason for the crime, drug houses and prostitution. In that case, you’d also be a racist.

    • Chris November 3, 2012, 1:19 pm

      Great place to live, yes. You don’t want inexperienced slumlords with insufficient cash coming in to bring down the area further. You’re proving our point that you don’t want bad, inexperienced landlords either.

  • Earl Cameron October 8, 2012, 9:29 am

    Very well spoken Mr. Copeland. Young families working hard to build their neighbor, than you get slum landlords, which probably is Davis Management selling to these low-lifes. And to mention Immigrants is a racist comment. i am glad people like yourself can speak out against such ridiculous articles like this.

    • Chris November 3, 2012, 1:36 pm

      Again, as I said to Mr. Copeland, you’re proving our point. This is an area that’s crying out for young families, new businesses and people of vision. What the point of this post is to discourage inexperienced and underfunded landlord-wannabes from targeting what might look cheap. I don’t appreciate the shot at our former company, but that’s your call. Identifying an area that’s higher in people new to Canada is an important local and federal concern, giving rise to the ability to plan resources, housing and supports to respond to realities, not racism. (http://www.edmontonsocialplanning.ca/content/view/1078/255/)

  • Caleb October 8, 2012, 3:57 pm

    I would hardly consider riverdale part of the black triangle.

    • Chris November 3, 2012, 1:37 pm

      Agreed, you and I can tell that, but a new investor breezing into town can’t and there’s few good investments there anyways. This is a post about encouraging investors to look for value, rather than buying stuff that’s cheap.

  • Sharon Blondin December 20, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Cheap shots at former (or current) companies doing business in this area are flotsam to the real issues.
    When I call a retailer, or restaurant in that area, respondents have no problem telling me they are in ‘Little Italy’. These people, nor I, am rascist.
    ‘Get Rich Quick’ seminars on land buying and other semimars promoting fast financial gain aren’t concerned with the complexities you mention here. Conscientious realtors will spell out the pros and cons to an investor ‘new’ or ‘experienced’. No area is doomed to be a ‘black hole’ forever when the right motives and the right people come together.

  • Trevor Cadieux January 23, 2014, 10:55 pm

    Not sure if this article is still active but a question for those more savvy than myself. I’m a first time buyer an young professional looking for a comfortable sensible new home for my family. I have seen an unbelievable place on the north west end of abbotsfield road and I would just like to know if it’s as terrible a neighborhood as I’ve heard? I know it’s on the rougher end of the scale but is it scared for my life walking to the store rough or just don’t leave purses etc on the car seat rough.

    • Chris January 24, 2014, 8:30 am

      That’s a good question. I don’t think it’s that terrible right now. I have clients with rental properties there and it attracts nice tenants. I’m a little worried how it’ll age over time with so many revitalization programs in other areas. Then again, the NE leg of the henday will help breathe some new life into the area.

  • Esther April 3, 2014, 10:56 am

    This post dates from 2008. Have you been in these areas lately? Maybe you need to have another post as what these areas have become. This post will just prevent investors, or families, who can potentially be the change, move in these area. My question is: how can you make an area better if you’re telling everyone to stay out of it, and let the drug dealers and prostitutes know that it’s “their” areas? The mayor working at making these areas better and what is needed is new people moving in these areas.
    It is no longer only filled with immigrants or drug dealers or prostitutes; people who work in fort Saskatchewan, in Sherwood park, in Nisku move to these areas, because the proximity of Yellowhead and the Henday now, make it one of the best place to be in Edmonton. Close to downtown and to the south end via Yellowhead and Anthony henday.
    An area which “suffer” mostly from negative comments than actually prostitutes or drug dealers…
    I will be looking out there for your new comments about these areas.
    Sorry if your client was inexperienced, couldn’t make a difference between a 3-plex and a 2 storey house and chose to rent his place to hookers and drug dealers, I don’t believe it’s the area fault, but just someone who needed to learn more about properties in Edmonton and being a landlord…
    Thanks

    • Chris December 18, 2014, 4:09 pm

      Esther, you’re right about a huge swath of that area and six years on there’s been a lot of change. Maybe one day we’ll re-draw things. I still have some concerns about the Quarters and how it’ll impact migration further east for some populations.

  • MJR May 21, 2014, 11:28 am

    Yep, that area of Edmonton is still a crime riddled with houses built over 80 years ago. There is a reason why rent is so cheap over there. All one has to do is pull up the EPS crime map… that area has as many if not more crimes than Downtown and Downtown has a MUCH higher population density. Change will only happen in the area when the city stops urban sprawl, which is out of control. Until then who would want to ever buy a place here if you’re new to the city when you can get a brand new house/ townhouse/ condo in a nice new neighborhood? As somebody with a young family would you rather go live in a brand new place in a new neighborhood with a new school or move to somewhere and let your kids play on crime riddled streets where drug addicts roam at night? Get the city to stop urban sprawl and you will see new people moving into neighborhoods like this and change will slowly occur.

    • Chris December 18, 2014, 4:10 pm

      MJR, I agree. It’ll be interesting to see how the re-working of the zoning bylaws helps, particularly allowing 50′ pockets in RF1 lots will facilitate infill.

  • LJK September 8, 2014, 6:51 pm

    Lol that triangle desperately needs to be redrawn…. Riverdale and Highlands might eat up new investors but only because they cant afford the mortgages… 😛

    • Chris December 18, 2014, 4:11 pm

      They’re great areas, true.

  • Matt G October 13, 2014, 2:03 am

    I find it hard to believe that you even live in Edmonton. This so called “black triangle” is a huge swath of land with tens of thousands of people living within its “boundaries”. I’m not one of them, but I can guarantee you that I would feel safe in 90% of this triangle.

    • Chris December 18, 2014, 4:14 pm

      Matt, you’re forgetting that it’s an old post and that it’s tough for a person brand new to town to distinguish between a nice old house in Delton from one just 6 blocks away which might be next to a hooker pick-up spot. Without ongoing supervision absentee landlords end up having properties which rapidly go downhill. It’s intended to be more a comment about the problems related to poor landlords than the area.

  • Mike July 9, 2016, 6:37 pm

    Youre a goof Chris. Nerdy people like you would do better staying out of the “Black Triangle” haha you must be a very scared person to come up with such an idea. I’d rather live next to poor working class people than some goof like yourself any day.

  • Dustin December 12, 2016, 4:01 pm

    Sold my home in Westmount and moved to the “black triangle” two years ago. I haven’t looked back. Love the neighbourhood and how accessible everything is. 15-minute walk to Churchill square or Rogers’ Place. 3 LRT stations with a 4th in the works. More than 60 restaurants. What’s not to love?

    • Timothy April 21, 2017, 12:30 pm

      You prolly saved a bundle too!!

  • Timothy April 21, 2017, 12:29 pm

    I grew up in the best neighbourhoods in the west end, my parents always built their homes. My first two homes were also on the west end. In 2014 I bought a bungalow in Delton and I LOVE it. I proudly proclaim to all my cookie cutter home friends in the Hamptons and Windemere that I’d NEVER go back to the suburbs. Delton is very quiet, clean and in regards to safety – the same rules apply to any neighbourhood in Edmonton – lock your doors, don’t leave valuables out in plain sight.

    I lived in Potter Greens and there was a grow-op in one of the 2500+ sq ft homes a couple blocks away. And two doors down from my childhood home in Jamieson Place I heard there was a grow-op in there as well.

    In a town where literally anyone can make doctor money – neighborhoods are full of different characters. The delineation isn’t the same as in other major centers. Some of the kindest, proud people are in the “Black Triangle”. And as an earlier post stated, some of the entitled, “my parents are rich but I’m still gonna be a criminal” kids are in the choice neighbourhoods.

    All this said, I do understand where you were coming from. There’s no need for underfunded landlords to further mess up these neighbourhoods. I can say all these years later from this post, there are more people like myself saving 100K and choosing to raise their families in these beautiful mature parts of town and it’s great.

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