Building your investment

The solid rental market in Cranbrook makes this a good time to invest in income property

Bruce Murdoch started building homes in the early ’90s, and founded K-Country Homes in Cranbrook, B.C., in 2007. His specialty is multi-family investment-type housing, but he will certainly design and build you a single-family home if you want one.

“If someone comes to us with a housing concept, we can design and build it,” Murdoch said. “Mostly we’ve been doing investment-style buildings that are built to be sold or leased out.”

A great time to invest in housing

Murdoch said that at present there is a shortage of quality family homes available for rent in Cranbrook, so it’s a good time to build a multi-family dwelling as an investment. The solid rental market pretty much guarantees that the investment will pay for itself.

“I built this fourplex on Kelowna Crescent (in Cranbrook) on the basis of knowing that even though the sales market is slow right now, the rental or lease market is very solid,” Murdoch said.

He knows his market

Murdoch describes K-Country Homes as “kind of a one-man show.” He picks the site, he buys it and works out what will fit best on the property, maximizing the view and other elements. Once he’s made drawings of a floor plan, he sits down with a draftsperson to do the detailed design.

K-Country Homes incorporates the features that people tend to want, including a large master bedroom and ensuite, and an open kitchen with granite countertops and a walk-in pantry. One of the standard design components in all of the Murdoch homes is a laundry room on the same floor as the bedrooms. Each unit in the Kelowna Crescent fourplex has a 300-square-foot basement space, perfect for a family room.

“We’re trying to give our clients a really nice home at a reasonable price,” Murdoch said, “with all the special touches that they’re looking for so they can enjoy them for a long time.”

Sweetening the offer

During his years of experience, Murdoch has become skilled at cost-effective building, and this has prompted him to introduce his Project Partnership Program.

“The idea is that we will bring in the buyer in a partner-like relationship and generate instant equity on the project for them,” Murdoch said. “The buyer and I would team up to decide what kind of building works best for the property and the market, come up with a rough design and get an appraisal on it. Then we would work out the difference between the appraised value and the actual cost, and share in the equity based on an agreed-upon formula.”

For example, if the appraised value of the planned building were $400,000 and the actual cost to build it—using Murdoch’s expertise in building economically—were $380,000, then the shared equity would be $20,000.

A chip off the old block

Murdoch has a source of inspiration right in his own home. His 17-year-old daughter, Keltie, has designed a home heating-and-cooling system that she calls Geo Air, which won a national engineering award and an Ontario Hydro energy-efficiency award at the national science fair last year. The system also placed fourth in its category at the international science fair in Taipei in late January 2013.

Murdoch has built this clever, environmentally responsible design into one of the units in the fourplex on Kelowna Crescent.

“We’ve incorporated an innovative green building feature in one of the fourplex units, based on this project that my daughter has worked on for the past four years,” Murdoch said. “The system she designed will heat or cool your house very efficiently at an extremely low cost, and the furnace should not have to come on all winter. That unit will have a very low heating bill, and the air-conditioning costs will be quite low too. The unit has a fully functional gas furnace as well, of course.”

Changing horses

Murdoch came to the home-building industry via a meandering path. He finished his post-secondary education with a degree in commerce from the University of Manitoba, and spent most of his early career in the field of accounting. Realizing he didn’t particularly enjoy that work, and that he wanted to be self-employed, he left the world of number crunching and bought a window-manufacturing company.

“Several years later I sold that business and got into building renovations with some partners,” Murdoch said. “I also built solarium additions for people on the west coast of the U.S.A. before eventually moving into general contracting.”

Twenty or so years later, that decision still seems to be working out pretty well.

Marie Milner

Marie Milner is a writer and photographer for Kootenay Business magazine and several other publications. She appreciates the inspiration that she gets during her interviews and hopes to share that inspiration with you. View all of Marie Milner’s articles

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