DON Fitzpatrick, executive vice-president of Toronto-based broker CB Commercial Real Estate Group, says he will sink the lion's share of C$50 million (HK$286 million) into apartment buildings, which have been enjoying a 'healthy recovery' for several months. 'Occupancy rates for most apartments across Canada are now 97 per cent to 98 per cent, with the odd one higher,' Mr Fitzpatrick said. 'In Toronto, the vacancy rate now sits about one per cent.' He sees this sector as one of the least risky property classes. 'Rents are stable and have held their value better than the office or industrial sector. They're finally starting to take our advice.' Peter Thomas, chairman of Vancouver-based Samoth Capital, with about $200 million under management, is hot on the hotel sector, and has been buying smaller properties in Canada and the United States for the past 12 to 18 months. 'The window (of opportunity) is almost closed now,' said Mr Thomas, whose company likes to buy 200 to 300-room hotels in markets such as Texas, Florida, California and Calgary. The attraction, he said, is the price. 'We're getting in at $20,000 a room...and the price multiples mean we're getting about a 20 per cent return on our investment.' The US appeal, he added, lies in the prices south of the border. 'Prices are more realistic and the market is a bit more sophisticated. 'The US system is designed to encourage the sale of property rather than to hold on and hope the market will recover. 'There are simply more opportunities in the States.' But Mr Thomas likes Canada too, particularly Toronto 'which has been down so low that the economies are just starting to make sense now'. Office buildings, which have the potential for conversion to residential space, are among Samoth's top picks. 'We're interested in the smaller units - four stores that are B or C class space.' Another of Samoth's pet projects is golf courses, and the company owns part of five properties in Phoenix that have the potential for condo development. Joe Barnicke, chairman of J. J. Barnicke in Toronto, said his top choice is regional shopping centres, anywhere in Canada. 'They are a guaranteed income, a quality investment and there's room to grow with inflation and the population,' he said. Mr Barnicke also favours office buildings in Vancouver and Toronto, with Calgary a distant third. But his relative lack of enthusiasm for Calgary's commercial market stands out from the crowd. Pension funds and other institutions have been picking up a slew of prime office space in Calgary's downtown core. But as attention shifts to B and C class buildings, Mr Barnicke said he remains unconvinced that the local economy can sustain demand for that type of office space over the long term. Mr Fitzpatrick points to well-located industrial space - with vacancies in the single digits for good quality space right across the country - as sound investment targets. Mr Fitzpatrick is also a fan of retail strip malls and regional malls 'if you can get your hands on them'. The sector suffered from the recession like everything else, he said, but it recovered faster. 'Retail rents have moved up and vacancies have moved way down,' said Mr Fitzpatrick. He also likes the risk-return potential of suburban office buildings, which, unlike those in the downtown core, are often held by distress sellers 'who typically don't want to hang on for a long, long time'. By region, Mr Fitzpatrick said he would spread the $50 million around Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. 'Toronto is coming out of the dregs...the recovery is slow but it is returning. 'Calgary is very strong and looks like it will remain strong for a while. And Vancouver, although overheated, has settled down a bit. Now the resource sector is not the major economy. 'Vancouver is developing a broader economic base...tourism and trees used to be the mainstay, but now the economy is more diverse and dynamic, with a strong film, retail and industrial base.'