TORONTO, ONTARIO AND PHOENIX, ARIZONA AND SARASOTA, FLORIDA, Mar 09, 2015 (Marketwired via COMTEX) — As Canadians head south for spring break to escape the winter chill, U.S. housing affordability remains good despite a stronger U.S. dollar, according to a new outlook from BMO. Prices are expected to continue an upward trend in Florida, Arizona and other popular areas for Canadians owning vacation properties.
“U.S. housing is inexpensive when viewed through the lens of international real estate,” said Jack Ablin, Chief Investment Officer, BMO Private Bank. “Residential real estate in Florida and Arizona is roughly two-to-three times median incomes. That is about half the valuation of many of America’s trading partners.”
Overall, U.S. house prices have increased 19 per cent in the past two years, but are only about halfway back to their 2006 peak.
The median home price in Florida is US$169,400 and US$192,100 in Arizona. In comparison, the median home price for major centers in Canada is roughly US$230,192 (CND$279,062).
Traditional destinations for Canadians spending time in the U.S. during the winter remain affordable. Compared to their peaks, prices in Tampa, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Miami have yet to retrace half of their losses.
Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets, notes that all the regions, except Miami, were considered highly affordable in 2014 when comparing median prices with median family income, while Miami was considered modestly affordable.
“With the American economy and employment gaining strength, home sales and prices should continue to rise,” said Mr. Guatieri. “We expect prices to increase about 4 per cent this year, and we look for the U.S. greenback to strengthen modestly further against the Canadian dollar in 2015, before weakening next year.”
Florida continues to be a hotspot with Canadians – the largest foreign buyers of Florida housing. More than 500,000 Canadians currently own real estate in Florida. Popular areas include Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, Orlando-Kissimmee, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Palm Beach, Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Naples-Marco Island.
Jerry Bevers, Regional Mortgage Manager of BMO Harris Bank in Florida and Arizona, advises that those interested in purchasing U.S. properties should consider financing the new purchase with a financial institution in the U.S. – preferably a Canadian-based bank with branches south of the border.
“The process of purchasing a home and acquiring a mortgage in the U.S. is quite different than in Canada. Working with a lender like BMO Harris, who is familiar with those differences, can help make the buying process easier and less stressful.”
BMO customers can visit a BMO Harris branch in the U.S., which has locations in Illinois, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota.
BMO offers the following tips for Canadians interested in purchasing property in the U.S.:
How much time will you spend south of the border?
Consider how many months of the year you’ll be living there so that your purchase reflects your lifestyle.
As of June 30, 2014, travellers were required to swipe passports both when they enter and when they depart each country. Canada and the U.S. will share the information. If you exceed 183 days in the U.S. in a year, you become subject to U.S. tax laws.
What states and neighbourhoods fit your needs?
Since you are responsible for property maintenance, consider how easily you can access your property from your Canadian home throughout the purchasing process and after acquisition.
Consider flights and airlines, if you can fly there direct, and the cost. Research and even ask locals about the community to ensure it suits your needs.
What to consider when financing the purchase with a U.S. based financial institution?
It is important to be aware of the differences in mortgage financing and how interest is charged in the U.S.
Furthermore, understand the impact of penalties and withholding taxes if and when you decide to sell your home in the U.S.
Do you understand the status of the property?
Understand the terms of the property. For instance, is it labelled as short-sale or on foreclosure?
The status of the property can have a variety of implications. Be sure to consult an expert before making any buying decisions.
How will you use your property?
Is your purchase for investment or lifestyle purposes? This will affect where you buy and how you hold the property. Also, understand the options available and what will benefit you in the long run.
If your purchase is for income purposes, keep in mind that renting your property means added responsibility. Research the possibilities of increased utility usage, property management needs and the vacancy rate in the area to ensure you’re prepared.