Canadians still buying plenty of Florida real estate: BMO

Canadians’ unrelenting passion for sun and sand has helped drive a 12 per cent increase in Florida real estate over the last two years, according to a BMO report.

More than 500,000 Canadians now own property in what was one of the hardest-hit U.S. states in the 2008 housing meltdown. And snowbirds remain the biggest foreign purchasers of Florida real estate despite a surge in interest from Asian and South American buyers over the last year or so.

Canadians are already seeing payback from their purchases, says the BMO Financial Group report released Thursday.

The price of a single-family home has climbed 12 per cent since April 2011, with the worst of the collapse now well behind the U.S., according to a recent S&P Case-Shiller study of U.S. house prices.

The BMO report paints an interesting picture of where snowbirds have landed in the sunshine state, many of them what Florida Home Finders of Canada has dubbed “endvestors” — folks scooping up real estate while it’s cheap and interest rates low and renting the properties out until they can eventually retire to Florida for winter or vacation there more often.

Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice remains the most popular destination by far, says BMO. Some 17 per cent of Canadian purchasers have bought up homes and condos in the Gulf Coast area renowned for its sugary beaches, stunning keys and cultural offerings.

According to the most recent Florida Realtors statistics, released last February, demand remains strong in the state and has helped push median single family home sale prices up about 12 per cent just in the last year, to $168,000. Condo prices have climbed 8.4 per cent to a median price of $136,000.

Second-most popular is the more easterly destination of Orlando-Kissimmee, home to Disney and dozens of other amusements parks, as well as southern Florida’s Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Palm Beach area, with its vibrant nightlife and ocean vistas. About 13 per cent of Canadians have invested in each of those areas, according to the BMO study.

Orlando has seen gains of 6.6 per cent for single family homes and the median price as of the end of 2012 was $137,000. Condo sales have softened by almost 10 per cent there in the last year, but prices were up almost 17 per cent by the end of 2012, year over year, to a median price of $76,000, according to Florida Realtors statistics.

The hard-hit Miami area saw median house prices climb more than 10 per cent in 2012 over 2011, to $202,000. Condos jumped more than 21 per cent, to a median price of $103,000 although sales were flat.

Nine per cent of Canadians have opted for the bargain-basement Gulf coast areas of Cape Coral-Fort Myers, which was amongst the most overbuilt and hardest-hit areas in the Florida housing collapse.

Similar numbers of Canadians have bought in the Tampa-St. Petersburg and the upscale Naples-Marco Island areas as well.

Lee County, which includes Cape Coral and Fort Myers, saw single family home prices skyrocket by almost 30 per cent, the highest gains by far in the state, to a median price of $134,000 in 2012.

While the price of condos in the same popular snowbird nesting spots were up 15 per cent to a median price of $134,000, the number of condos sold declined by almost 2 per cent last year, statistics show.

The remaining 30 per cent of snowbirds are scattered in communities throughout Florida, says BMO.

While Canadians accounted for almost 40 per cent of all real estate purchases in Florida in 2010, they are now facing stiff competition from Asian buyers and domestic investment companies that have been scooping up hundreds of Florida’s remaining distressed properties in the last year or two, sensing that the market is poised for a major comeback.


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