For decades, the Florida homebuilding industry has relied on a continuing influx of customers who relocate from colder regions to the north — and in particular, from landlocked states with no beaches. Since the financial crisis and housing market collapse of 2008, that flow has dried up. But there's one happy exception: Canada. Canadians continue to flock to Florida — a trend fueled by their national economy's relative strength, and by the stability of Canada's financial system compared to the U.S. banking system.
In Florida, the Canadian buyers' influence is being strongly felt, reports the Naples News ("Northern flight: Canadians gobbling up Southwest Florida real estate," by Laura Layden). "From July 2011 to June 2012, foreigners accounted for 19 percent of the home sales volume in Florida, led by Canadians, according to an industry report by Florida Realtors, a statewide trade group," the paper reports. "In that year, sales to foreigners in the state reached an estimated $10.7 billion — out of a total of $58 billion. Canadians accounted for 31 percent of those foreign purchases, putting them in first place among all nationalities."
Some Canadian buyers are retirees like Steve and Carol Rae, who purchased a second home in Naples as a winter home. Drawn to Naples by good shopping and pleasant beaches, the Raes said they still love their life in Canada — "but if there's a down side," said Steve, "it would probably be the winter."
But other Canadian buyers are looking for a smart investment. Realtors Michael Saunders and Looey Tremblay, along with partner Greg Tomori, have bought three properties in South Florida with plans to rent the houses out to vacationers, and take an occasional vacation there themselves. Tremblay said, "Naples is classy. It's a little too quiet for our liking, but you know, you can make your own fun."
One difference that marks foreign buyers — including the Canadians — is that they tend to pay cash, reports The Miami Herald ("Foreigners responsible for a fifth of Florida home sales"). "Some 82 percent of foreign sales were all cash," the paper reports, "down from 86 percent in 2011."