After nearly two years, a car in the drive of the home next door proved a surprise during a recent morning’s ritual of heading out with the dog to retrieve my newspapers. And just like that, our German shorthaired pointer’s extended domain for bunny sniffing (virtually doubled in size during most of 2020 and 2021 when the property sat vacant) was suddenly returned to normal. He was understandably less than thrilled about the arrival of these long-banished neighbors and the pending need to respect property boundaries once again, yet for me it represented another welcomed milestone on our path to normalcy.
The Canadians were back.
Only weeks earlier, the border opened once again to our vaccinated neighbors, resuming the annual migration of approximately thirty million Canadian snowbirds to warmer climates across the U.S. And among all the available options, approximately sixty percent will elect Florida as their destination for a period of one month or longer to lie beneath the swaying palms and feel the warmth of our sub-tropical sun on skin. After a sublime stay, many will decide that nothing short of owning a home here will suffice.
Historically, no state has enjoyed more international interest and residential purchases than Florida. In fact, a new study by the Realtor Association reflects foreign buyers snap up, on average, four percent of all homes sold in the state. And among these foreign owners, Canadians have consistently ranked second only to Latin Americans/Caribbeans. Of course, that was before the world shut down from the pandemic.
During the last two years, the same study concluded that international visits to the United States fell by 83%. The drop was also reflected in foreign home purchases, down 34% from the prior year and even further from years before. Realtors across the state are now anticipating a Canadian wave of homebuyers in numbers that mirror prior records due to both natural pent-up demand and a new surge in interest from those seeking to guarantee access to a lifestyle beyond seasonal rentals.
Canadians are loved not only for their genteel attitude and politeness, but also because they buy homes exceeding the median price for Florida and possess a penchant for paying cash. And there’s lots of it. A recent Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce report said Canadian households and businesses were holding over $170 billion in excess cash, and Florida is a perennial investment winner. Regrettably for our friends, the trend of gains in the value of the Canadian dollar against U.S. currency was reversed in recent weeks due to heightened concerns regarding the economic impact of coronavirus variants. Across all aspects of the Florida economy, however, Canadians spend upwards of $6.5 billion in a normal year with a significant impact on businesses of all types.
While seeking what once was, Canadians will be returning to a very different real estate climate. With inventory at an all-time low and prices rising more than thirty percent in the state during the period of lockout, Canadians will have to decide if they wish to enter this new highly competitive environment in which premiums are all but certain. Many in the brokerage community assumed there would be a wave of Canadian home sellers resulting from the extended restrictions, and yet in reality it was a ripple at best. In fact, within this last week we’ve seen Canadians with homes on the market who elected to withdraw them now that they have the ability to return. Seeing my neighbors out on their boat within hours of arriving is confirmation of just how much they missed this paradise over these last two years, surely heralding a future of strong demand despite whatever obstacles lie beyond the newly opened land border crossing used by eighty percent of visitors.
Our real estate community is excited to see our friends from the North once again and stands ready to assist in finding homes for which they’ve been pining almost twenty months. My hound, on the other hand, is consoled in their renewed presence only by knowing our neighbor on the other side just left for a multi-month stay with children in California. New bunny sniffing territory awaits, with permission of course!
Budge Huskey is chief executive officer of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Home Front: Southwest Florida’s Canadian comeback commencing