By Alain Forget

Recent studies are showing that as the millennial generation matures, a growing number are considering property investment. And the high cost of urban living has many of them consider recreational properties as a feasible choice to enter the real estate market. A Re/Max Recreational Property Trends study found that 56 per cent of millennials are in the market to purchase a recreational property. That represents an increase of 14 per cent from 2018.

While the go-to markets for this new-found interest in recreational properties tend to be in vacation spots in Canada, many may not realize the advantages of investing in the U.S.



A common argument is that owning a U.S. property is expensive. But the numbers say otherwise, even after the exchange rates are factored into the equation. A 2019 National Association of Realtors study indicates that the median purchase price for Canadians purchasing U.S. real estate is $280,600 USD ($373,000 CAD).

When you compare the monthly mortgage rates to a long-term rental in popular destinations like Arizona or Florida, the outcome is often surprisingly favourable. Renting a condo in a prime U.S. vacation area might cost $3,000 a month during the peak season, whereas the monthly mortgage payment to purchase the same property would cost approximately $900.

Even when factoring in cost of ownership such as condo fees or maintenance, this total cost can often be offset by leveraging the property as a rental. For those whose principal concern is investing in an appreciating asset, the U.S. housing market is ranked the safest for real estate investments by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE), based on ongoing appreciation in value.

Generally speaking, the U.S. also has lower property taxes and often longer amortization periods. As a result, investors can spread costs over a longer period of time at a lower rate.

Canadian millennials exploring U.S. real estate should consider:

Location.

There are plenty of markets to choose from. Florida and Arizona continue to be the most popular for investors. But regions like Austin and Houston are attracting a younger demographic, as well as parts of California and North Carolina.

Usage.

If considering a rental component, it’s essential to look at both the seasonality and potential demand. States such as Florida are lucrative for rental property owners because it is home to popular theme parks and has a thriving tourism industry regardless of the season. If looking to Arizona, owners can’t count on rentals in the summer months as temperatures rise to unbearable levels for vacationers. However, the peak season can be quite lucrative as visitors flock to the region to enjoy the many outdoor and sports activities.

Maintenance.

Depending on availability and the type of home in question, owners may need to contract a property manager to handle the logistics and maintenance on site. Factoring costs of regular upkeep is essential.

Tax.

Taxation in the U.S. is also more complex than Canadians may be accustomed to. Buyers would be well advised to work with a Canadian accounting professional with expertise in cross-border taxation. Otherwise they might miss out on allowable deductions or worse, pay unnecessary double taxation.

A combination of the right financial and real estate professionals who are familiar with the rules and regulations is essential for foreign investors. RBC Cross-Border Real Estate Edge provides access to online tools and calculators, articles and information about U.S. property trends and the benefits of U.S. mortgages for Canadians. Realtors can expand their referral network with our directory of cross-border tax and legal experts and build connections with U.S. real estate professionals or builders and explore revenue sharing opportunities. To learn more visit rbc.com/edge/ca.

While it may take a bit more legwork for Canadian buyers to invest in a U.S. property, the dividends might just be worth that effort.

2 COMMENTS

  1. That’s outright discrimination and actually happens here, too at times. No one complains so it continues.

    A few years ago I had relo clients transferred in from the States knowing in 3-5 years they would be transferred out. He was a high-power airline exec.
    When transferred back stateside they called me to sell (list). I reviewed the non-resident situation so there would be no surprises for them regarding their equity position relative to the new different State upcoming purchase.

    Merciful heaven. Their closing was fine here but the particular city/state law firm or real estate brokerage closing would not accept the Canadian lawyer’s certified trust closing cheque, FedEx’d.

    So they couldn’t close on their purchase for several weeks. Although the airlines covered extra living interim expenses, it meant the folks from whom they bought could not close on their purchase, and a chain of transaction were attached one to another.

    Dealing with foreign currency, any foreign currency is a nightmare.

    Carolyne L 🍁

  2. My experience shows that it’s not as easy as it sounds. Mortgage rates are higher, so are legal and closing costs. When I purchased my property “they assumed” that it was purchased jointly (although my husband’s name was nowhere in the purchase agreement). The day before closing I was forced to transfer more money since as a woman (the only person they had financials on) they suddenly required 33 1/3 % down instead of the previously agreed 25 %. I am not making this up. I was specifically told that if it had been a man, there wouldn’t have been any problem. Thanks heaven for electronic banking or I would not have been able to close. It’s time to sell now….lol

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