Low interest rates, favourable exchange turn U.S. into hotspot

by Neil Sharma on 26 Feb 2021

Savvy Canadian real estate investors have, for years now, known about real estate hotspots south of the border, and with the pandemic catalyzing interest rate cuts courtesy of both the Bank of Canada and the Federal Reserve, there’s arguably never been a better time to invest in the United States.

“Over the last two months, we’ve seen record-high requests for mortgage preapprovals from Canadians looking to buy real estate here in the U.S.,” said Alain Forget, RBC Bank’s director of business development. “A lot of Canadians are COVID- and winter-fatigued and they are getting ready to make a move, and of course the U.S. market in a state like Florida has a lot to offer.”

In fact, between March 2019 and March 2020, Canadians invested $9.5 billion in the American real estate, $4.75 billion of which was in Florida. RBC recently hosted a briefing outlook on the economy and determined that the Canadian dollar should remain at about $0.78-0.80 until mid-2021, at which time the U.S. dollar will return closer to $0.76.

“The currency exchange is one of the best at around $0.78-0.80, which is close to a 25% exchange and one of the best rates in the last three years,” said Forget. “When you factor those together, it’s another opportunity for Canadians to contemplate the U.S. market from an investment standpoint.”

The first step, however, is getting preapproved—RBC helps Canadians do it online within two or three days, and the letter is valid for 120 days

RBC helps Canadian investors plan out their investments. From helping them determine their monthly payments to coming up with a financial plan—as well as putting them in touch with experienced realtors and cross-border legal and tax experts—the bank saw a marked increase last month in interest from Canadians.

Unlike in Canada, where the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions introduced a 200 basis point stress test called B-20, no such thing exists in the U.S. According to the National Association of Realtors, Canadians primarily purchase single-family homes, followed by condominiums, in the U.S. Florida, for example, is often chosen for its turnkey properties, Forget says, and it’s replete with popular investor markets, as are Arizona and California.

“The beauty of the Florida market is it offers everything at relatively affordable price points,” said Forget. “If your budget is starting at $200,000, there are a lot of inland options, and for oceanview condos you should expect to pay over $500,000.”

Florida is already a popular destination for east coast Americans who, because of COVID-19, are escaping large metropolises like New York. Forget says Canadians have expressed similar intentions.

For their part, Western Canadians have grown fond of Arizona and California, the former in particular for its affordability and robust market fundamentals. However, even for investors in Central Canada, where the metropolises offer diminishing return on investments, the United States offers densely-populated markets with strong fundamentals and no shortage of rental demand.

“Florida has a lot of different markets that still offer great returns, and even with prices rising slightly, they’re far more affordable than the GTA, Vancouver and Montreal,” said Forget. “Western, Southeast and Central Florida offer different lifestyles and buying opportunities—the latter is a hot market year-round for long- and short-term rentals. Depending on your investment objective, Florida has a lot to offer at a wide range of prices.”

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