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Ontario investors among most active Florida buyers

According to an analysis by the Sarasota-based Herald Tribune newspaper Monday, foreign ownership in Sarasota and Manatee counties has jumped 34% over the last three years.

Some $1 billion of the $1.7 billion in foreign ownership in Sarasota and Manatee counties came from a Canadian address, 59%.

More specifically, Ontario-based buyers accounted for 78% of last year’s jump in foreign-owned condos in Sarasota and 79% of the increase in foreign-owned single-family homes in North Port.

Canadian buyers quoted in the article cited a big drop in prices for the properties, as well as an exchange rate that has the currencies of both countries now nearly on par.

“To be honest, it’s more affordable for us to be down there than it is for us to be up here,” Janice Bestow, a Torontonian, told the paper.

She bought a condo in Siesta Key. Out of 45 Siesta Key condos bought by foreigners last year, 38 were from Canada and 33 of those were from Ontario, said the Herald Tribune. The paper said word-of-mouth often helps purchases of a particular area spread virally, explaining the high percentages of Ontarians in one condo area, for example. Albertans have also been among the most active foreign buyers in Florida.

According to the real estate search website Zillow.com, the average home price in Sarasota has dropped 30.4% in five years, from $270,000 in July 2006 to $188,000 in July 2011.

Foreign owners who had bought during the boom may have seen an even sharper drop, according to the newspaper report. The Herald Tribune said the average value of a foreign-owned condo in Sarasota was $318,407 in 2007 and has since dropped 37.2% to $199,948.

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