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Investing in Your Future in Canada
Canadians have long had a love affair with their vacation homes. In previous generations, the cabin on the lake was the very definition of summer. It was usually near the townhouse and Mom and the kids often lived in the summer while dear old Dad went to work every day or just spent weekends with his family cooking summer snacks and enjoying a good time. Even today many families still enjoy the heritage because the old houses built by their grandparents have been passed down through the generations.
However, much has changed in the new millennium and the way Canadians now view their leisure time and vacation destinations. We’ve gone from the 70s and 80s Snowbird where we were known around the world for our winter migrations to the tropics, to our current reputation as a global homeowner offering our vacation escapes to exotic and diverse parts of the world.
The late 70’s and early 80’s saw the development of vacation rental properties and this concept became very popular. Perhaps the success was due to the fact that such ownership gave many people the opportunity to own a vacation home only for a short period of time—usually two weeks each year—before taking the plunge. buying a second home. It also allowed buyers to go away on vacation, staying in their vacation homes but without the full responsibility of full ownership. Currently the average cost of such a vacation starts at about $10,000 which is within the reach of most Canadians of all ages.
There are also recent indications that young Canadians are buying their vacation homes before they even start living in them. Now there is a new concept called quarter sharing that allows you to share your vacation home with only three other people and thus you can spend more vacation time in your familiar and comfortable place.
Today with the advent of low-cost airlines, a strong Canadian dollar, low-interest mortgages and the overall wealth of Canadians, vacation home ownership is becoming more common among the masses and no longer for the super-rich. According to Statistics Canada approximately 10 per cent of Canadian households own a vacation home and seventy seven per cent own property within Canada and twenty one per cent outside our borders with two per cent owning property. they have vacation spots in and out of Canada. However, only 26 percent of these homes are family owned and the majority, 52 percent, are family owned.
Currently the international real estate market is considered a buyer’s market and as listings increase the prices become more attractive to prospective buyers. This has been fueled by the recent mortgage crisis in the United States and appears to be long-term. Foreclosures in the United States in May 2008 increased by fifty percent compared to the previous year (as reported by the real estate marketing company RealtyTrac) and this has stimulated the interest of foreign investors.
The United States remains the most popular country for Canadians to do real estate business with Florida still the first choice with California and Texas almost tied for second place. According to the American National Association of Realtors 2007, Canada is among the top five countries along with Mexico, the United Kingdom, India and China where foreigners are selling real estate in the United States and using attractive prices. The lure of sandy beaches and warm weather remains strong as we once again rank as the number two foreign trade destination in the State of Florida. During the survey period, three percent of US home sales were to non-residents with a median purchase price of $300,000 and the largest purchase activity was for a vacation home. However, about one-third buy as a vacation home and rental property. Foreign homeowners buy US property everywhere around the country but the south and west get eighty percent of all sales. It’s safe to assume that Canadians will continue to make the United States one of their top destinations for vacation rentals based on their market conditions and proximity to where they live.
However, one of the most up-and-coming vacation options is to plant vacation roots in Central America, especially Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Condominium prices range from as low as $150,000 and the cost of living is much lower than at home.
The small country of Costa Rica has claimed to be one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the region and has become a popular choice for Canadian investors especially on the Pacific Coast in the small coastal towns of Quepos and Manuel Antonio.
Mexico remains a favorite choice for vacations with ownership of popular beachfront homes in Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Plata and Cabo San Lucas to name three hot spots. Because of proximity Americans dominate the Mexican vacation home market but Canadians and Europeans trail behind. Foreigners can now enjoy home ownership through the Fedeicomo system where a trustee—usually a Mexican bank—holds the deed of the property to the buyer who is the legal owner who has the right to sell, rent or pass the property to heirs. . . SOFTEC, a real estate company, reports that in Mexico over the past three years there has been a 6 percent increase in vacation rental spending. Spanish lessons are important but a good lifestyle makes the effort worthwhile.
White endless sandy beaches, virgin forests, crystal clear rivers and healing hot springs have made Honduras the newest vacation destination in North America and recent changes in 2004 to real estate laws have made foreign ownership even more dangerous than it was ten years ago. . However, it’s still important to make sure you’re working with a reputable and well-established professional and make sure the prices are right for your neighborhood—do your research here.
The iconic Caribbean islands remain undisputed especially by Eastern Canadians. The allure of the gentle, clear blue sea and white sand beaches is very appealing in the middle of the cold, winter season and can offer year-round vacation opportunities.
The island of Belize has only about fifteen thousand people but about twenty percent of the population are foreigners including a wave of Canadians and Americans who have bought vacation homes or retired. A beach condo is usually sold between three hundred and six US dollars and with the huge growth in the airport around the world, rumors are heard that flights from Europe will start soon and economic growth will follow.
Another well-kept Caribbean secret is the tiny island of Curacao—part of the Netherland Antilles—and arguably the most Dutch of the small chain of five islands. With a European influence this is a fun and unique escape and has just been discovered by North Americans.
With a stable government and an economy based on tourism, housing prices are higher than other Caribbean islands but the future looks very bright for continued economic growth.
Perhaps the hottest place in the world is South America where Latin begins. Europeans have known this for some time and have been investing heavily in vacation homes and condos and recently Canadians have discovered the benefits of this area. It’s a very cheap way to live—a bottle of good wine for just two dollars or a T-Bone steak for a dollar at the supermarket—although the journey is a little longer, the ultimate rewards are far greater. In Buenos Aires, a studio apartment in the city can be found for about US $ 90,000 or a beach house in Chile for less than US $ 150,000 or in Uruguaya a condo overlooking the sea for US $ 250,000 and making Latin America worth considering before prices rise. Surprisingly, there are very few American investors here and this may be due to the fact that about five percent of the people speak English and Americans tend to prefer to communicate in their own language.
Although Canadians are leaving their footprints around the world, when it comes to a vacation home, their first choice is still close to home. Sailors don’t want to leave the sea and many who live in Canada’s big cities like Montreal and Toronto can’t resist the lure of the Atlantic coast. Last year real estate prices rose in the region by an average of ten percent except for Saint John, New Brunswick which was boosted by the energy sector by more than forty percent. In Western Canada the hot spot has become Saskatchewan which has also seen a fifty percent appreciation in real estate prices due to the increase in energy efficiency. Perennial favorites like Rocky Mountain Resort and Vancouver Island have seen price increases of more than ten percent.
The trip itself may not be as exciting as it was a few years ago but once you find your vacation paradise, the rewards of vacation home ownership are incomparable. More than just an investment, a good vacation home will be helpful in reducing stress and relaxation in the fast-paced world we experience every day of the year.
And perhaps the most exciting part is finding your perfect second home that meets your needs and that you can return to when faced with the daily challenges of city life. The price may be expensive but the peace of mind is priceless.
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