As South Florida homevalues plummeted over the past six years, Canadians swooped down like a northern cold front and snatched up properties by the thousands.
More than 18,000 Canadians own homes â€” many of them beachfront condominiums â€” in Broward Countyas of last year, according to an analysis of Florida Department of Revenue tax data. That's nearly triple the number from 2006.
Canadians own 3 percent of the homes in Broward and are third behind Floridians and New Yorkers as property owners in the county. These Canadians are listed on tax rolls with mailing addresses in Canada, but don't have a permanent residence here or pay rent while vacationing.
- Property owned by Canadians
- Canadian-owned properties in South Florida
- How to spot a Canadian
- Condos and Houses
- See more topics Â»
Palm Beach (Palm Beach, Florida)
Miami (Miami-Dade, Florida)
They're attracted to the area by the low prices, favorable exchange rate, easy accessby air and a bustling rental market, buyers and real estate agents say.
Video: WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Doctor seen going berserk and getting bloody in FHP car
Less than two weeks ago, Toronto resident Mario D'Orazio bought a condo in Playa Del Mar on Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdalefor $335,000.
The two-bedroom unit needs major renovations â€” "It still looks like 1975 when you walk in," he said â€” but it has a spectacular water view. He plans to vacation there three or four times a year.
D'Orazio can catch a direct flight to Fort Lauderdale from Toronto and arrive in two and a half hours. He chose South Florida over the more laid-backSt. Petersburg.
"I don't know when I'm going to retire, but I'm looking to the future," said D'Orazio, 56, a contractor with two children.
Canadians are going after ocean views in Broward, buying mostly along the coast. They're concentrated in Hallandale and Hollywood â€” long favorites of Canadian vacationers. But they also are buying in pricier areas such as Hillsboro Beachand in golf course communities in Deerfield Beach.
Lauderhill and Lauderdale Lakesare attractive for those on a tighter budget.
D'Orazio's real estate agent, Michelle Farber Ross, said about three-quarters of her business is Canadian buyers. Ross, whose Fort Lauderdale-based MMD Realty includes Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marinoas an investor, held seminars last fall in Toronto and Montreal and plans to hold more in the coming weeks.
Since the housing market started collapsing in 2006, Broward home prices have plunged by more than 50 percent, while condo values have sunk by more than 60 percent. Canadians' purchases helped the sagging market.
But the big price declines have eased and values are starting to climb.
Broward's median price for existing homes in April was $205,000, a 15 percent increase from a year ago, according to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Realtors. The median condo price was $84,300, up 18 percent from last April.
Canadians have noticed the recent price increases, Ross said. "If they're going to buy a piece of the South Florida lifestyle, now is the time to do it," she said.
While Hispanics flock to Miami-Dade County, Canadians prefer Broward and Palm Beachcounties, said Senada Adzem, director of the Douglas Elliman real estate firm in Boca Raton.
"Canadians more associatewith the Northeast crowd, which is prevalent in Broward and Palm Beach counties," Adzem said. "They feel more comfortable here."
More than 7,350 Canadians own in Palm Beach Countyas of last year, nearly double from 2006.
Toronto resident Mia Brattan visited Palm Beach Countyas a child in the 1960s and later opened a jewelry store on Worth Avenue.
She eventually closed the shop and got married in 2003. Brattan and her husband, Jerry Reich, bought two years ago at One Thousand Ocean, an ultra luxury condo at the Boca RatonInlet.
"You come down here and fall in love with it," Brattan said. "It's humid in the summer, and we get hurricanes, but for seven months of the year we really have perfect weather."
Vince Pileggi, 30, also of Toronto, closed last year on a one-bedroom condo for $220,000 at Two City Plaza near CityPlace in West Palm Beach. Pileggi, who lays cable in high-rises, agreed to let the developer, Kolter Homes, rent his condo for two years â€” and then he'll use it as a vacation getaway.
"It's something I always wanted," he said.