Hi Rachel: There is a huge supply of condos right now and I would certainly start your preparation now. The first and most important thing is to sort out your financing. If I were you I would check both in Canada and with a local reputable mortgage broker here in South Florida. You would apply for what we call a "Foreign National Loan" which requires about a 30% down-payment. The lender would also want you to have significant funds in a U.S. bank account - this means enough for your downpayment, closing costs (approx. 3% of the purchase price) and then 6 months worth of mortgage payment, taxes and insurance. You will want a pre-approval letter too. There's a fair amount that has to be organized on this, so the sooner you can get this set up, the better off and more prepared you'll be.
Once you've taken care of the financing preparation then you should find a Realtor that is competent and comfortable working with international clients and putting in the extra mile that is necessary to work with an out-of-town buyer. There are many, many Realtors out there who want and need the work but several are lax and careless and this isn't what you want as an absentee buyer. Look for someone you feel comfortable with, enjoy working with, someone who will think of things that hadn't even occurred to you and most of all, a Realtor who is professional and experienced. You want this experience to be stress and trouble free!
You'll also want someone who is comfortable in searching for the right home for you with the ability to narrow your search enough so that you're looking at the best selection of properties when you come down to Florida. You don't want to be looking at 20 different units in a day!! It's exhausting and overwhelming and you'll completely forget which condo was which after #7!
I would also mention that you should consider the Fort Lauderdale condo market too! This market also has a huge inventory supply but it isn't quite as saturated as Miami, and as such, you should realize an increase in your investment sooner rather than later. It really is an excellent time to buy, go for it!!
We work both markets, so If I can help in any way, don't hesitate to contact me.
Wishing you all the best ...
Villa G Realty
PS: You're playing 2 markets now, the real estate AND the currency market - strike while the iron is hot!
PPS: Bear in mind that your choice of units will narrow if you want a pet-friendly place, and if you want to be able to rent your unit. If you want to rent on a short term basis, it drops to almost zero, so avoid that one if you can.