Florida realtors welcome Canadian dollar's rally

Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:22pm EDT
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By Kristina Cooke

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla (Reuters) - Canadians are taking their strengthened currency and fleeing the cold.

Hard-hit realtors in Florida are welcoming a side-effect of the Canadian dollar's recent rally: more Canadians buying houses in the Sunshine State.

"Now their currency is around parity with the dollar and their money is worth something, more have decided it's time to buy," said Bill Sontag, a realtor at Florida Realty in Naples.

So-called "snowbird" Canadians who migrate to the sun during the winter months as well as those simply looking for a holiday home are lending support to the decimated housing market in Southwest Florida, realtors there say.

House prices in the seaside town of Naples have dropped more than 64 percent from their peak in the second quarter of 2006, according to the Federal Reserve. But realtors say they are beginning to see signs of stabilization, thanks in part to Canadian buyers.

"We've seen a lot of activity from Canadians," said Brett Brown, chair of the Naples Area Board of Realtors' Global Business Committee. "It's the exchange rate and also the fact that house prices have dropped so much. It's very affordable for them."

Michael Mackenzie, research officer at the Canadian Snowbird Association, an advocacy group, says that while statistics won't be available for another six months, he sees strong anecdotal evidence of this trend across Florida.

The Canadian Snowbird Assocation's annual event in Lakeland, Florida, this January was attended by around 40,000 of its members, about 20 percent more than the average over the past few years, Mackenzie said.   Continued...