BMO Financial Group
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BMO Financial Group
BMO Bank of Montreal

BMO Bank of Montreal

March 06, 2012 06:00 ET

BMO Report: Canadians Taking a Wait and See Approach to Buying U.S. Property Amid Improving Market Conditions

- BMO study shows 16 per cent of Canadians would consider purchasing a home or property south of the border - down from 20 per cent a year ago

- One quarter plan to rent first before making their decision

- Canadians account for the largest share of foreign demand for U.S. real estate - a trend that is unlikely to change

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 6, 2012) - While recent reports point to an improved U.S. housing market, Canadians interested in buying a home in the U.S. plan to take a wait and see approach by opting to rent a property before making their purchase decision, according to a new survey released today by BMO Bank of Montreal.

According to the report, conducted by Leger Marketing:

  • Nearly two-in-ten (16 per cent) Canadians would consider purchasing a home south of the border
  • One quarter (25 per cent) plan to rent a U.S. property first before making a buying decision

"Despite signs of bottoming in the U.S. housing market, a still-strong Canadian dollar and attractive valuations, Canadians appear more wary of buying in the U.S. this year than last," said Sal Guatieri, Senior Economist, BMO Capital Markets. "Still, Canadians account for the largest share of foreign demand for U.S. real estate (23 per cent), a trend that is unlikely to change given their desire to seek vacation and retirement properties in milder winter climates."

In fact, the survey found that of those considering property in the U.S., 56 per cent would do so to gain a vacation or secondary property, while 44 per cent cite affordability and one third its attractiveness as a long-term investment (29 per cent).

Nationwide, house prices in the United States have fallen 34 per cent from their peak levels in 2006. However, prices in regions that are traditionally destinations for Canadian snowbirds have dropped even more. For example prices in Tampa have dropped 48 per cent, Miami is down 51 per cent, and Phoenix is off 56 per cent.

BMO Mortgage Expert, Laura Parsons, advises that those interested in purchasing U.S. properties should consider financing the new purchase with a financial institution in the U.S. - preferably a Canadian-based bank with branches south of the border. "Having expertise at the local level is always the best approach, particularly when it comes to real estate, as conditions and trends can vary drastically from one location to the next," said Ms. Parsons.

Ms. Parsons noted that BMO customers can visit a BMO Harris branch in the U.S., which has locations in Illinois, Indiana, Arizona, Florida, and Wisconsin. "There's a lot to consider when making this decision, and having a Canadian partner can help provide a clear understanding of the differences between Canadian and U.S. financing, which can save a lot of time and headache," added Ms. Parsons.

BMO offers the following tips for Canadians interested in purchasing property in the U.S.:

What states and neighbourhoods fit your needs?

  • Since you are responsible for property maintenance, consider how easily you can access your property from your Canadian home throughout the purchasing process and after acquisition. Also consider flights and airlines, if you can fly there direct, and the cost.
  • Research and even ask locals about the community to ensure it suits your needs.

What to consider when financing the purchase with a U.S. based financial institution?

  • It is important to be aware of the differences in mortgage financing and how interest is charged in the U.S.
  • Furthermore, understand the impact of penalties and withholding taxes if and when you decide to sell your home in the U.S.

Do you understand the status of the property?

  • Understand the terms of the property. For instance, is it labelled as short-sale or on foreclosure?
  • The status of the property can have a variety of implications. Be sure to consult an expert before making any buying decisions.

How much time will you spend south of the border?

  • Consider how many months of the year you'll be living there so that your purchase reflects your lifestyle.
  • Be aware that there are rules regarding the amount of time you can spend in the U.S. before being considered a U.S. resident and subject to paying U.S. income tax.

About BMO Financial Group

Established in 1817 as Bank of Montreal, BMO Financial Group is a highly-diversified North American financial services organization. With total assets of $538 billion as at January 31, 2012, and more than 47,000 employees, BMO Financial Group provides a broad range of retail banking, wealth management and investment banking products and solutions.

The survey was completed on-line from February 21 to 23, 2012, using Leger Marketing's online panel, LegerWeb. A sample of 1500 Canadians, 18+, were surveyed. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Web: www.bmo.com

Twitter: @BMOmedia

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