As Loonie Falls, Americans Snap Up Canadian Cottage Country

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COTTAGE ONTARIO
With the loonie lower, Americans are finding bargains in Canadian cottage country. | Robert Chiasson via Getty Images
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TORONTO - Real estate agent Priscilla Sookarow rang in the new year in a novel way, brokering the sale of a $3-million vacation property in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley to a family from Texas.

In addition to the region's natural beauty, the buyers were lured by the low value of the loonie relative to the U.S. dollar, said Sookarow who, along with realtors elsewhere, says an increasing number of vacation property buyers are coming from south of the border.

"When you buy a $3-million property with U.S. dollars you're saving a fair bit," said Sookarow, an agent with ReMax Vernon.

Sookarow isn't the only agent in the recreational property market to report an influx of U.S. clients. Realtors in B.C.'s Gulf Islands and Ontario's Muskoka and Niagara regions say they are also observing the trend.

"In all of my offices we're seeing more U.S. inquiries," said John Jarvis, a ReMax agent in Ontario's Muskoka region. "Americans are definitely shopping more than they have been in the last three or four years."

For U.S. buyers, recreational properties north of the border represent a good deal, said Jarvis.

"They're getting a 20 per cent discount, roughly," he said, noting that the loonie has been hovering at around 80 cents U.S. in recent weeks.

Americans also perceive Canadian lakes as being cleaner and "more pure" than those south of the border and believe that Canada's economy is stable and strong, said Jarvis.

Meanwhile, many Canadian buyers who went south to pick up properties when the loonie was around par are now looking to return home, according to a number of agents.

Janet Moore, an agent at Royal LePage Nanaimo Realty, says many Canadians raced south between 2007 and 2011 to snap up vacation homes in places such as Palm Springs, Calif., Phoenix, Ariz., and Hawaii.

Rising property values and the rally in the U.S. dollar have allowed them to make a profit, said Moore. Now, they're looking to use those profits to buy vacation properties north of the border.

Realtors say these trends are likely to continue.

"As long as the dollar stays this way, we anticipate more of the same," Sookarow said.

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