Low loonie attracts U.S. buyers to vacation homes

A $429K condo near Banff is going for just US$296,000

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Realtors who sell Canadian resort properties say the low loonie is spurring interest from American buyers who are looking to pick up cheap vacation homes north of the border.

“We’re thanking our lucky stars,” said Brad Hawker from Royal LePage Rocky Mountain Realty in Canmore, Alta.

While the housing market in Calgary — 130 kilometres to the east —is suffering due to plummeting oil prices, that hasn’t been the case in Canmore with a 70-cent Canadian dollar.

In the mountain town just minutes from Banff, an 1,100-square-foot condo boasting two bedrooms, two baths and beautiful views is listed at $429,000. But when you factor in the exchange, that’s only about US$296,000.

Hawker said he’s fielded a number of inquiries from both the United States and the United Kingdom. He’s also seen interest from Asia and Europe.

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“I don’t think it’s going to be a huge flood of people immediately but it’s started,” he said.

“It takes a while. People don’t just arrive and come for a holiday and then buy something if they’ve never been here before. Usually they have to come back a second time, and that’s something I expect we’ll see over the next six to 18 months.”

Hawker said tourism is booming in the area.

“Business has not been this good for 25 years. It’s incredible.”

Prices and demand remain high in the ski-resort town of Whistler, B.C.

One property — a 3,400-square-foot luxury home with five bedrooms, 5 1/2 baths, cherry floors and custom totem poles — is listed for more than $4.2 million. That’s about US$2.9 million.

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Christopher Wetaski, who is with ReMax Sea to Sky Real Estate in Whistler, says he is also seeing an increase in American clients and expects he’ll see more as people begin to realize the power of the U.S. dollar.

“It just takes a little while for them to realize what the value is. When they show up in Whistler and start spending money and realize it’s a deal — if they happen to be in the market — they kind of clue in.”

With the dollar close to par in the recent past, the number of Americans buying property in Whistler had been on the decline over the last five or six years — dropping to five per cent of all sales from a peak of 20 per cent.

Wetaski said the strength of the U.S. dollar is likely to push prices up and flush out more inventory.

And not all of the extra business will be from south of the border.

“Some of our buyers are also from Hong Kong,” said Wetaski, who added they’ll be coming to Canada next month.

“You get Americans, Canadians, British, French, all living in Hong Kong making American dollars, and they like to come to Whistler during Chinese New Year. They’ll probably be looking at real estate as well so that should be a good year for that.”

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