Where to buy a vacation home in the U.S. - MoneySense

Where to buy a vacation home in the U.S.

Despite rising real estate prices, the U.S. is still in recovery mode. That means Canadians can still pick up great deals on vacation properties and condos. Here’s what local experts had to say.



Considering prices dropped by almost 60% in Phoenix, even modest prices increases means there are still some great deals. Arnold Porter, a displaced Canadian who now specializes in vacation property in Arizona, suggests the following neighbourhoods.

Scottsdale: Parts of Scottsdale are similar to Yorkville, a well-to-do neighbourhood in the heart of downtown Toronto. Before the real estate crash, luxury 2-bedroom condos sold for US$1.5 million. Immediately after the crash, these prices dropped to below US$500,000. These days you’ll pay between US$650,000 and US$950,000. In other, not so posh, areas of Scottsdale pre-crash prices for a 2-bedroom condo started at US$250,000. After the crash they were down to US$100,000. These days you can pick up a condo starting at US$150,000.

Tempe: Close to Arizona State University, this area boasts a lively, young community filled with restaurants and nightclubs. It’s just south of the airport making it an easy commute. Two-bedroom condos currently start at US$150,000 but that’s for older buildings with fewer amenities. Newer buildings start at US$200,000.

Surprise (West Valley area): Northwest of downtown Phoenix this community boasts new condo developments but still retains a community feel (with shops, services and restaurants). Currently, you can buy a 2-bedroom condo starting at US$125,000.


Hawaii is a resort state, which meant the housing crash hit the island(s) pretty hard. Many properties dropped in value by as much as 50%, says David Buck, an agent at Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers. However, because of the ongoing demand for real estate, Hawaii’s property prices started recovering much sooner than most other states in the U.S. One reason for the fast recovery is that only 7% of land (on all islands combined) can be developed for residential or commercial purposes, explains Buck. The rest is either zoned for agriculture or protected as preservation land. Still, vacationers and investors can find great deals if they’re willing to patiently search.

Waikiki, O’ahu Island: The Ilikai Hotel & Suites is an iconic building where 1-bedroom condos (at the back of the building, not ocean view) start at US$300,000. At Island Colony, 1-bedroom condos start at US$300,000.

Ko Olina, O’ahu Island: A local developer became over extended and its big three projects on the state’s busiest island during the recession. In 2007, townhomes sold for high US$700,000. In 2008, those same townhomes dropped to as low as US$500,000. These days you can still get a great deal with a 3-bedroom/2-bath townhouse selling in the mid-$500,000s.

North Shore, O’ahu Island: There is a limited number of condos on the North Shore of this island but you will get more for your money here than in Honolulu. One-bedroom condos start at US$360,000 (in Honolulu you’ll have to fork out at least US$390,000). The Turtle Bay community is pricier but currently offers great deals if you want luxury. At the peak 3-bedroom townhomes were selling for US$1.7 million. When the market crashed these units dropped to as low as US$900,000. These days you can pick one up for US$1.3 million.


Always considered a prime vacation spot, Florida was hit hard during the 2008 U.S. housing crash. This was particularly true of the counties that didn’t restrict building prior to the crash, says Dan O’Brian, an agent with the Henri Frank Re/Max Group that specializes in the Fort Lauderdale area. This meant that property values dropped significantly for most of the state. It also meant that it was one of the first places investors and snowbirds went shopping post-crash. While prices have creeped up over the last five years, there are still some bargains to be found.
In Fort Lauderdale for instance, city officials had limited the number of new builds, which meant the county didn’t have a glut of empty condos when the 2008 U.S. crash hit. While the building restrictions didn’t prevent a depreciation in price—as much as 60% depending on the area and type of property—it did allow for a faster recovery than other areas of Florida (and the U.S.), explains Dale Palmer, a broker/owner with Dale Palmer & Associates Realty. It also means that investors or vacation homebuyers can expect a faster appreciation on any property that was bought after 2008. But don’t expect deals to last forever. Inventory is low in all areas of this county and experts predict that prices will go back to 2005 levels by 2015. If you’re in the market, consider the following communities.

Downtown Fort Lauderdale: Galt Ocean Drive is a great area to buy a 2-bedroom fixer up condo for just under US$300,000. Or you could get a move in ready 2-bedroom starting at US$325,000 (although you won’t get an ocean view for that price). Prices are more expensive in this condo community because you’re very close to Ft. Lauderdale downtown strip and beach. In Lauderhill (east of downtown) 2-bedroom condos start at US$90,000. A 4-bedroom home starts at US$250,000. Lauderdale has 4-bedrooms detached homes that start at US$250,000.

Pompano Beach: Older (built in the 1970s) 2-bedroom condos start at US$125,000 while units built in the 1980s start at US$300,000. Newer condos (built in 2007 and up) start at US$400,000.

East Hollywood/Allendale: This area has attracted a lot of Canadians, says Palmer. There’s a large beach with a lot of beachfront properties and the area is very walkable. Condos are older—typically in one- to three-storey buildings, which may or may not have elevators. A 2-bedroom starts at US$125,000. Florida’s West Coast also offers great deals for vacationing Canadians (or investors looking to capture the still appreciating real property values in the sunshine state). Brenda Boss, of Sage Realty says that a few neighbourhoods offer all the sought after amenities—golf, marina access, shopping and restaurants—but not the hustle and bustle of other Florida destinations.

Cape Coral: Cape Harbour is a waterfront condo community in southwest corner of Cape Coral. It’s a boater’s paradise with mariner, restaurants, music, boat shows, shops and lots of night life right in the community. On the low end, a 2-bedroom condo will cost US$275,000. Tarpon Point is another waterfront community but is higher end (more luxurious). Two-bedroom condos start at US$500,000, but you get more than 2,800 square feet, a private elevator and a resort pool for that price. Coach houses are a good deal in this community with 2-bedrooms (2,170 square feet) starting at US$290,000 and 3-bedrooms (2,170 square feet) starting at US$300,000.

Fort Myers: Colonial Country Club is a popular area among golfers with some townhomes, homes and condos including a golf membership (or simply access to the social scene). Smaller units—2-bedroom, 2-bath with approximately 1,200 square feet—start at US$100,000.

Sanibel Island:This island, connected to the mainland by a bridge, is a nature lover’s paradise. There’s a lot of wildlife and almost a third of the island is protected by the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Reserve. It’s considered a more expensive, more exclusive area, but you can pick up a 740 square foot, 1-bedroom condo for as little as US$70,000. It won’t get you a beach-front view and you may have trouble renting it out, but for people who love the area and want to keep accommodation costs cheap it’s a great starting price. For 2-bedroom, non-beachfront condos. expect to pay at least US$215,000. A beach-front view will cost you much more with prices starting at US$500,000.