Dreaming of a kinder, gentler life: Americans searching Canadian real estate sites has doubled in run-up to the U.S. presidential election
It’s not easy to immigrate to Canada. But as Americans contemplate the possibility of four more years of a Donald Trump presidency, Royal LePage’s website numbers indicate some of them are at least dreaming of moving north of the 49th parallel.
U.S. traffic to the site spiked 116 per cent between Oct. 1 and 22, Royal LePage CEO Phil Soper told the Star.
More than half (51 per cent) of those American visitors to the website were looking at property in Ontario; 19 per cent looked at British Columbia; 11 per cent, Alberta; and 10 per cent searched on Quebec real estate.
“We do see a lot of interest in Canada from south of the border,” he said. “A lot of it is voyeurism or window shopping. It’s not serious.”
As well as a less volatile political climate, real estate experts note that the lower Canadian dollar makes property here relatively affordable to Americans.
Soper, who has lived in New York state and California, said he agrees with a lot of Americans who perceive that, “Canada is a kinder, gentler and more sane place to raise a family.”
The biggest segment of U.S. property browsers on Royal LePage’s website are move-up buyers — 35-to-45-year-olds. The second-largest group would be first-time home buyers aged 25 to 35.
Most Americans who buy property in Canada buy in resort areas such as Muskoka, Canmore, Alta., and Tremblant, Que. That purchasing has continued this year despite the pandemic-related border closure, he said, although those transactions likely only accounted for a small percentage of the record-breaking sales this year of Ontario vacation properties.
“There’s a perception that we’re cleaner and a nicer place to get away from it all,” said Soper.
After the last election in 2016 there was a huge surge of property shoppers from the U.S. and a modest increase in transactions — below 30 per cent, he said.
Simeon Papailias of Royal LePage Signature Realty, has had about half a dozen U.S.-based investor clients reach out.
“They’re simply looking for a more stable economy than the U.S.,” he said. Some have reached out “because they fear the result of another Trump presidency.”
“There’s definitely a conversation and there’s some traction to it,” said Papailias. “But I wouldn’t say we’re seeing any kind of U.S. real interest like people are freaking out.”
The U.S. election won’t make any material difference to the Ontario real estate market, said John Lusink, president of Right at Home Realty. But indirectly, of course, the fallout can be significant, he said.
“What’s more impactful and might dictate what happens is the America First policy. Trump has gone that route, but (democrats candidate, former U.S. vice-president Joe) Biden has as well. When you have 74 per cent of our exports going to the U.S., it’s a long roundabout way to say ‘will this impact real estate eventually,’ ” said Lusink.
He said he wouldn’t be surprised to see more Americans buying Canadian vacation properties — “People saying, ‘Let’s get our money out of there. What’s the point between safety issues, health issues.’ ”
The Canadian Real Estate Association said there have been more U.S.-based property searches on its website, Realtor.ca, but it wouldn’t attribute that to the election.
A spokesperson said the increased traffic has been consistent through the post-COVID-19 lockdown period dating back to May 15.
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