The flagging Loonie may be dashing Canadians’ plans for a short-term stateside winter getaway, but the unfavourable exchange rate could be leading some to eye longer-term investments on home turf.
In Ontario’s Muskoka region, known colloquially as Cottage Country, residential property sales are hitting record levels, and Tom Wilkinson, president of the Muskoka Haliburton Orillia — The Lakelands Association of Realtors, suggests the tumbling loonie is propping up activity.
“People are perhaps looking and saying, ‘Gee, you know, we’re back to the scenario where it’s going to be expensive if I leave the country to go on vacation, so maybe it is time to buy a cottage,” Tom Wilkinson, the association’s president, tells BuzzBuzzHome News.
In December, 65 residential waterfront properties changed hands through the association’s MLS system, up 80.6 per cent compared to the same month a year ago, and the highest level ever recorded for that period.
For non-waterfront lots, sales totalled 100 units, pushing activity 22 per cent higher than it was through the same month in 2014, another December record.
“If you’re looking at the States and suddenly your dollar’s worth 70 cents, you’re looking at alternatives,” says Wilkinson.
“I think we’re going to see it impact cottage sales and tourism in general, whether it’s somebody with a trailer, or camping, or staying at a resort in Ontario instead of travelling to the states or the Caribbean.”
Another factor contributing to the booming activity is the unseasonably warm weather seen in Ontario this winter, which has especially benefitted the waterfront-property corner of the Muskoka market.
“What it meant was that you could see the property, you could see the waterfront because the lakes weren’t frozen, and when buying a waterfront property, the buyers want to be able to see it,” he explains.
Wilkinson, who is based out of the Haliburton Highlands, says it’s too soon to tell whether Americans are capitalizing on the exchange rate. However, he notes “it’s possible.”
In fact, the Lakelands Association of Realtors is currently working on a survey of property owners in the area to look at where buyers are coming from, he explains.
Jennifer Greenberg, a realtor with Harvey Kalles Real Estate, which serves the Greater Toronto Area and Muskoka, says she’s seen an increase in stateside interest in Canadian vacation homes first hand.
She and her husband and fellow realtor Michael Loewith own a cottage together on the shores of Fort Erie, right by the Peace Bridge, and the couple has sold several properties in the area.
“Over the last five years, there’s been very few Americans purchasing properties. But now their dollar, every dollar’s worth a dollar-and-a-half, so that can really stimulate these other markets,” she says, adding she’s already seen more Americans start to buy in Fort Erie.
“The majority of people on our beaches are Americans,” Greenberg says. “On the Canadian side, it’s 95 per cent Americans,” she adds.
“My neighbour last summer mentioned to me right off the bat, ‘Our dollar’s great, [I’ve] paid off my mortgage.”