They are impressed by the health care, bargain meds, clean air, favorable exchange rate and clams. The buzz of the upcoming Olympics doesn’t hurt either.

Retirees and aging baby boomers “from the States” are drawn to Canadian property during a variety of seasons and for a variety of reasons, but it’s best to do your research before signing on the bottom line.

Americans face two large issues when investing in real estate abroad. First, you have the appreciation or depreciation of the real estate itself–or the “property side” of the decision. You also have the currency risk when you sell the property and bring the money back into this country. If the Canadian dollar slides further, you run the risk of losing money on that investment. However, if the Canadian dollar improves against the U.S. dollar, your investment suddenly rises significantly.

Before those Canadian dollar signs in your eyes block your brainpower, research the capital-gains ramifications if you expect to execute a tax-deferred exchange. You may be able to rent the getaway – especially if it’s in a popular location such as Whistler where snow skiers can be seen on the mountain-top glacier nearly 12 months a year – but it will not qualify as a “replacement property.”

With investment property in the United States, you can defer your capital gain if you buy a “like kind” property of equal or greater value than the one you sold, provided you identify it within 45 days and purchase the replacement property within 180 days from the day you sold the first property. The Internal Revenue Service says any property outside of this county is not “like kind,” so no capital gains taxes can be deferred.

However, a big plus in the past few years has been the dipping of the Canadian dollar. A U.S. buck can buy one-third again as much in Canadian goods ($1.35), a strong incentive for Americans with cash who like to visit or invest north of the border.

According to Canadian brokerage Royal LePage, U.S. residents are the main reason the average house in Whistler, B.C., has leaped to $650,000. In addition, Americans have purchased 50 percent of the new high-end waterfront condominiums sold in downtown Vancouver. In the east, Americans have been grabbing vacation properties in Nova Scotia and downtown condominiums in Montreal.

Americans can borrow from Canadian banks and vice versa. But trying to finance Canadian property with U.S. funds becomes difficult. Location, security in the property and ability to enforce simply make the package unattractive to most U.S. lenders.

And, if you do choose to buy and borrow Canadian, don’t expect to see the loan options available here. Most Canadian conventional loans are written with a 5-year term. There are some 7- and 10-year options available, but the most popular loans right now are 6-month, 1-year, 3-year and 5-year loans (comparable to our adjustables and known as “open”), each typically amortized over a period of 25 years.

“Open” does not mean the borrower’s monthly payments adjust as the monthly market fluctuates; it means the borrower can prepay the loan at any time. Borrowers pay more for an open loan. Fixed-rate loan rules only allow for prepayment once a year. When a loan reaches its term, the lender usually renews it.

Shorter loan terms encourage borrowers to consider paying off loans as soon as possible, giving the consumer more of a stake in the property. This accelerated equity makes more sense to Canadians than it does to U.S. taxpayers because Canadians are not able to deduct home-loan interest from their taxes. For some American consumers, the mortgage-interest deduction is the only major write-off available.

Many investment advisors say that folks looking to purchase property abroad – for investment or a principal residence – often refinance or take out a home-equity loan on a property in the U.S. and pay cash for the “offshore” home. That way, all financing questions are eliminated and the interest on the home-equity loan or refinance often is tax deductible.

So, that little log getaway near Banff might look terrific and the exchange rate is definitely favorable…but what will your money look like when it comes time to “repatriate”?

Tom Kelly, former real estate editor for The Seattle Times, is a syndicated columnist and talk show host. Send questions and comments to


Send a Letter to the Editor for publication.
Send a comment or news tip to our
Please include the headline of the story.

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription