Dreaming of a U.S. vacation property? Here’s a realistic start

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by Farhaneh Haque

The dream of owning a vacation property can be vivid at this time of year, as Canadians look south of the border to warmer climates and cooler real estate markets that seem so much more affordable than in years past.

If you’re serious about finding a landing pad in a sunny setting one day, start by weighing these basic financial and lifestyle considerations in owning real estate in the U.S.

Know what you’re looking for 

There’s more than one way to own a slice of the good life, so do your homework and consider all the alternatives:

  • A timeshare or vacation club purchase, for example, gives you the right to use a property (or properties) for a certain period of time but may not include equity ownership. 

  • A condo in a resort community may be yours in full, but be aware of any restrictions set by the condo corporation if you plan to rent it out. 

  • Owning a freehold home may give you the most freedom, but it comes with the expense of time and money for long-distance maintenance. 

Plan your timeline 

Include any future goal to buy a vacation property as part of your overall financial planning. This will help you prepare with a down payment or a source of equity for your future financing.

It may even be part of your retirement planning: More than a third of Canadian boomers are considering buying a property south of the border, according to a TD Canada Trust Boomer Buyers Report, with about 12% planning to buy one for their retirement, in particular.

Learn the laws of the land 

Ownership of a new property could make you subject to local laws and property taxes that may be quite different than at home. The time to inquire about this is before you buy, when it may be wise to consult with tax, legal and estate professionals who know the jurisdiction.

Try before you buy 

It can help to “live the lifestyle” on a temporary basis to decide if owning a vacation property is really right for you. Once you get closer to choosing your desired location, consider renting for a season to get a feel for the community, the financial commitment, and whether all that proximity to sun and sand is all that you’ve imagined. While it might seem pricey, a short-term rental can save you thousands compared with having second thoughts after buying.

Look at all your financing options 

If you need to borrow in order to buy, be aware that mortgage terms and conditions may be quite different when you’re purchasing property in another country.

If you’re considering a property purchase in a different country, a good place to start is here at home to make sure you have a solid financial foundation.

A TD Canada Trust mortgage professional can walk you through any current mortgage numbers and help you determine whether a property in another country is an affordable option, particularly for anyone thinking of using existing home equity.


About the Author

Farhaneh Haque is the Director of Mortgage Advice with TD Canada Trust, a leader in residential real estate mortgages and home equity lines of credit. With over 18 years of lending experience, she is entrusted with the responsibility of offering mortgage advice to help Canadians make informed decisions about home financing and ownership. 

Farhaneh and her team draw upon research commissioned by TD Canada Trust, which reveals consumer attitudes and behavior related to home ownership such as choosing and buying a first home, renovating and greening a home, as well as understanding gender, regional and other demographic preferences. They also have access to proprietary research from TD Economics on topics such as Canadian interest rate forecasts and Canadian housing market insights 

In her personal time, Farhaneh is an active member of community groups promoting youth education; in particular helping high school students in securing funding to pursue post secondary education.

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