Flying south: Canadian buyers return to South Florida with bigger budgets

“They’re entering the big leagues,” said Elliman agent Dina Goldentayer

South Florida’s Canadian Resi Buyers Now Have Bigger Budgets
(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

South Florida real estate has always been a magnet for global wealth, with the well-heeled typically traveling northward from Latin America to buy condos and mansions. Now, one of the region’s most significant buyer pools is flying south from the land of hockey, moose and poutine.

Canadians represented 6 percent of all foreign residential buyers in South Florida in 2023, spending a median of $437,700 on home purchases, according to data collected by the Miami Association of Realtors. And while that number pales in comparison to Colombia’s 15 percent, and Argentina’s 14 percent, agents say Canadian buyers have bigger budgets than ever before. 

“They’re entering the big leagues,” said Dina Goldentayer, an agent with Douglas Elliman and one of Miami’s top dealmakers. Canadian buyers, primarily from Montréal and Toronto, are coming to the table with serious cash, but are still coasting under the radar, she said. 

“I just don’t think the Canadians are flashy. They’re not making the big headlines like the New Yorkers,” Goldentayer said.

While Canadians aren’t snapping up $147 milllion worth of Indian Creek Village estates like Jeff Bezos, real estate players across the tri-county area are taking note that they’re coming to town. 

Seeing (Canadian) dollar signs 

Canadians are checking out a range of homes, from single-family houses to pre-construction condos.

“We have a lot of Canadians coming through the door in our sales office,” said Michael Troyanovsky, managing partner of Miami-based Regency Development Group, which is developing the 42-unit La Maré in Bay Harbor Islands. Troyanovsky confirmed Regency has presold several condos to Canadian buyers, with prices ranging between $3 million and $4 million. 

Phil Gutman, of Phil Gutman LLC, is leading sales for Ian Bruce Eichner’s planned eight-story, 57-unit La Baia North, which is also in Bay Harbor Islands. He also handled sales for La Baia South, and has presold units to Canadians in both projects, with prices ranging from $1.2 million to $1.4 million. Before the pandemic, he rarely saw Canadian buyers crack the $1 million mark, he said. 

“Canadians basically upgraded their price points,” he said. 

Compass agent Chad Carroll is even seeing Canadians with budgets between $5 million and $15 million, a significant jump from the $1 million to $3 million allowances he saw before the pandemic, he said.

“I actually got a call this morning from a Canadian buyer who wanted to purchase a condo in Sunny Isles,” Carroll said on a recent Monday in January, when the high in Miami was a balmy 76 degrees, compared to a frigid 28 degrees in Montréal. “They really are coming back in full force.”

Marketing up north

Canadian buyers in South Florida are not a new phenomenon, but agents say they virtually disappeared during the pandemic. With renewed demand from Canadians, agents and developers are recalibrating their marketing strategies and sending their advertising dollars northward. 

Carroll estimated he’s spending between 15 percent and 20 percent of his marketing budget in Canada. 

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“Before, we were probably in the 3 to 5 percent range,” he said. Gutman and Goldentayer also said they were spending on advertising in Montréal and Toronto. 

Jeff Polashuk, regional vice president of Compass in Florida, said the brokerage is focused on networking its South Florida agents with the right Canadian players. 

“We’re ensuring that our agents across the South Florida market are making all the connections they can with brokers in the Canadian market and staying in front of the Canadian clients they’ve worked with for years,” he said. 

Canadian brokers are also working on their end to connect clients with South Florida agents. One such broker is Dustin Graham, of Graham Real Estate in Milton, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. 

Graham offers a service to connect potential buyers with South Florida agents, and charges the U.S.-based broker a 25 percent kickback on any commission they earn.

“I really focus on making sure people have a team around them if they’re going to purchase something down there,” he said. Navigating the market as a foreigner can be daunting, and is usually why interested Canadian buyers don’t go through with a deal, he said. 

More purchases expected

By all measures, this is merely the beginning of a wave of Canadian buyers pouring into the market, according to Graham and Polashuk.

“This year or next year there’s going to be an influx,” Graham said. “You’ll probably start seeing a lot more Canadians purchasing down there.”

Polashuk expects not only will this be a big year for Canadian purchases, but also for international buyers returning to South Florida in general. 

“International is going to come back in a strong way,” he said. 

Gutman said it’s no mystery why.

“They know it’s a stronger market,” he said. “They know it’s a better climate.”