The Great White North comes to Palm Beach County

An aerial view of Palm Beach County
An aerial view of Palm Beach County

While foreign buying of homes isn’t as important in Palm Beach County as Miami-Dade — representing a little more than 50 percent of total sales in the former, compared to more than 70 percent in the latter — activity is growing in the north.

Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches (RAPB) counted 409 home sales closed in the county since the beginning of 2014, with 305 of them listing country of origin. Of that 305, Canada easily topped the list, with 142, or 47 percent. Argentina placed second with 30, or 10 percent; Brazil third with 20, or 7 percent; and Finland fourth with 13, or 4 percent.

Suzanne Stoll

Suzanne Stoll

So why does Canada dominate?

“They all tell me everything is cheap around here compared to Canada, and they love to spend time down here because of the weather,” Suzanne Stoll, a Palm Beach-based realtor who specializes in foreign buyers for Illustrated Properties, told The Real Deal.

“They also hear Palm Beach County is quieter than Miami-Dade, and they like that lifestyle,” she said. And, of course, Palm Beach County represents a shorter trip for Canadians than Miami-Dade.

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To be sure, the U.S. dollar has soared 13 percent against its Canadian counterpart over the past year, making the purchases more expensive for Canadians. But if the greenback continues its rise, it will make the homes worth more in Canadian dollars if the buyers want to sell in the future.

While Canadians head the foreign buying parade in Palm Beach County, Latin Americans rule the roost in Miami-Dade, accounting for 68 percent of foreign and domestic purchases combined.

“Miami gives the Latin home buyer everything they are looking for—the language is familiar, the culture is familiar, and it’s clean and safe compared to Latin America,” David Cobb, regional director of Metrostudy South Florida, told TRD.

Of course, the numbers show that Latin Americans are beginning to come to Palm Beach County too, and that trend will continue, local real estate professionals say.

“Miami-Dade and Broward are pretty much all built out. The majority of vacant land in South Florida is in northern and western Palm Beach County,” Jack McCabe, CEO of McCabe Research & Consulting in Deerfield Beach, told TRD. That equates to more space and lower prices in Palm Beach County. “So we will see Latin American buyers move up north,” he said.

Local broker Teresita Gutierrez-Reoyo said that China is the next country to buy in Palm Beach County.

“Chinese buyers now focus on Miami, Orlando and Tampa, but my business contacts indicate there will be interest in Palm Beach,” Gutierrez-Reoyo, a broker with Keller Williams Realty Boca Raton and chairman of RAPB’s Global Business Alliance, told TRD.