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Snowbirds Race to Snatch up FLa. Housing

Snowbirds race to snatch up Fla. housing bargains

TORONTO – Jan. 15, 2013 – Canadians have traditionally been the dominant foreign buyers of Florida real estate, but they’re finding increased competition from Asian investors who are reportedly pouncing on Florida housing and condo deals.

“Some of our clients got beat out recently because they were waiting to book flights. Some Chinese investors bought up 35 (townhouse-condo) units without even flying in first,” Wayne Levy of Toronto-based Florida Home Finders told The Toronto Star. “They looked at a picture. They wrote checks. That’s what’s happening now.”

Asian interest in Florida real estate started picking up last year, according to industry insiders.

“They’re seeing the U.S. as a safe haven to put their money,” Shant Epremian, co-founder of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Pink Palm Properties, told The Toronto Star. “I am slowly starting to tap into that market because there is a tremendous amount of money there. Buyers are looking for good opportunities and see that Florida is still on sale.”

But, some say it’s not Asian buyers that Canadian snowbirds face as their greatest competition for Florida housing deals, but investor groups making “bulk investments” – buying up dozens of condos at a time. For example, the Blackstone Group LP, a U.S. private real estate firm, recently spent $2.5 billion snatching up 16,000 houses in nine U.S. cities, including Miami. The investor plans to turn the homes into rentals.

“They are, in essence, wiping out the bottom of the market. It’s forcing other buyers to move up the price ladder,” says John Tuccillo, chief economist for Florida Realtors.

Source: “Chinese, the New Florida Snowbirds,” The Toronto Star (Jan. 10, 2013)

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