By Mike Kent
While many are convinced that the falling Canadian dollar could spell doom for north Whatcom County real estate values, the very opposite may be true.
As a real estate agent, my message to Canadian sellers is simple: if you must sell, by all means do so and enjoy the unique exchange rate that will provide you added returns, but only if you plan on spending your equity back in Canada.
However, if you bought your piece of America as a getaway to build family memories and enjoy an escape from the big city, consider how you will replace that cabin or home in Canada, where prices are three to four times higher.
Most Canadian owners in Birch Bay and Blaine are here to enjoy our wonderful beaches, quality of life and laid back lifestyle, and the investment aspect is secondary. In time, the loonie will return to par as it always has, so overreacting to the current drop may be shortsighted.
Interestingly, some Canadians are actually buying right now because the loonie is low and they want to secure their U.S. getaway before it drops even lower. One client recently told me, “We should have bought months ago, when the loonie was in the 70s, but now we’re buying before it dips into the 50s.”
In short, don’t be tricked into thinking we have a crisis when in fact the glass is half full for north county real estate. Whatcom County desperately needs more housing product to meet demand now that inventories are down nearly 30 percent.
Blaine and Birch Bay can and will meet that need by filling seasonal homes sold by Canadians with full time U.S. residents living, working and raising their families here. Add the drop in gas prices and commuting from Blaine and Birch Bay is more economically advantageous than ever, especially when home prices are 25–30 percent less than in Bellingham.
The postcards and mailers stuffing Canadian mailboxes, enticing sellers north of the border to cash in on the strength of the greenback, may not be in the best interest of the property owner. The truth is, bringing on hundreds of listings will most certainly tilt the supply/demand ratio to the buyer’s favor by potentially collapsing home prices in the short term.
If fear and panic are removed from the equation, we will have a healthy supply of single family homes in Blaine and Birch Bay to meet the growing number of buyers looking beyond Bellingham where inventory is very low.
This will also help to strengthen our area with new full-time residents contributing to our community, churches and schools while providing vital year-round commerce to our local merchants.
For those who think they can sell now and jump back in the market later, think twice, as you may be surprised by what home values do over the next few years. National, regional and local economists all predict several years of steady growth in the housing sector with sustainable gains in prices. Buying that cabin back in a year or two may be far more costly, especially when you factor in the expense of selling and repurchasing.
I predict a bump in inventory and only slight weakening of prices as we head into spring, but a year from now we will see prices rising right along with Bellingham, Seattle and other markets enjoying the return of the housing market.
Lastly, while there may be fewer B.C. license plates driving through the neighborhood, have you noticed how many more California plates are showing up?