Ever since Donald Trump was inaugurated as the President of the United States, Americans have been joking about heading north towards the Canadian border to buy a new home. However, we think there are more obvious reasons that American buyers might be seeking property in Canada (and, more importantly, citizenship in the Great White North). Perhaps it’s our healthcare and globally acknowledged extra-politeness, or maybe it’s our insistence on adding “oo” into words or our passion for hockey, all things maple syrup and poutine. Whatever the reason, if you own property in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or near the Rocky Mountains, an American may be interested in your home. Given the trend for migrating north, learning how to market your Canadian home to American buyers can pay off.
Turns out Americans are the largest “foreign buyer” of Canadian real estate, with most U.S. buyers choosing to invest in resort-style properties that are highly accessible north of their border.
To start their search most American buyers go online. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors showed that 92% of home buyers start their search for property online and their house-hunting experience lasts for an average of 10 weeks before making an offer. Given this information and by using the proper tactics and strategies, you may be able to attract more competition and increase the sale price of your property. To help, we’ve put together a list of five strategies to help market your home to American buyers.
1. Online exposure
It goes without saying that if you’re not in the country want to make a property purchase, then the best place to find information is online. To market your property wisely you need to make sure the home is listed on the appropriate multiple listing service (MLS) and you need to increase your exposure using social media accounts.
One great tool is to build a website for the property. This online site can be an effective marketing tool by offering potential buyers anywhere in the world a chance to view high-quality photos and exciting virtual tours. This is key. Cheaping out and using low-quality or poorly shot photos or video will quash all your efforts to get the right kind of attention and attract a buyer.
Once you have the site built, start using it as a tool to market the property. Consider writing an article on the benefits of the property’s location and then publish on sites like LinkedIn, Medium or Quora. Make sure you link back to the website and track where you get the most visits from (using Google Analytics). Now, take that information and create targetted ads using Google Adwords and Facebook ads. Just make sure you research the appropriate keywords to use and demographics to target. If you don’t know this information you can either do your own research or hire someone who has this skill set and knows what they are doing.
2. Focus on the price
On average, Canadian homes are priced 50% more than American properties. This can result in big sticker shock for American buyers. To soften this blow use the favourable U.S. to Canadian dollar exchange rate. Typically, Americans get about $1.25 to $1.30 of spending power for every American buck they spend —this translates into a 20% to 25% boost in their purchasing power.
To use the dollar’s exchange rate as a selling tool, consider converting the price of your property into U.S. dollars. This helps an American buyer compare apples-to-apples because that’s what they’ll do; they’ll compare your property to all the other potential vacation or secondary homes they could purchase to assess whether or not it’s a good deal. If you make it easier for them to compare, you make it easier for them to see the value.
When focusing on costs, make sure you price your property competitively. Since the vast majority of Americans use Realtors, they will have access to other, competing properties on the market and they’ll quickly learn if your property is not priced appropriately. It may also be a good idea to learn what the pricing segments are in the MLS system where you will list the home for sale. On the American MLS, price increments go up by $50,000 until the $300,000 price mark and then increase by $100,000. On the Canadian MLS, price increments rise by $25,000 until they hit the $500,000 price mark and then increase in $50,000 increments until the $1-million price point, where the price increments start to increase by $100,000. To maximize the number of buyers that will view your property, consider what price point will offer the biggest number of eyeballs. For instance, if you price your home at $300,000, those searching for houses priced below and those seeking houses priced above will probably both end up seeing your listing. Double the eyeballs by selecting one strategic price.
3. Eliminate the fears of a complicated process
Buying property in another country can be stressful. If you are in search of an American buyer, it is essential that they already have a trusted Realtor to help them with the process. A real estate agent that deals with foreign clients will appreciate the process and procedures that need to be followed because the buyer is a non-resident. To help, work with an agent who is experienced with foreign buyers. Remember, the seller’s agent does a huge chunk of marketing, so it’s vital that you have a committed and presentable selling agent by your side.
Dylan Nihte, a Growth Manager at Zolo, says that when a potential foreign buyer is searching for a property in Canada, he likes to encourage them to visit the property before closing the offer. “In a perfect world, we like to pick them up from the airport, chauffeur them around, show them the city and spend a few days with them.” This way, the buyer feels more connected to and comfortable in their new neighbourhood before making a large financial decision. Hands down, face-to-face marketing can make a huge difference in completing the sale. However, it’s not always possible. Make sure to talk to your Realtor about the best way to handle buyers who are unable to visit the property in-person. Consider adopting technological options, such as Skype video chats as well as virtual tours.
4. Connect with American real estate agents
A seller’s agent in America who already has connections to other licensed agents working in the cities where your American buyer is most likely living is a great way to broaden your marketing network. “An international network of Realtors that one can work with allows us to vet the agent to see who would be a good fit,” explains Nihte.
Failing that, you could use a referral site just keep in mind the agents listed on those sites are, very often, not vetted, and are on the site because they agree to the terms and paid the fee.
Once you establish connections with American realtors, it’s a good idea to prepare marketing materials that they can share with their network. For example, highly visual strategies like promotional videos of the property and city, a strong social media presence that demonstrates why Canadian real estate is so popular and information based infographics that show the neighbourhood statistics, may go a long way in convincing potential buyers to choose your city and your property over all the other options.
5. Consider using incentives
An essential part of marketing is to offer the buyer something they cannot resist. In real estate that can mean a home that’s in-demand (say, through a bidding war) or a deal on a property. To generate value consider offering American buyers a bonus — something they won’t receive anywhere else. For example, it could be custom-made furniture for a particular room, or a flatscreen TV, or a ski-pass to a local resort, or you could offer three months of monthly maintenance fees paid in full. No matter what the incentive is it’s just a tool to attract interest and add value to your property, in particular. After that, all the fundamentals must be in place.
In the end, the best way to get top dollar for your home is to remember two basic points: You need to understand why an American buyer would want to buy your property and you need to showcase the property in the best possible light. By doing this, the connections you make the marketing you use will have maximum impact and that should translate into an attractive purchase offer for your home or property.