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French-Canadian snowbirds Pierrette Bolduc and Gisele Barbeau relax on Hollywood Beach in Florida last year
French-Canadian snowbirds Pierrette Bolduc and Gisele Barbeau relax on Hollywood Beach in Florida last year

Earlier discussion

Snowbirds: What you should know before heading south Add to ...

Guest: What is the smartest way to play the Canadian dollar with respect to converting to US currency for property ownership/maintenance in the US?

Terry Ritchie: See my currency comments above. It's a hard game to play. Some of the currency exchange folks can assist you with this using forward contracts and the like. But if you know that you are going to need US dollars for such a purchase, make hay while the sun is shining. Predicting the currency is a tough one. Last March .76. Today .94. Many senior economists believe that we should hit parity again this year. We got spoiled a few years ago. Course there are so many factors that dictate currency movement. We also have government intervention as well.

Nick: Can I get coverage from OHIP while away?

Leslie: My question relates to residency rules. What are the requirements to ensure that I am covered by OHIP if I spend time in the south?

Terry Ritchie: So long as you are a resident of Ontario you are covered under OHIP. However, your coverage is extremely limited for any medical risks that may occur in the US. Generally, OHIP will only cover costs up to C$400. You should make sure that purchase travel insurance prior to leaving Canada. Check with your bank, association plans or consult with your financial adviser to review a plan that can work best for you.

Alex: what are the requirements to ensure I am covered by BC Medical?

Terry Ritchie: See my OHIP comments above. So long as you are a resident of BC, you will be covered under MSP. However, you coverage will be limited for any costs incurred outside of Canada. You can check out www.healthservices.gov.bc.ca/msp/infoben/leavingbc.html#outofc for more information.

Jonathan: Terry, is there a state in the US that makes financial sense to invest in a rental property? Although Florida is a nice place to vacation, it does not sound like a place that will give you a good return, given the 'out of state' taxes one has to pay (plus don't forget the hurricane and wind insurance)?

Doug: 3 to 4 families are considering buying a house together for use and rental in Arizona. How do the property taxes in Arizona compare to Florida? Are there any other major differences from owning in Arizona to Florida?

Terry Ritchie: If you want water you go to Florida, if you don't you go to Arizona. Course, I'm in AZ today and last week, we had plenty of water! Our drought problem is now fixed. Head back to Calgary next week. Property taxes are far less in AZ than in Florida. See my comments above related to property taxes in Florida. Not only are property taxes higher in Florida, but so are property insurance costs as well (Hurricanes, etc.) There are lots of opportunities to purchase in both AZ and Florida. Question is really based on your lifestyles. Both are nice places. Where is it easier for you all to travel too? 3 hours by direct flight from Calgary to Phoenix works well for me. If you are in the eastern part of Canada, then Florida might be easier. Although there are direct flights daily from Toronto. In terms of having a number of family members involved, tax and estate planning is critical. Does everyone get along?

Greg Eby: Your gut feel, which state is currently, "best value" for vacation property?

Terry Ritchie: My wife is a Realtor in AZ and we have a home here, so I am a bit biased to Arizona. I've been living here on and off since 1979. I love Florida. I just don't know it as well. My suggestion, go down to Florida, kick the sand on the beach. Come to AZ and kick the desert rock.

Darren: I've been looking for properties in the Orlando area for the past few months. It seems that it is common for there to be all sorts of fees like HOA, Maintenance, taxes etc. added to the monthly carry costs. Do you have any tips on finding property that is HOA free?

Kurt: Terry, I have been looking at purchasing a condo in either Florida or Arizona. The HOA fees always concern me. With the number of foreclosures, is it possible that my actual HOA fees will increase if there are a large number of properties is under short sale or foreclosure?

Terry Ritchie: Good luck. The HOA fees are in place to cover the costs of maintenance of the community common area etc. It can be a big deal as a number of these communities might have less folks there (due to foreclosure, etc.) which then puts some of the HOA burden on the residents that are still in the community. You really have to be aware of this and find out what kind of increases have occurred and what might very well be expected. Good luck!

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