Eleven percent of Canadian home  buyers in Florida chose Naples while  10% chose Fort Lauderdale.

 Lured mostly by cheap prices, Canadians spent $2.2-billion on Florida real  estate last year, easily making them the Sunshine State’s No. 1 international  buyer of real estate.

Canadians — most of them paying cash — were behind 31.6% of all international  transactions, according to a report Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors for Florida.

‘‘We went down there on a holiday and prices were so damn low, I said to my wife ‘let’s buy,’’’ said Jerry Jarson, a 74-year-old retiree from Shanty Bay, Ont. The former air force officer and lawyer bought a condo two years ago in Cape Coral for US$79,900. He estimates its value has risen US$39,000 in two years.

Half of all Canadian buyers spent less than US$200,000 — about half the average sale price of a home here last month, $398,618. Only 16% of Canadians paid more than $400,000 for their Florida homes.

There’s no country that even comes close to Canada when it comes to buying, with No. 2 accounting for 7% of all international purchases. Canada has been number one for seven straight years, cooling on Florida real estate after a 2011 peak but rebounding since.

‘‘The increase in international home buying activity was driven by the continued recovery of the world economy and the affordability of U.S. properties,’’ according to the report.

Anthony Soulia, a realtor in Naples, said Canadians made up about 34% of buyers in his county last year, and he had wondered whether the falling Canadian dollar would affect sales. So far, it hasn’t.

‘‘The market continues to be strong down here,’’ said Mr. Soulia, who targets Canadian buyers on his web site. ‘‘They’re a very important part of our market.’’

About 89% of Canadians pay cash; U.S. financing said to still be difficult to come by and that shows up in the statistics, with only 8% of Canadians getting mortgage financing stateside.

Mr. Jarson said he was able to use the equity in his Canadian home to buy his condo. ‘‘We never had any money but the bank has lots,’’ he said about the line of credit  on his Canadian home he was able to use to finance the purchase.

The top Florida spot went to Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, which was picked by 12% of Canadians for purchases last year. Naples had 11%, and Fort Lauderdale had 10%. Miami Beach might be getting too pricey: only 2% of Canadians bought there in 2014.

About half of Canadians bought condos; 38% bought a detached home. The survey found 40% of Canadians buying last year purchased in a resort with another 33% buying suburban property.

The majority of Canadians, 53%, plan to use their Florida home as a vacation property. Another 14% plan to rent it out for investment purposes while 17% will do both. Only 7% of Canadians bought a home for pure retirement purposes.

National Post

Gord Lemon

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