Thinking of buying property in Florida for extended winter holidays? You’re in good company.
According to the Government of Canada’s study on Types of Canadian Travellers, nearly half a million Snowbirds flock to Florida every year. With the strong Canadian dollar and hot property market, Florida’s an attractive retirement option.
Travel insurance expert Nathan LaFayette, who is Executive Vice President of Travel Guard Canada (www.travelguard.ca), offers five rules to help Snowbirds avoid pitfalls and make the most of their time in Florida.
5 Rules for Florida snowbirds to avoid pitfalls
1. Get a good lawyer: 18% of foreign property purchases in the United States were made by Canadians and nearly one-quarter of Florida’s real estate sales in the past year were to foreigners. As a foreign national owning a second home, higher property taxes aren’t the only outcome. Many Snowbirds may not realize that if a Canadian owns American property at his or her death, that property is considered “United States situs” property. This classification means that the holding is subject to American estate tax on the full value of the property at a rate of up to 45%. Consulting a lawyer is the best way to help property owners navigate these rules.
2. Know the laws in your province: Leaving Canada for an extended period of time can affect your rights at home, so consulting the proper resources is important. For example, Ontarians can lose their right to provincial health insurance if they are out of the province for more than 212 days; in British Columbia it’s six months. “Snowbirds aren’t taking vacations so much as making second homes in Florida,” says LaFayette. “They need to know their health insurance rights and how to prepare for the unexpected before they leave home.”
3. Buy travel insurance: Medical expenses in the United States can be shocking to a Canadian so buy a good travel insurance plan. If you use it, it could save you thousands. If you don’t, you can still claim a tax credit. It is essential to purchase an extensive travel insurance plan that covers you for virtually any medical emergency. Look for a plan with a toll-free 800 number to reach help 24/7 and one that offers additional coverage to protect what matters to you. For example, travel insurance available from Travel Guard offers Golf Protection coverage to protect against missed tee times and lost equipment.
4. Be ready at the border: Whether you own property or not, crossing the border for an extended stay is very different from the shorter vacations that Canadians often take to the Sunshine State. Visitors who plan to stay for an extended period must be able to prove that they can support themselves and that they plan to return to Canada. Without proof of property ownership, or other ties to Canada as a resident, United States immigration may have a difficult time letting you pass through. Snowbirds should carry documents such as a Canadian bank account statement or tax return assessment to show financial stability and travel insurance documents with a policy termination date or pre-booked air travel ticket for their return.
5. Connect with other Snowbirds: To meet other Canadians, snowbirds can contact associations such as the Canadian Snowbirds Association (www.snowbirds.org) to find out about social events and to stay informed about their rights. The Government of Canada also offers the Connect2Canada (www.connect2canada.com) site to find other Canadians at destinations throughout the United States. Additionally, the Concierge Service, provided at no extra charge with travel insurance available from Travel Guard, can help Snowbirds find local activities, book tickets to shows, reserve tee times or make dinner reservations.
Travel Guard is one of the largest providers of travel insurance and assistance in North America, offering consumers a variety of travel insurance products, all with comprehensive travel and protection services – and backed by superior customer service. For more information, go to: www.travelguard.ca .
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