The Canadian dollar closed today above $1.08 against the US dollar. A few years ago it was just under $0.62. If I chose to buy a $200,000 property in the US back then it would have cost me about C$323,000. But today that similarly priced property would only cost me C$184,000. That's a 44% savings just from the currency exchange appreciation.
Add to this the sub-prime meltdown in the US which is causing a rash of foreclosures and price reductions down there and you could easily pick up an American home for less than half price. The dollar might stabilize and recover a little and most people think that real estate prices will continue to drop before they rise again in the US but there probably has never been a better time for a snowbird to pick up a bargain.
So let's go shopping. There are stories from California and Florida of builders selling remaining houses for less than half the initial price. But these tend to be new housing developments in suburban type settings that I'm not sure I'd consider buying at any price. The cooler neighbourhoods are cheaper but still not cheap. NYC seems a natural choice but I haven't seen too many bargains there yet.
So where to buy? I would choose a city with active arts and music scenes, a highly educated workforce, a major university in town and if you listen to Richard Florida a vibrant gay community would also help. I've done some research and Austin Texas seems to come up at or near the top on many indexes that one could use to gauge the coolness of an American city. Perhaps a Texas winter home is not out of the question for this suddenly snowbird. Maybe I'll check out SXSW in March.