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I currently own a few rentals (town homes / condos) in the United States. I pay on average about 1% higher interest because it's not owner occupied. I have friends in Canada. I've been told there are no rate differences for investment (non-owner-occupied) properties vs. primary residence. It also seems like their rates are substantially lower than the US Prime rates. I'm also told they are allowed to discriminate and, do things like never rent to students. All of this sounds very enticing to me. But, I hear other negative aspects about them being a lot more favorable to the renter as far as laws go (hard to imagine that being possible!) It would be nice to diversify and own foreign property.

What are the ins and outs of a foreigner like myself buying rental property in Canada? Is it possible to do so on credit? Specifically, I've done well with Condos/Town-homes and would be interested in the same thing over there. Is it pretty much all the same? Is there such a thing as warrantable vs. non-warrantable? ie. do owner occupancy percentages matter? What are the down payment requirements? Do I have to establish Canadian Credit? Can I trust Zillow for rent estimates (I find it very accurate in the states!) Any insight is appreciated. Thanks!

  • How do you manage the US properties? Are you nearby or do you sub it all out? – JoeTaxpayer Jun 11 '15 at 20:54
  • Property managers for everything... The renters don't even know our names which is how we prefer it. The property manager does 100% of the repair, maint., advertising etc. When it comes to major improvements however (new counter tops as an example) we either do it our selves or sub it out to contractors we are used to working with. Sometimes the property manager knows someone who is good, but we also remodel houses quite a bit, so we have regular contacts for major work. I know I'd be starting over with all this in Canada. – maplemale Jun 11 '15 at 22:34
  • You do know that there's a tax penalty in the US for investment properties abroad, right? – littleadv Jun 12 '15 at 3:54
  • Wasn't aware... So are we double-taxed, or do we have some sort of agreement with Canada to prevent that? – maplemale Jun 12 '15 at 14:32
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You've asked a number of questions. I can answer a few. I've quoted your question before each answer.

What are the ins and outs of a foreigner like myself buying rental property in Canada?

This is a pretty broad question which can address location, finances, basic suggestions etc. Here's some things to consider:

Provincial considerations: Some ins and outs will depend on what province you are considering and what area in that Province. If you plan on owning in Montreal, for example, that's in the province of Quebec and that means you (or someone) will need to be able to operate in the French language. There are other things that might be different from province to province. See stat info below.

Canadian vs. US Dollar: Now might be a great time to buy property in Canada since the Canada dollar is weak right now. To give you an idea, at a non-cash rate of 1.2846, a little over $76,000 US will get you over $100k Canadian. That's using the currency converter at rbcroyalbank.com.

Taxes for non-resident rental property owners: According to the T4144 Income Tax Guide for Electing Under Section 216 – 2015: "When you receive rental income from real or immovable property in Canada, the payer, such as the tenant or a property manager, has to withhold non-resident tax at the rate of 25% on the gross rental income paid or credited to you. The payer has to pay us the tax on or before the 15th day of the month following the month the rental income is paid or credited to you." If you prefer to send a separate Canadian tax return, you can choose to elect under section 216 of the Income Tax Act. A benefit of this way is that "electing under section 216 allows you to pay tax on your net Canadian-source rental income instead of on the gross amount. If the non-resident tax withheld by the payer is more than the amount of tax payable calculated on your section 216 return, [they] will refund the excess to you." You can find this guide at Canada Revenue's site: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pub/tg/t4144/README.html

Stats: A good place for stats is the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). So, if you are interesting in vacancy rates for example, you can see a table that will show you that the vacancy rate in Ontario is 2.3% and in British Columbia it's 1.5%. However, in New Brunswick it's 8%. The rate for metropolitan areas across Canada is 2.8%. If you want to see or download this table showing the vacancy rates by province and also by metropolitan areas, go to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation site http://www.cmhc.ca/housingmarketinformation/. You can get all sorts of housing information, reports and market information there.

I've done well with Condos/Town-homes and would be interested in the same thing over there. Is it pretty much all the same?

See the stat site mentioned above to get market info about condos, etc.

What are the down payment requirements?

For non-owner occupied properties, the down payment is at least 20%.

Update in response to comments about being double taxed:

Regarding being taxed on income received from the property, if you claim the foreign tax credit you will not be double taxed. According to the IRS, "The foreign tax credit intends to reduce the double tax burden that would otherwise arise when foreign source income is taxed by both the United States and the foreign country from which the income is derived." (from IRS Topic 856 - Foreign Tax Credit)

About property taxes: From my understanding, these would not be claimed for the foreign tax credit but can be deducted as business expenses.

There are various exceptions and stipulations based on your circumstance, so you need to read Publication 856 - Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals. Here's an excerpt:

"In most cases, only foreign income taxes qualify for the foreign tax credit. Other taxes, such as foreign real and personal property taxes, do not qualify. But you may be able to deduct these other taxes even if you claim the foreign tax credit for foreign income taxes. In most cases, you can deduct these other taxes only if they are expenses incurred in a trade or business or in the production of in­come. However, you can deduct foreign real property taxes that are not trade or business ex­penses as an itemized deduction on Sched­ule A (Form 1040)."

Disclaimers:

  • This answer was given before some of the changes and additions to the question.
  • Be sure to get professional advice from an accountant and a real estate agent. I am neither.

Sources: IRS Topic 514 Foreign Tax Credit and Publication 856 Foreign Tax Credit for Individuals

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