Diane Olson and her team in Arizona specialize in a special kind of buyer — Canadians.
“That’s all we do is service the Canadian clients,” said Olson, who will be in Red Deer on Tuesday as part of an 11-city Canadian tour.
A former Winnipeg police officer who worked in law enforcement for 11 years, Olson moved to the United States with her American husband — a diplomat. Living in Arizona, she earned her Realtor’s licence and found herself in the right place at the right time.
“When the market started going down in Phoenix and the loonie was going up, a lot of my friends started calling me and asking if I could help them get a house.”
Demand for her services grew, until today Olson has become the go-to person for many Canadians seeking property in Arizona. And with buyers from Canada now accounting for 23 per cent of the American homes purchased by foreigners — well ahead of second-place Mexico at 10 per cent — it doesn’t appear demand for her services will subside soon.
“There are about 39,000 houses on the market today,” she said, referring to the Phoenix area where she concentrates.
“Everything is about 50 per cent off right now, depending on where you are.”
Olson said the focus of her current tour is education. Canucks looking to take advantage of the depressed housing market to the south can make mistakes if they’re not careful.
For one thing, she said, it’s important to deal with a Realtor who knows the difference between Canada’s real estate system and that in the United States. You also want to deal with someone with access to resources like tax lawyers and accountants who can help with the complexities of international transactions.
As for choosing a specific property, Olson preaches “location, location, location.”
“You’ve got to make sure you know what you’re buying,” she said, explaining that a house that looks good on paper might be in an undesirable location.
“I always tell people, ‘Do your own due diligence. Check the school district, check the police reports, and you’ll learn.’”
Olson said she’s put many Canadians in the same developments, resulting in a network of expatriates who now interact and socialize together.
She estimates that about half of her Canadian clients are buying a second home, with the balance seeking investment properties.
“I have a lot of clients who are on their fifth, sixth, seventh house for investments.”
With so many Americans displaced from their homes, the rental market is very active, she said.
“Every house that we’ve done as a rental, within two weeks it’s been rented for one or two years.”
She said most U.S. citizens aren’t upset about their northern neighbours snapping up real estate. They appreciate the stability that the foreign capital brings to the market, including the payment of condo association fees and expenditures on things like furniture, and the fact Canadians are helping to maintain local property and generally support the economy.
“When you start putting all of that together, that’s a lot of cash coming into a city that would be devastated without a lot of the Canadians coming in.”
Eventually, said Olson, the U.S. housing market will recover and the flood of Canadian buyers will dry up.
“Things will change. It’s not if, it’s when.”
At that point, she said, the Diane Olson Team will probably have its hands full helping Canadian clients sell their investment properties.
Olson is scheduled to speak on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Black Knight Inn. Admission is free, but attendees are asked to register at www.dianeolson.ca.