The Southeastern U.S. is one of the fastest-growing areas in North America, showing a surge in business opportunities in the manufacturing and distribution, retail, high-tech and professional services sectors. As of 2010, an estimated 114 million people, or 37% of all U.S. residents, lived in the region.

With these kinds of opportunities for business growth, in addition to the gorgeous weather, it’s no wonder international buyers – including many Canadians – are looking to Florida and the surrounding areas to purchase a second home, vacation or retirement property.

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Where should you be looking?

There are three resort markets that are attracting investors: Naples, FL, Savannah, GA, and Gulf Shores, AL. These markets are well-known for their financial advantages and luxurious lifestyle attributes in the Southern United States.

Naples, Florida

Situated 200 miles south of Tampa, this coastal community is renowned for its plentiful sunshine and balmy winters, breathtaking sunsets, sun-drenched beaches and world-class dining and shopping. Naples is home to many full-time and part-time residents, ranging from retirees and empty-nesters to young professionals.

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Resort-style living in Naples presents itself in many forms such as lavish estate homes, high-rise luxury condominiums, waterfront properties with Gulf access, and some of the most notable, award-winning golf course communities in the world.

According to the Naples Area Board of Realtors, all signs point to a very busy real estate sales season in 2012. As of December 2011, properties priced over $300,000 increased by 3% during 2011. Much of this increase was due to closed sales in the $2 million and over category.

What to Expect in Naples, Florida

Luxury Home Price Range: $3 million and over

Average Luxury Sales Price: $3.5 million

Most Affluent Neighborhoods: Port Royal, Old Naples, Park Shore, Aqualane Shores and The Moorings.

Luxury Buyer Geographic Profile: Canadians, Europeans, Americans from Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Illinois.

Savannah, Georgia

Founded in 1733, Savannah has been one of America’s favorite destinations – attracting nearly 11 million visitors every year. Referred to as the “hostess of the South” for its hospitable and welcoming ambiance, Savannah is located in Coastal Georgia’s low country. Adorned with cobblestone streets and antebellum homes and churches, the rich history and quaint charm of this city makes it an ideal place to retire in or purchase a vacation property.

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With a steady flow of relocation or second home buying, the luxury home market is priced at $750,000 and above. Thirty per cent of luxury homes sales are cash and 65 per cent of sales are waterfront properties. Around 24 per cent of sales were located in Savannah’s Historic District.

What to Expect in Savannah, Georgia

Luxury Home Price Range: $750,000 and over

Average Luxury Sales Price: $1.2 Million

Most Affluent Neighborhoods: Historic District, Waterfront (i.e. deep water, coastal and oceanfront).

Luxury Buyer Geographic Profile: Canadians, Americans from California, New York, and Massachusetts.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores is the epitome of small town charm. Considered the hidden gem of Alabama, this area extends from the Florida Panhandle and borders the Gulf of Mexico. With 32 miles of premium waterfront property, affluent buyers will find a vast selection of luxury homes and condominiums. Gulf Shores has been recognized in USA Today as a top beach destination.

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In past years, the largest percentage of buyers in Gulf Shores was primarily residential investors, but in the last 18 months, this market is seeing an influx of vacation and second home-buyers from the northeast United States as well as Canada.

This new buyer brings financial stability to the south Baldwin coast, which resides along the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama. Interested buyers in this market should be looking at things like quality of the development and what amenities are offered. Also of significance is the age of the development as well as high-quality and newer up-to-date finishes.

What to Expect in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Luxury Home Price Range: $700,000 and over

Average Luxury Sales Price: $1.5 Million

Most Affluent Neighborhoods: Bella Luna, Caribe, Turquoise Place, and Crystal Tower

Luxury Buyer Geographic Profile: Canadians, Europeans, Americans from Northeast United States.

Location of real estate property Why this is a good investment
Naples, Fla. You won’t find a more luxurious coastal lifestyle in the United States for luxury home prices that are comparable to those in 2004, plus the luxury market in Naples is already showing signs of price increases and decreasing inventory.
Savannah, Ga. If you’re looking for that hometown feel, rich in culture and close to city amenities, Savannah is indeed a good investment. With a steady flow of visitors for both business and pleasure, the purchase of a luxury property is a good choice and Savannah is in a major metropolitan area.
Gulf Shores, Ala. With its popularity among visitors and an abundance of beachfront property, Gulf Shores proves to be a good investment. Additionally, property taxes in Alabama are low and this region is an established vacation destination.
Phil Wood is the president and CEO of John R. Wood Realtors, a Naples, Florida-based luxury real estate firm.

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