There are a few things Canadians should know when buying homes or other real estate in Whatcom County or anywhere in the United States. There are more things to know but below gives one a decent understanding of the key basic factors involved for Canadians to purchase, own and sell homes and other real property in the U.S.
First off, there are not any laws preventing a Canadian from buying and owning property in the United States. I'm frequently asked by Canadians if they can buy real estate in the U.S. The simple answer is "yes". All immigration laws must be followed but a Canadian can buy and own real estate in the U.S.
The most common obstacle on the buying end for a Canadian purchasing property in Bellingham or anywhere in the U.S. is getting state side financing. For Bellingham or Whatcom County, Washington Federal (WA Fed for short) and SaviBank are the only two lenders in Bellingham I know of locally that will offer US financing to Canadian borrower. WA Fed's phone number is 360-671-1144. SaviBank is 360-685-0080. Call them for rates and down payment amounts which vary depending on the Canadian borrower's overall scene. Depending on how organized one is and whether or not all of their Canadian paperwork (taxes) is current and to hand, be prepared for a 1 week to 10 day pre-approval process. Do not expect a quicky one day pre-approval process. WA Fed only does the full meal deal (fully documented pre-approval process). Also expect the loan to require a larger down payment (anywhere from 20% to 50%+) and the interest rate to be higher than the advertised downpayment requirements and rates one hears being available to those with US residency status. WA Fed should be contacted to get the specifics on downpayment requirements and interest rates. As of late Nov 2014, there are some other banks beging to roll out programs for Canadians - Caliber Mortgage for one.
To get around the non-optimum financing situation state side, many of the Canadian buyers I work with often refi their Canadian home or other properties in Canada (if they have enough equity there) and pay cash for the real estate they are considering state side. This has the added benefit of increasing their negoiating position on their state side purchase. Nothing like a cash offer to get a seller's attention and consideration.
The other main point for Canadians buying real property in the U.S. to be aware on the buying end of things (although not directly affecting the purchase, but a ramification) is that the Canadian Revenue Agency will require that you disclose any asset purchased outside of Canada that's worth more than $100K. This means that you will have to include form T-1135 each year with when you do your Canadian taxes. And, word is that the CRA is now enforcing this and fining those that do not comply. Here's few links concerning that particular topic.