Real estate agent offering to help angry, Canada-bound voters sell homes

‘If my candidate doesn’t win, I’m moving to Canada.’

It’s a common refrain, perhaps even more so in the heated 2016 race – but one South Carolina real estate agent is trying to cash in on the voter discontent.

Jeff Cook has put up roughly a dozen billboards across eastern South Carolina with pictures of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton staring down, next to the phrase, “Moving to Canada? We can sell your home.”

The 48-foot by 15-foot advertisements offering the services of Jeff Cook Real Estate started cropping up along freeways and interstate highways back when the Republican convention began last month. The signs are, naturally, a bit tongue-in-cheek – after all, few ever make good on threats to move across the northern border. But Cook tells they’re generating business, including from people who say they're looking to make that move.

“It’s a joke, obviously, but we have actually started the application process for people who want to move if their candidate doesn’t win,” Cook said. “I don’t know if they understand the immigration issues, cost and paperwork that comes with this. But they say they’re serious.”

Cook’s billboards have become a sensation across social media, resulting in about 200 additional phone calls a week from around the world. Most of the callers are looking for a good realtor, some are members of the media (including press from New Zealand and Great Britain) and others are fascinated by the ads and want to give their opinion.

He says his website traffic has jumped from 30,000 to 150,000 hits per month and he has hired additional agents to handle the workload.

But not all the calls are friendly.

“People in Canada are calling saying, ‘Please don’t send those people up here; we don’t want anything to do with those people,’” Cook said. “We also had someone from Mexico call and they were mad that we’re not sending people to Mexico.”

Cook has also fielded calls from Canadian realtors who want the referrals to any clients who move. So far, Cook says he has about 20 people in the application process who say they’ll wait to see if their candidate loses before placing their homes up for sale.

“If their candidate doesn’t get in – they want to go,” Cook said.

Tommy Welch, 34, of Charleston, is one of those people. A Trump supporter mulling over what he would do if Clinton wins, he said he saw the billboard and called Cook. He filled out the paperwork and is now debating: Toronto or Montreal?

“The billboard is kind of comical but right on; the election is a scary deal that everyone is gearing up for,” Welch said. “I would definitely, 100 percent, positively entertain the possibility [of moving] if Hillary won.”

Welch, a real estate investor, says he owns three homes and would sell them all, and uproot his family of four.

Another Charleston resident and Trump backer who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Jim, said he too called Cook after seeing one of the billboards and filled out the form.

“If Hillary wins, I will definitely move out of this country,” said Jim, 72. “I’d like to say I’ll go to Canada, because it’s the closest place I could get to. Any place but here.”

Cook is casting himself as an equal opportunity realtor. He’ll sell the homes of conservatives who want to flee a Clinton presidency, and liberals who want nothing to do with a Trump-led America. (That latter list would include celebrities threatening to leave if Trump wins like Cher, Samuel L. Jackson and Raven-Symone.)

The clients – and the phone calls – are “pretty evenly split” in their support for Trump or Clinton. So far no one has actually sold their house because of the election, he said. He’s also gotten new clients moving locally who called because they thought the billboards were funny.

As for Cook, who is he voting for?

“I’m not going to say,” he said.