A Place in the Sun

Hot Properties in Canada

Property in Canada

Canada is a land of big skies and wide open spaces. Canadians are relatively wealthy, their country is beautiful and varied and culturally diverse. Both geographically and economically, Canada is perfectly positioned for the 21st century. You’ll probably like it!

Canada has few restrictions on foreigners buying property and their homes tend to be big – average new homes in Canada are twice the size of new British homes. Prices vary enormously, with Vancouver having the highest property prices but most provinces like Nova Scotia having average home prices below C$300,000.

Barriers to would-be immigrants are lower than for the USA, Australia or New Zealand. Canada welcomes a wider range of careers, including more manual occupations such as chefs and hairdressers, but mainly in industries like oil, farming and construction. The visa application fee is lower, their provincial government websites are welcoming, and you can move there even if older (though points are heavily weighted towards the under 35s). And if you do get to live there, you’re less isolated, with the UK just six to nine hours away.

You can be a lot of things in Canada but bored shouldn’t be one of them. It has the world’s wildest animals, including bears, mountain lions and wolves, within the most dramatic scenery, from Niagara Falls all the way to Vancouver Island’s glaciers 4,000 kilometres away. Canada has gentle countryside too, such as the wineries of the Niagara Peninsula and the apple orchards of Prince Edward Island.

For those of us who have grown up surrounded by American culture, Canada has a similar rugged individualism and astounding environment but without the extreme politics and violence. You can live like a cowboy in Alberta, work in the film industry in British Columbia (“Hollywood North”) or develop software in Ontario’s “Silicon Triangle”. Most Canadians live within an hour’s drive of the US border, yet they enjoy free healthcare just like in the UK and everyone just seems to get along better.

Maybe they get along because of the climate. When winter temperatures struggle to reach the relative high of 0ºC, neighbours need to be friends. Canadians have adapted to it, however, with city attractions moving indoors or making the most of the cold – such as turning Ottawa’s Rideau Canal into a giant ice-skating rink. Then in summer the temperatures are warmer than the UK with many more hours of sunshine; Ottawa is sunny 47 per cent of the daytime, compared to 32 per cent in London.

Canada is an enticing prospect either for holiday homes or permanent relocation.

Where to Buy Property in Canada 

It’s not easy to pick out hotspots from such a vast country, but most British buyers look at Canada for either a holiday home in the mountains with four-season appeal, or at those liveable cities.

Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary took three of the top five places in the Economist’s Most Liveable City survey in 2011, while Ottawa and Montreal scored highly in another survey. So city living seems to be pretty good wherever you are.

The revitalized and now fashionable city of Toronto is certainly a safe bet for a city centre apartment with good rental appeal, but property there is higher than average price for the country, with the average property prices in Toronto at C$360,000.

Vancouver is highest at C$531,000, Montreal about average at C$255,000, while St John’s in Newfoundland has the lowest average property price at C$155,000.

For ski apartments, there are great ski resorts stretching from one coast to the other. On the eastern side, Newfoundland’s Humber Valley has three-bedroom houses from around C$300,000.

Mont Tremblant is more accessible, two hours drive from Montreal and Ottawa, while way over in Vancouver, there are one-bedroom condominiums in Whistler from C$100,000.

For ranches, the average price of a property in Manitoba is C$205,000, rather more for Alberta, with better transport links from the UK, at C$328,000.

How to Buy Property in Canada

Rules (and costs) for buying can vary from province to province in Canada, for example in Quebec there is a notary involved in the sale. In general, agents (realtors) are more proactive in North America than in Britain, so when you find the right property, you work with your realtor to make an offer.

If accepted, both parties sign the Offer to Purchase, which can be firm or conditional, and the buyer pays a deposit.

Conditional terms may include whether the buyer can (a) sell their own home and (b) get a new mortgage; the results of a survey and any title issues.

If the offer is firm, either side will suffer a financial penalty should they cause a default. All being well, to complete, both parties sign a final contract and funds are transferred. 

Property Buying Costs in Canada 

Buying costs tend to be low in Canada, between one and three per cent, a little more (maybe C$500) if you have a survey done, and a little more again in Quebec, due to the notary fees.

Buyers Beware

Buying in Canada is safe compared to most countries in the world, but the processes of being granted permanent residence can be long and difficult. It makes sense, therefore, to rent at first, until your application for permanent residence has been granted.