- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Canada Guide (PDF)
The process of securing suitable, reasonably priced accommodation in Canada can be a long and expensive task for expats. There is a general shortage of accommodation in most Canadian metropolises, so new arrivals who don't know much about the Canadian property market will benefit from using a real estate agent.
Regardless of whether one decides to rent or buy property in Canada, the fact is that accommodation is likely to account for the biggest chunk of an expat's cost of living.
Types of property in Canada
Expats moving to Canada will find a range of property types available. The options available will vary slightly from one city to the next. This will also depend on whereabouts in a city one chooses to live, whether it's near the trendiest attractions or closer to schools. However, expats should be able to choose one of the following options depending on where they are based and their budget, as well as personal preferences:
Canada is a modern, highly industrialised and economically stable country, and the standard of accommodation is generally very high. Living quarters in Canada are generally more spacious than in Europe and will certainly have some kind of heating system in place to deal with some of the climate extremes.
Home security isn't an issue in Canada – it is a famously safe society, and as long as expats exercise common sense, they are unlikely to have a problem.
Finding property in Canada
Expats are strongly advised to begin their search for a rental property in Canada long before actually arriving in the country. It's best to research the city one intends on moving to and try to pinpoint neighbourhoods which offer the best range of housing options for the best prices, and are within close proximity to public transportation and good schools, for those with children. Trawling through online rental classifieds and real estate websites will give prospective residents an idea of what is available. They will also show what they should reasonably expect to budget for buying property in Canada.
Once in Canada, print and online news publications are good places to continue the property search. Check the 'For Rent' or 'Rental Properties' sections of the classifieds. Moreover, in most cities there are free publications dealing exclusively with rental advice and listings. It is a very good idea to go and view a few properties, check out different areas and neighbourhoods, test the market out and calibrate one's expectations accordingly. Note that it's highly recommended to be on time and to dress well when going to view a property – treat it like a job interview, as the landlord's initial impression of a potential tenant will go a long way towards determining the success or failure of each lease application.
If expats find no joy in looking for accommodation on their own steam, real estate agents are another good resource. Since more than two-thirds of Canadians report owning their houses, and since many landlords don't want to bother with the hassle of finding their own tenants, often real estate agents will have mandate over the best of the rental properties in a given city. Note that, as helpful as agents can be in finding a place to stay, they will expect a fee for this service. This can range from anywhere between 10 percent of the monthly rent to a whole month's rent.
Renting property in Canada
Lease agreements are very important in Canada and are usually followed to the letter. Be sure to read the contract carefully, as once it's been signed, its conditions will be legally binding. The agreement will cover the following considerations: duration of the lease (usually 12 months), additional financial responsibilities of the tenant (normally water will be included in the rental charge, but tenants will have to pay for gas and electricity usage), deposit (often this will be two months' rent, refundable in principle), and forfeiture conditions. These explain how any breach of the contract leaves the tenant liable for eviction from the property.
Buying property in Canada
Expats are not only entitled to buy property in Canada, but they are also bound to find the process surprisingly straightforward and hassle-free.
Canada's unique Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – a centralised database that contains about 95 percent of all properties on the market in Canada – means that much of the hard work involved with finding an ideal property can be done by a real estate agent. Simply go to an agent with a comprehensive list of requirements for the ideal home (location, size, amenities, etc.), and they can then plug the information into a database and provide buyers with a full list of possibilities.
A real estate agent's central role in helping expat buyers find a new Canadian home will not end there, either. They can also assist in liaising with the seller, and will accompany the buyer to the house inspection (after which they'll issue a detailed report, chronicling the condition of the property).
If the buyer is satisfied with the property, the agent will then recommend a good estate lawyer to oversee the transaction, and will ensure all the paperwork is in order when it comes time to deal with the bank and arrange finance for the property.
►Renting vs Buying – a Toronto realtor's perspective provides useful insights for expats considering a more long-term move to Canada.
Are you an expat living in Canada?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Canada. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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