- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Canada Guide (PDF)
The process of securing suitable, reasonably-priced accommodation in Canada can be a long and arduous task for expats. There is high demand and a general shortage of accommodation in Canada’s major metros, so new arrivals with little knowledge of Canada’s property market might benefit from using a real-estate agent.
Most expats moving to Canada rent a home, at least initially, to get a feel for their new city before committing to purchasing a house.
Types of accommodation in Canada
Expats moving to Canada will find a range of property types available. The options vary somewhat between cities, but accommodation generally consists of apartments (usually located in city centres), townhouses (also known as rowhouses), and standalone houses (typically found in the suburbs).
Canada is a modern, highly industrialised and economically stable country, and the standard of accommodation is generally high. Houses in Canada are generally more spacious than in Europe and will usually have some kind of heating system in place to deal with some of the weather extremes.
Home security isn't an issue in Canada – it is well known for being a safe society, and as long as expats exercise common sense, they are unlikely to have a problem.
Most rental homes in Canada come unfurnished, so expats will need to account for the cost of buying or leasing furniture.
Finding accommodation in Canada
We recommend that expats research their destination city well in advance and try to pinpoint potential neighbourhoods in line with their budget, lifestyle and needs. Trawling through online rental classifieds and real-estate websites will give prospective residents an idea of what is available.
Once in Canada, it is a good idea to view a few properties, check out different areas and neighbourhoods, test the market and calibrate one's expectations accordingly. Social media groups are also a good jumping-off point.
If expats have no luck on their own, real-estate agents are a good resource. Since many landlords don't want to bother with the hassle of finding tenants, estate agents often have a mandate over the best rental properties in a given city. Note that, as helpful as agents can be, they will expect a fee for their 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 strictly adhered to. Prospective tenants should be sure to read the contract carefully, as its conditions are legally binding once it's been signed.
The agreement will cover the following considerations:
duration of the lease (usually 12 months, often extendable)
additional financial responsibilities of the tenant (water will normally be included in the rental charge, but tenants will have to pay for gas and electricity)
deposit (often this will be one month’s rent, refundable in principle as long as the property is returned in the same condition)
Buying property in Canada
Expats are not only able to buy property in Canada, but they will also find the process surprisingly straightforward and hassle free.
Canada has a centralised database that lists most properties that are on the market, meaning expats can simply go to an agent with a comprehensive list of requirements for their ideal home and the agent can then plug the information into the database and provide buyers with a full list of prospective homes.
A real-estate agent's central role in helping expat buyers find a new home will not end there either. They can also assist in negotiating with the seller, and will accompany the buyer to the house inspection (after which they'll issue a detailed report of 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 ensure all the paperwork is in order to arrange bank financing.
►Learn about what to expect when budgeting by reading Cost of Living in 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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