- 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.
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 there.
Types of accommodation 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, but generally there will be 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. 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.
Most rental homes in Canada come unfurnished, so expats will likely need to account for the cost of buying or leasing their own furniture.
Finding accommodation in Canada
We advise that expats begin their research of properties in Canada well in advance. It's best to research the city one intends on moving to and try to pinpoint neighbourhoods that 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 renting or buying property in Canada.
Once in Canada, print and online news publications are good places to continue the property search. It is a 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.
If expats find no joy in looking for accommodation on their own steam, real-estate agents are another good resource. Since many landlords don't want to bother with the hassle of finding their own tenants, estate agents will often 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, often extendable)
- 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 as long as the property is returned in good condition)
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 has a centralised database that contains most properties on the market in Canada, which means that expats can simply go to an agent with a comprehensive list of requirements for the ideal home who 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 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 the time comes to deal with the bank and arrange finance for the property.
►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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