Our Guide on Renting or Buying a Home in Canada
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- Andrey Vasilyev
When moving to a huge city such as Vancouver, InterNations made it easy for me to find fellow expats and the network that I needed.
There is a vast array of options when it comes to accommodation and housing in Canada. From short-term rentals and different types of houses and apartments for rent, this section has got you covered.
This section gives an overview of rental contracts, deposits, average rental fees, documents you will need, how utility bills work, etc.
Or perhaps you are looking for something a little more permanent. This section also includes information on buying a house in Canada. From the first steps of securing a mortgage to the necessary tasks of setting up utilities, we cover everything you need to know to purchase your dream home in the Great White North. Read on to learn more.
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Renting a House or Apartment
If you are wondering how to rent houses or apartments in Canada, there are several ways to do so: Craigslist, Kijiji, local newspapers, community bulletin boards, social media groups, or even via word of mouth. The majority of the time, though, renters find their new homes online. With that said, it is essential to be careful with the internet as lots of scammers tend to do their work via listings websites. Remember: if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. You can read more tips on how to avoid fraud below.
Long-term renting can be a good option for expats because there is no permanent commitment and is sometimes cheaper than buying property.
When it comes to furnished and unfurnished apartments in Canada, please note that many rentals do not come furnished, so ensure you are budgeting for some household essentials such as furniture, dishes and utensils, linens, and even cleaning supplies.
If you are bringing a pet with you, make sure you budget for this as well, as some landlords may ask you to pay an extra fee.
Average Rent in Canada
According to PadMapper.com, Windsor, when compared to 24 metropolitan areas across the country, was found to have the lowest rental rates in Canada. The minimum house rent in Windsor, based on a median monthly rate, was 750 CAD (564 USD) for a one-bedroom and 990 CAD (745 USD) for a two-bedroom.
Other suggested main cities based on affordability are:
City One-bedroom/month CAD (USD) Two-bedroom/month CAD (USD) St John’s 810 (609 USD) 890 (670 USD) Saskatoon 830 (625 USD) 1,010 (760 USD) Regina 860 (647 USD) 1,080 (813 USD) Q 880 (662 USD) 1,110 (835 USD) Edmonton 910 (685 USD) 1,200 (903 USD) Abbotsford 950 (715 USD) 1,080 (813 USD) Winnipeg 970 (730 USD) 1,240 (933 USD) London 1,020 (767 USD) 1,210 (910 USD)
Overall, if you are wondering how much the rent is in Canada, here is a look at average costs across the country, along with a range:
Canadian Rent Prices
Apartment **Price per month** CAD (USD) **Range** CAD (USD) One-bedroom in center 1,205 (907 USD) 800-1,800 (602-1,354 USD) One-bedroom outside of the center 980 (737 USD) 700-1,500 (523-1,129 USD) Three-bedroom in center 1,958 (1,473 USD) 1,300-3,000 (978-2,257 USD) Three-bedroom outside of the center 1,593 (1,198 USD) 1,100-2,500 (823-1,881 USD)
Rental Process and Rules
Leases in Canada are typically for one year, but can also be for a shorter fixed term or month-to-month. After one year, the contract can be renewed for another year. These terms are best discussed with the landlord before signing.
Rules on rent increase vary by province. In some provinces, a cap is set by the government and is subject to change every year. Some provinces, such as Alberta, do not have a cap. In Ontario, the cap is currently set to 1.8%. In British Columbia, the limit is 2.5%. If landlords wish to increase more than this, they need to get approval. Rent increases can only occur every twelve months. Landlords must notify their tenants, usually a minimum of 90 days before the change.
Other rules and expectations of landlords are to collect rent, provide you with everything that is outlined in your rental contract, and give you notice before entering your apartment for whatever reason (they may need to do so for things like housekeeping, renovations, or showing your space to potential tenants if you are moving out).
Make sure you become familiar with the law and your rights as a tenant. These vary from province to province.
How to Rent an Apartment
Once you have found a place you like, you can reach out to the landlord and set up a time to view the space. If you like what you see, the landlord will give you an application form for you to fill out and return. Give your landlord at least 48 hours to get back to you. If you are accepted as a tenant, your landlord will send you the lease agreement for you to review. If all is okay, you will sign it, hand over your deposit (read more about this below), and discuss move-in arrangements. On move-in day, you will pay your first month’s rent and be given the keys to your new home.
Requirements and Documents for Renting
Most landlords, before they choose to rent to you, like to make sure that you will be able to pay your rent on time and can afford the space. For this reason, they may ask for:
- Employer letter with salary details
- Bank statements with enough savings to cover some months’ rent
- References from previous landlords
Most apartments and houses for rent in Canada require a security deposit equal to at least half a month’s rent. If you are renting in Canada as a foreigner, keep in mind that some landlords might require a guarantor. This needs to be someone that has Canadian documents.
They may also run a Canadian credit check on you, but if you are a foreigner, you may not have any history in Canada. For this reason, it is smart to also have a credit rating from your home bank handy proving your creditworthiness.
Rental Contract and Deposit
Your rental agreement will typically outline the expectations of you as a tenant and the rules you must follow. A typical lease will also include:
- Both the tenant’s and landlord’s name, addresses, and contact information
- Duration of the rental term
- Monthly rent amount and due date (typically first of the month)
- Utility bills payment (e.g., heat, water, electricity), if not included in the rent
- Conditions for termination of the rental agreement
- Rental increase information (when a landlord can increase and by how much)
- Deposit amount and conditions
Your rental contract is a legal document so make sure you read everything thoroughly and understand it before signing. Feel free to have a lawyer look over it as well.
When you sign the lease, expect to hand over a rental deposit. Assuming there are no damages to the property, this should be returned to you once you vacate the premises at the end of your contract.
If you have just arrived in Canada, you may want to look into short-term rentals as an initial housing option. This is a good idea for a few reasons: First, you may want to get to know the neighborhoods in person before settling in an area. Some expats also feel more comfortable choosing a permanent place after they have seen it in person versus booking something from abroad based on photos alone (which is never recommended). In general, short-term rentals give you a bit more time and flexibility when it comes to finding your new home away from home.
In Canada, there are several temporary rentals available for every budget. For these bookings, it is always advisable to make your reservations before arriving. This is especially true if you plan on arriving during peak or high tourist season which is usually during the summer months of June through September. For most places you can do this online yourself or through a travel agent in your home country.
Popular Short-Term Rental Options
Some of the most popular options are Airbnb, bed-and-breakfasts, discount hotels/motels, or even some college and university residences that are vacant for the summer. There are also Christian establishments such as Young Women’s Christian Associations and Young Men’s Christian Associations that offer comfortable living options.
Other “longer-term” options include places like apartment hotels or shared accommodation with a family.
- Bed-and-Breakfast – You usually have a private bedroom and bathroom; breakfast is included in the morning. No access to kitchen facilities, though.
- College or university residences – These are mostly vacant between May and August.
- Hotels/Motels – Discount hotels and motels are cheaper than some luxury hotels.
- Apartment Hotels – Monthly furnished rentals (can offer daily or weekly rates) that are usually cheaper than hotels.
- Shared accommodation – You can generally expect to have your own, private bedroom, but share other spaces with the homeowner such as the kitchen or bathroom.
- Christian establishments – These tend to very strict and fill up fast during the summer period, so advanced booking is suggested.
There are also other benefits of renting apartments on a short-term lease. Typically, short-term rentals are furnished. You also shouldn’t need as many documents as you would when renting something long-term, such as a credit report or an employer letter.
Accommodation **Cost per night** CAD (USD) Christian Establishments 24-45 (18-34 USD) Bed-and-Breakfast 35-105 (26-79 USD) Hotels/Motels 45-250 (34-188 USD)
Things to Know
It is important to note that in many places across Canada, short-term rentals are heavily regulated and technically not permitted to operate in places like Toronto without a proper license and tax registration. This is to combat the growing number of Airbnb, VRBOs, and other online accommodations that are crippling the hotel industry. That being said, short-term rentals are fairly easy to find and readily available.
The following are tips to help renters, plus some things to be aware of if you are doing most of your searches online:
- Significantly reduced prices – Do your research on what the market value is. If the rent is way below the average, this could be a good indication that it is a scam.
- Always check out the apartment in person and never send someone money without visiting the place first.
- Local is best – If the landlord claims to be out of the country or unavailable for any reason, this could be a red flag.
- If the landlord only communicates over e-mail and does not speak on the phone or in person, be wary.
- Money transfer services like MoneyGram and Western Union are popular with Internet scams because they are untraceable, and the money is available instantly. Use caution if you are being asked to send a deposit via one of these – especially if it is overseas!
- Do not open attachments from a landlord you do not know without running them through anti-virus software.
Report any fraud attempts to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center.
Buying a Property as a Foreigner
If you are wondering how to buy a house as a foreigner in Canada, the good news is that the country does not have any restrictions for non-residents wishing to purchase property. Someone from another country can buy whatever and as many homes as they like.
Keep in mind though that there are areas in Ontario in which a non-resident is subject to a 15% Non-Resident Speculation Tax on any property they purchase, with interest.
This section will guide you through buying a home in Canada. It will provide you with all the information you need to buy property as a non-resident in the Great White North.
Canadian House Prices
Of course, house prices in the main Canadian cities are higher in comparison to towns on the outskirts or rural areas. As of 2018, the most expensive houses in Canada were found on the west coast in Vancouver, British Columbia, while the cheapest were in provinces like Manitoba and Prince Edward Island.
As a whole, the average house price in Canada is 495,000 CAD (372,403 USD).
The following tables give a look at prices based on major cities and provinces.
City **Average House Cost** CAD (USD) Vancouver 1,092,000 (821,555 USD) Toronto 766,000 (576,292 USD) Calgary 431,000 (324,259 USD) Ottawa 382,000 (287,394 USD) Montreal 341,000 (256,548 USD) Halifax 316,000 (237,698 USD) Regina 276,000 (297,610 USD) Fredericton 173,000 (130,132 USD)
Province **Average House Cost** CAD (USD) British Columbia 730,000 (549,113 USD) Ontario 578,000 (434,777 USD) Alberta 387,000 (291,167 USD) Québec 297,000 (223,453 USD) Manitoba 296,000 (222,702 USD) Saskatchewan 288,000 (216,683 USD) Nova Scotia 249,000 (187,340 USD) Newfoundland and Labrador 246,000 (185,032 USD) Prince Edward Island 230,000 (173,045 USD) New Brunswick 178,000 (133,922 USD)
Types of Houses
Canada offers many different types of homes such as condominiums, detached houses, semi-detached houses, townhouses, or a duplex/triplex.
This type of housing is generally found in apartment buildings although townhouses can also follow the condo ownership model. Typically, you own the unit but not the land it is built on or any common spaces outside of your unit. With this type of home, you may be charged a “condo fee” (which varies widely) that goes towards maintaining indoor and outdoor common areas such as parking areas, elevators, carpets, lobbies and front entrances, and any recreational facilities.
This is a property that stands on its own and tends to be the most expensive because of land costs (you own both the home and the land). It offers plenty of space and privacy, ideal for families. Any house repairs or maintenance is your responsibility. Homeowners are in charge of their own utilities such as heat, water, and other services.
This is a house that is attached to another on one side. Owners are responsible only for their side and land as well as the maintenance. While the cost depends on the area, they are usually less expensive than a fully-detached house, making them appealing to many buyers.
This is a series of homes attached to each other. They look like a row of houses. You usually share a wall with the people who live next to you. In some cases, there may even be someone above you.
This is a building usually divided into two or three units. Often a buyer will buy the entire place and rent out the other units to help with mortgage costs. Each unit has its own separate entrance and the person/people in each unit are responsible for the care and upkeep of their own unit.
Process and Steps for Buying a House in Canada
The purchasing process is the same across the country and total time for buying a house usually takes between 60 to 90 days. If the house is vacant, it can be as fast as a month.
The first step if you wish to buy a house in Canada is to find a home you like that fits your needs in your chosen area. When deciding on a region, consider Canada’s climate as parts of Canada have milder weather and temperatures which may be more ideal.
When looking for a property, listings can usually be found in the real estate section of community newspapers. If you’re searching from abroad, the internet is often the easiest and most comprehensive way to get an idea of houses available. Keep in mind the same online tips outlined above to avoid falling for any scams or fraud.
You can also hire a realtor to help you with your search. Find one with experience working with foreign buyers and absentee clients.
Get pre-qualified for a mortgage. It is important to note that mortgage interest rates for non-Canadians may be higher. Also, non-residents usually require a 35% down payment in cash and 65% of the house’s value is offered as a mortgage. Bank loans can vary slightly between banks, though.
Along with your down payment, you will also need a reference letter from your bank, an employment letter showing your income in Canadian or US dollars, three months’ bank statements, and a Canadian credit check.
If possible, make sure you visit the homes that interest you in person. If not, an experienced realtor can usually do this on your behalf to ensure it meets all of your requirements and needs.
Once you have decided on a home, your realtor will draw up a contract of sale and purchase agreement. You will sign it and then it will be presented to the seller’s realtor.
From here, the realtor will contact a real estate lawyer or notary for the conveyancing of mortgage, transfer of monies, and property registration.
Once possession day arrives, you will be free to move in and enjoy your new home.
Requirements to Buy a Property
If an expat wishing to buy a house is planning to live in Canada for more than six months, it is required that they apply for immigrant status.
Home insurance is a requirement for obtaining a mortgage, and it can be difficult or expensive for non-residents to get home insurance. Therefore, make sure you can get this. It is best to shop around and ask for various quotes before making an offer on a home.
Home Ownership and Canadian Immigration
If you are thinking of buying a house in Canada and getting citizenship, permanent residency, or even a visa, it is vital to know that, unfortunately, owning property in Canada does not help your immigration process in any way or give you any privileges.
Utility companies across Canada vary from province to province. Here are the top utility companies for each province and territory:
- British Columbia: BC Hydro
- Ontario: Hydro One and Toronto Hydro (many other options too)
- Alberta: Energy Alberta
- Saskatchewan: SaskPower
- Manitoba: Manitoba Hydro
- Québec: Hydro-Québec
- Prince Edward Island: Maritime Electric
- New Brunswick: NB Power
- Nova Scotia: Nova Scotia Power
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro
- Yukon: Yukon Energy
- Northwest Territories: Northland Utilities
- Nunavut: Qulliq Energy Corporation
Utilities and Rent
Utilities are usually included if you are renting, but if you are buying a home, it is best to contact the utility company before you move in. This way you give yourself a few days to make sure your utilities are all up and running and ready for when you settle in. The utility provider will also be able to provide you with a list of any required documents you might need to get your gas, electricity, and water set up.
Things to Know
In many regions across Canada, electricity is usually referred to as hydro. Utilities in Canada can be owned by private investors or the government though Crown corporations. In most provinces, the distribution of electricity is provided by provincial Crown corporations and natural gas is private. However, the government regulates utilities through the National Energy Board and each province’s own public utilities commission. They make decisions on rates, allowed rate of return on earnings, and follow strict environmental rules. These decisions can be appealed to the Cabinet of Canada.
While you can learn more about the cost of utilities under the Living section, in general, services in Canada are not excessively expensive. If it is not included in your rent, your landlord might be able to point you in the direction of a utility provider with good deals in your area.
Voltage in Canada
In Canada and Québec (just like the rest of North America), the standard voltage is 110-120 V with a frequency of 60 Hz. If you are an expat coming from Europe, you will need an adaptor or converter as European plugs are not compatible. You can buy these in most hardware stores and airports.
Water in Canada
When it comes to water in Canada, it is regulated by Health Canada, and tap water is generally safe to drink. But despite its regulation, there have been instances where water has been found to be contaminated so to be on the safe side, it is recommended you install a filter.
Internet and Mobile Phones
You do not need to worry about how to get a phone number in Canada. The process is actually quite simple and one of the first things expats do upon arrival. Major cell phone service providers in Canada are Telus, Bell, Rogers, Koodo, Freedom Mobile, Mobolicity, Public Mobile, Freedom Mobile, Petro-Canada, Chatr, and Fido.
Typically to get a plan you will need:
- Two pieces of ID
- A Canadian address
- Chosen plan
- Preferred method of payment (pre or postpaid)
How to Get Internet in Canada
Like cell phones, when it comes to internet, there are several different packages to choose from in Canada and from a variety of providers. The primary providers are Shaw, Novus, Tek Savy, Telus, Rogers, and Bell. When choosing a plan and provider, some of the things you will need to consider are upload and download speeds plus data caps.
Television in Canada
All of Canadian television is regulated under the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and it mandates that at least 60% of programming be Canadian-produced.
How to Watch Your Home Country’s TV in Canada
When it comes to how to watch your home country’s TV in Canada, the good news is that the CRTC allows for foreign-owned channels to be broadcast in Canada. There are more than 200 ethnic channels available in Canada from all around the world including Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. These are usually available via cable and satellite companies.
Keep in mind that some companies (usually the large-scale cable and telephone companies like Rogers and Bell) offer bundle packages for internet and cell phone, and even television. This may be a better deal for some expats. Also, one of the biggest shocks for many expats is how much these entertainment items and services cost in Canada – it is far more expensive than in many other countries. Details on prices for these services are covered in the living section.
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