Finding somewhere to live once you set foot in Canada is probably one of your highest priorities. It is not the kind of country where you want to be ‘left out in the cold’ quite literally.
We share some information about the process of finding accommodation and in the second section of this three part series we also give would be expats a heads up on what to expect upon arrival in Canada and how to go about renting a property.
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. Therefore, it is best to do your homework before committing to anything. Do you know where you would like to live? Is this area in a good school district and close to schools and other important amenities? Are homes in that area affordable and are you comfortable living there?
Types of property in Canada
As is the case in South Africa, Canada too offers a range of property types. The options available will vary slightly from one city to the next. Choosing between one of the following options will largely depend on your lifestyle, requirements and budget:
• Detached/semi-detached houses
• Suburban homes
• Country homes
Finding property in Canada
It is obviously best to secure a place to live before you arrive in Canada. To do this we suggest seeking advice from your immigration agent – who might very well have connections in the property industry in Canada. You could also ask for advice from your Canadian employer or future colleagues about areas close to work or in good suburbs with easy access to public transport.
Spend some time browsing through online rental classifieds and real estate websites. This will give you an idea of what is available, and how much it is likely to cost.
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 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 helping find a place to stay, they will expect a fee for this service – which can range from anywhere between 10 percent of the monthly rent to a whole month's rent.
Renting property in Canada
Just like South Africa formal housing sector 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 (usually, water will be included in the rental charge, but tenants will have to pay for gas and electricity usage), deposit (usually two months' rent, refundable in principle), and forfeiture conditions (which explains how any breach of the contract leaves the tenant liable for eviction from the property).
In Canada you are likely to find a high standard of accommodation, most homes have central heating and security is not much of an issue as this is an economically and political stable country with a one of the lowest crime rates per capita.