How to purchase property in Canada as an expat

New to Canada? Looking to make your first property purchase in the country? Our comprehensive guide is here to help.

Xe Consumer North America

29 giugno 20217 min read

Property for sale in Toronto, Canada

Canada is one of the best countries in the world for expats. It is filled with dazzling scenery and exciting cities, snow-swept winters, and glorious summers. Its robust economy, brilliant weather, low crime rate, clean cities, and beautiful countryside make it a great place to live.

If you’ve recently moved to the country and you’re looking to buy property, this guide will help. Buying property in Canada is easier than in some other countries because there are fewer legal requirements.

Canada’s properties offer good value for money and Canadians and non-residents have the same rights. And because the country has a large expat community, you'll feel right at home. However, it should be noted that owning property in Canada doesn’t guarantee residency or citizenship.

Here’s how to find, finance and purchase property in Canada as an expat.

How to find the best property

It’s next to impossible to buy property in Canada without an estate agent. Finding the right realtor can make all the difference. The Canadian Real Estate Association registers real estate agents and issues official real estate licenses, so make sure the agent you work with is registered. It’s also best to find an agent who’s worked with expats.

In Canada, property sellers advertise properties on FSBO (For Sale By Owner) websites and on real estate sites, so that’s the best place to begin. Most agents and brokerages put their property listings in a shared database known as a Multiple Listing System (MLS).

Realtor.ca is the best website for property buyers. Other top websites are Point2 Homes, Duproprio, RE/MAX, and Royal LePage. You can also look for property listings in community newspapers--the real estate sections. Here’s what you should do to find the best property:

1. Know the type of property you want

You may be buying property for different reasons: to live in, to rent out, or to sell later. Knowing the property type you want helps you make the right decision. Here are the most popular property types in Canada.

Townhouse

Townhouses are rows of houses attached to each other that share a wall. Some have two or more stories. These houses are popular with people who enjoy city living.

Condominiums

Condominiums are the same as apartments. The only difference is that condos are owned while apartments are rented. However, you only own your unit, not the land it’s built on or other common spaces outside.

Duplexes

Duplexes are common in urban locations. They comprise two units in one building, each with a separate entrance. They are popular in Canadian city suburbs.

2. Understand the costs and taxes

There’s no restriction on the type of property you can buy as a foreigner--or how many properties you can buy. But these are the costs and taxes you’ll pay.

  • Closing property costs: 2% to 4% of the purchase price.

  • Legal and notary costs.

  • Land transfer taxes: these vary according to the province.

  • Home insurance: necessary if you’re getting a mortgage.

  • Vacancy or annual property taxes: in the Greater Toronto Area, you’ll pay 0.75%-1% annual property tax on the assessed home value.

  • Capital gains taxes: 25% payable at the point of sale if you intend to sell the property later on.

  • Realtor’s fees: these are negotiable and may be between 3% and 7% of a property’s purchase price. The seller pays the fees. The buyer pays a Goods and Services Tax (GST) on the purchase price.

Note that from April 2017 onward, any person who’s not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident has to pay 15% Non-Resident Speculation Tax on the property purchase price. This is paid at the closing stage of the buying process.

3. Compare property prices

Despite the pandemic, Canada's housing market continues to break new records. As of April 2021, the average property price in Canada was $695,656 CAD. The most expensive houses are in British Columbia and Vancouver, while the cheapest are in the Atlantic region.

The Bank of Canada’s tight monetary policy may reduce home affordability in 2022 and beyond. A potential rate hike is already increasing bond yields, resulting in higher mortgage rates.

5 steps to purchasing property in Canada

On average, it takes 2 to 3 months to buy property in Canada. But the process may be shorter if the property is vacant. Follow our steps to purchase property in Canada easily.

1. Explore property listings

The first step is to identify a property you like that fits your budget. Also consider the Canadian weather when making a choice. Some regions have good weather while some have very harsh weather. You can find property listings on the internet, newspapers, or through a realtor.

Most property sales involve realtors, typically two: the seller’s and the buyer’s. It’s also common for the property seller to pay the buyer’s realtor’s fees. However, confirm if that’s the case when buying property.

2. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

A mortgage is necessary if you want to buy property in Canada but don’t have enough cash. Mortgage rates for foreigners and non-residents are slightly higher, and it’s common for banks to ask for large down-payments (about 35% of the property value).

If you’re a US citizen or resident, banks may ask for a lower down payment (up to 20%). To qualify for the mortgage, you’ll need an employment letter showing your income, a reference letter from your bank, and bank statements for three months. You’ll also have to undergo a credit check.

3. View the property

Don’t make an offer or pay for the property before you see it and scrutinize it. While your realtor can examine it for you, you’re the one who will own it. Check whether the building is structurally sound, if the storage space is enough, if the rooms are spacious, and carefully examine the walls and roof. A viewing will help you decide if the house is right for you or not.

4. Make an offer

When you find the right property, your realtor can help you design an offer. The offer letter may include the offer price, the deposit amount, the expected date of the last payment, and the property sale details. It may also list things you’ll have to do, like get a mortgage.

The offer is typically in writing and is usually accompanied by a 10% deposit which is held in a secure escrow account. In case you don’t have a Canadian bank account yet, you can use an Xe money transfer to send money to the escrow account from your account back home. The seller may accept your offer, decline it, or make a counteroffer in writing.

5. Complete the sale

Once you agree on the price, your lawyer will draft an Offer of Purchase and Sale which you and the seller will sign. The lawyer will check whether the property complies with government regulations and owes no debts.

Within 60 days after the original offer, your lawyer will confirm the payment balance in a Statement of Adjustment. The document will also include other costs. You will pay this amount with a non-negotiable certified check within 24 hours.

How to send money to Canada for a property purchase

As we mentioned above, using an online money transfer is the recommended way to make your international property purchase payments.

Why?

Because international money transfers are often quicker, more cost-effective, and more convenient than making your payment through a bank or with your credit card. You can avoid foreign transaction fees and the numerous extra bank fees, you can get a competitive exchange rate, and you can easily initiate a transfer online, 24/7.

Get a quote

Here’s how you can send money to Canada with Xe:

  1. Sign in to your Xe account or sign up.

  2. Enter the currencies to exchange and the amount to get a quote.

  3. Enter your recipient’s name, address, bank name, bank account number, bank code, and BIC/SWIFT code. If you’re transferring money between your own bank accounts, that will be your own information.

  4. Select your payment method and enter in that information. You can pay by bank transfer, card payment, or direct debit.

  5. Does everything look good? Confirm your transfer and let us handle the rest.

Send Money Transfer

Buying property in Canada: final words

Buying property in Canada is a straightforward process for expats. There are no discrepancies between citizens and foreigners as long as you meet all the requirements and pay the deposit.