You want to make a move, but a new state or city just isn’t going to cut it. If your destination of choice is Canada, there are a few things you’ll want to prepare yourself for. Here’s what you should know about moving to Canada.
Should You Move to Canada?
The decision to move to a new country is a bigger decision than changing cities – from the U.S. to Canada, you have to consider the different currency, taxation, immigration process and overall cultural differences that come with relocating. But whether you’re looking at a job opportunity you can’t pass up, seeking a country that better aligns with your politics and ideals or simply considering a change of scenery, you may find that living in Canada is the right next step for you.
Initiating immigration to make yourself a permanent resident and future citizen of Canada is certainly possible, but you can also opt to live in the country knowing that you’ll return to the U.S. someday. Moving2Canada, an online resource and community for people planning a move to Canada, offers advice and provides job recruitment services for companies looking to tap international professionals moving to the Great White North. Over the last couple years, Moving2Canada Editor Hugo O’Doherty says the company’s website has seen an “uptick in people who don’t want to live in the U.S. for a few years, but they still consider the U.S. their home.”
How to Move to Canada
Whether you’re planning to make a job transfer for a few years or seek permanent residency in Canada plays a significant role in the length of the process. You can expect an intra-company transfer to take between three and five months to finalize the paperwork for your relocation, says Manon Dumas, president and founder of Arianne Relocation Canada, a firm of relocation specialists dedicated to helping people move to Canada from another country. If you’re looking to become a permanent resident, the process is closer to a year or year and a half.
The process of finding a place to live once you’ve figured out the details of your residency takes time. Dumas recommends starting a home search in Montreal at least two months in advance of your planned move date. In Toronto, you may only need a couple weeks. The difference is based on new housing development and availability in each city. Montreal has a centuries-old tradition that the vast majority of renters move on the same day of the year: July 1. While moving into a new home in Quebec is possible at other times of the year, planning with a July 1 move-in date will likely yield more housing options.
“Planning with the support of a local expert is the key to what we call a ‘soft landing’ and a successful relocation,” Dumas wrote in an email.
While buying a home can be a solid investment, especially if you’re planning to stay in Canada long term, conduct thorough research on the total cost of living, property taxes and other costs based on the province and city you’re moving to. Renting may be the better option if you’re not familiar with the area, and it makes for an easier way to return to the U.S. if you’re only planning to stay for a few years.
Here are five things you should know as you consider or plan a move to Canada:
- The population may be small, but the country is huge.
- You’ll need to get used to the cold.
- Visas and the path to citizenship differ from the U.S.
- Cultural differences may seem small, but they can mean a lot.
- You may want to learn French.
The Population May Be Small, But the Country Is Huge
Canada’s population as of the second quarter is 2020 was about 37.9 million, according to Canadian national statistical office Statistics Canada. Its land mass covers more than 3.85 million square miles. For comparison, Canada has about 58,000 more square miles of land than the U.S., but less than 12% of the population.
The most populated provinces in Canada are Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta. Six metro areas in the country have a population over 1 million: Toronto; Montreal; Vancouver, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; Ottawa, Ontario (combined with Gatineau, Quebec); and Edmonton, Alberta.
[Read: How to Buy a House]
You’ll Need to Get Used to the Cold
Canada’s location north of the contiguous U.S. naturally means that you can expect a colder climate than in many of the states. Prepare for long winters and shorter summers that don’t get nearly as hot as the southern U.S.
Your period of adjustment naturally depends on where you’re moving from and where you’re moving to. A relocation over the border from Seattle to Vancouver or Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, for example, won’t reveal any climate difference because the U.S. and Canadian cities are geographically close to each other. “If you’re moving from Albuquerque (New Mexico) to Windsor, you’re going to notice a difference,” O’Doherty says.
Visas and the Path to Citizenship Differ From the U.S.
Under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a descendent of the NAFTA agreement, citizens of the three countries are able to easily live and work in these neighboring nations if they are a part of 60 career fields defined under the agreement, including accountants, hotel managers, lawyers, nurses and more.
Express Entry is one process option aimed at making it faster for skilled workers to become permanent residents. Certain trades and careers can be considered more desirable, and you’ll also need to provide the right documents to prove your eligibility to become a Canadian resident. A score is calculated based on your information, and high-scoring candidates are invited to apply for Express Entry.
While having a job lined up isn’t a requirement to become a permanent resident through Express Entry, it’s a plus. “If you do have a job offer, you do get additional points,” O’Doherty says.
One detail you should be aware of is Canada’s immigration policy on people with criminal records – you may not be allowed in the country if you’ve been convicted of a crime. Drunk driving, drug possession or theft convictions may stand in the way of easy approval. If you committed the crime long ago, can prove rehabilitation or can obtain a pardon for your crime, you may still be allowed to reside in the country and seek residency.
Cultural Differences May Seem Small, But Can Mean a Lot
While you may have visited Canada multiple times over the years, living in the country and interacting with locals on a regular basis may lead you to notice more significant differences between Canada and the U.S.
Dumas says she hears from U.S. transplants to Canada that they are surprised by how group-oriented Canadians are. “When people speak the same language, they often assume that they also share the same values, which is not always true,” Dumas says. “Canadians, and especially Quebecers, when making business and social decisions, will often ask themselves if this decision is also good for the group, as social harmony is an important Canadian value.”
You May Want to Learn French
Canada has two official languages – English and French – and you’ll find many signs throughout the country providing information in both languages.
While you can certainly get by without knowledge of the French language, learning at least a bit of French can be valuable for making conversation with anyone from co-workers to retail employees. Especially if you’ll be living in or frequenting Quebec, which is a former French colony, French is often used, and you’ll likely find yourself wanting bilingual abilities.
The generation that's taken over homebuying
The Great Recession delayed many millennials from being able to buy a home, but the generation isn’t locked out of property ownership the way it was a few years ago. The National Association of Realtors defines the millennial generation as people born between 1980 and 1998, and according to the 2019 NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, they make up 37% of all homebuyers in the U.S., the largest share of any generation. Over the past five years as millennials have become a significant portion of U.S. homebuyers, they’ve also helped shape trends in location and home type preference, helped usher in technological advances and embraced new platforms that make a home purchase feel more user-friendly. Here are 10 ways millennials are changing the homebuying process.
Updated on Feb. 26, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.Text communication is key.
Text communication is key.
The telephone was once the primary form of communication between real estate agents and their clients, but the younger generation that has grown up with internet and cellphones will likely prefer more text-based modes that make it easy to multitask. “A lot of my clients already work in tech, so their expectation is they’re going to work with an agent that can at least keep up with them in terms of communication,” says Dana Bull, a Realtor with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who specializes in working with homebuyers. She says millennial homebuyers prefer to text and email their agent more often than older generations, and it’s reasonable to expect they’ll be comfortable using real estate-related apps.Research is a natural part of the process.
Research is a natural part of the process.
When it comes to researching neighborhoods, checking out listings online and doing a deep dive into the fine print of a pending deal, millennial homebuyers are known for doing their homework. Jill Levin, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Legacy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says she recently represented some buyers in a deal that went particularly smoothly because the buyers read every disclosure and document sent to them and asked questions beforehand – something she doesn’t see from older buyers who feel experienced enough that they don’t need to read into the details. “There’s way more information today now, and (homebuyers) really, really should be paying attention,” Levin says.The hub for advice is online.
The hub for advice is online.
While apps and online search tools are an integral part of the homebuying process for all consumers these days, millennials are the first generation to grow up using technology broadly in everyday life. The familiarity with smartphones, social media and the internet make communication, finding out information and contacting professionals easier. Millennials are also inclined to shop around for everything from real estate agents to mortgages to contractors. In HomeAdvisor’s State of Home Spending report released in June 2019, the majority of millennials, Generation X and baby boomers research home remodel project costs on the internet, but millennials do so by the largest margin (77%).Homeownership is focused on building wealth.
Homeownership is focused on building wealth.
While purchasing a home involves plenty of hurdles for younger buyers, many of them are choosing to become homeowners because it helps them build wealth in the long term. “There is still interest in buying a house because I’ve got a job, I need a place to live, rent is expensive and I should put my money somewhere,” Bull says of the millennial homebuyer mindset. As they build equity in their home, they’re in a better place to purchase a larger house in the future or use the profit of a sale for other investments.Kid-friendly housing makes a comeback.
Kid-friendly housing makes a comeback.
Homeownership isn’t the only thing that millennials are doing later in life for financial reasons. Millennials are also marrying and having children later than previous generations. But as millennials get older, more are getting to the point where they’re starting families. While a condo in the heart of downtown worked for many first-time millennial homeowners when they were single, home preferences change as soon as kids come into the picture, Bull says: “People are starting to step up into that next level of a single-family home and maybe out in the suburbs.”Walkability is a must.
Walkability is a must.
Even with many millennials leaving urban centers, one feature they won’t compromise on is walkability. “They want more activities in the area, they want walkability, they want the convenience of shopping without having to use their cars a lot,” Levin says. Even in more suburban settings, many millennials are showing a preference for areas that offer residential and commercial spaces within walking distance. Bull says the areas catering to these homebuyer preferences have been dubbed “hipsturbia,” where suburban towns offer an active downtown or main street area with the live-work-play atmosphere many people don’t want to lose when they move out of a major city center.Eyes are on garages and kitchens.
Eyes are on garages and kitchens.
Luxurious features and finishes in a house are ideal, but millennial homebuyers are making their must-have lists a bit more realistic. In a survey of 1,000 Americans who plan to purchase a home in 2020 by real estate information company Clever, millennials' preferred home features focused on details that make life more convenient, especially as they start families. When asked which features are a requirement for their new home, millennial respondents placed a garage, large kitchen and space to grow into as their top three priorities. Details like hardwood flooring, a fireplace, pool and dedicated office space were among the lesser-desired details.High home prices don't deter eager buyers.
High home prices don't deter eager buyers.
Affordability is still an issue for many millennials, especially among the younger members of the generation. But that doesn’t mean millennials are uninterested or afraid of purchasing a home – it’s just a matter of the right timing, the right location and the right home. Between consistently rising home prices and a lack of inventory as homeowners choose to remain in their homes longer, the housing market remains extremely competitive, Bull says, especially in the Boston area where she works. But the millennials who are financially ready to purchase are willing to rise to the challenge. “They’re used to being aggressive to get into the college they want, and then get the job they want,” Bull says, which primes them to make a strong offer if they see a home they like.Low down payments solve savings issues.
Low down payments solve savings issues.
The Clever survey found 70% of millennial homebuyers plan to make a down payment of less than 20%. Low down payment programs have grown significantly in the past 10 years and are now a major part of home purchases – NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that the median down payment for a home in the U.S. is 12% of the purchase price. While low down payment programs help resolve the lack of savings, homebuyers putting less than 20% down should be sure to factor into their budget the added monthly cost of private mortgage insurance.Parents play an important role.
Parents play an important role.
For younger millennials and even Generation Z, which is made up of people born in 1999 and later, coming up with the cash for a down payment is one of the biggest obstacles to becoming a homeowner, even at less than 20% of the purchase price. For millennial first-time homebuyers and the rare Gen Zer getting into the market, financial help from a loved one is often what makes a home purchase possible. “Parents are getting involved a lot – I still see a lot of situations where parents are gifting money or helping in some other way,” Bull says. “I don’t see that changing at all.”Here are 10 ways millennials are changing homebuying:
Here are 10 ways millennials are changing homebuying:
- Text communication is key.
- Research is a natural part of the process.
- The hub for advice is online.
- Homeownership is focused on building wealth.
- Kid-friendly housing makes a comeback.
- Walkability is a must.
- Eyes are on garages and kitchens.
- High home prices don't deter eager buyers.
- Low down payments solve savings issues.
- Parents play an important role.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.