The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has two guides to help you when planning to buy a home:
- Buying Your First Home in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know (PDF 1.1 MB)
- Homebuyers Checklist: A Newcomers’ Guide and Workbook (PDF, 220 KB)
Looking for a home
Before you shop for a home, you’ll want to plan ahead for the costs of owning a home. Costs will include:
- property taxes
- home repairs
To search for a home to buy:
- visit the Realtor.ca® website
- visit areas where new homes are being built
- read the new homes section in newspapers or real estate magazines
- tell friends, family and work colleagues that you’re looking for a house
- visit real estate websites for information and photographs on different homes
- drive around a neighbourhood that you like and look for “For Sale” signs
Real estate agents
A real estate agent can help you find and buy a home. They will:
- listen to your needs
- arrange for home visits
- arrange a professional home inspection
- help you get a good price
To find a real estate agent:
- ask your bank and people you know if they know a real estate agent
- look for the names of real estate agents on “For Sale” signs in neighbourhoods you like
- visit the Find a REALTOR® search section on the Canadian Real Estate Association website
Making an offer
Once you’ve found a home, it’s time to make an “offer to purchase.” If you’re using a real estate agent, they will help you make the offer.
If your offer of purchase is accepted, you’ll need to hire a lawyer or notary to transfer your home to your name. You can find one online or ask your real estate agent.
Financing your home
Most homebuyers need a mortgage loan to purchase their home. You can get a mortgage loan from:
- other financial institutions, like:
- credit unions
- caisses populaire
- insurance companies
You pay back a mortgage through regular payments over a period of time. This is usually up to 25 years. You’ll be charged interest to borrow this money.
Read more information on mortgages on the CMHC website.
Down payment and mortgage loan insurance
The amount of your mortgage is the price of the home minus the amount of your down payment. If the down payment is less than 20 per cent of the price of your new home, you may need mortgage loan insurance.
Mortgage loan insurance protects the bank or financial institution if you can’t pay back the mortgage. It also lets you get a mortgage for a lower down payment and a lower interest rate.
Ask your bank or financial institution about mortgage loan insurance.
Credit score and history
A good credit history is very important when you’re trying to get a mortgage. As a newcomer to Canada, you may not have a credit history that Canadian banks recognize.
If you want to buy a home, you should start getting a new credit history as early as possible. Speak with your banker about making a plan to start a credit history.
If you make an offer on a house, you should make your offer with the condition that the home must pass a professional home inspection. This lets you cancel or change your offer if the inspector finds serious problems with the house.
A home inspector makes detailed inspections of properties (for a fee). They’ll give you a report that you and your real estate agent can review. You can decide if the home needs repairs that affect the price you agree to pay.
To find an accredited home inspector, see:
- Hiring a home inspector (PDF, 138 KB)
- Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors
- Inspectionpréachat.org (in French only) Quebec website
Other forms of housing
Governments can help if you have low incomes that make it hard to afford the cost of a home.
New immigrants or refugees are can move into subsidized homes, but your name will be put on a waiting list. You can’t add your name to a waiting list before you arrive in Canada.
When you arrive in Canada, ask an immigrant-serving organization in your city or town about local subsidized housing.
Co-op housing is a group of apartments or houses that:
- often have lower than average rent costs
- expect you to help manage and maintain the co-op
- are owned and managed by the members who live in them
Post-secondary student housing
Most universities and colleges can give you information about on-campus and off-campus housing. Contact the housing department of the university or college you plan to attend.
Emergency housing (sometimes called “shelters”) is a short-term place for people who are homeless or in crisis. It’s a safe place where you can get basic necessities such as:
Emergency housing is helpful if you:
- get evicted from your home
- are without a place to sleep
- are at risk of being abused if you stay in your home
Staff and volunteers at shelters can help you get:
- support and information
- legal advice
- financial help
- a new place to live
In case you didn’t have time to pack, they also have:
If you’re being abused, the shelter staff won’t tell the person who abused you where you are.
Telephone numbers for shelters are usually listed in the first few pages of the telephone book with other emergency numbers.
You can also call a shelter for advice without having to tell them your name. Some staff members speak different languages or can have an interpreter help.
Housing for seniors
There are assisted housing options for seniors in Canada. These include government-funded and private residences for seniors.
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