If you are planning to buy a home, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has two guides:
- Buying Your First Home in Canada: What Newcomers Need to Know and
- Homebuyers Checklist: A Newcomers’ Guide and Workbook.
Looking for a home
Before you shop for a home, you will want to plan ahead for the costs of owning a home. Costs will include:
- property taxes
- home repairs
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; and
- 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
To search for a home to buy:
- Tell friends, family and work colleagues that you are looking for a house. You might hear about homes that are for sale.
- Visit the Realtor.ca® website.
- Visit real estate websites for information and photographs on different homes.
- Read the new homes section in newspapers or real estate magazines.
- Drive around a neighbourhood that interests you and look for “For Sale” signs or visit areas where new homes are being built.
Making an offer
Once you have found a home, it is time to make an “offer to purchase.” If you are using a real estate agent, he or she will help you make the offer.
If your offer of purchase is accepted, you will 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 loan from a bank (or other financial institution like a “credit union,” a “caisse populaire” or an insurance company). A loan for buying a home is called a “mortgage.”
You pay back a mortgage through regular payments over a period of time, usually up to 25 years. You will 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 percent of the price of your new home, you may need mortgage loan insurance.
Mortgage loan insurance protects the bank or financial institution if you cannot 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 for details about CMHC mortgage loan insurance.
Credit score and history
A good credit history is very important when you are 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 a customer service representative at your bank. He or she can help you with a plan to get a credit history.
If you make an offer on a house, you should make your offer conditional on the home passing a professional home inspection. This lets you cancel or change your offer if the inspector finds serious problems with the house. For a fee, an inspector will make a detailed inspection of the property. When you receive the home inspection report, you and your real estate agent will have to discuss how required repairs, if any, may affect the price you agree to pay.
Get more information on hiring a home inspector or use the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors or the Inspectionpréachat.org (in French only) website (in Quebec) to find an accredited home inspector.
Other forms of housing
Governments can help people with low incomes afford the cost of a home. Landed immigrants or refugees are eligible to move into these subsidized homes, but your name will be put on a waiting list. You cannot 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 for more information on local subsidized housing.
Co-op housing is a group of apartments or houses that are owned and managed by the “members” who live in them. Rents are often lower than average. However, you are expected to help manage and maintain the co-op.
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 is 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 did not have time to pack, they also have:
If you are being abused, the shelter staff will not 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 (you do not even have to tell them your name). Some staff members speak different languages or can arrange for interpreters.
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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