How to Buy Property in Canada

property in canada

In recent years we have seen a surge in worldwide interest towards buying property in Canada, with real estate investors lining up to purchase homes and condos in Canada’s major cities. This guide summarizes some of the key points.


Can foreigners buy real estate in Canada?
Absolutely! You can buy property in Canada no matter what your citizenship, or where you currently live, and there are no restrictions on the amount, or kind of real estate you can buy. Now here’s what you need to know – while Canada does welcome foreign investors, there are many rules and regulations that make ownership somewhat tougher to achieve than that for Canadian resident citizens. The most significant barrier has been the implementation of a 15% Non-Resident Speculation Tax in both Vancouver and Toronto. This is a significant tax that must be paid by foreign citizens and non-permanent residents (including corporations and trusts) when purchasing real estate in both the greater Toronto and Vancouver areas. The areas where the tax is in effect include much of greater Vancouver and the lower mainland, and much of greater Toronto in a wide area from Niagara Falls, to Hamilton, Oakville, Mississauga, and points east all the way to Peterborough. Further details can be found here.

I want to immigrate to Canada. Will buying a property help me to get accepted?
Immigrating to Canada is a complicated process and, unfortunately, owning property is not one of the factors taken into consideration for acceptance. Nevertheless, owning real estate in Canada certainly won’t hurt your chances and will be considered part of your overall net worth. If you are wondering if you’d be eligible to immigrate to Canada, visit the Government of Canada Citizenship and Immigration website.

I’m a Canadian citizen living in a different country. Am I considered a non-resident for the purposes of buying real estate if I’m an expat?
Citizens of Canada who don’t reside in Canada for more than half the year are considered non-residents (and thus subject to non-resident rules).

I’m a non-resident and want to purchase a property in Canada with a resident. How will that be treated?
If you buy a property with a resident, you will still be treated as a non-resident and thus subject to the same requirements, including a higher downpayment. If you are purchasing with a spouse who is a permanent Canadian resident, you are not generally subject to the Non-Resident Speculation Tax.


Can a non-resident get a mortgage to purchase a house or condo in Canada?
Yes. Most often, Canadian banks and lenders will require non-residents to have a minimum 35% down payment.

How do I qualify for a mortgage as a non-resident?
To qualify for a mortgage for a property in Canada, non-residents will generally require:

  • A 35% downpayment (not from gifted funds)
  • A reference letter from their bank
  • An employment letter verifying income in Canadian or US dollars
  • Three months bank statements
  • Canadian credit check

Will I Get the same interest rate as a Canadian borrower?
Non-residents are eligible for the same interest rates as Canadians, provided they meet the mortgage eligibility criteria. If you live in a country that does not have a tax treaty with Canada, you will only be eligible for a fixed-rate interest rate. [See a list of countries that have in-force tax treaties with Canada]

If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, you may still be able to get financing from other lenders who charge higher interest rates.

How soon does the down payment have to be deposited in a Canadian bank?
Most Canadian banks will require your down payment to be deposited 30 days before the closing of the purchase. Most banks will want to be able to trace the source of your down payment going back 90 days.

What’s a deposit, when do I need it and how do I pay it?
After your offer to purchase a property is accepted, you’ll need to provide a “good faith” deposit – usually around 5% of the purchase price – within 24 hours. That deposit is held in trust by the listing real estate brokerage and it forms part of your down payment. It’s a good idea to open a Canadian bank account and have the deposit funds there when you start house hunting – so when you are required to pay the deposit, it’s easily accessible.

What kinds of closing costs should I expect to pay?
If you are buying in the Toronto or Vancouver areas, as a non-resident, you will be required to pay the 15% Non-Resident Speculation Tax and will be subject to the other regular closing costs, including land transfer taxes and legal fees.

Will I qualify for any government programs?
As a non-resident, you will not qualify for the first-time buyer programs or land tax rebates offered by the Canadian government.

I don’t need a mortgage. How do I pay for the property?
You can buy a property without getting a mortgage if you have 100% of the funds in cash. That money would need to be transferred to your lawyer before closing.


Do I need to come to Canada in person to search for a property?
Non-residents can search and find a property to purchase without ever setting foot in Canada. Today’s technology allows you to view photos and videos of most properties for sale in the marketplace. Many non-resident buyers also choose to have a family member or friend living in Canada assist with the home search process. If you are going to need a mortgage, you’ll need to open a Canadian bank account – Canadian banks will require you to come to Canada to do this. Note there are some exceptions to this (for example, investors with HSBC accounts may be able to get a Canadian account opened without coming to Canada).

I want to buy a house. Will I need the services of a home inspector?
It’s always a good idea to utilize the services of a qualified home inspector before firming up your purchase.

If I buy an investment property, are there firms who can help me find tenants for it and manage it for me?
There are many firms in Canada’s major cities who deal in property management, helping you to screen prospective tenants, and manage their tenancy.


Where do I find a lawyer who can help me with the purchase as a non-resident?
Canada’s major cities have many lawyers who specialize in real estate.

How do I sign the offer paperwork?
Once again, today’s technology allows to you sign paperwork without actually being present. You can scan and email the forms, or even utilize e-signatures via a tablet or smartphone.



How do I get insurance as a non-resident? What are the requirements?
It can be tricky to get home insurance if you don’t reside in Canada, but there are many insurance agents who can help you with this.

How much will home insurance cost?
Costs for insurance depending on what property you buy and where it is.


What kinds of taxes will I have to pay?
If you are buying in the Toronto region, there are four kinds of taxes you need to be prepared to pay: the Non-Resident Speculation Tax, the land transfer tax(es), municipal property taxes and income taxes.

The Non-Resident Speculation Tax is equal to 15% of the price of the property and paid upon closing. You can read all the details here.

When you take possession of the property, you will be required to pay the applicable land transfer taxes, which can be significant. Land transfer taxes are based on a sliding scale dependent on the price of the property.

Every year you’ll need to pay  municipal property taxes – you can get an estimate on the City of Toronto Property Tax Calculator.

The other taxes you need to be aware of must be paid when the property is sold. In most cases, non-residents are subject to tax on any income or gains resulting from the sale of a taxable Canadian property, including residential homes, condos, vacation properties or land. When a non-Canadian-resident sells a property, the Buyer of the property must withhold and remit a portion of the purchase price to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Generally this amount is 25% of the gross selling price. (Note that the actual tax owing may be different, this is just to make sure the government will get its money by stopping the money from leaving the country until they can determine what is actually owing.)

Alternatively, a Certificate of Compliance related to the sale of the property can be filed and approved by the CRA to reduce or eliminate the withholding taxes. Upon filing of this Certificate of Compliance, the 25% withholding tax required is calculated on the gross sales proceeds net of the purchase cost of the property (or in other words, the net profit).

Also, non-residents are required to file a Canadian tax return by April 30 following the year they sold their property. Generally, upon filing a tax return, part of the withholding tax is refunded to the Seller as the 25% withholding tax is usually a lot higher than the actual taxes owing. At this point, you can also claim expenses like legal fees and commissions against the income from the sale.

What kinds of closing costs can I expect?
Here are the costs you need to be prepared to pay when buying a property in Toronto.

Before Closing

  • Deposit (usually 5% of the purchase price in Toronto, paid within 24 hours of your offer being accepted)
  • Property Appraisal ($400- $500, occasionally paid by the lender)
  • Home Inspection ($400-$600, paid to the home inspection company at the time of the inspection)

On Closing

  • Balance of the Purchase Price – the purchase price less your initial deposit. Usually, the bulk will come from your lender and become your mortgage.
  • Legal Fees – amount varies depending on purchase price and lawyer (approximately $1,800 for a $500,000 purchase)
  • Title Insurance – sometimes included in your legal fees ($250-$400)
  • Mortgage Broker Commission – if applicable
  • Property Survey – if required  ($1,000-$2,000)
  • Non-Resident Speculation Tax – 15% of the purchase price
  • Ontario Land Transfer Tax – varies depending on purchase price
  • Toronto Land Transfer Tax – varies depending on purchase price
  • Property Tax Adjustment – reimbursement to Seller of property taxes were paid beyond the closing date
  • HST – generally only applicable on new construction condos and houses, and commercial properties
  • Tarion Warranty  Fees – warranty on new construction condos and houses only, not resale, (click here to estimate Tarion Fees)
  • Provincial Sales Tax – only applicable on chattels purchased from vendor (amount varies)
  • Adjustments for Utilities/Condo Fees/etc. – reimbursement to Seller for prepaid utilities, etc.


What happens when I want to sell my property?
If you want to sell your property while you’re a non-resident, you’ll want to partner with an agent who has experience helping overseas sellers.

What kinds of taxes will I have to pay when selling the property?
You’ll want to consult an accountant to get a full understanding of the taxes you will need to pay upon selling your property. Generally, you will be taxed on any income and gains in value of the property. The Canadian Government generally withholds 25% of the gross selling price until the appropriate tax forms have been completed. Alternatively, a “Certificate of Compliance” can be completed to prove the appropriate taxes have been paid, which can reduce or eliminate the withholding taxes.


What is involved if I wish to rent out my property?
There are two parts to renting out your property: finding the right tenant and then managing the property. Renting out your property involves setting a price, marketing the property, showing it to potential tenants, screening them, negotiating a lease and securing a deposit. Ongoing property management involves maintaining and repairing the property and maintaining the relationship with the tenant. How much work this involves depends on the type of property you own (for example, there’s a lot more involved in managing a house than a condo!)

What kinds of returns can I expect?
Investors can have different goals: some are concerned with cash flow, others with the appreciation in the value of the property and other investors are more concerned with building equity in the property via the mortgage being paid by the tenant. Generally, most investors break even with a 20% down payment or are slightly cash flow positive. Gross yields average 4.5-6%.


London Property – Leasehold vs. Freehold

Heath Hall London

Leasehold v Freehold – what’s the difference?

It may seem like technical legal language, but there are few things more important about your home than whether it is freehold or leasehold. It makes the difference between owning your own home outright, and having a landlord

What are the different forms of home ownership?

There are two fundamentally different forms of legal ownership: freehold and leasehold. Although estate agents tend to gloss over it, the difference can be between a home that is worth buying and one that isn’t. Many people who don’t sort this out when they buy a home end up regretting it – getting it wrong can be hugely expensive.

What is freehold?

If you own the freehold, it means that you own the building and the land it stands on outright, in perpetuity. It is your name in the land registry as “freeholder”, owning the “title absolute”. Freehold is pretty much always the preferred option: you can’t really go wrong with it.

  • You won’t have to pay annual ground rent
  • You don’t have a freeholder either failing to maintain the building, or charging huge amounts for it
  • You have responsibility for maintaining the fabric of the building – the roof and the outside walls
  • Whole houses are normally sold freehold – there is no reason for a standalone house to be leasehold though there is an increasing trend for leasehold houses, so check before you buy

What is leasehold?

Leasehold means that you just have a lease from the freeholder (sometimes called the landlord) to use the home for a number of years. The leases are usually long term – often 90 years or 120 years but as high as 999 years – but can be short, such as 40 years.

  • A leaseholder has a contract with the freeholder, which sets down the legal rights and responsibilities of either side
  • The freeholder will normally be responsible for maintaining the common parts of the building, such as the entrance hall and staircase, as well as the exterior walls and roof. However, other leaseholders might have claimed their “right to manage”, in which case it is their responsibility
  • Leaseholders will have to pay maintenance fees, annual service charges and their share of the buildings insurance
  • Leaseholders normally pay an annual “ground rent” to the freeholder
  • Leaseholders will have to obtain permission for any majors works done to the property
  • Leaseholders may face other restrictions, such as not owning pets or subletting
  • If leaseholders don’t fulfil the terms of the lease – for example, by not paying the fees – then the lease can become forfeit

    Disputes between leaseholders and freeholders

    It is very common to have tension between freeholders and leaseholders.

    • Fees are a major source of contention, with leaseholders often feeling their freeholder is over charging, but being able to do little about it. While the ground rent usually costs in the region of £100-250, even on ordinary flats the annual charges can amount to over £1000 a year
    • Leaseholders often complain that freeholders don’t maintain the building to a sufficiently high standard, or keep common areas clean and tidy
    • Freeholders often complain that leaseholders breach the terms of their lease, for example by making too much noise or not getting permission for building works

      The declining value of leaseholds

      When the term of the leasehold goes down to zero years, then the property reverts to the freeholder. So, if you have a 40 year leasehold, you only have the right to use the property for 40 years before it goes back to the freeholder. A lease with a term of zero years is clearly worthless, and all other things being equal, the shorter the lease, the less it is worth. The value of long leases stays fairly stable, but the value of short leases can drop rapidly. For example, a flat with a lease of 60 years is worth more than 10 per cent less than if it had a lease of 99 years – you might think that a flat is worth £200,000, but actually it is worth less than £180,000, with the difference in value being owned by the freeholder.

      Should I avoid buying a property on a short leasehold?

      Leases of less than 90 years can start to be problematic for leaseholders, and should be approached warily. Certainly, any lease of less than 80 years can start to significantly affect the value of the house. If you have a short lease, the property can decline in value even if property prices in your area are generally rising. This means that fewer people will want to buy it when you resell; it also means that mortgage companies might be reluctant to lend on it.

      Extending your lease

      A series of Government acts have given leaseholders protection against short leases, by giving them the right to extend their lease or the right to buy the property – but this can be very expensive indeed. The law is slightly different depending on whether you have a house or flat:


      • You normally have the right to extend your lease by 90 years on top of your unexpired term
      • If so you won’t have to pay any more ground rent and you can negotiate new terms for the lease, like who pays for works on the flat
      • However, you only have the legal right to do this if you have held the lease on the property for 2 years and it was originally leased on a “long lease”, usually more than 21 years.
      • You will have to pay a premium for extending the leasehold.
      • Many people considering buying a short leasehold property (generally less than 80 years) insist that the leaseholder extends the lease before they buy it.
      • After you tell your landlord that you qualify for the right to extend the lease they can accept your offer, negotiate, or reject your offer. If they do the latter you can challenge them in court


      • You might have the right to extend your lease by 50 years on your house
      • If so you can renegotiate the terms of your lease, like who pays for works on the house
      • However, you only have the legal right to do this if you have held the lease on the property for 2 years and it was originally leased on a “long lease”, usually more than 21 years
      • Unlike flats, you don’t have to buy a lease extension for a house, but your ground rent is likely to go up
      • You should get a professional to help you extend the lease. For example, if you live in a converted house the rules for extending a lease on a flat might apply instead
      • After you tell your landlord that you qualify for the right to extend the lease they can accept your offer, negotiate, or reject your offer. If they do the latter you can challenge them in court

        Buying the freehold on a leasehold property

        You might also have the right to buy your house or flat outright, so that you own the freehold. This is called ‘enfranchisement’. While there are complicated legal procedures and legal costs involved this process of enfranchisement can be invaluable. Again, the law depends on whether you have a house or flat. Ensure you get professional advice and assistance.

        What is commonhold? 

          • Commonhold is a variant of freehold, created by the Leasehold Reform Act of 2002, which overcomes some of the worst aspects of leaseholds.
          • Commonhold is where a multi-occupancy building is divided into a number of freehold units, so each individual flat owns its own freehold. The common parts (staircases and hallways etc) are owned and managed by a Commonhold Association, a company that is itself owned by the freeholders of the flats.
          • This means there is no superior freeholder, but rather the owners of the flats manage the common and external parts of the property jointly. This protects people both from greedy landlords, and from the problems of short leases.
          • But, as with any form of community ownership, problems and conflicts can arise between members of the Commonhold Association. Moreover, only about 15 to 20 commonholds have been completed in the UK.

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