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Buying a home in Nova Scotia from Abroad

Buying a home in Nova Scotia from Abroad

"Buying a home in Nova Scotia, either for investment, holidays or eventual permanent residency is a simple process even if you live abroad and are not Canadian”¦.we did just that in 2004, mostly by e-mail from the UK and were pleasantly surprised just how easy the process was." Read this step by step guide to the house buying process in Canada and Nova Scotia written by Carolyn Ekins.

Buying a home in Nova Scotia, either for investment, holidays or eventual permanent residency is a simple process even if you live abroad and are not Canadian”¦.we did just that in 2004, mostly by e-mail from the UK and were pleasantly surprised just how easy the process was.

Before I start to explain the process it maybe worth clarifying a few points and address some commonly asked questions”¦

Are there any different rules for non-residents buying property in Canada? No”¦”¦its exactly the same process for a Canadian, Nova Scotian or resident of another country. However, as are the tax laws in the UK, if this is your second home or even your only home and you are not a resident of Canada for tax purposes when you sell the property, you will be taxed on the profit you make on the sale. Check with your provinces tax office.

Can I live in Canada once I have bought my home? No”¦.not permanently. Canada is such a beautiful country and Nova Scotia such a lovely province that many people buy second homes or cabins here. You can stay in Canada on holiday for up to a 6 month stretch (remember you are not allowed to work in the country or province without a work permit). People who spend their summers here or even 6 months of the year (minus a day) are known as seasonal residents.

Is there anyway I can make Canada my home temporarily or permanently? Yes”¦..many people come to the province to study or learn a new trade, perhaps to prepare themselves for permanent immigration and even to boost their points. Other people find a HRDC approved job and can work many years in Canada even while their immigration process is underway. Selling up in the UK, buying a home in Canada and moving out here on work or study permits is risky while awaiting permanent residency. There is no guarantee that permanent residency will be granted, however, this is a risk many are willing to take rather than waiting 3 or 4 years for processing. Only you can weigh up the pros and cons and make that decision. For full details of the permanent immigration process go to www.cic.gc.ca

A brief guide to house buying the process

So you’ve been looking through the Canadian “˜Multiple Listing System’ at www.mls.ca and seen some homes you really like the look of . The next step is to make an enquiry about the property and you do this by contacting the “˜Realtor’ whose name appears on the listing. In our case we saw just the house for us at www.tradewindsrealty.com which list many properties along the South Shore of Nova Scotia and further afield too. We contacted the realtor (Monica Sontrop) who was very helpful and professional answering detailed questions we had about everything. We found this such a refreshing change to the system we were used to in the UK where often your questions were ignored. Monica must have spent hours answering our questions by e-mail and sending us photos- she definitely went far beyond the call of duty but as potential buyers who didn’t really have any idea of the house purchasing process in Canada we were extremely grateful. It really did make all the difference!

Realtor acts for both parties

After much research, many photos and many, many questions we felt we really wanted to put in an offer on the house we had been discussing. We had been made aware that we could ask Monica to work on our behalf by entering into a limited dual agency relationship (this service provided by realtors is free to the buyer ) and further details can be found at http://www.nsar.ns.ca/pdf_files/form126.pdf. Basically this means that the realtor acts impartially for both the seller & buyer and you sign an agreement with the realtor. The next step was for us to make an offer. Our offer was a little unique because it contained a clause that allowed us to come out to Nova Scotia within 14 days to view the house so the offer was subject to a satisfactory viewing of the property and home inspection. Our first offer was accepted and within 14 days my husband flew out to view the house and the home inspection was done during his visit too. It was all very quick and very professional. Monica was able to advise us of a solicitor too so the process got underway quite quickly. I would highly recommend using the expertise of a realtor in the house buying process and through Monica we were able to book our solicitor, home inspection and even a gardener with ease!

Home Inspection

Again this was such a refreshing change from what we had experienced in the UK. The home inspection can be done in the presence of the buyer. In our case the home inspection took place during my husbands visit and he accompanied “˜Phil Rubarth’ around the house and barns for 2 hours while he methodically listed all his observations. A few days later we received a detailed report via e-mail and a week later the same report presented nicely in a file for our records. This gave us a really good idea of the condition of the house and what possible changes that would need to be made in the future. Luckily for us the report was very satisfactory..

{mosbanner right}Solicitor

Once the offer was accepted and we confirmed after viewing that we were happy to go ahead with the purchase all the details were then passed to a local solicitor. We had been recommended Derek Wickstrom and we were very happy with his service. The house purchasing process and legalities are much quicker  to close (complete) here in Nova Scotia and just four weeks later everything was signed and sealed following all the legal title checks and sheriffs certificate etc. Your solicitor should be able to advise you and send all documentation by e-mail or fax to you which you then can sign and return the same way. Once again following the close of the sale we were sent a nicely presented file with all the documents labelled for our records.

Payment for house and for services

During my husbands visit to Nova Scotia he set up a non- residents bank account with the www.bmo.com who have branches in just about every town. You need to pre-book your appointment and you will need forms of identification such as passport, birth certificate “¦the bank will advise you. The process was very quick and you are instantaneously given an “˜instabank’ card which you can use immediately in most ATM’s  (cashpoint machines) and in stores where you you can pay for goods with your card by typing in your pin number on the keypad provided. Several cheques are also given to you use until your proper cheque book arrives. Setting up a Canadian bank account was useful as we were able to transfer lump sums of money through our UK bank and also through www.hifx.com . Hifx enabled us to buy currency at a very good exchange rate before we purchased which makes all the difference on a large sum of money such as a house purchase. Fees and of course payment to the solicitor for your new home can of course be made directly through your bank in your home country but we did find having set up a bank account in Nova Scotia saved on the charges for transferring money”¦it was much cheaper to issue cheques from our account in Canada!

For further stories you can read my blog on British Expats.

Carolyn Ekins is Editor of Alternative Country Lifestyles