When many of us picture our new life in Canada, it’s canoes, bears, mountains and log cabins that we imagine. Yet most of us will end up in the city. Fantastically “liveable” though cities like Vancouver are, if you’re looking forward to viewing country homes in Canada, there are a few things you need to know. Read our guide to life in Canada’s great outdoors.
More than third of Canada’s population live in one of the country’s three largest cities (Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal). Yet the slower pace of life that comes with life in the country is for some the dream Canadian lifestyle. There are few places in the world that boast such stunning scenery and plethora of outdoor activities. It’s really easy to see why so many settle in one of Canada’s small rural countryside towns.
If you’re viewing country homes in Canada, there are a few things you need to know.
Canada’s magnificent landscapes vary from coast to coast but the countryside experience is pretty similar wherever you land. The opportunity to escape into nature every day will also be there. There’s no need to miss the seaside either, there is no shortage of lakes and waterways. You can spend many a summer’s day relaxing by a lake, swimming, paddling a canoe or fishing.
Country homes in Canada make ideal holiday homes for all the family. So why not split the cost and buy with family members? Read our new guide, Buying Abroad with Family.
Canada enjoys long hot summers, with far more sunshine that the UK, so prepare to become a barbeque expert! How does alfesco dinoing with mountain views sound? There is nothing better than eating a meal cooked on a campfire after a day’s hiking or boating in the great Canadian countryside.
But where should you move? It’s huge country, but here are a just a couple of great options.
Rocky Mountains Escape
Banff Alberta is a great example of a Canadian countryside location. Undoubtedly on the more expensive end of the scale, those that can afford country homes in Banff have great amenities at their doorstep. And the scenery is second to none. Located in the Canadian Rockies – one of the world’s most famous mountain ranges – Banff is an alpine sort of town. It offers many outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, golfing and winter sports, all protected by national mountain park status. Its lakes, waterfalls and enchanting forests are all within easy reach.
Banff is, however, definitely for those in the premium end of the market. Real estate agents Remax (www.remax.ca) are one of the key agents in the area, and their two-bedroom apartments start at around $435,000 CAD (£250,000). Houses will almost always cost over a million dollars (£575,000). Elsewhere in Alberta, which is sometimes used as a stand-in for the USA in cowboy films, property is more affordable. The average property cost statewide is $430,000 CAD.
Lake Country, British Columbia
Within the province of British Columbia (BC) there is a southern region teeming with large lakes. Around these are small, friendly rural towns. Shuswap Lake and the town of Salmon Arm is one example of a charming BC countryside hotspot. With over 600 miles of shoreline each summer Shuswap Lake becomes a popular tourist destination with houseboat rentals one of the main attractions. However, some 18,000 people do reside in a country home in the town of Salmon Arm on a permanent basis. These lucky residents get to enjoy the beauty of the region all year round. The Shuswap region is also a more typical market for the Canadian countryside. The average price in Shuswap for a detached family home in April 2018 was $430,918 CAD (£248,000).
The Okanagan is another southern BC region which is a great choice if you want the countryside and enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle. It is home to thriving fruit growing and wine production industries, so there are lots of employment opportunities too. In summer the tourists arrive too, offering more employment opportunities. Kelowna is the major city of the central Okanagan region, and it is to the north that the real countryside begins. In this northern Okanagan region a detached family home costs an average of just over $500,000 CAD (£293,000).
Undoubtedly the city of Toronto has many essential amenities, such as an international airport. But for those that want to avoid the hustle and bustle of big city life (Toronto is actually the fourth largest city in North America) there are some great countryside options within a couple of hours’ drive.
Blyth Ontario is one such example. This quaint little village has just over 1,000 residents but being on the shores of Lake Huron it sees its fair share of visitors too. In reality the whole Huron region is similarly charming and provides an idyllic country lifestyle to countless families. There is also the benefit of being close to the US border so trips to America are a popular option. Just make sure your passport is not expired!
With the lower cost of living compared to major cities, making the move to the countryside could be financially rewarding too.
The reason most of us move to the city is for the work opportunities. So what can you do in the countryside? It is normally the primary industries that offer the most opportunities. Depending on the location there could be any number of natural resources around; oil, oil sands, natural gas, minerals and logging are all abundant across Canada. These industries rely on skilled workers and pay lucrative salaries to attract the best talent. Don’t ignore the obvious – we know of a tree surgeon from southern England who has set up a thriving business in BC, as a lumberjack!
With the lower cost of living typically seen in rural towns and villages, compared to major cities, making the move to the countryside could be very financially rewarding too. The evidence is that wherever they move from, internationals arrivals benefit from a move to Canada.
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Country homes in Canada
Country homes in Canada will probably be exactly as you picture them, plenty of logs, big fireplaces and a veranda. Typically country homes take the form of a detached dwelling of one or two floors. Outside space is certainly not at a premium – the Canadian countryside is as vast as it is beautiful and most home will have front and back gardens. For most people friendly and safe communities are also a key selling points for the Canadian countryside. Country neighbourhoods have very low crime rates and many families don’t even lock their doors.
The great Canadian “Rancher” is a popular country home. It is a detached dwelling with one floor, sort of like a bungalow. There will usually be a crawl space under the floor as such the living area is usually accessed via a small flight of stairs. Moreover, modular and mobile homes can normally be an option in small rural towns, as long as there is a trailer park to house them. This is a very cost effective option as either a permanent residence, or a vacation property.
The “hobby farm” is another option if you really want to embrace a truly Canadian outdoor lifestyle. Since there is a market for local produce the small scale farms do provide an opportunity for supplementary income. This is a land of opportunity, as well as enjoyment!
The price of country homes can be influenced by a number of factors. Firstly, its proximity to a major city is a key factor. If there is a drivable commute the average cost for the rural town or village will be higher. The further away from any metropolitan hubs the cheaper properties get.
If you want a stunning country home but have a more modest budget, you’ll need all your negotiating skills. Read How to Negotiate Abroad for some insider tips, written by a licensed Canadian realtor.
Secondly, the type of setting can be quite important. Most of the towns mentioned thus far are adjacent to, or on, a body of water. Waterfront lots are the dream for many people, but there is a hefty premium attached to those type of properties. Further, the amenities, and even the number/types of stores in the vicinity can affect prices. Yes, you want a bit of wilderness, but also a local supermarket! In country towns with big box stores and large supermarkets, you will find country homes cost more than those near towns with basic amenities.
Before taking the major step of moving to the Canadian countryside you should really think about what it means to live in a country home. For example, you will need to think about how you will financially support yourself/family. Are there jobs for you in the town, or will you commute?
Now that working from home is more popular you could see if your employer would entertain the idea. However, this in itself brings in other considerations, generally home workers require high speed internet but it may not be available in all country homes in Canada.
Water is another important consideration. Whereas most country homes in Canada will be connected to the municipal water network there are still properties with their own water supply. If you have well water, or water coming from a creek or lake, it is a Canadian governmental requirement to have it tested by a lab to ensure it is safe to drink.
Making country life easier
Being well prepared for the sometimes dramatic Canadian seasons is vital. Summers can be very hot (over 30 degrees) but it is the winter time that needs to be respected.
So for example the vehicle choice you make becomes a very practical decision compared to past choices you may have made purely on aesthetics. Sports Utility Vehicles and pick-up trucks are great options for country living. They may have four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive to make navigating icy and snowy roads safer. In addition to car choice, you also need to consider buying a separate set of tires. Cars are sold with “all season” tires but in reality they do not perform well in sub-zero temperatures. Snow tires however are made of a different rubber compound and stay nice and subtle (i.e. grip the road better) no matter how cold it is.
Finally, the best way to make country life work for you is to embrace it. Canadian country towns and villages are super-sociable and have a real sense of community. Whether it is walking around the weekend farmers’ market, volunteering at a local charity or watching a community production/play there will undoubtedly be lots of opportunities for you to get out and really start to enjoy life in a quaint Canadian countryside town.