More and more people are investing in property in Canada, lured by the country's snow, simple emigration policy and a huge oil boom.
There seem to be three main reasons for the rising interest in the Canadian property market. First, there is the snow. Canada contains some of the world's finest skiing resorts and the discerning British buyer has long recognised this.
Second, there is emigration. Canada is one of the easiest places to which a British citizen can emigrate. Qualifying as an immigrant is much more straightforward than in the US or Australia and the process itself is relatively simple, though the wise will still take legal advice before making their application.
The third reason is fairly new. Oil. Canada sits on some of the worlds greatest oil reserves, much in the form of sand or shale or deep underwater. The increasing price of oil has made retrieving these reserves viable and there is now a huge oil boom in many parts of Canada. This is leading to increasing demand and higher prices for real estate in these locations.
How to buy a house in Canada
Canada is divided into a number of provinces. The law varies a little (and sometimes a lot) from province to province so the following should be seen as no more than a very basic guide to the process involved. The second thing to say is that investing in property in Canada is a safe and secure process - far safer and far more secure than buying a home in many of the locations in which the British are now investing in property abroad. Of course, you need legal advice and of course you need to remember the time-old saying 'let the buyer beware'.
Investing in property in Canada usually starts by finding a real estate agent. Canadian agents are regulated and have access to a multiple listing service similar (but less extensive) to that in the US. What this means is that any agent with access to the system can locate most of the property available on sale in Canada. The fees of the estate agent are paid by the seller.
Once you have found a property in Canada you make an offer to buy it. This is done using a pre-printed form called a Real Estate Purchase Contract. Although this is a pre-printed form it is important to take care when completing it to make sure that the terms of your offer are clear and that any special conditions, such as the offer being subject to a survey or a satisfactory mortgage, are made crystal clear.
The offer becomes legally binding upon you if it is accepted by the seller. It is a good idea to get advice from your lawyer before you complete this form, especially as (just like everywhere else) you can save a fortune on taxes and a whole lot of trouble by deciding at this stage who should be the legal owner of the property (not always obvious, even if you are buying it with your spouse), how it is going to be financed etc.
It is a sensible precaution when filling in an offer to keep a copy of any sales materials that have been given to you. This would include any photographs of the property and any statements about its condition or investment potential. You can then refer to these documents in your Real Estate Purchase Contract and incorporate them into it. If you are going to buy any furniture or other extras, these should be mentioned and listed. If you want to put in any special conditions, these can also be included by way of attached documents referred to in the Real Estate Purchase Contract. It is good practice always to put a time limit for the seller to accept your offer.
At this stage you should ask your lawyer to arrange for a structural survey of the property, particularly if it is more than a few years old. Your lawyer should also check out the zoning restrictions that apply to the property, how much the property taxes will be and various other bits of information. He or she should also be able to give you a pretty accurate estimate of the overall costs associated with buying the property.
If you are investing in a condominium in Canada, there are other checks that need to be made to establish the rules that will govern the property, the likely charges that you will have to pay each year and exactly what is included in the sale to you.
If the owner accepts your offer and the various conditions referred to are complied with, you are legally obliged to go ahead with the purchase. Before you complete the purchase your lawyer will check the title to the property and that all of the necessary legal documents transferring title into your name are properly completed. They will also deal with any mortgage you will take out to buy the property and calculate any adjustments needed to the price of the property to reflect your share of the property taxes and other expanses of the property.
Your lawyer will also deal with the process of securing the valid registration of your title to the property and advise you as to your ongoing tax and other obligations relating to it.
How much does all this cost? It varies from place to place and property to property but your lawyer should be able to give you an estimate of all of the fees and charges as soon as he or she knows something about the transaction.
One thing is for sure. Canada is as normal as it gets. Beautiful and uncomplicated, if you are investing in property in Canada you won't find that all of your neighbours come from the same town in England.
The author, John Howell, is a senior partner at the International Law Partnership.
Some information contained within this article may have changed since it was first published. HomesOverseas strongly advises you to seek current legal and financial advice from a qualified professional.