In June this year, Canada’s population reached 40 million, according to Statistics Canada — a milestone made possible by an ongoing surge in immigration. “Internationally, our country is recognized as peaceful and welcoming, which really helps people feel comfortable with the idea of becoming a Canadian,” says Sotheby’s International Realty Canada real estate agent Victor Cheung. For anyone enticed by the prospect of public healthcare and, perhaps, poutine, the challenge then becomes which corner of Canada to put down roots in. Granted, this is not a dilemma unique to just those arriving from other corners of the world. Indeed, there are many established Canadians considering new locales for the next stage of their lives.
Whether the homebuyer is a long-time Canadian resident or a recent arrival, Vancouver, Toronto, Montréal and Calgary all offer great real estate options. And even though the foreign buyer ban has impacted some property purchases in Canada, there are still many people living abroad who are qualified to buy Canadian real estate. These include new permanent residents moving here in the next few years; Canadian citizens living abroad who are strengthening their ties to this country; and international students. While the real estate needs and housing preferences of new Canadian residents are diverse, here are just a few of the neighbourhoods that are now captivating the interest of those who are looking to put down roots in the country, according to these Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Realtors®.
The Greater Vancouver Area’s unique combination of natural beauty, multiculturalism, and cosmopolitan offerings are attracting newcomers to the region as a whole, notes Cheung. “Right away, people feel Vancouver is a very special place because we have the sea and the mountains.” Another draw is the city’s close proximity to Asia relative to other Canadian cities that involve longer flights with layovers and connections.“The majority of my business comes from people who are originally from Hong Kong or China. Vancouver allows them to easily make the trip back for a visit or to have their family come here for a visit.”
Cheung finds that newcomers arrive with one of two mindsets. For those seeking a cosmopolitan lifestyle, it’s possible to find a vibrant urban experience beyond the central core. “Vancouver Westside, the Cambie Corridor, Metrotown and Brentwood are big hubs now with many condo developments coming up,” he says. As for those looking for more space for their kids to play, Cheung points to the Fraser Valley area. “Surrey, Langley and Coquitlam are seeing redevelopment of older areas, as well as new developments that are planned as full communities with parks, recreation centres and services — all within a short drive.” And anyone drawn to Vancouver for its lush natural landscape will be enchanted with White Rock, another family-friendly community slightly farther south. “It’s still only about a 45-minute drive from downtown,” notes Cheung, “but it has water scenery that gives you that coastal B.C. experience.”
In 2022 Alberta launched a campaign promoting the province to Canadians who might be considering a move. According to Vivienne Huisman, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada Senior Vice-President of Sales, the “Alberta is Calling” advertisement appears to be working. “In the fourth quarter of 2022,“ Alberta experienced the highest net interprovincial migration among Canadian provinces.”
Calgary’s appeal comes down to its combination of well-paying jobs and well-priced real estate, notes Huisman. “You get more bang for your buck. You can own a home with more land than you’d get somewhere else and still have [enough] left to enjoy the things you love.” As in other markets, schools are top of mind for many people moving to the province with young families.“I see a focus on the southwest and on neighbourhoods, like Aspen Woods or Springbank Hill, that are close to private schools such as Webber Academy and Rundle College.
And while these areas may be considered suburbs by Calgary standards, Huisman notes that Ontario transplants accustomed to long commutes are in for a pleasant surprise. “People move here who might be used to living in Oakville and travelling those far distances to get to work in Toronto, but Aspen’s just a 20-minute drive from downtown Calgary.” And the city isn’t lacking for cultural and leisure amenities. “Whether it’s museums and art galleries, community centres and sports facilities, or the city’s 300-plus festivals, we have many opportunities for people to explore their interests.”
Armin Yousefi, a Senior Vice-President of Sales at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, believes that Toronto’s rich multiculturalism makes it a natural choice for newcomers. “No one feels out of place in Toronto. It’s a city that integrates all these different communities into a vibrant society.” Indeed, part of what makes the city so dynamic is the diverse stories of origin of its residents. His recent clients have included new Torontonians moving from rural Canadian cities, corporate professionals and physicians recruited from big cities in the U.S. and people originally from Southeast Asia, East Asia and Latin America.
The one thing that many families moving to Toronto have in common is that they all place a strong emphasis on their children’s education. “For some, that means moving to an area where the kids have the flexibility to walk to a private school,” says Yousefi, noting that buyers are drawn to Forest Hill, Lawrence Park North and Lawrence Park South, and Bedford Park for their proximity to prestigious schools. He also points to High Park, Bloor West Village and the Beaches as neighbourhoods anchored by good public schools. In all of these areas, the sense of community centred on the schools helps families to establish a strong local network. As well, anyone settling into a new city will also welcome the opportunity to accommodate visitors, Youseff adds. “People relocating here definitely appreciate having a finished basement that has a bedroom and a full bathroom in case they have in-laws and relatives from out of town.”
The city’s international profile is bolstered in part by the solid reputation of McGill University, often referred to as the “Harvard of Canada.” “For some people, that’s what put the city on their radar,” reports Sotheby’s International Realty Canada broker Susanne Stelmashuk Chernin, who works alongside Louise Jackson and Diane Stelmashuk. “ And, along with fantastic universities, we have great public schools and private schools. And [the graduates] find that Montréal is also an incredible economic engine with 400 head offices, business clusters and leading research hubs tied to the universities.”
Another plus is that, for any newcomer who doesn’t already speak French, Montréal is the perfect place to pick up a new language. French is spoken everywhere and there are many places that offer language lessons. “Montréal is also the multicultural heart of Québec with so many different languages spoken at home,” says Chernin.
Adding to the city’s appeal is the fact that it is much more affordable than other major urban centres, whether a newcomer is seeking a dynamic life downtown or something quieter a little farther away. “Many people who want that extra space to raise their family end up on the West Island,” Chernin reports. “Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Beaconsfield, Senneville and Kirkland are [also] great areas with amenities, stores and schools close by.” These municipalities aren’t short on neighbourly spirit, either.“District councillors take the time to meet with newcomers and inform them about the various cultural programs, services and sports facilities. Someone moving from Europe might be looking to maintain a connection to soccer, but, of course, we can[introduce] them [to] hockey and figure skating, too.”
With activities galore to fill their schedules, newcomers will be feeling at home in no time.
By Eric Mutrie—*This article originally appeared in Insight: The Art Of Living Magazine – The Passion Issue