Ottawa: A property buyer’s paradise
Ottawa got Queen Victoria’s nod of approval back in 1857. Now South Africans, too, are being seduced by its charms.
A City Perfectly Positioned
Location, location, location … even Queen Victoria knew a thing or two about the value of good positioning. When she chose Ottawa over Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec City as Canada’s capital city, she did so because of the fact that it was not immediately adjacent to the US border (and therefore more easily defended from possible American attack), and was crisscrossed by waterways and thus ideal as a transport route.
That was back in the mid-19th century and Ottawa (the name is derived from the Algonquin word ‘adawe’, meaning ‘to trade’) has lost none of its lustre. In 2013, The Martin Prosperity Institute – the world’s leading think-tank on global economic prosperity – ranked Ottawa number one among global cities in the creative economy based on talent, technology, tolerance and quality of place. Aside from Montreal, the city has the highest number of bilingual residents in Canada. Thanks to its location on the Quebec/Ontario border, you’ll hear both English and French on the streets… and very possibly a bit of Afrikaans or Xhosa, too: Canada boasts the fifth highest number of South Africans (nearly 40 000) of the OECD countries. As Canada’s fourth largest city and capital, Ottawa has a steady economic base, high employment rate and excellent schools – and, as if that weren’t enough, it was ranked the fourth cleanest city in the world by Forbes.
Why Property Buyers are Flocking to Ottawa
The epitome of Canada, Ottawa is home to landmarks and heritage sites like the Rideau Canal and ByWard Market, as well as a large number of community events such as Canada Day on Parliament Hill, and ample outdoor concerts and festivals. The city boasts four distinct seasons that encourage year-round activity, from watching autumn leaves change colour on the Gatineau Hill to skating on the canal in the winter to enjoying the colourful welcome of the spring tulip festival to boating in cottage country in the heat of summer.
‘The Ottowan property market is firing on all cylinders – its diversity and strength make it attractive for professionals and families who want to enjoy simultaneously the bustle of the city and the tranquillity of the great outdoors’
It’s no surprise then that, with all these charms, the Ottowan property market is firing on all cylinders – its diversity and strength make it an attractive option for professionals and families who want to enjoy simultaneously the bustle of the city and the tranquillity of the great outdoors. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), home prices in the country have doubled in the last 10 years to an average of 388 553 Canadian dollars (CA$) (around R3,7 million) in January 2014, rising steadily, except for a brief pause during the recession, and current prices are roughly 50% above those in the US. During the year to November 2013, the annual house price increase in Ottawa was 1,2%, compared to the country’s highest increase (Calgary: 5,9%) and the lowest (Montreal and Halifax: 0,8%). In March 2014, sales in Ottawa picked up, with 29,7% more properties sold than in February – the average price of residential properties sold was CA$390 791 (approximately R3,8 million). Randy Oickle, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board is emphatic: ‘It’s a great time to buy or sell real estate.’
Buying Property in Canada – Ins and Outs
Buying property in Canada is relatively straightforward and most provinces have no restrictions on foreign ownership of real estate. If you plan to stay in Canada for fewer than six months each year, you are considered a non-resident but you are still allowed to open a bank account and buy property. If, however, you plan to live in Canada for longer than six months each year, you must apply for immigrant status – note that Canada has strict immigration laws. In order to avoid a housing-bubble crisis in Canada, tighter mortgage lending rules were put into effect in July 2012. For Canadian residents, financing is now typically available at 75% of purchase price for a primary residence over a 25-year term. For non-residents, the ratio is generally 65% bond and 35% down payment.
Foreign banks cannot register mortgages in Canada so mortgages must be raised via a Canadian mortgage broker. The borrower will require the services of a Canadian lawyer or notary public to prepare the documents and registration at the Land Titles office. Property tax/land transfer fees are calculated at between 0,5 to 2% of the property’s total value. Property transfer tax (PTT) is now exempt for individuals buying their first home, as long as they meet certain criteria.
While the purchasing process quite closely mirrors ours in South Africa, most Canadian estate agents are self-employed and are on negotiable rather than fixed commission (payable by the seller). A purchaser can buy property using any estate agent, regardless of whether that agent originally listed the property. There are usually two agents involved in a sale: the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent – and the commission received upon the sale of the property is divided between the two. Some agents can also be dual agents but must declare this to buyers and sellers alike.
Useful Info for Buying Property
The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) offers tips and advice for both buyers and sellers in the Canadian real-estate market. Angloinfo provides comprehensive information about relocating to Canada, from housing and employment advice to healthcare and transport tips, as well as an overview of the local lifestyle. Ottawa Living contains property listings, a directory for home shopping and renovation needs, mortgage/financing advice and general advice about living in the province. Sezlik.com has dozens of luxury Ottawa properties on its books and provides buyers and sellers with advice based on personal taste and lifestyle requirements.
- Sezlik.com: sezlik.com
- John King Real Estate: johnkingteam.com
- Line Box Studio: linebox.ca
- Ottawa Living: ottawaliving.ca
- The Canadian Real Estate Association: crea.ca
- Angloinfo: canada.angloinfo.com
Text: Jocelyn Warrington and Juliet King