Buying a house in Canada: A simple process

In the spring of 2003, I sold my little house in Brighton, packed up my life and moved with Husband Lee and two children to the west coast of Canada. When I look back on it now, I remember it being an exciting, and terrifying time.

In that first week after we arrived, to help get through the pain of leaving loved ones in England, and the worry of what was ahead, we undertook a massive spending spree, during which we bought a brand new car, a puppy and a house.

Shopping for houses was more fun than I had imagined. In those days – not so long ago really, but an eon in terms of real estate – $400,000 could buy a brand new, detached, 6 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 3500 square feet, 3 storey house in the suburbs of Vancouver. So that’s what we bought.

I had bought and sold several houses in the UK before moving to Canada. Each transaction had been messy, stressful and time-consuming; a process fraught with uncertainty, which as far as I know has not changed in many years.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that buying real estate in Canada is a relatively simple, intelligent, and progressive procedure where contracts are binding, completion dates are unchangeable, and gazumping is impossible.

Basically, once you have found the house of your dreams, and with the help of your Realtor: you make a written offer, whereby you negotiate price and completion dates; and then you have around a week or two to get an inspection done, arrange financing, check a few legal points, and get a deposit together. After that week or two, assuming all those ducks line up, you pay your deposit (around 5 per cent of the purchase price) and the contract becomes legally binding. You then sit back and wait for the completion date to arrive, secure in the knowledge that another buyer cannot bump you, and that the seller cannot pull out (without legal consequences). Easy. Pain free. And, for me, such an unexpectedly positive experience that, soon after buying our house, I decided to become a Realtor, so that I could help other people do the same.

By Juliet Sullivan