Real Estate

Pros & Cons of Living in Nova Scotia

Pros & Cons of Living in Nova Scotia
Written by
  • Samson Solomon
| Nov 4, 2022
Reviewed, Jun 5, 2023

Table of contents

    Why buy a home in Nova Scotia?

    Nova Scotia has been Canada’s ocean playground for over half a century since the government started building highways so residents in Central Canada could easily go to the East coast. Enjoying the seafood and good East coast hospitality was just the beginning, from there, many fell in love, and started buying their secondary or vacation homes out east to enjoy the ocean more often.

    More recently, housing prices have skyrocketed in Canada, and more Ontarian families have relocated to Nova Scotia to make their goal of homeownership a reality. The housing surge and overbidding during the pandemic – when interest rates were their lowest  – priced out many from the possibility of owning their own homes. Without having to resort to moving to Northern Ontario, where harsh winters and additional costs of living can be very challenging and costly for younger families. A young family starting out to build their network in a more isolated community in the North can impact opportunities for jobs and education.

    Many homeowners who wanted to buy their vacation homes or cottages and were getting fear of missing out (FOMO) from the surging marketing – were starting to re-evaluate their options.  Just a day’s drive from Eastern Ontario, with similar culture and laws  – Nova Scotia is a great alternative to Ontario. To all of these priced-out buyers, Nova Scotia seemed like a great place, and to start, restart, or even just unwind for a much-needed vacation.

    Are you a first-time buyer?

    Why has the Nova Scotia market surged?

    Nova Scotia’s market has surged quite a bit since more and more people from Ontario have been able to qualify for homes. To calm the surging prices, recently this April the Nova Scotia legislature introduced a provincial deed transfer tax (PDTT). Although very similar to Ontario and BC, non-resident speculation tax applies to all foreign residents at 20% and 25%, respectively. 

    The PDTT only applies a tax of 5% on the non-Nova Scotia resident’s share of the equity purchase. However, the provincial government has been quite innovative in developing this law as it provides some exceptions to avoid this tax. For instance, exemptions apply if the purchase will transfer 50% or more ownership to a Nova Scotian. As well, if the non-provincial resident decides to make Nova Scotia their home, they could after 6 months apply for an exemption.  

    This proactive law encourages people who buy homes in the province to settle down – or even get married in Nova Scotia to avoid this form of land transfer tax” altogether. This is great for creating communities with roots, as well as it makes a lot of fiscal sense.

    During the pandemic, more Ontarians were able to relocate to a different province, most choosing Alberta or BC, as people were working remotely. Some chose to move East towards the Maritime provinces – many of those people have gotten used to the remote work lifestyle. This has some advantages that are not easily evident. Since jobs tend to pay more in Ontario, moving to a province with a lower average income such as Nova Scotia, you can afford to have more expendable money. This extra cash can grow your savings – or go towards your retirement as well.

    How do the home buying process and costs compare between Halifax and London?

    The surging market in Nova Scotia has been in line with similar growth seen in many other parts of the country. To give some perspective on numbers, we will compare three different sets of markets. As Ontario and Nova Scotia are unrealistic comparisons, we will compare Halifax with London. They are both educational centres with similar populations and areas.

    Attribute London ON Halifax NS
    Population 515,000 417,000
    Average Home Price $628,000 $499,000
    Average Down Payment $140,000 $60,000
    Average Household Income $83,000 $77,000
    Purchase Price $500,000 $500,000
    Down Payment $100,000 $100,000
    Property Taxes 1.422308% = $7112 1.084% = $5420
    Provincial Land Transfer Tax $2475 (after rebates) $0
    Municipal Land Transfer Tax  $0  1.5% = $7500
    Income Needed to Qualify $122,457 annually $117,314 annually
    Savings Needed to Qualify $102,475 + closing costs $107,500 + closing costs
    (Calculation made with nesto’s mortgage payment calculator using the current uninsured rate of 5.89% as advertised on our website. Stress tested on 30yrs amortization using Gross Debt Service (GDSR) of 35%)

    Although, as the above chart indicates that the initial costs to buy a home in Halifax may be slightly higher than in London due to Halifax having that additional municipal deed transfer tax (MDTT), overall the savings are still more with a move to Halifax.

    On a monthly basis, the almost $2000 difference between the annual property tax between London and Halifax will be recaptured within 4 years of living in that home.  Alongside, you will benefit from a much bigger size of home since the average price of a house in Halifax is at par with the purchase price of the sample – versus London where you’d be buying something that is over $100K less than the average price of a home.

    Outside the attributes that we can measure, there are other valuables like the quality of life and crime rates, where Halifax currently scores much better than London. There are many things which money cannot buy, like peace of mind. But when it comes to monetary attributes like housing affordability and cost of living, there as well you’ll find that Halifax scores higher.

    Additional Home Buyer Help from the Province

    Nova Scotia recently introduced a provincially funded down payment assistance program. This program is called the Down Payment Assistance Program (DPAP)  and is open to permanent residents of Canada and Nova Scotia who have a household income of less than $145,000 annually and do not have the minimum 5% down payment saved for their purchase. This program provides a 10-year interest-free loan of 5% of the purchase price up to $25,000. The loan amount will be dependent on the maximum value for the specific municipality.

    You are able to apply for this loan in conjunction with the federal government shared equity loan program – First Time Home Buyer Incentive (FTHBI).

    Nova Scotia is the Place to Live and Grow

    Nova Scotians enjoy a “best of both worlds” kind of living – surrounded by breathtaking scenery, clean air and open ocean spaces– while enjoying the thriving economy.  The province is famous for high tides, lobsters, fish and blueberries – perfect for an anti-oxidant-rich diet. No point in Nova Scotia is more than 60 km from the Ocean, so you’ll always be close to the beach. According to Twitter, Canadians are the friendliest people, and according to Canadians, Nova Scotians are the friendliest people. A recent poll, by Rough Guides, put Halifax as the fifteenth friendliest city on the planet.

    Homes are bigger than in Ontario, so you’ll get more space than you’ll need. Nova Scotia is a great place to grow your family so the extra room will be welcome. The cost of living makes it more affordable to own a home and raise a family. The climate is mild in the summer – perfect for enjoying the beach. Better quality of life and the great East coast culture will make it easier to enjoy your time with family.  And you’re only a day’s drive away from visiting your family in Ontario.

    For anyone looking to purchase a home in Nova Scotia, nesto is here to help. Our commission-free mortgage experts who are licensed in Nova Scotia can help you with the mortgage and home buying qualification and processes – from start to finish.


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