Tips for Moving to Nova Scotia

Last Updated on May 24, 2022

This is a guest post from a new Nova Scotian with first hand experience of recently moving to Nova Scotia.

In 2018, my fiancé Eric, and I sat down to have a talk. Our wedding date was booked for the following summer, and we needed to look at our future on a broader spectrum. With a shared desire to someday have children, our dream of being a family didn’t include raising kids in tiny condo. Eric and I were both born and raised in the Greater Toronto Area and neither of us had ever been home owners before – having gone from living with our parents, to living with each other in our early twenties, as renters. Despite us both having good jobs, and saving as much money as possible, the thought of buying a house (which would be a minimum of a million dollars) seemed laughable, and totally unattainable.

We were also beginning to feel drained from the hustle and bustle of living in a busy city, and were dreaming of something more beautiful, spacious, and surrounded by nature. This left us with two options to consider: We could either stay in Ontario, but live somewhere super remote, which would mean an unfathomable commute to work (keep in mind, this was pre-Covid times), or we would have to leave the province altogether.

Monica and husband Eric happy after moving to nova scotia from ontario
Monica and her husband Eric, happy to have moved to Nova Scotia from Ontario

Why We Decided to Move to Nova Scotia

Narrowing down our choice to move to Nova Scotia was easy, and happened in only a matter of minutes. “If we’re going to move away someplace really beautiful and leave all of our friends and family behind, I at least want to live near the ocean.” I had proclaimed. This quickly ruled out central Canada. With the west coast being just as unaffordable as Ontario, we knew the Atlantic provinces were the way to go. Ultimately, we chose to move to Nova Scotia knowing that Halifax was a sizeable city, which meant we wouldn’t be too recluse off the bat. Also our respective companies had offices in Halifax, which would make figuring out our jobs a heck of a lot easier.

Originally, our plan was to continue saving money, and make the move in the Summer of 2021. However, in August of 2020 (our last year to spend with our loved ones) ended up instead being spent in total isolation, due to the pandemic, and was being wasted away in seclusion. Not to mention, we were watching the housing market really take off in Nova Scotia, and feared that waiting another year could be detrimental to our plan. After 2 scattered months of last minute planning, a million phone calls with mortgage brokers, meetings with work, and more ups and down than you could possibly imagine, we found ourselves pulling into the driveway of our very first home, in beautiful Nova Scotia. In this article, I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks that made relocating and moving to Nova Scotia possible.

friends enjoy lunch by the ocean NOVA Scotia ADVENTURES
image credit Tourism Nova Scotia / Photographer: Patrick Rojo

Visit Nova Scotia Before You Buy A Home There

Compile a list of neighbourhoods and towns that you would like to live in, and see them in person. A road trip around Nova Scotia is the perfect way to find your forever home. Every province has their good areas, and their bad areas – this is inevitable. I would be lying if I told you Nova Scotia is the perfect province, and each and every neighbourhood is breathtaking. Eric and I had picked our favourite town based on Youtube videos, and romanticized living in it. Well fast forward to our trip in 2019 where we came with a list of places to visit and lo and behold, our number 1 destination was… well, to be a frank…a total dump! Luckily, we had several other towns to see, and a family member to show us towns we hadn’t even thought of visiting.

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viewpoint app for searching for homes to buy in Canada

Download Viewpoint

Viewpoint is a free app where you can see house listings (past and present). This app is unique to other provinces, as it shows you historical listings, which include photos, asking price, and sold price. You can favourite houses and watch as they go into pending status, or sold status. The map view is the best feature, as you can easily see what’s for sale in your desired neighbourhood. This tool allowed us to keep track of the market, and see that houses were no longer going for below asking price, as they once had been. We were able to notice trends, and realize when it was time to get our butts into action, before we missed our window forever. 

Get a Local and Knowledgeable Realtor

Get a Realtor who will be patient and willing to show you houses via Facetime. At the time that we moved, there was a requirement to isolate for 2 weeks upon arrival to the province, which meant that it wouldn’t be feasible to fly to Nova Scotia and look at houses in person. Luckily, we were somewhat familiar with most parts of the Halifax Regional Municipality, after visiting in 2019. We lucked out with an incredible agent who would crawl behind bushes to show us cracks in the foundation of a house, tell us if the house was as nice in person as it looked on video, and if the street was a good street, or not. She steered us away from less than stellar neighbourhoods with her honesty, and we truly felt that she had our backs, and was someone we could trust. 

Be Prepared to Pay More

Expect to spend more. Even if you’re ready to pack your bags and go, the prices are going up daily. Figure out the most you’d spend on a house, and deduct $100,000 in listing prices. For example, if you don’t want to spend more than $600,000 on a house, look at listings that are $500,000 (maybe even lower), as everything is selling for over asking price.

Selfie on the Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail
image credit Destination Cape Breton Association / Photographer: Adam Hill

Pick a Location that is Convenient for Your Needs

What are your shopping needs? Personally, I could never live more than a 10 minute drive away from a grocery store, a pet store, a pharmacy, or a liquor store. I also wanted to be no more than half an hour away from my office and the downtown core. Parts of Nova Scotia are more remote than others, and you need to consider your needs as you choose a town – especially with the way gas prices are going.

Cape D Or lighthouse friends take a selfie
image credit: Tourism Nova Scotia

Don’t Bring Your Snobbery

Yes, I said it! I lived in Toronto too, okay? I’m guilty of cutting people off on the road, walking fast, and being impatient when people are walking slow. I’ve flipped off another driver or two in my time, and like any human being, have had moments of selfishness. But it’s true what they say – people out east are nicer. The amount of people who offered to get me anything while I was in quarantine, make small talk with me when I’m cashing out in a store, or even just wave at me from their driveway when I’m driving past their house (strangers!).

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Of course there are bad apples no matter where you go, but anyone who moves from Ontario to Nova Scotia will tell you what a difference it is out here. Nova Scotians, for the most part, really care about their community. If you’re going to be move here, you’ll need to learn to only be in the left lane when you’re passing another car, to make eye contact and smile when you talk to a stranger, and slow the heck down in life. In short – leave the ‘tude behind! 

Don’t Let Anyone Talk You Out of Moving

If you really want to do this, then you need to see it through. We were so lucky to have the support of our families, but that doesn’t mean that all feelings of guilt were eliminated. Likewise, when it came to locals who were born and raised in Nova Scotia, not everyone was thrilled by the idea of us moving here. While every snotty comment about us being from Ontario was met with 99 kind comments, welcoming us to our new home, there will be the odd duck here and there who aren’t a fan of you, because of where you came from. Stay true to yourself and live up to your decision. You are doing something brave and life changing and really, it’s no one else’s business.

Citadel Hill in downtown halifax nova scotia
image credit Photographer: Lora Pope (@explorewithlora)

Expect Some Short Comings

While Nova Scotia has seafood that cannot be matched in Ontario, that doesn’t mean they automatically have everything you’re used to. This is a much smaller province, with a much smaller “downtown” city. For me personally, I had to get used to not having a Starbucks near my house, and not having as much selection on the radio. (If you’re a radio listener moving out east, I hope you like Country music.) I still miss Chipotle – because sadly, there aren’t any locations out here, and I can no longer cross the border to the US in only 2 hours. But I’ve gained so much more – the ability to be at the ocean in under half an hour, the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life, and a newfound group of friends-turned-into-family who took us in, and made us part of their community. 

We truly have no regrets! Good luck on your search and plans for moving to Nova Scotia!


Guest Author

Monica moved to Nova Scotia in October, 2020 with her husband, 2 cats, and her dog. Monica has built up a TikTok following by reviewing restaurants in Nova Scotia, while exploring her new province. Her links are:

Instagram: @monicasaays13. TikTok: @monicasaays13

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