Why Ontarian Homebuyers Keep Flocking to Nova Scotia

During the height of COVID-19, remote work freed many Ontarians to move out east for more affordable homes and a different pace of life. Shifting demographics mean the trend could continue well past the pandemic.

By Josh Sherman | 4 minute read

Oct 6

Nova Scotians have noticed an uptick of new arrivals from Ontario in recent years, and one expert suggests the province should expect the trend to continue.

As the COVID-19 pandemic was raging across Canada in April of 2021, Jennifer and Philip Jones began thinking about moving from Ontario to Nova Scotia.


“It was about how the pandemic was handled in Ontario,” says Jennifer, who, together with her husband and two kids, ultimately made the move from the Greater Toronto Area in July of last year. “During the pandemic, the kids’ anxiety went through the roof from being home and [having] no social life, no sports.”


The Joneses’s relocation was made possible because Philip, an executive at a telecommunications company, had transitioned to full-time remote work due to COVID-19 restrictions. It was a familiar story during the pandemic. As many Ontarians suddenly found themselves untethered to the workplace, they began looking to greener pastures. Out-of-province homebuyers were flocking to Nova Scotia, whether because of its relative affordability, oceanside lifestyle, or, in the Joneses case, the province’s approach to the public-health crisis. “They came down in droves,” says Halifax REALTOR® Brenda Kielbratowski, who helped Jennifer purchase her east-coast home.

“No matter where you live in Nova Scotia, there’s a lake less than 20 minutes away.”

This inbound demand helped support a multi-year surge in property values in Canada’s Ocean Playground, with the benchmark price of a Nova Scotia home more than doubling in the last five years. This August, the benchmark price of a Nova Scotia home was $401,700, up from $218,800 during the same month in 2018, according to historical data from the Canadian Real Estate Association. The interprovincial trend has since slowed down in the post-pandemic era — home prices have fallen 6.6% from their peak in April 2022 — as some Ontarians have returned to the office. But it hasn’t entirely reversed, and, Kielbratowski says, it isn’t likely to. 


Nova Scotia appears poised to retain its status as a popular Canadian relocation destination, particularly as Canada’s population ages. “We have such a high number of retirees,” explains Kielbratowski, CEO of the Halifax Home Selling Group, an all-women collective of real estate agents. Some are returning home after careers in other provinces, while newcomers are drawn by a slower pace of life and all the outdoor attractions. “The other thing is you can live in a really nice retirement community… and you’re still only 45 minutes to the major hospital in the city centre,” she adds.


Jennifer’s parents are among the retirees opting to ditch Ontario for Nova Scotia. They’ve already purchased land and plan to settle in once construction on the new home they’re having built is completed next fall. It didn’t take convincing. “They came to visit me,” says Jennifer, who explains the “Nova Scotia lifestyle and living by the lake on the water” were obvious selling points. “No matter where you live in Nova Scotia, there’s a lake less than 20 minutes away,” she says. “It’s like living in Muskoka.”

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While Nova Scotia’s benchmark price is far below the GTA’s — $1,141,400 in August — affordability wasn’t really a consideration for the Joneses. It was more about the type of property that was available out east. In suburban Milton, Ont., the couple owned a 3,500-square-foot house on a narrow 40-by-100-foot lot. They sold that for about $1.8 million and, for $1.4 million, were able to get a 3,900-square-foot house on an acre of waterfront land, right on Porters Lake. The couple’s monthly mortgage payments have remained about the same.


To Jennifer, another positive of Nova Scotia is how friendly everyone is. “Everybody around you — for the most part — is very helpful and pleasant to be around. They would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it,” says Jennifer, although she admits she’s heard a few remarks about people from Ontario driving up home prices too much.

Of course, Nova Scotia isn’t for everyone. “If you want to shop at Louis Vuitton… if you want to go to Major League baseball games — if that is your jam — Halifax is not for you,” says Kielbratowski, whose video, the Top 5 Reasons Not to Move to Halifax has racked up 27,000 views on YouTube. The video is tongue-in-cheek — for example, Kielbratowski tells viewers they shouldn’t move to Nova Scotia if they like being stuck in traffic.


For anyone considering the move, Jennifer leaves a couple of tips: “Do your research, and if you do decide to move, you have to blend in with the Nova Scotia lifestyle and not bring the Ontario hustle and bustle with you.”

Josh Sherman

Wahi Writer

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