Buying property in Canada is very attractive to expats, considering the affordability of Canadian housing prices, the good healthcare system as well as the country’s natural beauty and safety.

Who can buy property?

Everyone can buy property in Canada, and foreigners or non-residents who stay less than six months a year in Canada can do so without the need to apply for residency. However, if you buy property and plan to stay longer, then you have to immigrate and apply for permanent residency. If you don’t plan on living in the country, then you can rent your property and pay a 25 per cent withholding tax on your rental income which will be deducted from the monthly rent.

Fees and Taxes

In general, though, everyone, whether a Canadian or foreigner, must pay the same fees and taxes when buying real estate. However, different rules might apply when it comes selling your property or buying property in certain jurisdictions where higher property or land transfer taxes exists. Taking a mortgage will also need to be at a Canadian bank and will require you to pay a 35 percent of the purchase price as a down payment compared to the five or 10 per cent paid by Canadian residents.

Housing market

The housing market in Canada is ideal for buying property as prices have dropped, making even larger and more expensive cities such as Vancouver and Toronto appealing. From the East Coast, to Central Canada and the West Coast, expats have many choices, including affordable cities such as Calgary, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Ottawa.

From detached homes, attached townhouses or apartments, there is a wide range of choices so it is wise to start searching online to get an idea of what you prefer and what properties are available.

 According to the Chief Economist of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), Gregory Klump, “It’s a full-blown buyer’s market or on the cusp of one in a number of housing markets across the Prairies and in Newfoundland. Homebuyers there have the upper hand in purchase negotiations and the mortgage stress-test has contributed to that by reducing the number of competing buyers who can qualify for mortgage financing while market conditions are in their favour.” Following statistics released this month by CREA, home price trends have stabilised in Calgary and Saskatoon, but home prices in Edmonton and Regina dropped. On the other hand, in Greater Vancouver (GVA) and the Fraser Valley, prices have started to slowly recover. Price growth also continues to recover in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

In a Huffington Post article, originally published in Livabl, it is argued that in the new year home sales in Canada are expected to rise, which is good news for those buying property in the next few years.  After rising in 2016, and falling in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is now forecasting that the market will see a surge. With the release of its 2020 outlook for the national market, CMHC expects sales to continue in Ontario and British Columbia’s major markets due to “disposable income increases for the two provinces that exceed the national average and strong demographic-driven demand for housing.”

Despite the housing market’s decline the last two years, CMHC believes that home prices will soon rise, especially in Ontario and Quebec which are expected to drive growth in 2020, and British Columbia in 2021.

Buying property in Canada: your finances

If you are getting a loan as a non-resident, then you will need to provide a down payment of 35 percent and get a loan at 65 percent of the purchase price. Any mortgage would have to be raised by a Canadian broker or bank, as foreign banks cannot register mortgages in Canada. As is the case generally, you will need the services of a Canadian lawyer or notary so all documents regarding the mortgage and land registration are prepared and submitted. As you are borrowing funds, you will need to organise your finances and consider the overall costs, which includes the purchase price, property transfer tax (one percent of the first 100,000 CAD, and two percent on the balance), bank appraisal fees, inspection fees, insurance costs and closing legal fees.

If you are considering buying property in Canada, you will also need to discuss how to transfer your funds with a currency specialist such as Universal Partners FX. UPFX will offer invaluable help when transferring large amounts of money internationally, especially in a volatile market which can affect the value of your transfers. UPFX’s foreign exchange specialists can navigate the complexities of currency markets and ensure that your funds are transferred without any hidden costs and in then most cost-effective manner. Give them a call today to find out how much they can save you on your international payments.

Prime minister Boris Johnson wants to “get Brexit done,” but with Brexit the unresolved issue of the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU and other countries still remains and is expected to be one of the big concerns at the end of 2020.

If Brexit does happen, the UK will need to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU so it continues to enjoy tariff-free access to its market after the transition period, and will also need to negotiate and sign new trade deals with countries such as the US.

According to Johnson’s withdrawal agreement, the UK will continue trading with the existing terms until the end of the transition period which is due on 31 December 2020. He has already stated that, if he wins a majority, he will negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU which will come to replace the current arrangement at the end of 2020. The deadline for next year is considered among economists and politicians a very challenging one, as the time frame is limited and the subject matter demanding and complicated. As it is usually the case, trade negotiations take years, so it is similarly expected that Johnson’s trade agreement will be a difficult task, impossible to deliver as promised. Of course, it will be possible to extend the transition period, but this should be decided by 1 July.

As a Financial Times article notes, it is difficult to see the EU and the UK reaching a deal in as little as five months, especially when there’s legal and translation issues involved. A draft for an EU-Japan deal took four months and 10 days to prepare, “including ‘legal scrubbing’ and translation into 24 official EU languages — and this is viewed in Brussels as an example of the bloc moving at breakneck speed.”

In the case of Canada’s deal with the EU, this took more than five years to complete and another three before it came into force. For some, the UK-EU trade deal will be even more difficult as the two sides will attempt to establish a new relationship that seeks to replace an older one, while for others, the negotiation will be fast and quick as we are already in sync with EU regulations.

What is an FTA?

An FTA is a multinational trade agreement that creates a free-trade area between different states and determines the tariffs and duties on imports and exports in order to eliminate trade barriers, such as trade taxes or tariffs. While a customs union is more encompassing and requires all parties to have the same external tariffs, a free-trade agreement allows countries to establish whatever tariffs they wish, otherwise adopting a preferential treatment system.

If the EU and the UK are unable to reach a trade agreement within the specified time frame, then the UK will revert to World Trade Organization (WTO) terms – which means British exporters would have to face the same tariffs as other countries as the US or China. But even with a trade agreement, the privileges that are currently enjoyed under the customs union will be lost.  A trade agreement will mean more costs and more bureaucratic control for UK companies, which is why economists are warning that Brexit will damage the UK economy.

The UK is also in the process of rolling over the EU’s existing free trade deals with other countries in order to avoid losing tariff-free access to the EU after Brexit. The UK has signed 19 continuity deals with 49 countries. The UK’s biggest trading partners are the US and the UK, with the US being the UK's biggest single trading partner, and the EU accounting for 46% of UK exports. The problem with striking an FTA with the US is the obvious standards in food products, especially when in the US regulations are not as strict as in the EU, with the most obvious examples being genetically modified foods and chlorinated chicken.

At the moment, one of the most important Brexit outcomes is considered to be the resolution of a trade agreement with the EU by the end of next year, as the scenario of leaving without a trade deal will not only result in a political crisis for the government, but also an economic one for the whole of the UK.

Imports and exports

If you are a British importer or exporter, you would have experience with fluctuating exchange rates and currencies. Universal Partners FX is the best option for your foreign exchange needs as they can transfer your international payments fast and securely, help you with your regular payments and offer expert information. Get in touch with their foreign exchange specialists to find out the most opportune time to transfer your funds or get access to the best exchange rates and hedging strategies to protect and grow your business.

Moving to Singapore

For many people, moving to Singapore is something they can only dream of. The lifestyle, the quality-of-life, the city, the food. There is so much that makes Singapore the perfect place to pack your bags and leave to; which is why so many people do.

Singapore is an efficient and clean Asian city that possesses much of the charm from the days it was a British colony, whilst at the same time offering a cutting-edge, advanced environment that attracts so many from overseas. Located on the southern tip of Malaysia, it has developed into one of the most important finance and trade centres in the whole of Asia, making it one of the wealthiest places in the world and one of the most popular places for expats to live and work.

An expat destination

As a result of its safe, modern and welcoming culture, expats from all over the world move to Singapore each year in huge numbers to both live and to work. Offering high-quality education, low priced homes and strong levels of security, it has become an ideal place to move permanently and raise families. The standard of living is notoriously high with healthcare facilities being rated second-to-none and low crime rates making it a safe place to explore day and night. With such a huge influx of expats in Singapore, you’ll never be too far from expat groups and clubs for a variety of nationalities, making your transition to life abroad an easy one.

So, if you’re planning on becoming one of the many Singapore expats, here are a few of things you will need to keep in mind before making the move, whether it’s for a short-term or long-term stay.

Getting the right visa   

Before you can jet off to start your expat life in Singapore, you’ll need to apply for a visa and the right visa at that. The length of your stay and the reasons behind your move will ultimately determine which visa type you will need to apply for. One thing you’ll be glad to hear, however, is that visa requirements in Singapore are mostly based on salary, making it a much simpler process than most other countries.

  • Permanent Residence Visa – This visa is for expats who are planning on making the Lion City their long-term home and comes with a number of benefits including lower education fees, ability to purchase public housing and participation in the social security system. Expats can apply for permanent residency in Singapore under the Professionals/Technical Personnel and Skilled Workers Scheme (PTS) pretty much as soon as they acquire their P, Q, or S Work Pass
  • Work Permit Visa – There are different types of work permits for Singapore, which are determined by your purpose and length of stay. Your monthly salary will also determine the type of Employment Pass you’ll need. Generally speaking, Employment Passes apply to those who earn at least 3,300 Singapore Dollars (SGD) per month, and work visas are designed for workers with a lower income.

Expat jobs & career opportunities

If you are highly educated and/or have a strong level of work experience, you will find job opportunities in Singapore far easier to come by. However, the level of competition is fierce as Singaporeans are themselves well-educated. It is recommended that if you are planning on moving to Singapore, either short or long-term and are not transferring with your current employer, you should have a job lined up before you arrive.

Once you have arrived in the country, networking may the best way to land yourself a job, with a significant amount of people finding work through who they know as opposed to through job advertisements. For expats specifically, there is a substantial amount of jobs available in the finance and banking sectors, as well as the electronic, IT and shipping industries.

Finding accommodation

With a visa and job hopefully lined up, the next thing on the Singapore expats list is to find somewhere to stay or live. Your choice of accommodation in Singapore may depend on your citizenship, so as an expat, you will be limited to the type of housing you can buy and the conditions of your stay.

Singapore citizens are able to buy new public housing and get financial help to buy a home, while permanent residents can only buy resold public housing and are not eligible for financial assistance. Before you can become a permanent resident, however, you are classed as a foreigner and will only be able to rent a flat or a room from a local landlord.

  • Renting – Unless you are planning on buying property in Singapore, which, due to a shortage of real estate and land for expats, can be very expensive, short-term rentals might be the best solutions. The average price for temporary rentals in Singapore differs depending on how central the property is, its size, facilities, special services, and more. A one-bedroom apartment in the city centre, for example, could cost 2,645 SGD. Whereas a one-bedroom outside the city centre could cost 1,511 SGD.
  • Buying - Understanding how to buy a property as a non-resident in Singapore can be complicated, but as long as you understand the rules and regulations on non-nationals purchasing properties, the process should be smooth. Research has shown that the most expensive properties in Singapore’s 28 neighbourhoods varied in price from 1.4 million SGD to 110 million SGD. Whereas in the cheapest neighbourhoods, the top prices went from 200,000 SGD to 2.2 million SGD. Read our guide to buying property abroad here to learn how to prevent exchange rates impacting your purchase.

Cost of living

One of the main attractions for expat life in Singapore is the very high standard of living, however, this can come at a price. In Mercer’s 2019 Cost of Living Survey, Singapore was rated as the third most expensive region to live in the world. Expats who are looking for living conditions similar to what they experienced in their home country, may find that the cost of living is very high in comparison. As well as house prices which have already been discussed, alcohol is also taxed at a high rate along with cars. Foods and groceries are reasonably priced with local stalls and shopping malls offering very cheap dining options.

Language

The official language of Singapore is Mandarin Chinese; however, English is the most common language which is used for business and trade. School generally teach students in English but will also expect children to learn Mandarin as well. Other common languages include Tamil, Malay and Cantonese. An additional thing to note is that many Singaporeans speak a language that has come to be known as Singlish; a mixture of English and other languages. This can be difficult for English speakers to understand but on the whole, they seldom experience any real problems communicating with people in Singapore.

Climate

As Singapore lies close to the equator, it enjoys a tropical climate with no sharply divided seasons. It possesses a year-round temperature as well as high humidity and large levels of rainfall. The temperature can range from 22 °C-34 °C, with humidity levels capable of reaching 100% with increases in rainfall. Singapore’s hottest months are June and July, with its monsoon seasons coming in November and December.

Facts every Singapore expat should know

  • In Singapore, you are required to pay tax in order to own a television.
  • There is a restriction on which breeds of dog you can bring into the country.
  • There is a limitation on the number of animals you are allowed to own depending on the type of building you live in.
  • Left-hand drive cars are not allowed in Singapore.
  • You may drive in Singapore using your own license from your native country for up to one year but after this period you will be required to convert to a Singapore license.
  • It is warmer and drier in Eastern Singapore.
  • Public holiday range from the Christian holiday of Good Friday to Vesak Day; a Buddhist holiday.
  • Singapore also has its very own National Day during which it celebrates Singapore’s independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965.

Sending money to Singapore

Working or living as an expat in Singapore, you’ll most likely want to open a local bank account in order to receive your salary in SGD. However, if you want to send money back to your native country, or even make a payment into your Singaporean bank account from outside the country, you should pay particular attention to your foreign exchange needs.

Making an international payment through your bank to a Singaporean bank account could incur additional transaction fees, which you’ll most likely want to avoid. In addition to the extra cost, you could be given a poor exchange rate, which will impact the amount you’re getting for your money on the other end of your transfer. Fortunately, with Universal Partners FX, you can receive an extremely competitive exchange and zero transaction fees, getting your expat life in Singapore off to the best possible start. Simply sign-up for a free account with us today to get started.

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For more information on how Universal Partners FX can help with your expat life in Singapore, be sure to get in touch with one of our foreign exchange experts today.