Are you looking to move to Nova Scotia? Does the thought of moving fill you with fear? Do you have a ton of questions going through your mind?

It’s perfectly normal to feel a little anxious about moving –the relocation process can be challenging as it often forces you to step out of your comfort zone and face the unknown. I know how hard it is to leave favourite places, comfortable routines, and loved ones behind and get used to new surroundings, new people, and a new lifestyle.

The goal of today’s blog is to alleviate some of your anxieties about moving and settling here.

What are the first steps to take upon arrival in Nova Scotia?

Before all else, you should sort out the following tasks the moment you reach Nova Scotia.

  • Set up a bank account if you haven’t already opened one. Scotiabank, RBC and CIBC have Newcomer packages that may be worth looking into.
  • Apply for a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
  • Apply for an MSI health card from the Nova Scotia Government.
  • Apply for a driver’s license from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
  • Change all your officially listed addresses.
  • Are you moving from out of Canada? In that case, you’ll also need to get a cell phone plan. More on that later.

Where should I live in Nova Scotia?

Cities in Nova Scotia are ideal for those who seek beauty and a quieter, less hurried pace of life. The following are some of the varied places to live in the province.

  • Halifax: This is the capital city of Nova Scotia and, with a population of over 400,000 people, it’s also the largest. Halifax is considered to be the economic center of Atlantic Canada. The average family income for Nova Scotia is $67,910 and for Halifax, the average family income is a fair bit higher, at $80,490, well above the Canadian average. . Whether you are a young professional or a family, there is a neighbourhood for you in Halifax!
  • Sydney, Cape Breton: Sydney is the largest urban area on Cape Breton and the island’s historical capital,
  • Truro: Popularly known as the “Hub of Nova Scotia”, this small city of 12,500 residents is located close to Halifax. As such, you can live here if you want the peace and quiet of a small town while still being close to the major city. Many people commute from Truro to Halifax. It’s about 45 minutes to an hour commute time but allow for a longer journey during winter conditions.
  • Lunenburg: This little town is one of Nova-Scotia’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The landscape of this town is dotted with pastel-colored houses built in the 18th century, set against the backdrop of large dramatic hills.
  • Chester: Situated on a peninsula at the head of Mahone Bay along the South Shore of Nova Scotia is one of the most beautiful, wealthiest and picturesque communities. A summer haven for generations of Americans and Canadians, the village and its people are steeped in history and tradition. 
  • If you are still not sure where to settle, this article might help.

What is the cost of living in Nova Scotia?

The cost of living in Halifax can be pretty high. The average rental for a one-bedroom apartment in Halifax is $1,300, not as high as Toronto where a similar apartment would be $2,230, but not as competitive as Calgary, with an average rental of $976.

In terms of income taxes, Nova Scotia has a high tax rate of 16%, in addition to the nation-wide federal tax rate of 15%. In comparison, Quebec has a provincial tax rate of only 11.8% and British-Columbia has a provincial tax rate of 11%.

In terms of sales tax, Nova Scotia is one of the provinces that has combined its Goods and Service Tax (GST) and Provincial Sales Tax (PST) into a single unified Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Nova Scotia charges its residents an HST of 15%, which is among the upper register of sales taxes considering Ontario has a sales tax of 13%, Saskatchewan only 11% and Alberta has a total tax rate of 5%.

How do I rent an apartment in Nova Scotia?

You can find apartments to rent using online platforms like RentBoard, Kijiji, and Housing Anywhere. You can use their filter systems to narrow down your options based on neighbourhood, budget, property type, number of bedrooms, amenities, etc.

How do Nova Scotia leases work?

In Nova Scotia, there are two types of leases:

  • Periodic: These are automatically renewed after a specific period of time, either week, month, or year.
  • Fixed-Term: These leases are valid for a specific period and the tenant must vacate the premises after the lease is up.

For specific information, you can refer to the Residential Tenancies Act.

How Do I Buy a Home in Nova Scotia?

One of the key elements of Nova Scotia’s lower cost of living is the affordable housing. The average price to purchase a house in Nova Scotia is $281,000 and in the Halifax area it is $340,000 (March 2019) while a similar sized home in some of Canada’s other major cities can be expected to cost up to twice that amount.

Buying your first home can be a daunting experience. That’s why using a knowledgeable Real Estate Agent is a great resource and can help ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

1) Always have a good down payment. In Canada, it is mandatory to have five per cent of the price of your home for your down payment (with the purchase of mortgage default insurance; 20 per cent without). However, the bigger the down payment, the quicker the mortgage is paid!

2) Always use a REALTOR®. A REALTOR® will be able to help you with things you may not know about when purchasing a home privately including the disclosure of any problems with the home to the community’s amenities.

3) Search for a home with a good school district. Whether you have children, or are planning to, it is important to search for a home with a good school district. This will ensure that you are choosing a home in the right neighbourhood for your family’s needs. This is also great for resale value.

4) Reserve cash for unexpected expenses. Whether your house is years old or brand new, you never know when unexpected expenses will pop up. Making sure you have a good amount of money saved for these purposes is important when buying your home.

5) Have a home inspection done. Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make. By having a home inspection done, you are eliminating the risk of those unexpected expenses that could have been found by a home inspector prior to buying your home.

6. Think long term when buying a home. What kind of home do you need now? What will you need in 5 to 10 years?

There are a multitude of factors to consider and decisions to make. Using the services of a Real Estate agent when buying a home is free. In a typical real estate transaction, the seller pays a 5 per cent commission, with 2.5 per cent going to the listing agent, and 2.5 per cent going to the buying agent. As a buyer, there is no up front cost to you as technically the seller is the one paying the commission. When buying, it’s crucial to have all the available resources necessary to make a well-informed decision, together with the time required to make use of them. It’s important to enlist the help of a trusted real estate professional who’ll be able to provide expert guidance at each step of the buying process. Feel free to download my Buyer’s Guide here and get in touch for a chat.

How does public transportation work in Nova Scotia?

You have the following public transit options in Nova Scotia:

  • Taxi: You can find taxis in most cities and towns around Nova Scotia. The fees vary from region to region.
  • Bus: The major bus service provider in the province is Maritime Bus.
  • Metro Transit: This is the major public transit available in Halifax operating bus and ferry services.
  • Rail: The prime train service in the province is VIA Rail. It departs from Halifax and has stopovers throughout the province.
  • Ferry: There are a number of ferry services such as Bay Ferries and other provincial ferry services that can take you to various parts of Eastern Canada.
  • Ridesharing: Uber is not currently available in the province. However, there are various other carpooling and ride-hailing services available in the province such as HFXRideMatch (only for Halifax) and CarpoolWorld.

Who do I subscribe to for electricity and gas in Nova Scotia?

  • Electricity: The primary supplier of electricity in the province is Nova Scotia Power.
  • Natural Gas: The most popular provider of natural gas in the province is Heritage Gas.

How do I get internet and a cell phone plan in Nova Scotia?

  • Internet: The biggest internet service providers in Nova Scotia are XplorNet, Eastlink, Citywide, Rogers and Bell Alliant. You can compare the offerings by all the ISPs in your region by going through an online directory called FindInternet.
  • Cell Phone Carriers: The best cell phone carriers in Nova Scotia are Bell, Eastlink and Rogers. You can compare the different cell phone plans from PlanHub.

Where should I get food, alcohol, and different amenities in Nova Scotia?

skeeze / Pixabay
  • Food: Sobeys, Atlantic Superstore and Walmart are the three main grocery stores. There are smaller, independent stores that offer great prices and choice (such as Chops Meat Market, Gateway Meat Market and farmers markets). The most famous farmers markets in the region is Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, Bedford Basin Farmers Market and Wolfville Farmers Market. You can also find a farmers market near you.
  • Alcohol: The legal drinking age in Nova-Scotia is 19 years old. The primary liquor provider in the region is NSLC.
  • Prescription Drugs: The primary prescription drug and medicine retailers in the region are Lawtons, Pharmasave. You can also find medicines in Shoppers Drug Mart, the nation’s most popular drug store and many of the larger Supermarkets (grocery stores)
  • Hardware and Tools: Home Hardware, Canadian Tire and Home Depot are your best stores. Home Depot has a price match guarantee which is worth noting and could save you some money.

What to do in Nova Scotia?

There’s really SO much to do and see in Nova Scotia. We are living here the past 13 years and still exploring and finding new gems. Here’s a few great starters:

  • Experience the highest tides in the world and discover Tidal Bore Rafting.
  • Go to Burntcoat Head Park during low tide for a chance to walk on the ocean floor.
  • Head to Brier Island for world renowned whale watching (June through to October is usually the best time to go)
  • Take a road trip down the 298km Cabot Trail which is considered one of the world’s most scenic destinations.
  • Visit Nova’s Scotia’s award winning vineyards in the Annapolis Valley.
  • Go to Hall’s Harbour and watch the amazing power of Nova Scotia’s dramatic tide changes.

Fun and unique trivia about Nova Scotia

  • Halifax is closer to Dublin in Ireland than it is to Victoria in British Columbia.
  • Every single point in the province is within 60 km from the sea.
  • The Halifax Citadel National Historic Site is the most visited National Historic Site in Canada. The practice of firing the noon gun began in 1856 and continues today.
  • Halifax boasts the second largest ice-free natural harbour in the world after Sydney, Australia.
  • There are more pubs per capita than any other city in Canada.
  • Halifax has a strong connection to the Titanic sinking. There is a permanent Titanic Museum at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
  • Oak Island is a 200-year-old Canadian legend about a pirate treasure buried on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Interest in the Oak Island has exploded thanks to the TV show ‘Curse of Oak Island’.
  • A significant part of the mega-blockbuster Titanic was shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia and off the East Coast, including on the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.
  • Called “Nature’s Time Post”, the Balancing Rock is a force of nature, standing proudly on the cliffs overlooking St. Mary’s Bay.  Folks come here because they don’t believe the pictures!  This column of rock sitting at the edge of the cliff looking like it will fall over any minute.
  • Sable Island, a National Park Reserve, is a small sandy island which is home to wild horses, thousands of gray seals and approximately 5 residents – mostly scientists and researchers who study the weather, wildlife, and geography of this unique island. 

And finally…..

I’ve helped many families get settled in Nova Scotia. Regardless of where you choose to move to within the province, I can connect you with professionals to help make your home purchase straightforward and affordable. Please get in touch if I can help or guide you in any way.

If it excites you and scares you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.”


Richard Payne – 902 489-1804