Moving Interprovincially to Atlantic Canada

Ainsley Smith

Central NL sees an influx of buyers from away.

Perhaps it’s the real estate options, the laidback lifestyle, or the scenic vistas—whatever the reason, more Canadians are making the Maritime move and trading their city views for the east coast lifestyle.

​​It’s safe to say the COVID-19 pandemic inspired a nationwide collective of re-evaluating living spaces and a newfound desire to connect with the great outdoors. Considering the east coast offers no shortage of year-round adventures, bustling food and culture scenes, and numerous career opportunities for driven professionals in all industries, it comes as no surprise more and more Canadians are considering a relocation to the east coast.

In fact, record numbers of Canadians moved to Atlantic Canada in Q2 of 2021, this according to RBC Economics, with the majority settling in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In the first and second quarters of 2021, net interprovincial migration to the region was higher than in 2019 and 2020 combined and the surge in the second quarter alone was the largest since 1961. Interestingly, most of the movement came from Canadians exiting larger provinces like Ontario and Alberta.

If you’ve got an itch to move out East—whether to Halifax, St. John’s, Charlottetown, or any other coastal city—there are a few things you should know before you decide to move interprovincially.

Why are people choosing to move East?

Let’s first clear up some terminology:

Atlantic Canada consists of four provinces, each with its own culture and ample things to see, taste, and do: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

The Maritimes refer to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

The East Coast refers to the coastal regions in Atlantic Canada, so the island of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and the majority of New Brunswick.

While Atlantic Canada has always been a charming and beautiful place to call home, the pandemic and its lasting impacts—like more people working remotely and the desire for more living and outdoor space—surely amplified its appeal.

A big draw of Atlantic Canada is how affordable real estate is in relation to some of the country’s most populous cities. This was even more true amid the pandemic when Canadian home prices skyrocketed in already expensive parts of the country where demand surged but supply was low.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price for a home in Halifax-Dartmouth was $488,382 in November 2021. This represents a nearly 25% jump from one year ago, but still trails in comparison to the average price for a home in the Greater Toronto Area—which had climbed as high as $1.16 million as of November 2021, representing a 21.7% year-over-year change.

As the flexible work-from-home trend continues, not to mention the struggles of housing affordability in Central Canada, it’s likely Atlantic Canada will continue to lure workers seeking a new way of life.

Property management

What do you need to know about moving interprovincially?

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and move to the land of offshore islands, gorgeous beaches, charming waterfront cities, and friendly locals, keep in mind there are a few things you’ll need to complete right away.

If you’re planning on moving to Nova Scotia from another province, you’re going to have to apply for Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance. If you’re looking to move to Prince Edward Island, you’ll also need to apply for a PEI Health Card in order to receive publicly funded health services. Similarly in New Brunswick, you need to apply for a medicare card as soon as you arrive, although you won’t be able to use it until you have been in the province for three months.

If you drive, regardless of where you move, you’ll also have to apply for a provincial driver’s license and change all of your previously listed addresses to your new address.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, provinces have imposed varying restrictions, so be sure to confirm if there are any self-isolation requirements or moving restrictions in place.

What should you consider before making the move?

Of course, there are also more long-term considerations before making the move. Obviously, that starts with deciding where you want to live. The more popular areas to live in are Moncton, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and ​​Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, all of which were named as a top community in Canada by Maclean’s magazine in 2021. Each of these cities offer residents natural beauty and a quiet quality of life.

It’s also important to know the cost of living, which ranges throughout the Atlantic provinces. For example in Halifax, rent is currently around $1,652 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. If you’re looking to buy, the average home price is $485,642. In comparison, rent for a one-bedroom unit in Moncton is currently renting for around $900 a month, while the average price of a home in Greater Moncton is $291,200.

In Moncton, the cost of living is less than Halifax, not to mention most other major urban centres in Canada. On the other hand, the cost of living in Charlottetown is slightly higher for a variety of reasons: transportation of goods, construction costs, and storage of goods, to name a few.

It’s also important to consider access to schools. In Nova Scotia, the province is recognized as Canada’s Education Province, as it has the most academic institutions per capita than anywhere in Canada.

Kari MacLeod, a Nova Scotia-based REALTOR® and salesperson with Royal LePage Atlantic, explained she personally moved interprovincially from British Columbia to Nova Scotia in 2007 for her husband’s work. As a REALTOR®, and as someone who has been through the process, she knows all about the considerations required when making the interprovincial move.

​”There is much to consider when moving interprovincially,” MacLeod explained. “The basics of healthcare and education, along with housing and cost of living, should be considered with any move. However, the main consideration when moving [interprovincially] is lifestyle choice.”

MacLeod explained her family had very specific lifestyle requirements when they made the move to Nova Scotia.

“We wanted a home in the country with acreage for privacy, near a town for our daily necessities with easy access to Halifax for work, while still being in a good school area for our children. We found what we wanted and years later still live in the same community,” said MacLeod.

“Whether you choose to embrace a city, town, or rural lifestyle, you must consider what is important to you,” MacLeod continued. “Do you love the hustle and bustle of city life? Are you searching for a rural idyll? Are you an outdoor enthusiast? Is it the seclusion and quiet of the forest which calls to you, or do you wish to wake up to ocean views? Are you able to drive or do you need to walk to the shops? Do you have health concerns that dictate your need to be near a hospital?”

Getting in touch with a local REALTOR® is the first step towards an interprovincial move. They can help guide you through the process and ensure you have everything you need before the physical move itself.

Regardless of where on the East Coast you decide to call home, know you’ll likely enjoy a more relaxed pace of life, green space, and a shorter or less congested commute—all small but important everyday luxuries you might not find in a bigger city.