Reasons to Reconsider Moving to Nova Scotia

dawn Magee blog for Feb 2024

The local housing market continues to be a hot-button topic across Canada. The Nova Scotia real estate market and home sales are particularly pressing, due to other factors specific to this province that are making the situation that much worse. 

While higher mortgage rates and the Bank of Canada have been the scapegoats for the real estate slowdown for the past several months, a closer look has to be taken at other factors impacting home sales in Nova Scotia and across Canada and combinations of factors that are more surely to blame. 

The Impact of Demographics on Nova Scotia’s Housing Market Dynamics

Nova Scotia’s demographics and population levels have been a significant challenge for decades. Ever since the mass exodus of the younger generation out to the prairie provinces and oil sands jobs. The population of Nova Scotia decreased for some years, and the average age just kept increasing, highlighting the need for innovative solutions to reverse this trend. 

How Demographics Are Affecting the Housing Market, which I wrote in 2018, outlined how Nova Scotia’s aging population was having an effect on housing and the labour market at that time. Nova Scotia has since created incentives to attract international students by offering them a fast track to permanent resident status. Incentives for foreign tradespeople, such as tax incentives and residency pathways, attracted over 4,000 applicants after a recent provincial international recruitment drive. [1]

dawn Magee blog seniors painting

 The Nova Scotia government also emphasized keeping seniors in their homes for as long as possible, so investment was made into home care programs and senior home improvement grants. Housing for this large demographic did not make it into the real estate inventory over the past few years. 

Nova Scotia has experienced a significant population boom due to immigration and interprovincial migration, adding over 111,000 new residents. Combine this with seniors staying in their homes longer, which doubles the pressure on housing inventory.[1a]

Nova Scotia’s Job Market Evolution: Opportunities and Challenges for Homebuyers

The job market in Nova Scotia plays a crucial role in shaping the real estate sector: In January 2024, Nova Scotia’s job market experienced historical highs, with employment increasing by 12,900 jobs over the last 12 months. 3700 in the last month The unemployment rate rose to 7.0% from 5.4% the previous year, with a focus on part-time employment growth [2]. The influx of new residents explains the job growth as it increases the working population, yet with an increased unemployment rate. 

The job sector that experienced the highest grouping was the education field, which increased by 6%. The professional, scientific, and technology sectors saw a 3.6% decrease in jobs. The tech industry layoffs continue to account for a major part of the decrease. 

A major frustration of newcomers to Nova Scotia in regards to the job market is the fact that the Nova Scotia licensing process in job sectors such as health care, social work, and teaching, is bogged down with red tape and unreasonable upgrading requirements, leaving new residents frustrated and jobless, thus impacting their ability to put down permanent roots. 

Analyzing Wage Trends in Nova Scotia: Implications for Home Affordability

Nova Scotia has a history of having the 2nd lowest median wage in Canada of approx. $23.08, an issue that calls for policy intervention and supports for higher wage industries, but also one of the highest living wages, provincially sitting at $24.82. This means that half of the workforce in Nova Scotia makes less than a living wage. The 2023 study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that the city of Halifax is sitting at $26.50, which is higher than Vancouver and Toronto. [

Canadian debt is the highest of all the G7 countries According to a recent survey by TransUnion Canada’s Consumer Pulse, respondents are trying to prepare for a looming recession, with 57% cutting back on spending, 36% working on saving, and 31% reducing their debt load. 

Lower wages for similar jobs in other provinces do not provide much incentive to stay or move to Nova Scotia, especially with the higher costs of living. I have accounts of people in my sphere who gave up on careers that they had in Ontario due to the additional accreditation required here in Nova Scotia, and even once attained, the wages would have been less here in Nova Scotia. It is a difficult decision to make when considering career changes, especially with the higher costs of living.

Understanding Property Tax Rates in Nova Scotia and Their Effect on Homeownership

It has made sense in the past that Nova Scotia’s property and personal income tax rates had to be higher than other provinces due to the low population density and property values. Currently, Winnipeg and Saint Johns have some of the highest residential property taxes across Canada, at $2.64 and $1.78, respectively, while Vancouver is at $.28/100.00 of property assessment, making it one of the lowest rates.

Halifax is in the mid-to-high range of $1.12, which means for a home assessed at $500,000, you will be paying $5600. This may not seem too bad when compared to other cities. However, many of these other cities are much larger and offer a greater range of services for their tax dollars. 

I recently heard firsthand an account of a new resident who came and bought here in Nova Scotia, with cash in hand a few years ago after selling in Ontario. They had a substantial nest egg from the proceeds of their Ontario home, but due to property taxes and the cost of living, have admitted that they have been burning through that nest egg  due to property taxes. They also confirmed a drop in wages for their profession here in Nova Scotia, which has added to the financial strain.

The Burden of Personal Taxes in Nova Scotia: What Homebuyers Need to Know

Another common statement heard from fairly new residents to Nova Scotia is their shock at the amount of provincial income tax. The NS income tax is 16.67 % for incomes between $59,000 and $93,000. Quebec is 19% in the same bracket. The majority of other provinces are 14% and under in the same bracket, whereas British Columbia comes in at 7.7%. For residents earning over $150,000, the income tax rate is 21% here in Nova Scotia! [3]

How Government Policies Shape Nova Scotia’s Real Estate Landscape

Federal tax incentives and exemptions are expected to assist developers in 2024, although challenges at the municipal level, such as red tape leading to additional costs for new construction, persist.  The greatest increases in the past 10 years for builders have been in the HST and other government fees. 

Initiatives aimed at mitigating the housing shortage have shown mixed effectiveness.

home inspection dawn magee blog

The Federal Government has invested billions of dollars into affordable housing programs to benefit shelters and interim housing, as well as the Housing Accelerator Fund to assist builders in creating more affordable housing options for low-income families. [4]. The question remains whether these investments will be enough to address the growing affordable housing crisis. And whether the lower levels of government will eliminate the prohibitive red tape, permit wait times, and zoning restrictions that often hinder the development of new affordable housing projects.

Overcoming the Gatekeeper Mentality: Navigating Nova Scotia’s Business and Housing Environment

There is it out there. Time and time again, there have been stories relayed about how hard it is to get anything done in Nova Scotia. Newcomers come and try to initiate businesses and develop ideas only to be met with roadblocks, inadequate service, or resources. 

In Nova Scotia, the gatekeeper mentality prevails due to population limitations and seasonal job sectors. Securing a government job is akin to winning the lottery, and job permanence makes termination rare. Consequently, entrenched individuals in planning and programming roles stifle new ideas with resistance to change, favouring tradition over innovation and problem-solving.

More than one set of my clients have had their plans derailed due to a lack of resources at the local level and inflexibility from those in charge, which led to a complete abandonment of their Nova Scotia lifestyle dream. They were forced to reconsider their options and look for opportunities elsewhere.

The housing crisis we are in today exists because of a lack of foresight and communication. Keeping seniors in their homes impacted housing, and encouraging international students to work here after graduation, impacted housing. There were many great programs, but was there no intergovernmental communication that could see that a perfect storm was looming? [5]

The Post-COVID Exodus: Its Impact on Nova Scotia’s Real Estate and Economy

There has been an exodus from Nova Scotia. Last year, the numbers were about 35% of Canadians who came during COVID (immigration or interprovincial migration), moved from Nova Scotia due to jobs or family. In recent months, as the costs of living are not getting any better with no signs of it getting any better shortly, many residents have decided to stop the bleeding’ and move to greener pastures. 

Some homes are coming onto the market due to the exodus, which helps inventory, but with the current costs of living, mortgage rates, and home prices that have doubled since the beginning of COVID, the situation doesn’t lend itself to many Nova Scotians being in a position to buy property.

Are mortgage rates to blame?

Some attribute the slowdown in the housing market over the last few months to the high mortgage rates.[6] As outlined above, there are many other factors currently in play that are affecting real estate. Many Nova Scotians or people considering a move to Nova Scotia are in a wait-and-see, holding pattern. Will there or will there not be a recession? Many are feeling the pressures of inflation, and some are feeling job uncertainty. Is Nova Scotia all it cracked up to be? 

This exodus will continue until the Nova Scotia government starts working more efficiently (tax dollars) and effectively. (working together).

Choosing Nova Scotia: The Unbeatable Charm of Its Communities and Real Estate Potential

The people. Full stop. The people are a testament to the province’s strong community spirit, which is a fundamental asset to attracting and retaining residents. Yes, the scenery is incredible too, but time and time again, when asked why people stay, the wholehearted response is “ the people.” [7] [8]. 

The sense of community and genuine kindness found in Nova Scotia is unparalleled, as confirmed by Halifax being voted one of the nicest cities in Canada, making it a truly special place to call home. The strong connections and support system among residents create a welcoming and inclusive environment that is hard to find elsewhere. As Rhys Waters stated in his blog about his research trip to Nova Scotia a few years ago, “It took me less than 9 minutes to realize everyone is so polite!! People hold doors open, take the time to have a conversation, and I have never had so many great interactions with so many total strangers. [9]

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Common Questions and Answers:

  1. What makes the Nova Scotia real estate market unique?
    • Nova Scotia’s market is influenced by its demographic trends, immigration policies, and distinct community spirit. Its challenges and opportunities differ significantly from those of other Canadian provinces due to unique factors such as the aging population, government policies, and the gatekeeper mentality.
  2. How are demographics affecting the housing market in Nova Scotia?
    • The aging population and recent population boom through immigration and interprovincial migration have significantly increased demand for housing, affecting availability and pricing.
  3. What are the challenges and opportunities for job seekers in Nova Scotia?
    • While the job market is experiencing growth in certain sectors, challenges include the licensing process and red tape for newcomers in professional fields. Opportunities lie in sectors experiencing growth, such as education and health care.
  4. Why is Nova Scotia considered a special place despite its real estate challenges?
    • The strong sense of community, kindness, and support among residents makes Nova Scotia a uniquely welcoming place to live. Its natural beauty and the genuine warmth of its people outweigh the challenges faced in the housing market.











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