Looking for a bargain bolthole in 'The Great Outdoors'? It's difficult to beat the exhilerating countryside and cities of Canada.

Raichel Rickells
Homes Worldwide Magazine
March 2005
Edited and Reprinted by kind permission of Homes Worldwide magazine

Spectacular, diverse and distinctly multicultural; Canada's diversity of peoples and landscape, and dramatic climate and geology, makes it an appealing destination for visitors and house-hunters alike. Recognised by the United Nations top rating as "The best place to live in the World", Canada is fast emerging as a hotspot for Brits with their eye on a property abroad - and it's easy to see why. Favourable exchange rates help the pound stretch further, while inexpensive housing tends to boast bigger plots. An excellent health-care system, low cost of living and keen environmental policy puts Canada ahead on issues of family well-being. Throw in a lack of traffic congestion, little or no jetlag, English as the joint, main language and awesome scenery, and find Canada's a done deal almost on arrival. The icing on the cake is Canada's enlightened policy on immigration as one of the few countries in the Western World that is actively looking for new countrymen. The result is an immigration process far easier than many other 'lands of opportunity'. Canada now grants 320,000 skilled visas every year, of which 15 per cent are to UK applicants, with more than 5,000 Brits emigrating there in 2003 and a 25 per cent increase on this in the first quarter of 2004.

Whether you want a home on the waterfront in Vancouver, the urban heart of Toronto or the ski fields of the Rockies, plenty of opportunities exist for emigration, investment, retirement, or holiday homes. "I was surprised at how little exposure the Canadian property market has in the UK. It really is untapped and under-represented" says Nicola Way, founder of AssignmentsCanada.ca who has homes in Cornwall and Vancouver. "With such a favourable exchange rate, there are many incredible investment opportunities in both new developments and re-sales centred around ski resorts, golf courses, and downtown city living." Snapping up a property bargain is easy, with the average Canadian house price at $232,410 (101,153), almost 70,000 less than the UK average.

Several areas have a high concentration of British expats and, thanks to its keen prices and excellent amenities, Greater Toronto is a firm favourite with overseas property buyers. Located on the Northern Shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto is the largest city in Canada: a financial hub with access to hundreds of lakes and lakeside cottages. Prices start around $220,000 (97,191) for a semi-detached, up to around $500,000 (220,672). Lots of new condominium apartments are being built, with fabulous lake views, which are being snapped up by retirees, most of whom originate from the UK.

Clean fresh air, pristine mountain peaks, a brilliant blue ocean, rejuvenating spas, soothing natural hot springs and the top-notch Whistler ski resort are all to be found in British Columbia, which is nearly four times the size of Great Britain. The biggest city in British Columbia, Vancouver is warmed by Pacific Ocean currents, enjoys mild temperatures year-round and was recently voted the Best City in the Americas by Conde Nast's Traveller magazine. It has also been selected to host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Popular areas for Brits include North and West Vancouver, Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale, Point Grey and British Columbia University. Golfing, skiing, fishing, hunting, swimming and boating are all key attractions, with Whistler as the top visitor destination in the area. Properties of all types are available including new-build townhouses and apartments, traditional homes, and resales. If you are looking for a bargain, then Canada's prices will make good reading, starting from a low of $170,000 (75,183) for an apartment, and rising to $2,000,000 (884,488) for an all-the-frills detached house in a top-notch location.

A more modest option is the thriving town of Whistler, a community of some 10,000 permanent residents served by good schools and award-winning restaurants, plus all the other amenities you'd expect to find in a major metropolitan centre. An urban layout means Whistler isn't all condos and chalets - so house-hunters have plenty of bricks and mortar to choose from, including new-build townhouses and family estate homes. Most popular are the phase one or 'unrestricted units', which are usually one or two-bedroom lodge-style condos. Starting point for a studio apartment is $112,000 (49,535).

For those keen to start afresh and enjoy a higher standard of living in a truly spectacular country, Canada has surely got to come top of your list. Canadians are genial hosts and renowned for their genuine good nature, so newcomers arriving to start a new life can be assured of a warm welcome and plenty of neighbourly help and support. Canada offers innovative properties at affordable prices.