This resource page for expatriate Canadians offers referrals to trusted professionals to help you buy real estate in Canada, to help with a spousal sponsorship, to plan your complex financial and tax move, and to prepare your legal considerations. I have also written a short primer on considerations for choosing professionals who work well with expatriate Canadians ("Read first! ...", below).
The following list of professionals are all carefully screened, vetted, and confirmed by my clients and myself. Note: I receive no commissions, kickback, or other benefit from the professionals listed, so you can trust that this list includes only people who have proven themselves worthy of your consideration.
What I do: Most people moving back to Canada have a ton of general questions across a range of topics, including about buying real estate in some cases. Many also need help planning and informing their decision making in the months and years leading up to their move. I answer these questions and help returning Canadians plan a smooth and confident move as a Professional Mobility Consultant and Real Estate Investment Advisor. Sometimes my clients need a team of professionals to help them. I work closely with the professionals listed below to ensure clients get coordinated and prompt support.
My name is Paul Kurucz and I have supported some 1000 clients since 2003. My Moving Back to Canda Support Services and Real Estate Advising Services.
(Seriously: This is worth reading through first!)
Choosing professionals in Canada you can trust to help you purchase and manage real estate in Canada, advise you on your finances & taxes, and move your life back to Canada is very important. It is more important for you to have the right professionals on your team than for Canadians already living in Canada.
Because you will rely on these professionals to understand your special expatriate context, give you guidance that is relevant to your non-resident status, educate you on how things work right now in Canada, and be patient and supportive as you work through your research and decision making, which can be a longer time frame than for their typical Canadian client living in Canada.
Most professionals in Canada will not understand your context, are not used to dealing with expatriate clients, and quite frankly, do not want to spend the time and energy getting to know you.
The reason most professionals in Canada are not able to help you is because they have built their foundational way of dealing with clients as a structured process, not on the basis of a relationship with a real human being. Canada is quite "process oriented" (see: Success Orientations) and if you, the expatriate who is living in the U.S. or abroad, are different from their regular clients, you don't fit nicely into their structured process!
And if you don't fit nicely into their process, you may not be easy clients they can simply put their process and they will have to do more work.
And if you are not easy clients and you require them to work a bit more, you are not desireable clients for this kind of professional.
Please note that I have learned this from my many years of experience working hard to find the best professionals to support my hundreds of clients.
Three suggested screening criteria:
Not just "foreign buyers", but with true expatriate Canadian citizens?
Ask them directly. If they do not have this experience, combined with a lack of an interest in building a relationship with you first to learn about you (see point #3 below), do not work with them. Thank them and move on to finding a professional who has experience with expatriate clients or who is very interested in learning about you and how to best serve you. There are 2.8 million expatriate Canadians. Many professionals are eager to serve you.
And do they make an effort to explain the background and/or reasons for the questions they ask of you and the information they share with you? Are they sensitive to your time zone in their communications?
These are subtle but very powerful indicators that they may be good to work with. I regularly get communications from my clients who tell me that so-and-so professional "never got back to me!" or "doesn't seem to understand my timeline and needs!"
When you first communicate with them, do they spend at least several minutes getting to know you and asking questions, listening carefully to who you are and what your needs are?
Or do they jump quickly to describing their process and/or the goal they perceive you want? If they quickly focus on their process in the conversation, I suggest that this is a serious "red flag". If they jump quickly to focusing on a goal "you want to work with me because I will get you a house fast", they are actually thinking about themselves first (their anticipated commission in this case), not you, your context, and your needs first! Another big "red flag".
Two mortgage broker example communications, describing how they would work with expatriate clients:
"I normally use TD or Scotia, not too many lenders outside of this will offer this type of financing. I have attached TD's outline for you to review. If your client was interested in moving forward I would need them to complete the attached application."
My response to reading this: "EEEEEkkkkk!!!" There are so many things wrong with this response that I could write an essay on it. Why would you even wish to work with such a mortgage broker? You could go to TD or Scotia directly yourself! And there is an immediate redirection to their process "...I would need them to complete the attached application." Why would this person "need" you to do so *first* ? Because they only work within a structured process, which almost all expatriate Canadians do not fit in!
"I have access to a variety of different lenders and will work with you to customize your mortgage and get you the best rate and mortgage terms to fit your current circumstances...I totally get it - how expats want to be spoken too...and how foreign this process can be for people."
My response to reading this: "Ahhhhh....(happy sigh)" This professional will take the time to understand my client's circumstances and help them find a way forward to a great mortgage while being sensitive to the fact that the process is likely foreign to most expats.
Please only work with professionals who make clear they are interested in you and your unique context!
People often look puzzled as to why I think it important to choose the right real estate agent to work with. Well, the above "Read first!" section comes largely from my clients' and my own experiences working with real estate agents and mortgage brokers who are really not experienced or prepared to serve Canadian expatriates and returning Canadian citizens. Quite simply, their main target markets are clients who live locally and so they are well-versed in dealing with only very common client contexts in the narrow geographic focus in which they work.
The following list of real estate agents are all carefully vetted and chosen as ones who will serve you well:
Hi Paul, I am not sure if I ever thanked you for your referral of Charlie Depape...If not, then THANK YOU! From everything we've seen so far, we could not wish for a better real estate agent. We are very impressed and pleased by his commitment to help us find our dream place.
Charlie has also helped a family member of mine with a purchase, so I can personally attest to his professionalism, knowledge of the Victoria market, and personable nature - he is just a great person to be working with!
Charlie de Pape's web site
Serving the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Sandy is a wonderful professional who takes the time to get to know clients and really spend the time needed to help them find the right home...on their timeline.
Sandy has helped a very happy client of mine and I can personally attest to her being a professional of choice as she has demonstrated it to my family in helping us sell a property in the GTA. She also referred me to other great professionals who I needed help from to renovate our property before the sale.
Sandy created an excellent primer for returning Canadians: "Coming Home to Toronto" (5 pages - 7 minute read). It is useful not only for those who have lived in the GTA previously, but also for those moving there for the first time. The primer includes snapshots of neighbourhoods, which can help you get a sense of where to choose to live in Toronto.
Sandy Gardner's web site
Serving Victoria and Vancouver Island. Fran did a great job helping a client of mine moving back to Vancouver Island from the U.S. get a mortgage that fit her needs. Fran has also helped family members with financial matters, so I can personally attest to her professionalism.
Her background working in the mortgage side of a "big 5" Canadian bank is the foundation of her expertise. She has access to a variety of lenders, so a conversation with Fran can open up options you may not have known about.
Fran Daviss' web site
Tim serves clients in the Greater Toronto Area and across Ontario from his base north of Toronto. I have spoken with him personally and a client of mine moving back to Canada is working with him for a real estate investment purchase. Tim "gets" the expat context and is very good to work with, something that is not always true of mortgage professionals.
Don't waste time shopping your mortgage from bank to bank as an expat, talking with bank mortgage staff who have no clue how to handle a non-resident Canadian citizen client. Tim works with a variety of lenders and can help customize a mortgage with the best rates and best options that fit your needs.
Tim L. Walker's web site
Immigration consultants - officially called "Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants", or "RCIC's" for short, are professionals who are legally allowed to help clients with immigration questions and processes. In particular, spousal sponsorships are a common need Canadians have when moving back. Don't hire an immigration lawyer to help with common immigration questions or processes! They are far too expensive. If you just need help with general questions regarding a spousal sponsorship, please see my Immigration: Spouse and Children page on this site.
For full support for a spousal sponsorship, I suggest engaging the help of an RCIC:
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant. I met with Marianne in-person and have communicated regularly over the phone and by email with her as I refer many happy clients to her. I can attest that she is very high integrity and professional in all respects. Marianne is the rare combination of professional and personable, giving every client her focused best, including doing all their paperwork herself to ensure the highest quality and no mistakes.
With some 20 years experience in the Canadian immigration field, Marianne can help with questions on a one-time-fee basis about spousal sponsorship, Permanent Resident status in Canada, etc. and can provide full support, if you wish, with any area of Canadian immigration. Marianne is located in BC, but helps clients coming from any country moving to any province in Canada.
Marianne van der Meij's web site
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant. Paul and I have communicated at length and have the same philosophy of integrity, transparency, and taking great care of our clients.
Paul has long experience supporting clients with a variety of immigration questions and challenges. He has lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates, so understands the Canadian expatriate experience. Paul is physically in Nova Scotia, and can work with clients anywhere in the world moving to any part of Canada.
Paul Abraham's web site
Most Canadians returning to Canada after having lived in the U.S. for a long time are required to dual-file their tax returns in both countries, usually in perpetuity. While this is certainly nothing to be worried about, if you have a complex financial picture in the U.S. when you return, having a consulation with a Canadian cross-border tax accountant make sense. The following accountants come recommended by expatriate and returning Canadians who have used their services:
Located in Victoria, BC, Shawn is a top tax accounting professional specializing in U.S. and Canadian tax. Consider Shawn if you are moving back from the U.S. and want to set yourself up with a clear tax plan and on-going dual-filing and reporting support. Shawn has a genuine interest in getting to know clients and their needs...and is simply a very nice person to work with. He has worked with my clients, who are very pleased with Shawn's guidance and work.
Shawn Strandberg - Collins Barrow web site
Stefan is based in Canmore, AB, but has an international team. His client interaction style is primarily online rather than in-person meetings, which can work well if you are in the U.S or abroad and would like a professional who works this way. Stefan works with a U.S.-based accountant partner to dovetail his Canadian work.
Stefan offers clear support packages for tax filings and support, making clear what his fees will be.
Stefan Armstrong's web site
Based in Mississauga, serving the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Allan and I had a phone conversation discussing the needs of returning Canadians and their international tax context. He is not only professional in his work but also very personable to interact with. This is a rarity, as many of my clients will attest. Also, his web site has up-to-date video resources and blog postings of value to returning Canadians who wish to do a deeper dive into understanding what is going on in Ontario and Canada.
I went though a lot of bad, expensive, and incompetent accountants before finding Allan's firm. I hope others can benefit from my quest. His firm has been proactive and reasonably priced for years. - T. Gorender, 2018.
Mel Dam's team is based in Oshawa, ON. Several of my clients have used Mel's team for their U.S. tax filings and guidance upon moving back. A testimonial from one client:
I highly recommend Mel Dam from Dam Income Tax in Oshawa, Ontario. (Yes, that's really the business' name). I've been using him for years including before/during/after my two periods of living abroad." - Barbara Eshpeter-Jenkins
Moving your financial life can be as easy as sending cash to a Canadian bank account. However, if you have more complex financial picture that includes investments, trusts, and business assets, engaging the support of a financial advisor who understands the international expatriate context makes sense.
This is a time of change in Canada in the financial realm. The investment industry is evolving rapidly in the face of increasing transparency, regulatory change, and technological disruption. Be sure to work with a financial advisor who is current and understands how to help you not only with your investments themselves, but also can educate you on the evolving nature of the Canadian investment realm so that you are well-positioned for the future.
Harp serves clients moving to British Columbia and those already resident here. His primary focus is investments in Canada and the U.S. and he is cross-border licensed to support smooth and careful moves of investment portfolios and funds from the U.S. to Canada. Harp is thoughtful, careful, and very up-to-date on the evolving investment realm. He is also very well versed on tax issues relating to investments in Canada and the U.S.
It is rare that I get to interact with a financial professional who is as client-centred and integrous as Harp. We first got to know each other through a client we both worked with. As time went by, we found we worked not only with some of the same clients, but also shared a professional principle that our clients come first at all times.
An introductory conversation with Harp to explore your needs will serve you well if you have investments in the U.S. or abroad and wish to move them to Canada.
Harp Sandhu's web site
Expatriate Canadians and those moving back to Canada sometimes need the help of a lawyer for high complex tax questions, complicate immigration situations for family members, to handle real estate transactions, and to move trusts, wills, and more.
Very high-end and among the "best of the best" in Canada for tax law. If you have a complex tax situation and the wealth to hire the best, Blair is the person to work with. I met with Blair to discuss various tax contexts affecting expatriates and returning Canadians. I can attest to his expertise and professionalism.
Blair Dwyer's web site
Latest update to this resource: November 2018.