Thursday, November 3, 2011

Moving to Nova Scotia - Pros and Cons

I've been asked so many times to write about our experiences that I've decided to make a start. But this will be written in several drafts and updated as we are here longer. It's a work in progress.

Moving always presents a big list of pros and cons. The positive and negatives are both equally important and writing them down for review is important for several reasons. It helps you get an idea of what you hope to achieve from a move, it makes you face reality and not just see through rose coloured glasses, it helps you make important decisions about the many practical things that come along with making any decision. A Pro-Con list was taught to me by my father at a young age and has helped me be more grounded in making important decisions. It doesn't mean I haven't made choices I later regretted, but by and large they've been few.

Your list will vary depending on your circumstances but here's a sampling of our list:

Money - Can we make a living? It depends on what you do. Skilled workers and people like Doctors and teachers don't have a problem. If you work for yourself then you just need to register and start your business again but it takes time to build up the client base again. Most referrals here are by word of mouth or Yellow Pages. The cities are the easiest places to find work with the smaller towns having a limited or seasonal employment base. Minimum wage is $9.65 per hour and that's what a lot of jobs pay. Lots of people retire here due to cheap housing and because they have retirement income...and it shows when you drive around some little villages where houses are kept up or not.
How much do things cost? About the same overall not including housing. Some things are cheaper and some are more expensive. See the notes on housing below. Personally we find it about 20% cheaper here not including housing. Electricity is double what we paid in BC but hardwood is 60% cheaper for heating, so it balances out.
What about Heating costs? See Comments below. We've been talking about heating oil for the past couple of days since it's fairly common here. We don't use it, wood furnace and elec. back-up so I did some checking. One reader says that you could, under worst circumstances be spending about $4000 for 6 months of heat. Crikey! Insulation seems like a good thing to invest in! I've found the average for a mid-sized home on oil heat is closer to $2000 with using about 2.5 tanks of oil per year at $800 per tank depending on price.
Do we have any savings? I don't know but having a few months worth of living expenses is really important while you get established.
Can we meet all our financial obligations? Do we have enough gas money to get there and have enough to live on for a few months if we don't get work right away? The financials are important to work out so make this a priority. Nobody can really do this for you. My advice though would be to add 20% as a margin of safety to anything you think you need.

Family - How will this affect our relationships? Don't think it won't because it absolutely does.
Can we stay in touch? Phone, e-mail and Skype are all fast and cheap now so it's easier than ever. But nothing replaces a personal visit.
How will we visit the kids and grandkids? This needs to be included in your budget so that you can go visit. It's a long drive...consider looking for a seat sale and flying.
What affects will this have on our marriage? The stress of moving is legendary. Decide now on a way of staying close to each other and not letting stress overwhelm you both.
How will it affect the younger kids to move far away? That depends a lot on your kids. Talking to a counselor or therapist might give you some tips for handling the transition to a new home, school and neighbourhood. We were very happy at how easily the kids settled and are still settling. It helps that we moved during the school holidays so they weren't the only new kids and we already had made contact with our church so they knew to expect the kids and welcomed them with open arms.

Education - Do I need more education, job certification or training? If you're a Red Seal certified tradesman then you're ok to work here too. For some other certificates and licenses you should check with the dept of labour or google it and see what you discover.
What are the opportunities for the kids to attend school and university? Public schools are free and fees for supplies and programs are lower than BC. Bus transportation is usually free. There are some top notch Canadian Universities in NS including Dalhousie, Acadia, St. Francis Xavier, St. Mary's, Mt Saint Vincent etc. There's a load more and that allows for the possibility of living at home and studying full time for some students on a budget.

Community - Are the people friendly? YES
Are there activities for kids and adults alike? Yes, you'll have to look around.
How will we make new friends? Join clubs, be a good neighbour, talk to people.
Are there the same social clubs and churches I enjoy now? Probably and you can contact them to see what they're like and if they are what you're used to.

Long-term goals - How will this move positively and negatively affect reaching my goals?

Transportation - Can I get around? Is there public transit? The valley is connected by a public bus system from Digby to Halifax but buses are intermittent and it's best used for local transport only or you'd be on the bus for hours each way.
Is car insurance expensive? No. Cheaper than BC but you have to shop around.
How do I get it? Call local insurance agents. It's private here.
Will my car pass inspection? They're not checking emissions here, just basic safety items like brakes, shocks, windshield, gauges etc. Cost is $35 and it's good for 2 years.

Home Ownership / Housing - Can I rent or buy a home I like for a price I can afford? Most likely. Even people here on Government income programs own their own homes. The rental rate is quite low.
How do you find a home? Connect with a realtor, read online ads, check out or the MLS. There's lot of searching you can do online from the comfort of your home.
Can I sell the home I have now? That's a question only you can answer.

Security - Will I feel safe in my new community? Can my kids play outside? While I would say heartily yes, it depends on the area you're in and the type of person you are.

Farming - Are farms reasonably priced? In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI, mostly YES. Is agriculture supported by the community and local government? Generally yes with local and regional markets, small produce stands and ads online for produce for sale.
What are the regulations? They vary by county so check them out as much as you can.
What is the soil and weather like? Here in the valley it's generally very good for growing but some properties face south, some are rocky, you have to check them out and see if they offer what you're looking for.
Can I work with this? Can I be self-reliant? Are other farmers willing to offer help and advice to a newcommer? The answers to these are YES if you're willing to actually work at it and get to know your neighbours. Don't bring a big city attitude, just go with the local flow.

Household Goods - Do I need everything I currently have? Probably not. It's not worth moving lots of heavy items most of the time if they can be easily replaced at your new destination. Heirlooms are different of course but just your everyday used furniture...sell it before leaving and buy again when you get where you're going.
Can I get rid of lots? Undoubtedly. Check out websites for de-junking and get inspired to pass along what you no longer need. Sell some, give it away, help out someone else.
How much will it cost to move it? Should we drive, rent a truck or hire movers? Having an accurate size and weight for all your stuff really helps when checking around. Some moving companies will come in and give you a quote based on looking at your stuff. Just because we drove doesn't mean you won't go with the moving company/airline option. Do your homework. There are lots of options.

These are some of the big ones right off the top of my head. There are of course a hundred others. I'll get more writing done later about this part of Nova Scotia and how it shapes up in light of those questions. If you have specific things you want to know please leave a comment or e-mail me. I'll see you all later!


  1. Great post Elizabeth !

    I am wondering about heating costs with oil in particular, as most all of N.S. has this instead of the gas heat that I'm familiar with. Also , do you smell any stench in the air from the oil, because I had read somewhere that it smells bad in places ?

    Cheers ...

  2. The biggest difference with heating costs really is based on the quality of your insulation so if you buy an older house that's the first thing I'd check out. Oil can be expensive but it's not much more than $1000 per season as far as I understand if you're careful but I can find out a more accurate figure if you like. I do know that in order to have your tank filled or to get home insurance, your tank must be less than 10 years old. Lots of homes have wood boilers or furnaces so if you can cut your own wood then that's the cheapest way to heat your home. Electricity is the most expensive at 14 cents per kWh.

  3. Oh, and we've not really noticed any smell in our neighbourhood where there are plenty of oil burners. I do love the slight smoke smell from the fires but as most furnaces burn quite cleanly it's not presented any problems.

  4. Thank you Elizabeth. You answered a lot of questions I just had. :) Im wondering what your recommendations for nice towns to visit in the valley. We are planning a trip sometime in the next year with the thought of renting and then hopefully buying.

    Thanks again

  5. Hi Elizabeth, just a note to you and your readers about the heating costs here in Nova Scotia. When we were house shopping several of the places we looked at had their heating costs listed. Oil is very expensive with an average of $4000 for six months (smaller,older but supposedly upgraded houses). Our realtor told us she went through just under one tank a month (about $700!) and homesteading people we know only managed to get their tank to last 2 months (being really frugal). We have wood heat and only used oil for backup first thing in the morning...we still used over half a tank just for that (and we're frugal). Last year an oil tank fill was over $800. I don't know how much it is this year.


  6. Hi Everyone! I did some checking around and found that some people use a little over a tank for heating all winter while other people are using half a tank per month!Sharon made some good observations so I asked around and it seems people keep their houses nice and cozy for the most part and use over 2 tanks of oil per season so that's $1600 plus the extra for an average of about $2000. Yowch! When we get moved to a farm I'm definitely going to invest in insulation and wood heat!

    1. This was very helpful. Thank you very much for all the information. I did not know that it was so much more expensive to heat a home in Nova Scotia than in Toronto.

  7. Yowch is right ! That's crazy ! Boy that's way above what I was hoping to hear. I'll never complain about the price of natural gas here again. We are cheap compared to those prices. So I can see that tons of insulation, good sealed windows and doors, and wood heat are a definite must have in N.S.

    Thanks Elizabeth and Sharon for this information.

  8. this information helped lots!
    but i it didn't really touch on specific
    pros and cons, if possible would you be able
    to get a little more detailed.
    thanx and despite the lack of detail
    i thought that it was very helpful and
    thanx again

  9. My wife and I are considering the Halifax area as a possible place to move; and our biggest consideration is schools as we have two young children. I have looked online at many property listings, and it seems we could live almost anywhere based on the cost of housing. We want to know what the best school districts are in the Halifax area, and districts within a reasonable commute to the city. We would like to live on the coast, but again, it would depend on the schools and distance to Halifax. Any information or resources would be greatly appreciated.