5 Tips for Buying Land as an Investment in Ontario

Fair Alberta isn’t the only province worthy of your real estate investing dollars, you know. Its flatter, wetter friends to the east harbour uncommon opportunities as well.

Head toward the rising sun along the Trans-Canada Highway and you’ll soon enough find yourself in northern Ontario, a thickly forested wilderness riven with lakes, streams, and wetlands. There’s abundant land for sale here, at a fraction of the per-hectare cost one expects on the outskirts of Edmonton and Calgary.

But, as any old real estate hand knows, every market is different. If you’re interested in buying land as an investment anywhere in Ontario, you’ll want to keep these five points in mind — and find a trusted estate agent who knows the region well.

  1. Head North

Northern Ontario comprises the bulk of Ontario’s land mass — and houses a tiny fraction of its population. Land for sale in northern Ontario is therefore far cheaper than land for sale in southern Ontario, especially in the densely settled Golden Horseshoe region ringing the western shore of Lake Ontario.

If you’re not a Canadian resident, a northern Ontario investment allows you to skirt Toronto’s 15% foreign buyer surcharge, a 2017 measure imposed to cool the city’s red-hot real estate market.

  1. Get Close to Town — But Not Too Close

Northern Ontario isn’t entirely depopulated. Northwestern Ontario is anchored by Thunder Bay, on the north shore of Lake Superior; northeastern Ontario by Sudbury, in the mineral-rich hills north of Lake Huron. Though still cheap by Alberta standards, land and homes are pricier in these regional hubs.

If you’re seeking a truly cost-effective investment that’s likely to appreciate faster than an in-town property, look for land near these or other settlements — but not too near. Sweet spots tend to lie in rings close enough for commuting, but far enough for peace, quiet, and plenty of breathing room.

  1. Assess Access and Improvement Potential

If you’re planning to improve your investment, look for lots with access to existing paved or well-maintained gravel roads. Failing that, look for properties upon which such improvements can easily be made. If you need to coordinate with more than one other landowner to punch a driveway out to the main road, the property might be more trouble than it’s worth.

  1. Have Cash on Hand

First-time land buyers are often surprised to learn that lenders are reluctant or unwilling to underwrite generous loan packages for their purchases. While every case is different, it’s unrealistic for Ontario land buyers to expect to be able to finance more than 50% of their investments. In other words: Set your land investment accordingly, or patiently accumulate the requisite cash reserves before you make your move.

  1. Consider a Joint Venture

This is one obvious way to stretch your land investment resources further. Surely you have friends, family members, or trusted colleagues who see the same potential as you in unspoilt Ontario land. Why not enter a joint venture and pool your collective funds? Housing your land in a formal business entity as other benefits as well — though you’ll want to discuss with a tax professional or business attorney to evaluate your specific situation.

Are you planning to invest in Ontario land anytime soon? Where are you setting your sights?

David Jackson

David is a personal finance expert, a professional male model, and an entertainment writer.