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Immigrating to Canada: A Guide For Newcomers in Toronto

Beth Ellwood
by Beth Ellwood on November 24, 2015 at 4:00 AM

A sports stadium with seats coloured to resemble the Canadian flag. The Toronto skyline is in the background, showing the CN tower and several high-rise buildings.

Immigrating to Canada, settling-in Toronto

Toronto is a wonderfully diverse Canadian city where more than 150 languages are spoken throughout the streets. According to Statistics Canada, the census metropolitan area of Toronto attracted over 381,700 newcomers in 2011, and is home to the largest number of people immigrating to Canada over all other metropolitan cities in the country. The majority of these newcomers found their homes in the vibrant municipalities surrounding the city, in areas like Brampton, Markham, and Mississauga.

Nazir Shivji is a real estate expert who specializes in the Greater Toronto Area, and one who knows everything there is to know about immigrating to Canada. Why? Because he’s done it himself. Born in a multi-cultural society in Tanzania, East Africa, Nazir has a strong understanding of culture, and knows first-hand the struggles of moving to new country. We got in touch with Nazir to find out what his personal experience (and his 25 years in real estate) have taught him about moving to a new neighborhood. If you're thinking of relocating to Toronto, read on to find out which Toronto neighborhoods Nazir recommends for you, and what he thinks you need to know before you make the move.

A sign showing the letter "i" as a symbol for "information".

Get Informed

The first piece of advice that Nazir has to offer is simple: do not fall in love with the first house you see. Buying a new home is no small task and it’s important to arm yourself with all the information you need to make the process go as smoothly as possible. The best way to get informed is to speak with a professional who knows all the tricks of the trade. Nazir warns that if you rely solely on advice from friends, you will be moving to a neighborhood that suits your comrades but will not necessarily suit you. A new home is an investment into your future, and you deserve to find the home that is perfect for you.

An aerial view of York University, in Toronto. Many buildings and lots of trees and greenery are shown.

Know Your Neighborhood

We asked Nazir what is the one thing he wishes he had known before moving to Canada and he replied it's the importance of choosing the right neighborhood. Nazir reveals that if someone had emphasized the importance of finding the right neighborhood for his family, he and his children would have had a much better start to their new life in Canada.

He explains that this is particularly important for newcomers, because they have a limited understanding of the neighborhoods in their new country. These folk can easily fall into the trap of buying a house with a cheaper price, without realizing they are compromising on the location. This can cause unnecessary stress and hassle, as a family might find themselves relocating down the line after settling into a neighborhood that’s a bad fit. Nazir likes to take his clients to visit several neighborhoods, and encourages them to explore the areas on their own as well.

A residential street lined with houses and tall trees. A Canadian flag adorns the first house.

Know Your Needs

Another house hunting tip from Nazir is to remember your needs. Where location is concerned, do you need to be near great schools for your kids? Do you have a car or do you need to be within walking distance to grocery stores and shopping centres? In terms of housing, how many bedrooms does your ideal home need? Where property prices are concerned, what does your budget look like?

As clients answer these questions, Nazir reminds them to keep their financing options in mind. He explains that immigrants can still receive financing from a bank, even though they don’t have credit built in Canada. Your real estate specialist can direct you to bank managers who can help you with this process. By recognizing your needs, you are taking time to figure out what home and what neighborhood are right for you. Navut’s Neighborhoood Finder tool is designed to help you do just that, and will even match you with a real estate specialist like Nazir. Try it today, and you'll be well on your way to finding your perfect home!

A bicycle standing alone in a Toronto park at sunset.

Toronto Neighborhoods For Newcomers

There’s lots of choice in Toronto, a city surrounded by many great suburban neighborhoods that are perfect for families. We asked Nazir to help us narrow down the search, by sharing his neighborhood recommendations for newcomers.

Markham and Richmond Hill

If you’re going to be working in downtown Toronto but are hoping to live in the suburbs, Nazir says you can’t go wrong so long as you’ve got access to the GO Transit line. This massive network of train lines and bus routes services the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, and easily brings commuters to Toronto’s city centre. To the north of Toronto, in the region of York, are two cities that attract many newcomers: Markham and Richmond Hill. These cities have bustling urban centres of their own, but also offer easy access to downtown Toronto with the GO Transit line. Neighborhoods like Unionville (a suburb of Markham), and Langstaff (a suburb of Richmond Hill), are robust with culture and have thriving Chinese populations.

North York

Where family is concerned, the neighborhoods of North York are ideal because of the many great schools in the area. The large number of immigrants in the region has resulted in a selection of neighborhoods that are brimming with culture and diversity. Nazir was quick to point out Yonge Street, a main street that runs through several neighborhoods, connecting Lake Ontario to the Upper Great Lakes. Where Yonge Street passes through North York, you can find an abundance of Iranian offices and stores. In the neighborhood of Newtonbrook East, you’ll find the Toronto Iranian Plaza, a collection of supermarkets, restaurants, travel agencies, and clinics run by members of the Persian community.


Another great area for newcomers is Scarborough, a city situated in the eastern part of Toronto, bordering Lake Ontario. Scarborough includes neighborhoods such as Malvern, an area that is home to over 60 cultural communities, the most prominent being South Asian Canadians and Caribbean Canadians. Other multicultural neighborhoods in the area are Bendale and Dorset Park. Scarborough has a strong Indian population and Nazir points out the many Indian grocery stores and places of worship in the area. A main street in Scarborough, Lawrence Avenue East, is peppered with middle eastern stores and restaurants.

We’d like to thank Nazir Shivji for sharing his expertise with us, and for providing us with the insider information presented in this article. Nazir is a real estate professional with 25 years of experience and a strong dedication to meeting the individual needs of his clients. Born in a multi-cultural society in Tanzania, East Africa, Nazir has a deep understanding of culture and speaks eight languages. Contact him directly by visiting his Navut Professional Profile here.

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Photo Credits:
Beth Ellwood
Written by Beth Ellwood
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