All You Need Know About Moving to Calgary (2021).

Moving to Calgary, a city you you might not know well, can be exciting and stressful all at the same time. You want to know what you are getting into when relocating to new city.

The Marnie Campbell Realty Team has helped hundreds of families relocate to Calgary. We understand you don't know the neighbourhoods, school system or how to get around. Working with a trusted real estate team can help you get to know the city better and make sure you make the best decisions for you when you make your move.

1. What do I need to know about Calgary?

Calgary is a city in the Canadian Province of Alberta, about 80 km (50 mi) east of Canadian Rockies and approximately 240 km (150 mi) north of the Canada–United States border. The city has a large footprint covering more than 825.29 km2 (318.65 sq mi) which is about the size of Memphis, Tennessee, or Copenhagen, Denmark.

Named after Calgary on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, United Kingdom, Calgary was incorporated as a town in 1884 and became a city in 1894.  Calgary has a population of over 1.3 million making it the 4th largest census metropolitan area in Canada behind only Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

In the spirit of respect and truth, we acknowledge that we live, work and play on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.

2. What are a few fun facts about Calgary?

  • The famous Calgary Stampede is The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth held for 10 days every July.
  • Calgary's International Airport (YYC) is Canada's 3rd busiest airport by passenger traffic and has Canada’s longest runway.
  • The iconic Calgary Tower was opened to the public on June 30, 1968 as the tallest structure in Calgary. The Tower stands at 56 stories, 247 m (810 ft).
  • Calgary's +15 lets you go from building to building downtown without having to brave the cold.
  • The Calgary Zoo is the 2nd largest zoo in Canada.
  • The Peace Bridge for pedestrians/cyclists has become a recognizable landmark.
Calgary Tower
Calgary Peace Bridge
Calgary Stampede

3. What are the pros and cons of moving to Calgary?

Calgary is a great place to live, but like any major city there are pros and cons.

The pros of moving to Calgary:

  • Calgary is the most livable city in North America according to The Economist Intelligence Unit's annual ranking of the livability of cities around the globe for 2019.
  • No provincial sales tax (PST). You’ll only have to pay the 5% federal Goods and Services Tax (GST).
  • The cost of living in Calgary is cheaper than Vancouver and Toronto.
  • Calgary is a diverse city, home to more than 240 different ethnic origins, and is ranked 3rd in proportion of visible minorities in Canada.
  • A good and accessible healthcare system. If you have an Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan card, many health services are covered.
  • A relatively low crime rate, when compared to similar-sized cities (pop: 1.3 million) in the United States.
  • A community rich in the arts, culture, entertainment and offers a wealth of leisure activities.

The cons of moving to Calgary:

  • Living in Calgary means living with winter. Snowfall per year on average is 127 cm (50 inches). There can be a few -30 Celsius (below -22 °F) days, but Chinooks help everyone get through winter.
  • Calgary's job market is heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry, although the City has made diversification a priority. 
  • Traffic and road construction are often common complaints among Calgarians, but it's not as bad as Vancouver or Toronto.
  • The public transit system is not as extensive as cities like New York, Paris or Seoul.

4. What's the weather like in Calgary?

Calgary's weather is always a topic of conversation. Calgarians get to brag that they live in the sunniest major city in the country with an average of 2,300 sunny hours every year. The climate is dry, with generally low levels of humidity.

Calgary Average Temperatures

5. What the heck is a Chinook?

In Calgary, particularly in the winter, you might look to the west and see an unusual cloud line. This is called a Chinook said to mean "Snow Eater" by the Blackfoot.  A Chinook is a warm, dry, gusty, westerly wind that blows down the Rocky Mountains.

The wind originates along the temperate Pacific ocean and blows over the Rocky Mountains across the foothills to Calgary warming up the temperature.

During a Chinook the temperature can rise dramatically, it can melt 30 cm of snow in one day and can raise winter temperatures from -20 degrees (-4 F) to 10 degrees (50 F).

Calgary Chinook Wind

6. What is Calgary's lay-of-the-land?

When moving to Calgary it's important to know the lay-of-the-land. Calgary is divided into 4 quadrants: NW, SW, SE and NE. Each quadrant in which a particular community of Calgary is situated is reflected in its street address, ending in NW, SW, SE or NE. For example, 123 Main Street SW or 321 16th Avenue NW.

When you drive around Calgary you will notice a lot of “trails” like Stoney Trail, Macleod Trail and Blackfoot Trail. The "trails" are in honor of the pioneers who cut trails through the foothills and Rocky Mountains. “Trails” are often named after historical figures like Chief Crowfoot, the Blackfoot (Siksika) chief or a First Nation area like the Tsuu T’ina Nation.

Calgary road system map

Calgary uses a grid system to organize the roads.

  • Streets run north and south. (i.e. 4th Street SW)
  • Avenues run east and west. (i.e. 16th Avenue NW) 

Main roads in Calgary.

  • Deerfoot Trail is one of Calgary's busiest roads, a main arterial route running north - south through the city's east side. Deerfoot Trail is the section of Highway 2 (Queen Elizabeth Highway) that runs through Calgary.
  • 16th Avenue is the section of Highway 1 (TransCanada Highway) that runs east - west through the cities north side. Heading west on 16th Avenue will eventually take you all the way to Vancouver. Head east and you will end up in the Atlantic provinces.
  • MacLeod Trail is a main route in Calgary's south side. It divides the southwest and southeast quadrants of the city. If you live in the south side of Calgary, MacLeod Trail is a major route running north into the downtown core.

Calgary's Ring Road.

Calgary has been planning and working on a complete ring road around the city for a number of years. The ring road sections are called Stoney Trail and Tsuut'ina Trail. The farthest southeast section of Tsuut'ina Trail is currently under construction, as well as, the west section of Stoney Trail.

When buying a home in Calgary it's important to understand the pros and cons of living close to the ring road. 

7. What's it like driving and getting around Calgary?

Calgary has a population of over 1 million and has a large footprint covering more than 825.29 km2 (318.65 sq mi) which is about the size of Memphis, Tennessee, or Copenhagen, Denmark. With this large footprint comes a number of transportation challenges.

A large majority of Calgarians get around by vehicle and the city has a number of large roadways to accommodate getting around.

Calgary commute time and tips.

When moving to Calgary you'll need to consider your commute time to downtown if you work in Calgary's core.

  • Morning rush-hour traffic in Calgary is typically between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
  • Evening rush-hour traffic is generally between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • The average commute in Calgary is 27 minutes according to Statistics Canada.
  • In COVID times, more and more Calgarians are working from home, so traffic is lighter than normal.

Calgary traffic

8. What is the LRT?

You may hear Calgarians talk about the LRT or C-Train. This refers to the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system of trains that run primarily above ground. When moving to Calgary you'll need to consider whether you will want to live in a community near an LRT line.

Calgary LRT (Light Rail Train) or CTrain

  • The LRT Red Line services the NW quadrant of the city starting at Tuscany station, running through the downtown core to the SE quadrant of the city ending at Somerset-Bridlewood station.
  • The LRT Blue Line services the SW quadrant of the city starting at 69th Street station, running through the downtown core to the NE quadrant of the city ending at Saddletowne station.
  • The LRT Green Line is a future line to be constructed that will eventually services the North quadrant of the city running from 160 Avenue N, through the downtown core to the South quadrant of the city ending at Seton. Stage 1 of construction will extend from 16 Avenue N. to 126 Avenue S.E. and is expected to be constructed from 2021-2027.

Helpful Calgary maps.

When buying home in Calgary you need to consider your transportation needs. Are you going to be driving to the downtown core for work and, if so, how long do you want your commute time to be? Would you rather take the train? Do you need to live in a community that is close to an LRT line?

Calgary Commute Time

Calgary Ring Road

Calgary LRT Map

9. What are Calgary home prices compared to other cities?

Housing prices in Calgary have experienced downward pressure the past couple of years with lower oil prices and higher inventory. More recently, prices have seen a slight increase with decreased inventory and increased sales pushing prices up slightly.

Calgary offers a more affordable housing option compared to other major cities especially Vancouver and Toronto.

According to the National Bank of Canada Affordability Monitor (Feb 2021)

  • Toronto average home valued at $1,039,438 your household annual income needed to afford that home is $178,499.
  • Vancouver average home valued at $1,342,184 your household annual income needed to afford that home is $230,488.
  • Calgary average home valued at $480,192 your household annual income needed to afford that home is $97,923.

10. What are Calgary's home prices by district and community?

The Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) divides the city into 8 MLS districts: South, Southeast, West, Northwest, North, Northeast, East and Centre.

When you move to Calgary, you need to know that home prices vary based on community, property type, features and location. Typically, the farther from the downtown core the more your dollar will stretch for a home purchase.

11. How do I find the right Calgary community to live in?

Whether you’re buying your first home, upsizing or downsizing, one of the first steps of your home search is to choose a neighbourhood you’ll love!

Calgary is made up of over 200 communities. Every community in Calgary has it's own unique characteristics and there are pros and cons to living in each of them. It's best to have an idea of what you want in a community before you start narrowing down a community to live in.

12. What is the process of buying a home like in Calgary?

Moving to Calgary and buying a home can be different from what you are used. The purchase contract, timelines, deposit etc. can be different. It is always in your best interest to contact a trusted Realtor in your new city to discuss the differences so you are not blindsided.

If you are a new homebuyer moving to Calgary, you might have a lot of questions. Check out our 26 Questions First Time Homebuyers Must Ask blog post to make the process a little easier. 

13. How do I find a Calgary school?

Often times when relocating to another city, your biggest priority is finding a school for you kids. There are lots of school options in Calgary, including Public, Catholic, Charter and Private schools. Before your big move take some time to do a little research to see which school option will be best for your family.

Calgary Public Schools

Calgary Public Schools are run by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE). The CBE has over 245 schools educating 121,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12.

Calgary Catholic Schools

Calgary Catholic Schools are run by the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD). The CCSD is the largest Catholic school district in Alberta with over 112 schools. The CCSD focuses on building respectful and caring school environments, rooted in Catholic values.

Calgary Charter Schools

A charter school is a public school that is operated independently under a performance contract approved by either the local board of education or by the Minister of Education. There are several charter schools in Calgary including:

 Private Schools

When searching for a private school in Calgary, you should check to see if the school is registered with and respected by the Alberta Board of Education. Private schools have a wide-range of costs.

Ready to Move?

The Marnie Campbell Realty Team has the experience and expertise working with relocating clients. There are a number of moving parts that the average Realtor may not know. Our team can provide you with valuable information about the Calgary real estate market, house prices and the steps involved with relocating. 

Find a Realtor in Calgary to buy a home. Contact Marnie Realty Team.

The Marnie Campbell Realty Team can help you make better real estate decisions, so you have no-regrets when buying a home.

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All information provided is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed accurate, and should be independently verified..