Finding Our Plot of Land

I grew up in a town I truly never thought of leaving. It was a small town that you could raise a family in and you always ran into someone you knew every time you left your house. It had it’s pro’s and con’s, but it was comforting - it was home.

Fast-forward to now, it is one of the fastest growing towns in Canada. The small home I was born in originally bought for $40K over thirty years ago was now worth a whopping $900K and the town I once knew was forever changed forcing the locals to buy into the new standard of living or ship out.

So a few years back my parents, husband and I started looking out of town for some acreage at a reasonable price. That didn’t come without it’s requirements - especially with 4 very opinionated individuals in the mix.

Property Must-Haves

With no exceptions, the property must be able to accommodate 2 primary dwellings and accessory building, ie. 2 houses and a garage/workshop. The property size must be around 5 acres to allow for privacy between the houses with the detached garage between both homes. Preferably treed, relatively flat and located in or near a small, oceanside town.

Small meaning there aren’t too many traffic lights in the town centre and no paid parking (a tax I don’t want to have to pay). I also grew up near the ocean and spend most weekends boating, so we all agreed that not being too far from it is a must. The maximum cost for the property: $300K.

The Search

Our original search took us to a beautiful town that was a hop, skip, 2 ferries, and countless driving from our home base. We found some properties we were interested in, but none of them felt right and then the travel to and from was just too much for us to handle.

So after a discouraging delay, a couple years later we found our town. It was quaint and filled with both baby boomers and growing families. The 1 stop light was at the end of a beautiful street lined with aged trees and the local shops were beaming with charm. Only 1 ferry from our home base and did I mention no paid parking?

At the end of the main street was the ocean, lined with endless beaches and that salty air. No only did it rain 1/2 as much as it did in our last town, but it was only minutes to the next town and 30 minutes to everything a city can offer. We found our town. Now to find the property.

The Realtor

Without knowing anyone in town, we hired the first realtor we saw to show us the available properties in the area. We knew what we wanted so a referral wasn’t needed. Or so we thought.

With our specific wish list of approximately 5 acres and the allowance of 2 homes we felt slightly discouraged with the properties that were available. Most were 2 acres or 20 acres, some didn’t allow for 2 homes, and others had design and construction requirements, like design guidelines, flood plain bylaws and restrictions, covenants, etc.

While most would overlook these requirements, they are things that you need to conform to and you can’t get around. Since we all have a background in either design or construction, we knew the work involved and we weren’t willing to conform to them. So buying into a property that enforced these was not an option. Our realtor did not seem to understand that.

Lot 4.jpg

So when we found Lot 4, we were thrilled. It was 5 acres, allowed 2 homes and accessory building (detached garage), treed, relatively flat, under budget, and only 10 minutes to town! We requested the information on the property and our realtor gave us the standard realtor specs and the documents on the drilled well.

One very wet day, while walking around the property, we discovered that there was a little creek running right through the middle. It actually was a ditch created by the original owner, a logging company. Nevertheless, it was a ‘water-way’. This was not a good sign. Being a Building Designer I knew that there had to be a legal document pertaining to this water way.

Hi --,

I received the title document for the property and it mentions a few other documents that we will need - the easement document (CA249****) and a flooding covenant (CA244****). Could you please forward them to me when you track them down. There are another couple of creeks/ditches on lot 4 that might be an issue so we want to make sure we get all the info. Thanks!

After a search, our realtor came up with nothing. That can’t be right. The creek runs through all 5 properties and they all had covenants except that particular property? Red flag. So the next action from our realtor, after only a couple months of working together, abruptly and politely - fired us. Via email. Yes, you heard right.

realtor email.jpg

My first thoughts - I was a difficult client. But was I? We had always done our site visits solo and we were dealing with a lot of money, looking for a specific property and was willing to wait for it. Although we were shocked with being let go by our original realtor, we shouldn’t have been. Our needs weren’t listened to, we we’re forced onto properties that we didn’t want, and the effort wasn’t put into producing documents that clients needed.

Although we were shocked with being let go, in hindsight we didn’t do our research on our hire, and I’m grateful it happened. It wasn’t a good fit to begin with.

The Property

With the little information we had on the property, we took it to a highly recommended realtor in the nearby city. As expected there was a covenant on the property for the existing waterway requiring a setback, reducing the buildable area for our 3 proposed buildings.

Our new realtor was extremely knowledgeable and together we laid out a few options. The best option was to build the 2 homes at the front of the property, not subdivision close, but closer than we hoped for, and access the detached garage through a bridge over the waterway. It wouldn’t be easy as it would involve the fisheries and environmental groups to allow for a bridge to the other half of the property.

During the agonizing discussions with the different environments authorities I stood on the property and looked out onto the road at the property directly across the street. I grabbed the rest of the family and asked them to join me for a walk.

Lot 7.jpg

Lot 7 was fully treed, almost 15 acres, but had a beautiful, overgrown logging roads scattered through it. It was a lot more property than we were looking for, and asking 50K over our budget, but it was perfect. Almost. Of course, nothing ever is. It was only zoned for 1 house, 1 accessory building. The challenge, purchasing the property without the reassurance that we would be able to ever have 2 homes on the property.

This would be applying for a variance with the City and change the zoning. Luckily for us we had a land consultant and friend on speed-dial who advised us that, although without 100% certainty, it would be possible and she highly recommended the purchase.

The Offer & Purchase

Our realtor was ruthless, but knew when to pump the brakes with the seller. He got the price down to $310K in a busy market and, with the help of our trusted notary, got us all the information that was registered on title. With no unexpected surprises to deter us from purchasing, all subjects were removed a month later in May of 2017.

While the whole process was tedious and long, we never lost sight of what we inevitably needed and truly wanted. We learned a valuable lesson that hiring can make all the difference with your end results and to always listen to your gut.

How was your experience in finding and purchasing property? Were you ever faced with difficulties, setbacks, or poor professionalism along the way? Did you ever run into unexpected surprises that you wish you knew about before buying your property? Tell us in the comments below.