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A Land of Opportunities

Yukon Prospectors finding gold in Rabbit Creek a century ago must have experienced the same excitement as modern-day property seekers first landing in Nova Scotia. To say this small Province of Canada is the new Klondike is an understatement, for here you will find nuggets of opportunities just waiting to be picked up and exploited. Not just in real estate but also land and potential business ventures.

The time, however, is now. Following the Attack on America tragedy, many US citizens feeling a little vulnerable are purchasing second homes, resulting in a stirring of prices.

So where is Nova Scotia, most would ask? Well, it’s a quick five-hour flight from the UK, three from Iceland and a mere two-and-a-half hour ferry trip from Maine in the States. Resembling rural England but with forests, it lies on the eastern seaboard of Canada, much like an island connected by an umbilical cord to the Motherland. The climate and seasons are much like the UK but with slightly more extreme temperatures, not at all what most imagine the country to be.

Visitors will find lush vegetation and few, but absolutely delightful, people. You would be hard pushed to find more courteous, laid-back and helpful English-speaking folk, only too pleased to welcome you to their paradise. The air is crisp, clean and bracing.

As a holiday destination it has so much to offer in the way of national parks, wildlife and natural leisure pursuits. Canoeing and all water sports, hiking, biking, climbing, horse riding… whatever your needs, it’s here and unspoilt. UK tourists will be delighted to find petrol at 29p a litre, food and clothing at anywhere between 33%-50% less, plus hosts of low-cost restaurants to eat out. The exchange rate between the pound and Canadian dollar is, normally, exceptionally good, making a vacation break cheap; and property… well, it will blow your socks off!

For first-timers, there are a few visual shocks in store. The houses for the most are timber framed and come without fences, your neighbour’s garden blending in with yours. As land is aplenty there isn’t the territorialism found back home, just space with a capital “S” between dwellings. Another notable oddity are the roof tiles. Unlike Europe these are not slate or cement but either asphalt or wooden shingles (square thin slices). Your eyes will be drawn to these as they give the impression of the homes being cut-out models from the backs of cereal boxes.

The final strange encounter will be “dirt roads”. Formerly used for logging, these are wide, well-serviced year-round highways, with power and phone lines, that the constructors appear to have forgotten to tarmac. There is a huge network of them criss-crossing the Province and they are vital not only to the Nova Scotians but to anyone searching for a bargain home.

Whatever your budget, there is an investment here for you. Whether it’s just a small building plot or a hundred acres, a cabin or a mansion, you will find it here.

Major points to watch out for are the fundamentals. Is the potential purchase on a municipal water and sewage system? If not, then you will need to have the well and septic systems checked out by a professional. A drilled well is far superior to a dug one, the water being of higher quality and more plentiful. If possible check the water levels in late August as this is when the water table is at its lowest.

Septic systems can be interesting. Commonly these consist of two interconnecting large chambers in the ground that hold the waste material until it degrades. From this leads a giant fork made out of plastic pipes covered in drilled holes. This lies under the lawn, which feeds from nutrients distributed through the pipes. It works well. However, the tubes can get blocked up, so make sure that the grass is always greener and taller where the grid lies.

Beware. All Nova Scotians are handymen and it’s not unusual for them to wake up at a weekend and decide to extend the house. A few calls to kinfolk with a promise of a potluck supper, and the pick-up trucks suddenly appear and everyone beavers away to build a deck or an extra bedroom or two. Unfortunately enthusiasm can’t always be matched by professional abilities, so have the prospective home looked at properly.

Inspection is not expensive and could make the difference between a good buy and a bad one. Also have the building surveyed by an independent inspector (cost around £100-£200). Well worth the outlay. Any good realtor (real estate agent) will arrange these for you. As far as labour costs go for repairs, maintenance and improvements, they are half the UK rate and there is no shortage of skilled craftsmen.

House prices vary according to location and water. Sea frontage is the most prized followed closely by sea views, then lake frontage and finally in-town or rural. Added to this is the amount of land that comes with your new adventure base.

As Nova Scotia is fairly small, buying anywhere in the Province means you can still be within a day’s striking distance of most towns, amenities and stores. Cheap and ample properties can be discovered in the interior along the old logging roads, which in most cases are superior to ordinary highways.

Someone once stated that “…land is a great investment because they ain’t making it no more…” Very true. If you are not ready to go for a holiday home, then land is a must. Again, like real estate, this varies in price according to location, services, size and quality.

An uncleared but logged 100 acres can be bought for as little as £10,000 but then there’s some real physical work involved in preparing it. Apart from removing tree remnants, roots, brush etc, there are boulders left from the last Ice Age everywhere and these work their way to the surface.

If meadowed the price would be around £20,000; forested, £45,000. Small wood lots can be had. A five-acre plot with young trees and building potential would cost, say, just £5,000.

Points to watch. Make sure that the property is dry and drains well. Seek out land that has power lines at least along one of its borders and that is on either a dirt or a paved (tarmac) road. It may be a romantic notion that canoeing in to your landlocked haven will be fun, but to be sure, the novelty will wear off quickly! If you pick an estate with a river, large stream or lake, bear in mind that in general Canadians (and grizzlies!) have the right to fish anywhere that takes their fancy within 30 feet of the bank. The upside is that it equally applies to you. Absolute heaven if you are a keen angler.

Building in Nova Scotia is the exact opposite experience of the UK. The planning authorities here are really helpful and will go out of their way to assist you with you project. You’ll find them very practical, down-to-earth folks and a refreshing pleasure to deal with.

The local builder’s merchants will sell you a book of house designs. Simply select the one you desire and they will produce a set of working plans for you, supply you with all the materials to construct it or organise contractors to build it for you. This could be just the shell or a turnkey state. You could always have a go yourself!

Local taxes (rates) are much lower than the UK, adding to the many reasons to book a flight out and investigate for yourself this incredible and yet fairly unknown little goldmine.

For a FREE 400-page full colour guide, with maps, of Nova Scotia, log onto website http://www.acres.info

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