Lockdown Impulse Buy - Part 1
I got a little drunk and tried to bid on land in Canada during the Covid-19 Lockdown. A week later this dream of owning Canadian land became a reality. This is just a bit of an overview of how this happened and the initial stage of our adventure. We (me and my fella) are aiming to eventually move to this location and build a home. Having outdoor space and building an off grid home in a rural area is the lifestyle we have dreamed of. Since I mentioned my purchase on my instagram story, I have had lots of people message and asking me how I did this, with a few considering it themselves. So I thought I'd document as we go through the process. But there are some risks...
On the 5th of April, a little bored in lockdown, whilst playing board games, eating lots of food and having alcohol (which is a rarity for me), I got alert emails of a couple of properties and lots available in Alberta, Canada within my (realistic but not quite there yet) budget.
I should note me and my fella have decided we want to eventually immigrate to Canada or New Zealand. We went over to check out Canadian Rockies and surrounding areas last summer. We both loved it and felt more determined to make this dream a reality if it was possible. So back to the emails after a few more drinks, I found myself scrolling through land and enquiring, I even bid on one plot of land. In the midst of the 'uh oh' I was waiting to hear back, or trying to figure out from the Canadian laws if I could withdraw my bid in an online land auction. I also had a moment where I accepted that this might just happen and it could be the best impulsive decision I have ever made.
Thankfully I received an email that someone had out bid my offer. However, I also heard back from some realtors from plots of land in Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia I had scrolled through and asked about; all of which had lower prices per acre and were rural rather than in the towns and cities. To cut this long babbling story a bit short, we found a plot that was advertised by one of the realtors and it was perfect. 2.8 acres, partly cleared woodland, on a quiet but well maintained road, relatively flat plot of land in a small village, just north of a national park and in New Brunswick (google earth shot on the header image above, although some has been cleared since). Our next step was to get more information about the plot, the total cost and area it was in and work out the following:
If it is right for what lifestyle we want? - We want to be in a place that allows us to spend more time outdoors, enjoy nature and be able to be close to water. This plot definitely ticks all of these boxes.
Is this all above board, can we buy here as easy as stated? - We did a number of searches try our best to make sure everything was ok.
The cost of living is lower in NB than in other states
The state comprises of approximately 80% forest
The area we chose land in is about 30 minutes north of Fundy National Park
There are 3 cities within commuting distance of the land we chose
The summers tend to be hot (by my northern English standards) and long, the winters cold and snowy.
From speaking to friends who have visited here and other Canadian friends who are neighbouring in Ontario or Quebec, it is renowned for having the most friendly people in Canada (I thought all Canadians were friendly, but apparently these even more so).
It is officially a bilingual state with most residents speaking French and English.
Back to the plot of Land (a few more pictures above)
So we applied to do this on a finance agreement (mortgage), due to us being non Canadian the offer was termed (by a real estate lawyer) rent to buy scheme. So we weren't able to get the low 2/3% rates for finance but if we decided to pay off early this would bring down the interest significantly and we are also have the flexibility of making lump sums whenever suits. Our agreement is over 72 months and at the end the title on the deeds changes to our name and we become official owners. Obviously this carries some risk due to us not buying outright and the fact we are entering into a contract in another country on a plot of land we have not yet viewed. So here are a few of the key things we did to check (please note this does not substitute professional advice and we have taken a risk doing this).
In Canada and each state including New Brunswick have very transparent laws about property ownership and purchase luckily. Although there were some key bits of information I knew from researching before this, I felt it was best to double check.
Anyone has the right to buy land or property in New Brunswick
You will usually need to put down a higher deposit than the typical 15% due to being a non resident. This is just due to the risk the bank, mortgage broker or finance agreements take. They may get refused, a few realtors simply would not entertain much conversation unless it was a full cash buy.
When buying in another country, I imagine it can be fairly easy to get scammed. So I researched both the realtor and this plot of land.
In NB and other Canadian states plots of land come with a PID number, this number can be checked easily via public record request, a real estate lawyer or by goverment recommended PID search companies (what would we do before the internet).
We used one called speedy search. The PID number gives you the information of the plot address, type of plot (any restrictions on the land) and who has the titles.
We requested from the realtor a copy of the deeds as advised as this is the official ownership and not just the titles (I'm not quite sure the difference, but this makes sure that they have the legal right to sell you the land or property).
We requested as much information as possible from them, asking them to confirm for clarity a number of things by email (and in our written contract) such as; the agreement being exclusive ownership and not shared ownership, any additional fees, taxes and other responsibilities.
We then searched about the realtor company. We found some positive reviews on Google, Facebook and on lots of forums from previous foreign and Canadian buyers who purchased from them using their finance. We only found the odd negative review.
I even separately searched the names of some of the reviewers on social medias and had a quick nosy on their profiles to see if they had written anything about there land purchase. I found a few that had publicly posed about there land and shared posts about final payments and deeds arriving. A few had also built on the land since. I reached out to a couple and asked them a little about it.
I also searched the geo-tag of the road and lot on the social media and blogs. This came up with lots of videos of people walking down the road, cycling, a fair few beauty pictures. All of these matched the way it looked on the drone footage and pictures from the realtor but from very different angles.
Ask for the signed contract to be sent via post so you have signed hard copies in addition to any digital.
Finally before we agreed to put down a deposit we also contacted a local real estate lawyer (not one recommended by them), just to be sure. We did this via a new Brunswick government website that has links to registered Law firms.
Please ask a professional from the area, do your research. If you are able to visit the land first, this is even better. We are not risk free here. We may find we get to the plot of land and it is being developed a lot around it, we may even find that it just is too far out from where we are able to find work. There is still a slight possibility it may be too good to be true. But for now we are excited about the possibilities.
We are planning to fly out and see the land next summer. There is a clause in our contract that also allows for a 24 month period if we are not satisfied when we do view the property, we can exchange this contract and the money we have so far invested into another plot of land on their books (without any additional fee's). I will pop a post on when we fly out there and also a video link to it.