Why Did We Buy Land Unseen In Canada?
Lockdown and Itchy Feet
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 taking a leap or purchasing land in one of the Canadian provinces. 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 have previously been over to check out the 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 and then emailed different estate agents asking to put deposits down on a couple of plots of land (I think in my head it was a case of whichever comes back first). 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 official 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 outbid my offer. However, I also heard back from some three realtors with plots of land in Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. When emailing I realised I had scrolled through these other plots and requested to purchase and get more information on; 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, one of the plots we had been asking for from one of the realtors and it was perfect but small at 1.4 Acres.
The realtor said they were happy to accept our deposit and purchase with their finance agreement. However, they had a larger one a mile down the road and better value. It was 2.8 acres, partly cleared woodland, on a quiet but well-maintained road, a relatively flat plot of land in a small village, just north of the Fundy National Park (Pictured above) in New Brunswick. Within the week we went ahead with this… but first, we did some research.
How Did We Research Before Purchasing Our Land?
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?
- Is this all above board, can we buy here as easy as stated?
- What permission does this land have on it for building?
Researching The Province of New Brunswick
- 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.
- 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.
What Is The Land We Bought Like
Below are a couple of the pictures we recieved from the realtor digitally whilst on the land. It has been partially felled and you can see it’s.a bit scruffy. We will need to thin and replant some parts of the land. I do see some more mature trees on the left towards the road and what looks like a bigger elm on the right…. but I will have to check that when we visit. We were also sent a large pack of photos of the land from different angles and the local town.
So we applied to do this on a finance agreement, 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 typical low 3% rates for finance but if we decided to pay off early this would bring down the interest significantly and we 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 this further (please note this does not substitute professional advice and we have taken a risk doing this).
New Brunswick State Regulations
- 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 regardless of your residence.
- You will usually need to put down a higher deposit than the typical 15% or more due to being a non-resident. This is just due to the risk the bank, mortgage broker or companies finance agreements take. They may get refused, a few realtors simply would not entertain many conversations unless it was a full cash buy.
Consideration With Our Land
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.
Check Your Parcel Identifier
In Canadian states (including NB) plots of land come with a parcel identifier (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, size (any restrictions on the land) and who has the titles. We also requested from the realtor a copy of the PID too (to check it matched) and the deeds as advised. 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 to someone else).
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.
Another search I did in retrospect was a local well check. This is to see the depth and quality of recent water wells in close proximity (within the village or just outside). It was very positive, they were suitable for drinking.
Further Searches Just To Be Safe
We both then searched for 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 one negative review about something minor.
I even separately searched the names of some of the reviewers on social media (I know stalking much but people like to brag and I’m taking a risk here) 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 their 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 for the geo-tag of the road and a lot on social media and blogs. This came up with lots of videos of people walking down the road, cycling, a fair few beautiful pictures. All of these matched the way it looked on the drone footage and pictures from the realtor but from very different angles.
Legal Checks When We Decided To Go Ahead With Our Land Purchase
Finally, before we agreed to put down a deposit we also contacted an independant 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 specialising in real estate and land purchase.
We were advised there is some risk but the paperwork matches the requirements and we were told to request asked for the signed contract to be sent via post so you have signed hard copies in addition to any digital.
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 just be too good to be true. But for now, we are excited about the possibilities.
12 Months – Update
Its been 12 months, if you would like to see our update on the land then click the link below:
We were planning to fly out and see the land this year (2021) but it may have to be 2022 or later. 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) where 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 eventually fly out there. Check out the link above to see what research we have done since and some updated pictures commissioned by a local photographer.
If this goes as plan… I hope to see more companies and land owners conducting sales this way.