BUILDING LOTS AND VACANT LAND

BUILDING LOTS AND VACANT LAND

The building lot or land that you buy is not only the foundation for your new home but for your lifestyle and personal/family experience. So this transaction is about a lot more than just the dirt you will be building on. Here are important things to consider when purchasing a building lot or land and how we can help and guide you through the process. What is the experience you are looking for from your home and it's surroundings?
Once you are clear on what the experience you are looking for find a region, municipality, town, city or neighborhood that will give you what you are looking for. We can help with this. If the area or areas that suit your wants and needs are within our expertise and experience we will get going on your search right away. If the area or areas are outside of the markets we specialize in or in another Canadian province, we can refer you to collaborating brokers that we know and have worked with before to ensure a great experience and successful search. 
Work with a broker that is experienced in vacant land and building lot transactions in the region you are considering! Buying vacant land and building lots is a whole different endeavour than buying an existing or new construction home and every municipality or city has it's own issues, rules and building codes. It is important that your trusted advisor have a good knowledge of the region, it's towns and cities and even better if he or she has a working relationship with municipal, town or city staff. 
Consider what your specific home design, scale and use of the land or lot be and if local building codes, zoning and bi-laws allow it. 
Check for any easements/servitudes on the property or any that your property benefits from. An easement (more commonly referred to here in Quebec as a servitude) is a deeded access to or passage though a property. For example there may be walking trails or water access in a community but those trails and accesses fall on someone's property so you need a deeded easement/servitude to benefit from the access. There may be some of these that affect your property or you may benefit from an easement/servitude through another property. One easement/servitude that almost all properties in Quebec have is for Hydro Quebec, they have access to your property in case they need to repair your electricity supply or lines that may cross your property. Find out, this is important to know. 
Protecting yourself, your project and your transaction. When buying a home we recommend a home inspection. In many cases when buying a building lot or land we recommend getting a geotechnical analysis done by a qualified technician. This analysis depending on your needs can include looking for contamination, evaluating the load bearing capacity of the soil you are planning to build on, recommendations for septic systems and well placement and other factors. You will in most cases need this to get your building permit.
Finally we can't over-emphasize working with a real estate broker experienced and with a specific expertise in vacant and and building lots. We are experienced in these types of transactions and real estate development which makes us your ideal service provider for this type of real estate search and project. 
Call us now Ile-Perrot/Montreal (514) 916-8200, Outaouais (819) 678-8200.


Buying Rural Properties

Charles Racette

The trend of people escaping the city and opting for the rural experience may have been sent into overdrive by COVID-19 but despite the current market correction the trend lives on and is forecasted to continue to grow in the foreseeable future. The trend continues to push many people to finally act on their dream of living with more land, less noise, less pollution and on and on. Not only attracted by the lifestyle, many buyers see that in most cases they get so much more house and property for their money outside major cities.

The rural life is a wonderful way to live, I know… I grew up on in a rural community working on the farm every day and enjoying the quality of life that only a rural community can offer. 

Having said that, we country folk appreciate all of this because we are used to it, it’s what we know. For someone who has spent their entire life in the city or suburbia there is definitely an initial adjustment to be made, but trust me if it’s your dream… it’s worth it!

 

Buying the property that will make your dream of living the rural life come true will also be a learning experience for most. In the city and suburbs you normally don't deal with wells, septic systems, wildlife and other things to the same extent. Some things that you do deal with in the city and suburbs have more serious consequences in the country among other things, power outages. 

 

Whether you are looking for a rural building lot, land, house, cottage type property or a hobby farm, here is a list of 15 things a person who is considering moving to a rural community should take into consideration while looking, planning and definitely before making the big move.

 


  1. Financing: There are many things to consider and know about when looking at financing options for your purchase. A mortgage broker who is used to working with rural transactions is a great place to start. The broker will not only find the best institution and product for your specific transaction but will be able explain and walk you through this complex piece of the real estate buying process. Financial institutions have different lending criteria for different types of properties. For example here in Quebec, most financial do not lend for vacant lots. The one exception at the moment is Desjardins. For rural homes, cottages and other rural properties with existing buildings the institution will want to see a seller’s declaration (form), copy of the listing, water test report and septic conformity certificates before lending on the property. If you are acquiring a property zoned agricultural, forget about CMHC and first time buyer incentives, they do not apply to these types of properties. Not all institutions lend for agricultural properties either so see a mortgage broker to find out what your options are.  If you are buying a hobby farm type property also be sure to ask your financial institution about restrictions and conditions they may put on your mortgage regarding the use of the land and any commercial activity you may be planning for your hobby farm. 
  2. Geotechnical Analysis (vacant land and building lots): If you are buying vacant land or a building lot with plans on erecting a building or buildings, drilling a well and installing a septic system, a geotechnical analysis is recommended. Getting the technician in to do the analysis and write a detailed report will cost you, but imagine buying a property and then finding out you can't build on it or that you can't build what you wanted on that property. The technician can do several types of analysis including the load bearing capacity of the land, recommended septic system type and location, well placement, contamination analysis and others. Not everyone gets this done before buying but if protecting yourself to the max is your objective, it's a good idea and... in many cases the municipality will want this analysis done before issuing a building permit. Warning... the waiting times for this type of service can be long. Your real estate broker will usually have some service providers to refer you to and in the case of brokers who are specialized in this type of property, they may have some that they are used to working with and already have a relationship with.
  3. Wells: If you are buying an existing home. well water quality will need to be tested and the results shared with your financial Institution. If the results show unacceptable levels of bacteria there are treatments that can be done and systems that can be put in place but you will have to get an expert opinion on the problem to figure out the source of the contamination so that you can know if a manageable solution is available in this particular case. Whether buying an existing home or a vacant lot to build you will want to understand the different types of wells (there are several). Most people today when getting a well dug opt for artesian wells but older properties and specially cottage country properties may well have other types. To help you start to figure wells out, we have created our "Wells 101 document" which can be downloaded by clicking the link below.
  4. Septic Systems: Septic systems are not all created equal and you will want to know what type it is and where it and it’s components (tanks,  weeper beds and sealed tanks) are located. You will also require a certificate of conformity from the local city, town or municipality, the seller will (should) be able to supply that to you. You will also want to know the date of the last emptying of the system and require that it be emptied before you take possession of the property, should you buy it (this is standard procedure when buying a house with a septic system). You will want to learn the basics about septic systems before buying a property that uses or will use one. For a quick overview you can download our "Septic Systems 101" document by clicking the link below.


  1. Sump Pumps: Unlike city and suburban properties that are serviced by municipal water evacuation systems, on most rural properties you will be responsible for evacuating any water that might flood your land or basement. Some properties are fortunate enough to not require a sump pump to evacuate water that would infiltrate the basement of the home, but most will be equipped with a sump pump system that pumps the water out of a sump tank (a type of hole in the ground that gathers water) and pumps it out and away from the house. You will want to make sure that the pump is fairly new, works well and that the plumbing is in good shape. Power outages can be a big problem for houses with sump pumps and specially if you are located on a property with a high water table (where significant water accumulation occurs). When people wire generators to their homes through an electrical sub panel or run extension cords in from a generator the sump pump is almost always near the top of the priority list.
  2. Power outages: Power outages in rural communities can not only be more common, they can last longer and there are less resources around you to help you through the outage. Generators are very popular in rural communities for the aforementioned reasons but be sure that if you are buying a property that has been wired to accept a generator to power the electrical panel that it has been properly installed by a licensed electrician and that the generator plugs into a sub panel and not the primary panel. Many problems including electrocution and fires have occurred due to improper wiring of generators in homes. If you are simply going to run your generator outside next to the house and run extension cords inside, make sure your extension cords are adequate for the charge they will carry and that they are all in good shape. Finally, never run your generator inside the house or enclosed area attached to the house. Remember that a gas powered generator emits exhaust and carbon monoxide that must be well ventilated … outside! There are many options when it comes to generators for your home, from portable generators to permanent Standby Generators that automatically start when you experience a power outage and power most of, if not your entire home. Solutions range from affordable (hundreds of dollars) to very expensive (tens of thousands of dollars... 10, 20, 30K). The right person to ask for advice regarding generators for your home is either a licensed professional electrician or a specialty retailer/service provider. 
  3. Soil quality and contamination: Many rural properties have hosted agricultural and commercial activities over the years and this can lead to contamination issues. If you are buying a property and plan on growing crops, specialty crops or gardens, find out what the land was used for in the past. Land that has been used for cash crop purposes (example: soybeans or corn) may have been saturated with commercial fertilizers and pesticides for years. These chemicals can potentially affect your soil's ability to sustain crops or growth of any kind, should you decide not to use them. Many farmers in the Midwestern United State are dealing with this issue at the moment with several universities and agencies running research projects studying and developing ways to rehabilitate agricultural lands burnt out by excessive chemical application over the years. Chemical use can also potentially affect water quality not only on your property but also on neighbouring properties as well. If you find land that has served for pasture or to grow hay for many years, you should be in pretty good shape to grow whatever it is you plan to grow. Your geotechnical technician can help you with this.


  1. Insurance considerations: Apart from the usual information your insurance company would require for a property in the city or suburbs, they will likely want to see the results of a water quality test, septic conformity certificate and any information regarding wood stoves, pellet stoves and fireplaces. They can and sometimes do send out an inspector/representative as well to evaluate. 
  2. Schools: Find out what schools are nearby, whether they are English, French or other and what bussing service is available. If you are looking at high schools, see how far the closest high school is from the property you are considering. In rural areas you will often find large regional high schools that draw from a very large area. They can be a significant distance from your home, an important consideration before considering the location for your family.  
  3. Health Care: Many people dream of moving out to rural communities and areas for their retirement but as we age we typically rely more and more on our healthcare system. People make more regular visits to their doctors, hospitals, clinics (in Quebec CLSCs) and other specialists. Find out how close all of these services are to the properties you are considering and how long it will take for you to get to them should you need them. 
  4. Access and easements: Here in Canada any hockey family will probably have at least a story or two to tell about the ride home in a snowstorm from a game or a tournament out in … some town somewhere. Winter challenges on country roads are real and need to be considered. What roads do you have access to, are they major or secondary and ask around about how well they are cleared in the wintertime. If you are in cottage country be sure to inquire if there are any of the access roads that are not cleared by the township during winter months. Another consideration when talking about access is easements (often referred to in Quebec by their French name "servitudes". An easement or servitude gives one individual access through another's property. You may benefit from one in the case of outdoor trails or water access through someone else's property. Or others may benefit from an easement through your property for the same reasons. Private roads are usually easement through several properties. Almost all properties have easement in favour of utility companies ie: here in Quebec Hydro Quebec to assure access for maintenance, repair and in the case of urgent issues like power outages. Find out what easements are on your property or that you benefit from before buying. These can make a big difference in you decision making process.


  1. Snow: Snow is a challenge no matter where you are but snow removal can be not only a bigger job on your rural property but significantly more expensive than in town if you are having it done by someone else. In the city and suburbs we typically have annual contracts. In rural communities depending on the length of your lane, you may have the contract option or you may have to pay per time which can add up quickly with drifting snow. Find out what your snow removal options and costs are.
  2. Services: The different community, business, healthcare and government services you are used to having close by may be a little further away. Find out how much further and what their hours of service are. 
  3. Flooding: Many people’s rural lifestyle dreams include being on the water. Whether it’s a lake or a river check the flood maps for your area. In Quebec, you can consult the provincial flood map at: www.cehq.gouv.qc.ca/zones-inond/carte-esri/index.html
If you are in a 0-20 zone this means that the area is estimated to flood at least once during a 20 year period. In a 0-20 zone you will have challenges with insurance, building permits of any kind, potentially flooding and eventually re-selling the property. 0-100 flood zones are less severely affected but still not without consequences. If you are on the water, read up on flood zones and their classifications so that you can make an informed decision. 
  1. Zoning: Zoning considerations apply no mater where you purchase a property. Something important to consider when purchasing a rural and more specifically agricultural property in Quebec, is the Commission de protection du territoire agricole, whose goal is to protect agricultural land in Quebec. The commission and law are strict and changing any kind of zoning or use of the property in question if it is zoned agricultural is very difficult and in most cases impossible. If you have questions regarding zoning the best resource is the city/municipal inspector. A call or email to the inspector can save you a lot of trouble down the road. Working with a realtor who already has a working relationship with municipal staff and local service providers is a big plus, be sure to about it.