Because I focus exclusively on Prince Edward County, i have the in-depth local knowledge to help you buy smarter. If you have any of the questions below, follow the links to learn the “inside scoop” on how real estate works here.
Buying Rural Property
Some people want a rural property where they can build while others prefer the countryside for the privacy, quite and views. Rural properties have some unique issues which are not found in towns. For example, if you are considering building a new house or a livestock barn, they must conform with the MDS rules which set the minimum distances between livestock and homes.
Septic systems and drinking water wells are another issue not found in town, particularly in areas of the County where water supplies are limited and some owners depend on having water delivered.
Finally, the zoning by-laws are much more of an issue in rural areas, often in connection with environmentally protected areas which can be found in unexpected places. The County’s Geographic Information System (GIS) is an invaluable tool to understand the zoning for a property.
This checklist will help key you on top of issues buying rural property.
Buying An Older Home
Taste is purely a personal matter, but there are fundamental things which determine the soundness of a house. The structure and foundation are top considerations, followed by windows, roofing, wiring, plumbing, water and septic systems and heating/air conditioning. Homes over 100 years old have some special considerations. Dirt floors in basements, floor joists made out of logs and settled floors do not necessarily mean the house is unsound. Neither does knob and tubing wiring. Likewise, sloping floors in a century home do not automatically point to a major problem, particular if any settling occurred early in the life of the building.
Building A New Home
During the recent seller’s market in Prince Edward County, the selection of houses available for sale at any particular time could be limited. This has led to an increased demand for vacant land as a growing number of people conclude that the only way they’ll get a suitable place in the County is to build. There are, in fact, several issues to consider when building a new home in the County, particularly in the rural areas, including zoning, HST, bedrock, and minimum distances from livestock. The zoning bylaw should be reviewed carefully when deciding if rural land is suitable for building. Most of these issues are not insurmountable but will have an impact on costs. In fact, constructions costs for custom built homes in Prince Edward County are on a par with costs in major metropolitan areas. A shortage of workers is leading to delays for custom-built homes, leading some home buyers to consider factory-built homes.
There are very different types of waterfront available in the County. The protected waters of the Bay of Quinte are ideal for recreational uses like swimming and boating, which is not true for properties exposed to the open waters and large waves of Lake Ontario. Waterfront properties with outstanding views are located throughout the County, including some stunning views of the sunset from some north-facing properties. Despite the vast sand dunes at the provincial park, sand beaches are relatively rare in the Prince Edward County where limestone shelves and pebble beaches are more common. It’s worth noting that special setbacks apply when building on waterfront land and that environmentally protected zones are found in many places along the shoreline.
Homes in the built-up areas are popular because of the amenities they offer like restaurants, cultural events, shopping and a healthy walking lifestyle. Proximity to doctors, drug stores and hospitals are important considerations for seniors especially. While there are real benefits to life in the built-up areas, there are also some downsides. Tourist traffic in the summer time is an obvious one. Water/waste water services are another ongoing concern with high costs throughout the system and issues with water pressure in Wellington. Many small towns have seen their architectural heritage destroyed in the name of progress and bland, modern development. To avoid this, the County has implemented a heritage conservation plan to protect the historical buildings on Picton Main Street. The County has also adopted a new vision for Picton Harbour which is likely to have a significant impact on Picton’s future.
Although they are a popular housing option in urban areas, Prince Edward County condos are in limited supply. Although the situation could change as newly-announced condo projects are built, buyers currently need to move quickly when they find a unit which suits them.
Genuine high speed internet is widely available in the settled areas. The coverage in rural areas is improved but not as good.
Rental housing is a challenging and politically charged issue in the County right now. Long-term rentals are in short supply in the County across all price ranges and municipal research shows that the vacancy rate is under 1%. This shortage, and especially the shortage of affordable housing, were a factor when Prince Edward County Council voted on October 9th to move forward with regulating short term rentals. The current Council also decided to incorporate the County Housing Corporation as an arms-length, not-for-profit organization to serve as a focus point for efforts to address the affordable housing situation in Prince Edward County.
Planning & Zoning
Every municipality has its regulations and Prince Edward County is no different, even if the regulations themselves are different. Some buyers will acquire vacant land in rural areas in the hope of severing parts off and selling them as building lots to help pay for the cost of their purchase. Severance is not guaranteed. Under the County’s Official Plan, no more than two parcels plus the retained land can be severed and these cannot be further sub-divided. Severance also depends on the type of land: if land is classed Prime Agriculture under the Office Plan, severance is very difficult, if not impossible. When considering vacant land for severance, it pays to check with your lawyer or municipal planning before going too far.
Several milestone planning decisions have been made recently on topics including the size of second units, holding commercial events in residential and agricultural areas.
Have you got a question which isn’t here? Contact me by email or by phone at 613-503-0027 to get straight answers to your questions about County real estate.