A visit to Nova Scotia

By Caitlin Kelly

Back again!

I spent last week visiting a province I had only been to once before, in my 20s, when my father then owned a big old Victorian house in Lunenburg on the South Shore.

This visit included a lot of driving!

There are no direct flights from NY to Halifax, so it becomes an all-day affair with a layover in Toronto (90 minutes north then 2 hours east.) I arrived, of course, sweaty and exhausted after an entire day masked, just in time for sunset — to drive 90 minutes in the dark on unfamiliar roads.

How had I forgotten how tiring and stressful travel can be?! Because I hadn’t been in an airplane since June 2019…

I was staying with my best friend from Toronto high school, who designed and built an off-grid home on a lake in a forest there. I hadn’t seen them in three years, since they left their rural home in Ontario. They were super welcoming and their 27-acre property was so blessedly beautiful and silent.

Morning mist at the lake!

I went up to see a house we are thinking of buying, after years of looking fruitlessly at real estate ads, watching prices literally double in the past year as wealthy people fleeing COVID have snapped up a lot of Nova Scotia real estate, driving up prices and making anything in our budget unattainable.

I finally found a really pretty gray shingled house, 2 bedroom, circa 1906, its interior unchanged for decades and uninhabited. We made an offer which was accepted.

The dining room…the house is full of their stuff.

Every room has wallpaper — I really like this one!

There are 3 calendars in the house — 1938, 1947 and 1953

But only then did the true fun begin….I was now dealing with 10 different individuals (!), including a realtor, lawyer and eight different tradesmen, from septic to wells to two general contractors. One afternoon, I was trying to talk to two of them at once with only an hour to conduct business because the realtor had to leave — and we had all missed the earlier ferry.

Oh yeah, you need to take a five minute ferry to reach the village, (pop. 300), one of three on an island.

The car ferry, which takes five minutes, and holds 17 vehicles — including tanker trucks and schoolbuses

Why do anything EASY?

So it was a week of a lot of learning for a woman whose entire life has been spent in apartments in cities and towns of 10,000 to millions, never in a remote village.

Even at our advanced ages, Jose and I have never owned a house, or even looked at one or made an offer — but a surprise inheritance (!) from my late estranged mother made this possible.

The house is not winterized or insulated so this would only be for summer use. That doesn’t bother me, since I really enjoy my NYC life, with easy access to museums, shows, ballet, opera, shopping and restaurants,

If this goes through — and we have hit yet another unforeseen potential deal-breaker just now — it would also give Jose and I a foothold back in my native Canada. Because if T—p wins again, and it is not looking good right now for the Democrats (trounced in recent elections), I’m not going to live in chronic anxiety for another four nasty years of GOP rule.

Highlights included three-hour drives to the house and back; sitting in morning silence by their lake; visiting a friend in Halifax I hadn’t seen since my wedding in Toronto a decade ago.

I loved the Nova Scotia accent, with its drawn-out vowels, and people were kind and helpful.

Will keep you posted!

8 thoughts on “A visit to Nova Scotia

  1. Robert Lerose

    I’m not surprised at your due diligence or asking informed questions of the tradespeople. You’ve always been a skillful reporter and those skills are serving you well here. I know that buying this house is far from a done deal. I know that you are being hit with unpleasant surprises. The only thing that I’m happy about is that you and Jose are at long last in the position to buy. Whether or not that comes to pass remains to be seen, but you have the choice to buy and that gives you some power. I feel for you about the emotional impact of house buying. In a future telephone conversation, I’ll be glad to tell you about a similar situation I found myself in, and why I have great empathy for what you’re going through. Whatever the final result, I wish you and Jose well.

    1. Thanks…It has been so much more tiring than I hoped. I also discovered (!) some buyers are buying without asking some of the most basic questions — and discover (ooops!) they don’t even have a septic system.

      All of this is wholly unfamiliar to a life-long city/town person, but I keep asking questions — and 9/10 of the people I ask are men and I think one of them, for sure, is NOT used to a woman pushing back hard on his assertions and repeated inconsistencies.

      I cannot imagine buying without a LOT of due diligence!

      Sorry you know this drill as well.

  2. It sounds exciting, but like you say, I can imagine there’s a lot to think about and weigh up, especially with a house that’s been uninhabited (for decades? Judging by the calendars!)

    An off-grid home by a lake sounds like a dream. 🙂 I’ve been looking into the tiny house movement, which I think originated in Canada, but in the UK it’s difficult to get planning permission to put a “tiny house” somewhere. Housing is getting more expensive here and new-build homes are popping up everywhere, often cheaply constructed and with issues, judging from friends’ and colleagues’ experiences. So it seems crazy that it’s hard to get permission to situate an architecturally attractive ‘tiny’ dwelling on a piece of land.

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