By Caitlin Kelly
Well, kids, it sure wasn’t dull.
The house dream blew up in fairly spectacular fashion Monday morning the 15th.
That was the day we were to commit to purchasing the house or losing our $3,000 deposit if we missed that deadline.
Friday morning — i.e. with two days to spare — I discovered the house is actually illegal, thanks to its antiquated septic system that, like many in that village, empties into the ocean.
Also, against Nova Scotia environmental laws.
We needed probably three weeks to seek and win necessary government approval to install a wholly new system ($12,000) but the seller — a wealthy and powerful local businessman — refused us even an extra day.
That was that. We bailed.
Then — do not ever mess with a skilled reporter! — I placed three calls that day to the local office of the environment and an official called me right back and is launching an investigation.
Also writing a letter to the top three people of the seller’s realtor to point out how crappy this is: either she lied or the seller lied and this put us in tremendous financial jeopardy if we’d been forced to buy an uninhabitable house.
1. The house’s owner, a local grandee accustomed to deference from the little people, isn’t going to suddenly get all ethical and nice for an outsider. Probably the opposite. Our realtor made clear he was furious to have dropped his price and then we dared ask for more time.
2. Never assume that a small town in a largely rural province is de facto any nicer or gentler than the iron-fisted ways of New York City! It’s very clear that panic pandemic buying has massively inflated prices and created a feeding frenzy for realtors and sellers that only leaves any buyer vulnerable.
3. Never stop asking questions!!
4. Take lots and lots and lots of notes; an email paper trail is also useful for reference. Also photos and videos.
5. If something feels off, it is!
6. My love for the physical structure of a charming house was blinding me to local conditions that would have made life there unpleasant and expensive — to reach the town means taking a car ferry and missing it (as I did one day) means losing valuable work time. I was warned that no one would even deliver a sofa that far because of lost waiting time; same for other services like pumping out the septic.
7. Take time to do every possible inspection and made each one a condition of purchase.
8. Getting a larger sense of the community and its culture quickly reduced my enthusiasm — after people lied to me, I had no wish to live there, even part-time.
This was also just emotionally painful for me to let go of all the attendant hopes I had:
— welcoming friends
— getting to know a new community and province
— coming back to Canada
— a chance to use my decorating and design training to make the house lovely
— maybe getting summer rental income from it
— owning a place with no rules (like our co-op apartment)
— finding a property within our budget. Impossible now, really.