The Nova Scotia debacle…

By Caitlin Kelly

Note the small lot….a problem for adding a septic in a town of dug wells and septic systems…

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.

Lessons learned:

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.

Waiting for the car ferry; it carries 17 vehicles, and takes about 10 minutes

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.

24 thoughts on “The Nova Scotia debacle…

      1. theres lots of places in the maritimes, Lunenberg is expensive compared to where we are in Northern NS, but if being close to Halifax is of interest, that makes a difference. one thing that was good to learn was to realize that coming from away makes one a target for scammy things. Got hit by that here too so keep an eye out, but hope isnt lost (at least from what I read there).

      2. Thanks.

        I was very aware coming in we were perceived as rich rubes from NY. Which we are not!

        I knew going in (my father had a house in Lunenberg in the 80s) that N. Shore is less chichi than South Shore….we have a very limited budget so this house was actually possible, when everything else is not.

      3. The challenge for us is this…we are driving up from NY! So the easiest solution (the only one) is the Yarmouth ferry return….even getting to St. John-Digby means 2 more hours’ drive.

        So that leaves a lot that’s difficult — unless we also buy and leave a vehicle and fly in and out which is expensive.

      4. I understand. We moved from Toronto and bought a house over a weekend in an area that looked beautiful but had rough neighbours. After nearly years there is was terrible (and house was not what was wanted) we moved within the maritimes. Being here helped a lot in being able to get what we ended up wanting. It takes time unfortunately..esp here as things move more slowly than the city

      5. Thanks.

        I am from Toronto and am totally priced out of Ontario, unless very far north which is not appealing to me.

        The problem now is that the NS market is massively overheated and forcing would-be buyers into FAST (quite possibly uninformed!) decisions.

        The house we wanted had NO offers in a long time…no one serious in a year.

        Suddenly, out of nowhere, there were people lined up behind us. Making major money decisions under pressure is NOT smart!

      1. I am very glad that dealing with ELEVEN strangers in the space of a week — all of them men but the 2 realtors — didn’t scare me a bit.

        Had 2 of the men not been 10000% honest with me, we would have been screwed.

  1. That’s a real shame, it’s a super cute house. Good on you for doing your homework and for tightening up the seller. What a jerk. You never know everything you’re going to find in an old house so both sides should try to relax a bit.
    Never say never. good deals come up as a result of circumstance all the time. My house belonged to a married couple with two kids and one on the way. Two bedrooms and one bath were just not going to do it anymore, but it was perfect for us. We made a decent offer and they took it…Voila’
    We did have to look around a lot before this one came along but it was totally worth it, repairs and all.
    Good luck, guys.

  2. i’m glad you did your due diligence and didn’t get pressured into buying this house. i’m sorry you got your hopes up, but i am glad you came to the truth in time.

  3. Kris Lindquist

    Dodged a bullet but it’s still wrenching to have one’s hopes up. This market is crazy but it doesn’t mean that it won’t cool and that there won’t be another place sometime and somewhere else. You’ve learned a whole lot in a short time that will stand you in good stead whatever the future brings.

  4. Thank you!!! I pray constantly to the Lord for keeping your writing abilities.

    Nice day!!!

    El sáb., 20 de nov. de 2021 7:59 AM, Broadside escribió:

    > broadsideblog posted: ” By Caitlin Kelly Note the small lot….a problem > for adding a septic in a town of dug wells and septic systems… Well, > kids, it sure wasn’t dull. The house dream blew up in fairly spectacular > fashion Monday morning the 15th. That was th” >

  5. “Kids” I like it. I’m also a big sports fan. It reads as very familiar and comfortable. Your content doesn’t always blow me away, I’m sure that feeling’s mutual, but it’s so well written I enjoy reading it whatever it may be. Sorry to wander off topic, just wanted to say it. Keep your stick on the ice.

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