Manchester Evening News 21/11/07

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More buyers are being attracted to Nova Scotia, a beautiful, unspoilt corner of north America that is easily accessible from the UK, writes Helen Riley.

Much of Canada's four million square miles may be covered in snow or blanketed with wheat fields but there are also many cities and towns that are thriving in the vast country and offer good prospects for property buyers.

As well as seeing rising property prices, Canada regularly tops best place to live polls due to the high standard of living, good education and health care and low crime rate.

The province of Nova Scotia on the Atlantic coast - the so-called Maritime coast - is one of the areas attracting a lot of interest from investors. Property prices in the province are lower than the national average at 187,683 Canadian dollars (around £94,985) compared to the country's property price average of 314,258 Canadian dollars (around £159,070). And like elsewhere in Canada, there is plenty of land to spare.

Until now, the eastern Canadian province has also been relatively undiscovered by British holidaymakers looking for rental properties, even though it has many historic links to the UK and plenty of English, Scottish and Irish residents.

But this could be changing, with a growing interest in activity-based holidays which Canada is well-placed to provide and which is driving a buy-to-let market.

Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, and one of the first British town in Canada and is now a relaxed waterfront city with a vibrant 19th century seaport, large naval base and mix of architecture including white clapboard churches and Victorian red brick public houses.

Halifax has the world's second biggest natural harbour and has been a site of strategic importance for centuries. Halifax airport has good connections with UK and the rest of North America and no-frills Canadian airline Zoom often has good deals.

Nova Scotia's coastline offers miles of empty beaches, sheltered bays and inlets ideal for sailing and kayaking. Nowhere in Nova Scotia is more than 40 miles from the sea. For winter sports fans, four ski centres offer downhill and snowboarding, while snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and skating are also available.

The province's villages and towns also offers a host of attractions, from the yachting centre of Chester to the 18th-century Annapolis Royal, to the harbour town of Lunenburg, a Unesco world heritage site.

Nova Scotia has strong links to Scotland dating back to the time of early settlement in the 1600s when many Scots people immigrated to the Americas and the province hosts regular high-land games and Gaelic-speaking arts and music events. It even has its own official tartan in yellow, blue and green.

Nova Scotia is a six or seven hour flight from the UK - what is less than a journey time to Canada's western provinces but, of course, more than travel to European destination. The climate is comparable to northern European countries with temperatures dropping to freezing in winter and hot summers. The coastline is prone to severe storms in winter.

Landcorp International is one company promoting land in the province. More than 1,000 acres have been set aside for Forest Lakes Country Club - a luxury lifestyle resort with a 40 acre private lake and 18-hole golf course, surrounded by forest. The developer is releasing 30-35 per cent of the land in order to raise development capital with half-acres costing from £11,500.

Ailse McFarlane, marketing director of Landcorp International, which was formed specifically to source lucrative land opportunities, says: "We expect many of the end-users to be not only overseas clients purchasing a second home in Canada but also local business people who are able to move out of urban Halifax to the tranquillity of Forest Lakes Country Club yet remain within comfortable commuting distance."

Kilmeny Fane-Saunders of Spacious Sea Winds, Nova Scotia, is close to the large village of Chester which is a popular cruising and second home for yachtsmen. It is on the market for around £847,000.

Second Home Nova Scotia, agrees that the region has great potential, saying: "For years the recreational and holiday attractions of Nova Scotia, as well as Canadian property bargains, have been a big secret as far as British buyers are concerned. It's a beautiful, unspoilt corner of north America that is easily accessible from the UK, friendly and safe, with a great variety of attractions."

Second Homes Nova Scotia has several properties on its books in Nova Scotia.
Sea Winds is close to the large village of Chester which is a popular cruising and second home destination for yachtsmen. The large house lies in six acres of land including 600ft of private beach. The main house has 2,800sq ft of living space thanks to 14ft high ceilings and extensive glazing. It is on the market for around £847,200.

The Mulgrave Estate is set above a deep water harbour on the Atlantic Coast and includes a 5,000 sq ft French provincial style house and 2,750 sq ft barn, in 36 acres of landscaped gardens including a swimming pool with pool house, stables, a waterfall and two salmon ponds. The house has three bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a spacious terrace. It's on the market for around £550,000.

There's also a Bavarian-style lake-front log home which sits in a five-acre site, 15 minute from downtown Halifax. Special features include granite and solid maple countertops in the kitchen and a sandstone hearth in the living room.

The property includes a detached garage/workshop with upstairs guest quarters, and a separate, undeveloped 2.78 acre approved lake-front. It is on the market for around £500,000.

Ashton Hill in Lunenburg County is a well-maintained home with many original features. Set on 35 acres, this three-bedroom home has a large sunroom that overlooks the gardens which includes a small pond.

There is also a spacious box stall barn with adjoining studio and an indoor and outdoor riding arena. Ashton Hill is 10-minutes from the town of Bridgewater and around a one hour drive from Halifax. It is on the market for around £280,000.

Canada's legal system is based in English common law (with the exception of the province of Quebec). UK nationals do not need a visa for short term visits and six months visas are usually readily available for longer stays.

Property law varies a little from province to province so it's a good idea to work with a solicitor in the province in which you intend to buy.

Generally speaking, buying property in Nova Scotia is a straightforward process, especially when dealing with off-plan properties because the developer must, by law, supply a contract of purchase and sale that adheres to strict guidelines. If you put in an offer on a property it will be quickly followed by a written contract.

You'll have to put aside between 15 and 20 per cent of the property price to pay for agency and legal fees plus transfer and sales taxes and inspection fees.