Along Hiway7 - Photos and Story by Leo Fisher - Visit
Leo's House in Harrigan Cove
In 2005, U. S. migrants Leo Fisher and his wife found their own piece of heaven in Harrigan Cove. In this three part article, Leo details the search and purchase their century home and shares his experiences with an appraiser, a real estate agent and a series of renovations on their delightful Eastern Shore property.
Part I - Finding a Property
After working for many years, you reach a point where you long for that day when the alarm doesnt go off where you dont have to fight traffic to and from your office and where youre free to relax. That time was fast approaching and finally, in 2005, we took the positive step to lay the frame work of our retirement.
As you may have read elsewhere on this site, I have fought cancer and am now nearly fifteen years cancer free. Relatively healthy otherwise, I am looking forward to calling it quits after a total of thirty-seven years of government employment. My wife has also faced her demons with a grueling open heart surgery and valve replacement just a few years ago. While we both still think of our physical well-being, were also considering our mental health as well.
We have long been a restless souls following a long pattern of military and government reassignments, both my wife and I get wanderlust after spending too much time in one place. Weve enjoyed our lives, our homes, the places weve seen and the people with whom weve come to know but more than that we await the new life that lies to our north.
During my Cancer Ride I spent quality time in the saddle of a Gold Wing motorcycle racing across Canada Highway 1 from Sault Ste Marie in Ontario to Medicine Hat, Alberta. During this ride, I had time to admire the views, meet and talk with people, and get a flavor of our neighbors to the north. I never though then, however, that Canada and a place I hadnt ever seen before would become my second home. It is now another Canadian Highway Highway 7 to be exact that possesses my heart and my soul.
Canadian Highway 7 can be found on the Eastern shore of Nova Scotia in the area commonly referred to as the Maritimes. Until sometime late in 2004, I wasnt even aware that it existed until I stumbled across an ad on Ebay while perusing the real estate section. My first view that day was of a 2nd Period Victorian century home on a hillside overlooking the Bay of Fundy near Digby on the western side of Nova Scotia. Being raised in California, I had become immune to high housing costs and had given up the hope of ever living somewhere with an ocean view. Was it possible? Could I buy a large Victorian home on acreage with an ocean view for fewer than two hundred thousand dollars? Well, in 2004 you could. Now, although prices have risen somewhat, land and housing costs across Nova Scotia are still a bargain.
Seeing that original ad on Ebay began the adventure that my older sister, my wife and I have embarked upon that led us to Highway Seven.
Being a fan of computers and search engines such as Google that can aid you in surfing the Internet, I began looking for, and finding, other real estate resources on the Net. Two of those that I still regularly check are the Canadian Multiple Listing Service at www.mls.ca and the website of Tradewinds Realty at www.tradewindsrealty.com. Suddenly, a great deal of Nova Scotia and other Canadian real estate was at my fingertips.
I mention Tradewinds Realty since they are the company where I eventually found the listing for the house we now own. Its a well put-up site, easy to navigate and does a good job of providing photographs of the homes and land for sale. If there is one thing that aggravates me its not having a photo available or if there is one available, its of poor quality or too small to see.
Any time you search for real estate over the Internet you need to perform due diligence to the point you are satisfied that you are legally protected for possible fraud and or other malfeasance. A good thing about buying land or property in Canada is their customs of having an attorney handle the transaction. Believe me when I say this is beneficial and much to my great surprise not expensive especially not when you consider peace of mind and potential pitfalls that Ill describe later.
Having helped my sister move into her beautiful home on Digby Neck on the western side of Nova Scotia and seeing the Eastern Shore along the Atlantic Ocean, I have to say that I prefer the Eastern Shore. I like the coastline and the wonderful water views I have from throughout my house. Although my sisters home sits on nearly 40 acres of land, she has no water view even though her land borders both the Bay of Funday and the Bay of St. Mary! Being a Pisces, I need my water Ive longed for it much of my life even though I spent the majority of my life living in or near the desert Perhaps that is why Nova Scotia is so dear to me.
...Deer and Pheasants at your doorstep was the real estate tag line on the house we eventually purchased. When I had first seen it, I knew that something had to be wrong with it since the pictures of it made it look much more valuable. In fact, there were some other facts that contributed to the great deal we got but even without those facts, I still maintain that the homes and property along Highway 7 are undervalued. As I write this however, Ive seen the prices slowly rising and cant urge you to move quickly enough! There is, after all, only so much ocean front and ocean view property left where the climate is agreeable for much of the year. For visitors to Canada those of us who are not Permanent Residents or Citizens the ability to remain in heaven on earth during the season (May through October) is plenty. Only time will tell if we decide to immigrate.
The issues that lead to us making a great deal were twofold. First of all, the previous owners were German and had decided to sell and return to Germany. They left the house empty of furniture and put it up for sale in the late fall. Soon, the visitors in the area fell off and very few looked at the house. Secondly, it was in an out of the way location and wasnt being watched over. The former beautiful grass lawn had grown over and the house had that empty feel that turn many buyers away. Throughout the fall and winter I watched the real estate ad until the price had fallen to a point that it was almost unbelievably low. On the spur of the moment, I engaged the homes agent in an email conversation.
I remember asking him what the downside was since there obviously had to be one. His reply was that there was no downside. The house was sound and he felt a good deal. Of course, he was engaged to sell the house so it was with due diligence in mind that I engaged the services of a local home inspection service and bought two round trip airline tickets from Albuquerque to Halifax. We had made the decision to take a gamble. What, after all, did we have to loose. We had not previously visited Halifax or Nova Scotia and figured if nothing else it was a chance to get away.
In March of 2005, my wife and I flew to Halifax via Texas and New York and were totally exhausted upon our arrival in Halifax. A seasonal snow had also arrived at the same time but undaunted; we found our rental car, brushed off the snow, and struck out for Halifax. We eventually found out hotels and fell asleep soon thereafter. For us, it was a pleasure to see clearly marked roads, good snow removal services and a friendly face at the Holiday Inn Express in Bedford.
The next morning, a Saturday, was absolutely glorious outside. The sky was as blue as I had even seen it and the snow was fresh and still clean. We were to meet the agent in Sheet Harbour at the Irving Station so were headed out north back in the direction of the airport and took Route 224 into Sheet Harbour. The ride was scenic if one call snow and an occasional house scenic. My wife was beginning to question my sanity the distance, the time involved getting there and the whole uncertainty of what we might find. Arriving in Sheet Harbour, we found one of the first problems...finding the Irving Station.
Canadians or people from the Northeast United States might laugh but we didnt realize that an Irving Station was a gas station we just assumed it was the quaint name of the local bus station or some meeting place. We circled the streets of Sheet Harbour for a half an hour before we stopped someone and asked. Chagrinned, we saw the gas station and slipped in to park. We met our agent also the homes listing agent - Mr. Bob Harris. He was driving a nice Mercedes Benz so I figured business was good. We drove a few miles north on Highway 7 or the Marine Highway as it is called and went through a few small enclaves along the way places with names like Port Dufferin and West Quoddy until we saw road sign saying Harrigan Cove. We turned off of the highway and onto a gravel road and within a few moments, we saw the house. At that point, my wife turned to me and said something like Oh, its wonderful this will work.
I could believe how substantial the home looked how once we were up the hill, we could see the ocean all around us Much of the winters ice had melted and the view was wondrous. We all got out around the rear of the house and went inside. At that point, there were so many negatives flies everywhere both dead and alive, old faded green linoleum and purple carpet but none of that really mattered. We were immediately in love and knew without talking to each other that this was a real find. My wife and I are a bit eccentric when it comes to hobbies and one of ours is homes. We love to look at homes, decorate; paint, build and we just knew that we could live here all of our trepidation left as we met the home inspector. Although I had my camera with me, I was so excited that I left it sitting on the kitchen counter while I toured the rest of the house. The inspection revealed the need for a new room and failed to discover a fairly serious water problem in the basement so take you time when inspecting your potential home. Many are quite old, many have had additions and there isnt always a plan & permit review or licensed contractors just do your best to determine your level of risk before you make a final decision. Overall, however, it gave me the impetus to make an even lower offer to the German couple who had owned it previously because of the roof it would need.
Offers were made and accepted and a lawyer was obtained to handle the closing the entire process was easy and painless. I cannot, however, urge you strongly enough to take advantage of the services of a reputable legal firm. Pretty much everything was done via the Internet and the lawyer represented me at closing. In just a short while, my wife and I held title to a home in Harrigan Cove, Nova Scotia a home complete with deer and pheasants and, I might add a spectacular view of the ocean.
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