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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

House Hunting on Vancouver Island

Photo Taken in the Backyard of our Cottage:

My husband, Flabio, and I, and our 2 dogs just spent a week on Vancouver Island house hunting. House hunting is great fun--for about an hour. After that it's an endless grind of looking mostly at other people's CRAP.

For 5 days, from morning until night, we (me, Flabio, and our 2 dogs) drove around with our realtor--who is a great guy, by the way, looking at houses in the Comox/Courtenay Valley, although we did go down south as far as Qualicum (3/4 hour drive south from Comox) to look at 2 properties. I highly recommend our realtor, Bruce Langlands, who is married to a childhood friend of Flabio. Bruce had the patience of Job with us.

We had already picked out about a dozen properties to see from the Canadian MLS website, and then we also saw whatever Bruce suggested in addition. I'm not going to bore you with details about every property, but I will describe a few memorable moments. All prices mentioned are in $CAD. n.b. Things are not always as they are described on the MLS--buyer beware. "Skim milk masquerades as cream." William S. Gilbert.

First, I'd like to mention that my husband is a really good sport. I thought I would lose my mind after the first 2 houses, but he was ever enthusiastic and good-natured. Of course, he wouldn't say "shit" if his mouth was full of it, but it amused me to no end to hear him find good things to say about the ugliest places on the earth.

Fairly quickly we ruled out anything oceanfront for several reasons. We felt like in most cases (in our price range) you sacrifice either property size or privacy or house size or condition compared to the same price *not* oceanfront. I also intend to plant all kinds of exotic things, and being oceanfront affects my ability to do that, because of both the lot size and the salt breeze. One oceanfront place for 850K had a magnificent view, but the whole house would have had to be gutted. The decor was very trendy 1975 including orange shag carpeting throughout. Another oceanfront place was magnificent, and we loved it, but it was only 1800 sq. ft, significantly less than we were looking for, and at 900K we didn't think it sensible to spend another 300K to add on and landscape etc.

We went to see a large (40 acre) riverfront spread West of Qualicum for a Cool Million. But we turned around before we got there after 10 miles on gravel roads. No thanks. I don't care how gorgeous it is, I want paved roads. We saw another magnificent acreage with the house, privacy, and outbuildings of our dreams, and a water well that produced 3 Gallons/minute. Nope. That's not enough for a double-flusher.

One place we looked at was suitable for a family of 1 person under 5' tall. Rooms all 6' X 6' or less and the ceilings upstairs were all tilted at odd angles under the rafters. Flabio said, "well, you know, it is a lovely manicured yard." Another place for 1.2 mill$ was magnificent, finished with all high-end stuff and views of the valley and mountains to die for. Literally. The place was 5 acres perched on the edge of a cliff. Great if you want to raise Mountain Goats or Old World Monkeys. Not so great if you want an orchard.

The place I had had the highest hopes for turned out to be WAY TOO CLOSE to the road. The barn was WAY TOO CLOSE to the house, and the first 1 acre behind the house was a mud bath. Not a blade of grass in sight. Yes, you could landscape/hardscape the back, but you can't lift the house up and move it away from the road 200 feet--or at least not easily. Scratch that one.

Another serious disappointment was a well-known old estate on the ocean. 4 acres ALREADY SUBDIVIDED so you could easily sell of the subdivided part. An "old beautiful home". Well, guess again. The "old beautiful home" had oil heat, and some rooms weren't heated at all. Single-paned windows, a wrap-around deck that was falling apart, and the "walk-on" beach was more like what my husband called "stumble-on" beach. A foot deep of bowling ball sized rocks covered the "beach". That is after you descended down one of those mountain goat slopes. But long before I got to examine all these and other special one-of-a-kind features this 1.4 mill$ property had to offer, as we drove up, it was an instant NO for me when I saw that the old house sat 1 FOOT from the property line next to the subdivided portion. Plus I won't even mention that this estate was a bank foreclosure sale so it's a Cluster Fuck just to try to buy it in court. That was a real head shaker. Anyone who wants to buy that for 1.4 mill$ should give his head a shake.

We did finally make an offer that was accepted on a place just north of Comox. This is how I described it to some friends and relatives: "It's on 2 acres and is 5 minutes from the beach and a big park. It's just barely North of Comox, but the mailing address is Courtenay. That's about 2-2.5 hours drive North from Victoria.

We're not 100% sure that this is the place for ever and ever, but we are sure that we like it and it's a very good value. So we're buying it, moving in, updating the kitchen and bathrooms, all the while deciding over 6 months or a year if that's the forever place before we pour a King's Ransom into the backyard for landscaping/hardscaping/pool etc."

So now we're waiting for the home inspection. The septic field inspection has already turned up a couple of issues, so we're waiting to see how the seller wants to handle it. These things are never over until the fat lady sings. So that's what I was doing for a week. By the way, we really enjoyed where we stayed. We have a lot of requirements: dog friendly, a little kitchenette, some grass nearby for the dogs, roomy, so we found this little cottage for the week. It's actually a mobile home, but comfortably appointed, on the property of a B&B and across the street from the ocean. Perfect for us and I recommend it highly to others.

Vancouver Island is beautiful:

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