Buying overseas: The appeal of Canadian properties

Canada's oceanfront is perfect for anyone after a second home or the quiet life, finds Laura Latham
Click to follow

Nova Scotia seems further away than it really is. Not just in travelling time (it's less than six hours from the UK) but in respect of its vast areas of untouched forest and mountains, not to mention a wild and beautiful coastline. This is the landscape of the past, where there are no new-build high-rises, no nightclubs and no gridlocked traffic.

Instead, you'll find peaceful shorefront estates and tiny country cottages, tucked away in woodland towns. There are only a million people in roughly 65,000 square kilometres of wilderness. The only metropolis is Halifax and, even here, your options for living it up are limited.

But that's not why people come to Nova Scotia. The area is getting popular with those looking for second homes in a peaceful, more friendly kind of place, where time feels as though it has stood still. That includes property prices, which read like something from the UK ten years ago.

"For less than £50,000 you can get a nice holiday home with access to a lake, or possibly even direct waterfront," says Kilmeny Fane-Saunders of Second Home Nova Scotia. "It won't be luxurious but it will be comfy, a nice, recreational property. For £300,000 you'll easily afford an ocean-front estate with several acres."

Also on Fane-Saunders's books are several large and lovely colonial properties, dating back to the late 1700s and costing from £140,000 to £190,000, historic Victorian era townhouses costing under £200,000 and lots of small, pretty cottages in rural or village locations for well under £100,000.

Fane-Saunders claims that this area of Canada is attracting more British buyers than before. She says her clients tend to fall into two bands, empty-nesters seeking a second home for future retirement and couples with young children.

"People love the idea that you can really get back to nature," she explains. "It's peaceful and a safer environment for children. But it doesn't suit everyone. If your idea of a good time is Marbella, don't think about coming here."

This isn't to say the area doesn't have attractions, there are plenty of local theatre groups and orchestras, not to mention a high concentration of artists. However, the main pursuits here are walking, golf, sailing and looking out for seals and whales. In winter, you can ski at four resorts, including Wentworth and Martock – although they aren't as demanding as the Alps or Rockies.

But it's the low prices that are proving the main attraction to UK buyers. Where else can you find a country estate consisting of a couple of acres, with a nice house for around £100,000? Fane-Saunders says properties at this price range tend to be "typically Canadian, with a woodsy feel and often sold fully furnished".

As an example of the quality of what is available, Second Home Nova Scotia has a lovely four-bedroom house with pool in one of the most desirable locations, near the town of Anapolis Royal, selling for £120,000 and an equestrian estate with riding centre, large house and 40 acres of land for £280,000. Prices vary depending on location, with oceanfront being the most sought after.

"There's only so much prime oceanfront land available," says Fane-Saunders, "and prices are rising." She claims that land is proving popular, with plots measuring around one-and-a-half acres selling from £50,000 in cheaper areas along the shoreline east of Halifax, and up to around £125,000 for something on the more expensive southern stretch of coast. If you're prepared to travel up to two hours from the city, you can find large oceanfront plots for £72,000, on which to build a property that will cost an estimated £50 to £72 per square foot.

Private islands are also not uncommon here. Fane-Saunders has one on her books for £750,000, measuring 115 acres with a three-bedroom house. The smaller islands, a bit further from the airport, can cost from £300,000 or less.

Anyone looking to rent their summer home out could expect to get around £176 per week with big, sea-facing properties commanding as much as £4,000 per month in high season. Summers here are pleasantly warm, but cooler than other places in North America. Winters are not as fierce as people might expect, though deep snow is not uncommon.

Braving the cold is Jane McLoughlin from Yorkshire, who moved to Nova Scotia 15 years ago and now runs the Sword and Anchor B&B on beautiful Mahone Bay. "Life here is relaxed and very safe for the children," she says. "The schools are good, and so is the health system."

The best thing about the area, she adds, is the community spirit. "The people are so friendly and there is space to grow and room to live. Nova Scotia has all the values of yesteryear with all the benefits of today's technology."

Second Home Nova Scotia:; 020 7939 7923; Sword & Anchor guesthouse:

Buyers' guide

* British residents can buy without restrictions in Canada and can reside there on a tourist visa for up to three months. To be able to live there for longer periods, or permanently, you will need to apply for the relevant visa.

* Prices in Nova Scotia have been rising steadily at around 5 to 10 per cent per annum in the past few years.

* Expect to pay around £150-£200 per annum in taxes and local charges. These are worked out on the basis of the municipal budget and vary a little each year.