House Hunter: Canada

'I want to enjoy the great outdoors'
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The Independent Online

The problem

FIONA MCCLINTOCK, OF EDINBURGH, WRITES:

My husband and I have been asked by good friends to join them in buying a holiday home in Canada. They have visited the country frequently, have friends there and love its feeling of space and freedom. They suggest we buy a new property in a resort; sometimes we'd use it together but more often there would just be one couple at a time. We may even rent it out when we're not over there.

We like the idea in principle but have reservations about the cost and duration of flights to Canada - we feel we might not use the property enough to make it worthwhile. There is also the purchase cost: between us we could afford perhaps £350,000. Can we get a good-sized property for that sum? My husband wonders whether we shouldn't try something less ambitious, such as a villa in Spain or Portugal - he reckons we'd get more for our money and could visit more often. What do you think?

The advice

GRAHAM NORWOOD REPLIES:

Journeys to Canada can be expensive (the airline website www.opodo.com quotes the cheapest flights from Edinburgh to Montreal as £375.40 return, even with one change in each direction and booked three months in advance). They can also take a long time - although Heathrow to Montreal direct is only 6.5 hours, Edinburgh to Montreal can take 13 hours with a change, without counting check-in time in the UK and any Canadian internal flight or road transfer if your holiday home is not near an international airport.

One high-profile large resort, Humber Valley, has set up a weekly charter-flight service direct from Gatwick to a regional airport on Canada's east coast, but these flights do not run year-round and help little in your case as you live in Scotland.

But the upside is that you do get a lot of property for your money in Canada - often much more than in Spain or Portugal.

A ranch with 100 acres in Manitoba - where more than a dozen British estate agents have recently set up shop to attract ex-pats - can cost you a startling £75,000, while winter sports resorts specialising in ski-boarding, snowmobiling and cross-country ski-ing have chalets starting at £60,000, albeit often with high service charges too. However, small flats in central areas of Toronto can be found for £120,000 upwards, all a far cry from comparable European prices.

This is because the international homes market in Canada is still young, and developers seeking to attract wealthy British and European buyers know they must offer good value to beat traditional locations. Most Canadian resorts, even those based on skiing and mountains, are year-round, with family-oriented attractions, and "owner satisfaction" appears genuinely high - many owners comment on the good build-quality of properties.

The housing market has just recorded 10.2 per cent annual price rises - a 16-year high according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

British estate agents dealing in overseas property are increasingly selling in Canada. Although you want a holiday home in a leisure area, there are many Canadian properties aimed at UK buy-to-let investors, ranging from flats in central Toronto to apartments at the Whistler ski resort.

the solution

Property one: Log home.

Price: Three bedrooms from £240,000.

Agent's details: Traditional log home at Côte Nord, a 60-home estate in the Laurentian mountains, 90 minutes north of Montreal. The development has a swimming pool, tennis courts and access to cross-country ski tracks. On nearby Lake Superior there is boating and fishing.

Agents: 020-7016 3748; www.savills.co.uk.

Property two: Three-bedroom chalet.

Price: £350,000.

Agent's details: Chalet on a one-acre plot in Humber Valley, a long-established Newfoundland resort where 55 per cent of buyers are from the UK. The resort includes facilities for golf, ski-ing, snow-mobiling, canoeing, fishing, swimming, sailing and kayaking. Planned expansion of the resort includes another golf course, a health and beauty spa and a marina.

Agent: 020-8605 9530; www.newfoundproperty.com.

Property three: Three-bedroom apartment.

Price: £297,923.

Agent's details: This two-level apartment has a large outdoor terrace and barbecue area in the Mont Tremblant resort, 90 minutes from Montreal airport. Located along a fairway of Le Geant golf course, and close to ski trails and a forest, this resort also has outdoor pools, spa and hot tubs.

Agent: 020-7590 1624; www.ernalowproperty.co.uk.

Fact file

The provinces of British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick have no restrictions on foreign ownership so long as you stay less than six months of each year in Canada. But each province has a different limit on the amount and type of land you can own, so check with your estate agent. If you are not buying a new property direct from a developer, you must register with a Canadian estate agent, and when you make an offer on the property of your choice it must be in writing, at which point it becomes legally binding.

New homes usually have Canada's 7.5 per cent Goods and Services Tax, and a Provincial Sales Tax of up to 10 per cent, built in to the asking price, but check this point to be safe. Costs of buying vary between provinces but in addition to the property price be prepared to pay up to £2,000 for legal fees, a survey and insurance costs, plus a one-off purchase tax of between 0.5 per cent and 2 per cent of the agreed purchase price.

You will also have to pay an annual local property tax of between 0.5 per cent and 2 per cent of your home's value. And there will be additional service charges for homes in resorts with communal facilities.

A website specialising in new-build homes in Canada is www.assignmentscanada.ca.

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