experts: real estate column Wednesday, August 04, 1999

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR WHEN BUYING RECREATIONAL PROPERTY

By Ozzie Jurock

AMNE syndrome (after me no one else)

1. RURAL ZONING

Single-family is usually the only allowed. Duplex etc. not allowed. Ditto for in-law suites. Most rural zoning allow trailers but some do not, guest cottage usually allowed.

2. BOUNDARIES

Determining boundaries of subject property vital in pre-sale situation. Get surveyed plan "subdivision plan" or "strata plan" from Land Title Office Otherwise, consider hiring surveyor.

3. UNSURVEYED ROADS

In some areas, public roads haven't been surveyed or even formally dedicated. Highways Act says whenever public funds spent on roads crossing private property, serviced area becomes property of the Ministry of Highways. "Section 4" roads have no set width. If road to house or building site isn't on legal plan as public road and yet is being used by public as such, check with Highways Ministry to determine its status.

4. ACCESS

Many people think that when they buy a property and they travel on a gravel road the access is automatically to the paved road ... it ain't necessarily so. Many highway allowances in B.C. are 66 feet wide - private property usually begins ten or twenty feet from the shoulder of the road. You actually may need permission from the department of highways to cross to your own road, as John Ince points out in his book B.C. Guide to Buying Rural and Recreational Property. Check it out and if necessary make the deal subject to getting an access permit.

5. DRINKING WATER

If not on property, usually supplied by community water system. While reliable, such systems can be poorly maintained, can lead to chronic water-quality problems. Municipal or regional systems usually problem-free. Good service and value.

6. SEWAGE DISPOSAL

Of extreme importance. If using septic tanks or field, can't be within 100 feet of source of freshwater or well on your property or neighbour property. If your neighbour has a well near the property line and your property is less than 100 feet wide, you might be stuck. As well, regulations can require minimum setback from ocean and requires a minimum depth of four feet of non-impervious ground above the water table. Also Municipalities become a lot more paranoid about growth, so may not allow what they used to allow in past. Check it out.

7. NEIGHBORS

Community "cadastral plan" designates location of roads and public access to waterfront. In many areas, such roads exist only on paper. Check. Many unfriendly landowners post "Keep Out" signs on such unknown public access. Check it. Your property might have access rights of which you're unaware. Can enhance value of your land if you have legal access to nearby water.

8. CROWN LAND

Largest landowner in province, chances are good your property abuts Crown Land. Can be logged, mined etc. Check with Forest District Manager or regional office of Ministry of Environment to see what the future will bring. Look at B.C. Lands in package, call their offices, they may have YOUR dream property for sale.

In general, with the explosion in development many small communities have become increasingly upset with fast growth. There is also the AMNE syndrome (after me no one else) where people move into an area and then don't want you to come.

So check things out. Last year's downturn has create some great buying opportunities, where developers ran out of staying power (or patience power with a given municipality), where owners are tired of hanging on to properties that took a long time to sell.

But always go and walk the walk yourself. Quite often, we place into our newsletter what we think is a deal. Sometimes a subscriber comes back and says, boy was that ever a fantastic deal ... thanks a lot. Sometimes, hey it was a piece of swamp. Either way, nothing takes the place of your own due diligence.




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