Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Next Stop: Almonte

The back of the house, viewed from the park.
In fall 2016, on our way back from a road-trip, Stephen and I decided to start looking for a rural property. We wanted waterfront. We wanted to build our own compact, energy-efficient home. And we wanted to be mortgage-free.

We managed to look at a few properties before the snow flew, but then our hunt was put on hold.
One of the first lots we looked at.
As spring rolled around, we started dreaming again. Our usual realtor confessed that she really wasn't an expert in waterfront properties, so she referred us to a "waterfront specialist."

Turns out, building your own property (on waterfront or not) can be hugely and unpredictably expensive. Drilling a well, for example, could cost $2,000 or could cost $20,000. And once they start bringing in gravel for your lane and foundation, they won't stop until it's done – and, again, there's no way to know up-front whether it'll be four truck-loads or forty.

Beautiful lot on the Rideau River.

Bottom line: we could end up with a mortgage even higher than the one we have now.

Kane wanted this lot on the Tay River, near Perth.

The new agent suggested that, for our budget, we consider looking for a fixer-upper. We aren't afraid of hard work, and we are able to envision a home's potential, so that's what we did.

But as we browsed the snow-front properties, the reality began to sink in: we would have to hop in the car if we wanted to go anywhere or do anything. Unless we had many acres of property, I would end up "walking in circles" to walk the dog. (I don't like walking along rural highways.)

We also realized that the waterfront fixer-uppers were so expensive that we would not have any cash to spare for improvements.

As we were looking at waterfront, we stumbled on a condominium in Almonte, a village on the (Canadian) Mississippi River. The condo is a converted wool mill on a small island, surrounded by waterfalls.

The MillFall condominium in Almonte.
There were several units for sale, but the only ones that had enough space for us (950 sq ft) were on higher floors with no direct access to the yard.

In the end, a condominium was not the best choice for us – especially for Stephen – but it introduced us to this truly charming town that is only 25 minutes west of Ottawa. The old part of Almonte reminded us of the charming parts of Kingston, Montreal, and Quebec City: streets at funny angles, limestone buildings, quaint cafes and shops.

Our new favourite pub: The Barley Mow
Photo by Saffron Blaze, Wikipedia

With that in mind, I browsed the town for anything in walking distance from vieil Almonte.

This house is a 12-minute walk from the Barley Mow pub.

This modest bungalow had us captivated. The pictures don't really do the property justice. It is on a hill backing onto a large (about 60 acres) park with a ravine and forest. The previous owners have already done all the not-fun stuff like roof, furnace, air conditioner, windows, siding. They had planned to be there for much longer than they ended up being.

After our long search, we'd found our home. Within days, we had an accepted offer with a closing date mere weeks away.

Stay tuned for updates on buying, selling, and renovating!

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