A Five-Bedroom Estate on the Coast of Nova Scotia
$2 MILLION (2.75 MILLION CANADIAN DOLLARS)
This five-bedroom seaside mansion with Atlantic Ocean views is perched on a headland jutting into Mahone Bay in the village of Chester, on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, Canada.
Designed by the Toronto-based architect James Wright and built in 2000, the 5,850-square-foot home blends into a neighborhood of century-old Cape Cods with its classic gray siding, white trim, dormers and a cedar-shake roof. An octagonal wing with a walkway around it evokes a lighthouse, and the home’s round windows accentuate the nautical feel.
The property consists of two parcels: a 1.5-acre lot that includes the two-story house, and a separate 2,500-square-foot lot with 30 feet of shoreline and a 90-foot dock on Mahone Bay.
“The property is at the pinnacle of the peninsula, so it has commanding views over the harbor,” said Margaret Craig, an agent with Engel & Volkers Nova Scotia Halifax, which has the listing. The home’s dock marks the finish line of Chester’s annual sailing regatta, she said.
A gravel drive approaches the home’s main entrance, which opens to a light-filled foyer with a staircase. The foyer leads to a great room flanked by two wood-burning fireplaces — one of beach stone in the living area, and one with a wood mantel in the dining area. The great room has soaring beamed ceilings, pegged oak floors, paneled walls and built-in window seats with views of Mahone Bay. French doors open to a slate veranda. The furniture is not included in the asking price, but is negotiable, Ms. Craig said.
From the dining area, two hallways lead to a powder room and the kitchen, which has a vaulted ceiling, large island, glass cooktop, and French doors opening to the stone terrace. There is also a dining area with a large window seat built into a bow window. From the living area in the great room, a slate breezeway leads to a wing with two en suite bedrooms, including the master, which has a dressing room and connects to an octagonal sitting room with a fireplace and French doors to the terrace.
The staircase ascends to a second-floor landing with access to two en suite bedrooms, each opening to a large balcony overlooking Mahone Bay. The staircase descends to the home’s lower level, which has a home theater and recreation room with a fireplace and a bar with a granite top. A hallway leads to a full bathroom and an octagonal bedroom with doors opening to the lawn.
The property, which includes a terraced rock garden and is landscaped with rhododendrons, is a 10-minute walk from the heart of Chester, which is about 40 miles west of Nova Scotia’s capital, Halifax. Chester, with about 2,350 residents, offers shopping, restaurants, a marina, a theater and an 18-hole golf course, Ms. Craig said. The home is about 50 miles southwest of Halifax International Airport.
The South Shore of Nova Scotia, about 150 miles off the east coast of Maine, stretches from south of Halifax down to Shelburne, with white sandy beaches, colorful waterfront villages and picturesque lighthouses. The area has long been popular with foreign home buyers, particularly Americans.
However, the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted Canada to close its borders in March to all nonessential travel, has put a damper on that segment of the housing market, said Allan Mosher, a broker with the Lunenburg office of Keller Williams Select Realty. (Nova Scotia province had reported 1,067 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 63 deaths as of July 28, according to the government.)
“We don’t have our American clients, and that absolutely is affecting our real estate market,” Mr. Mosher said. “Not too many people will go online on FaceTime or Zoom or one of those sites and buy an $800,000 property.”
Other brokers said they are handling more sales of properties virtually, as buyers grow accustomed to digital listing tools. Ms. Craig said she has continued to get inquiries and offers from some Americans who are comfortable buying properties sight unseen.
“But it’s a big decision, and some buyers are pushing pause on their plans,” she said. “Most summers, we would see a number of buyers who are taking advantage of the opportunity to view some properties in person while they’re in Nova Scotia on summer vacation. We haven’t seen these buyers this summer.”
The data, however, doesn’t reflect the weak sales to Americans and other foreign buyers. Home sales to local buyers in Nova Scotia appear to be filling the void, along with sales to groups such as millennials moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia natives moving home for retirement, and Canadians moving from the west who can telecommute, Ms. Craig said.
“During Covid, there was an increase in the number of people searching for homes online, and not surprisingly, there was a trend toward more rural properties as people contemplated an exodus from dense cities,” she said.
Across Nova Scotia province, home sales in June totaled 1,428 units, an increase of 10.4 percent from June 2019, according to data from the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors. This June, the average price of homes sold was 286,227 Canadian dollars ($214,000), up 10.1 percent from June 2019.
On the South Shore of Nova Scotia, the residential average price in June was 214,121 Canadian dollars ($160,000), up 9.1 percent from June 2019, according to the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.
Most foreign home buyers seek properties with a waterfront location or a sea view, which can add tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to a property value, Ms. Craig said, adding that the broad spectrum of home prices on the South Shore is one of its attractions.
“There is a wide range of waterfront homes available on the South Shore, ranging from 350,000 Canadian dollars ($260,000) to 3.5 million Canadian dollars ($2.6 million) plus, depending on the size of the home, location, quality of frontage,” Ms. Craig said.
Who Buys in Nova Scotia
Americans have traditionally been the predominant foreign buyers on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, but in recent years a growing number have come from Germany and the United Kingdom, Mr. Mosher said.
Halifax, the provincial capital and home to several universities and a strong agricultural economy, typically sees many buyers from Asian countries, such as China, often the parents of children who are attending one of the city’s schools, said Moneesha Sinha, a real estate lawyer with Blois, Nickerson & Bryson LLP.
In recent decades, many Nova Scotian natives who moved to western Canada for economic reasons have returned to buy a retirement home, Ms. Craig said.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who can work from home move east because of the quality of life and affordable homes,” she said. “It will be interesting going forward if we’ll see more of this post-Covid as work from home becomes an option.”
There are no restrictions on real estate purchases by foreigners in Nova Scotia.
Foreign buyers must hire a local lawyer to handle the transaction, and currently because of the pandemic, document signings can be handled virtually, Ms. Sinha said. Legal fees are usually around 900 Canadian dollars ($670), she said.
Transactions are done in Canadian dollars. The seller usually pays the real estate agent commission, which is typically 4 to 5 percent.
Closing costs include a deed transfer tax, which is charged at 1.5 percent of the sale price in most municipalities, plus about 1,600 Canadian dollars ($1,200) in fees, which include recording fees and title insurance, Ms. Craig said.
Home inspections can range from 500 to 2,000 Canadian dollars ($375 to $1,500) plus tax, depending on the size of the property and other factors, she said.
Financing is available to foreign home buyers, though the terms may not be as favorable as those offered Canadian buyers, brokers said.
Languages and Currency
English, French; Canadian dollar (1 Canadian dollar = $0.75)
Taxes and Fees
Annual estimated taxes on this property are about 9,700 Canadian dollars ($7,200).
Margaret Craig, Engel & Volkers Nova Scotia Halifax, 902-233-0227, novascotia.evrealestate.com