This is the first in a three-part series by local experts who want to help you find home sweet home. Whether you’re looking, building or buying old or new, here are some tips on how to find your home in the BoQ.
LAURA SMITH HERE, BoQ explorer, dreamer and lover of good real estate. Finding homes with great bones is my obsession. I spend more than my fair share of time poring through house listings and day-tripping through different BoQ communities, imagining myself in those settings, marveling about the exciting new lives we could live… Who doesn’t love a bit of ‘what if’? Daydreaming about interesting new spaces is how great adventures start!
It’s easy to get swept away in the romance of spaces and impressive staging, so what do you do? How do you stay focused so you find a home that truly checks all the boxes in this region? Here are a few tips I can share to help you recognize that the “not-so perfect at first glance” house might be your dream home in disguise.
Take a look at your needs for the next five years. It can be intimidating and over-whelming to hunt for a “forever home.” Take some of that pressure off and think instead about what your life looks like in a shorter-term burst. Keep your eye on the prize, and you’ll soon prioritize what your needs are right now and what may be only a charming distraction.
Love to entertain? Go for that open-concept kitchen or think about a walkable neighbourhood close to restaurants, theatres and nightlife like East End Belleville or West End Quinte West.
Working long hours and want to relax on the weekend? Unless mowing is where you find your Zen, strike acreage off the list and take advantage of nearby parks and greenspace this region has in abundance!
Have future dreams of a recreational property? The BoQ puts you right in the centre of amazing year-round outdoor recreation. Consider a home with a rentable in-law suite and begin saving for that goal even sooner!
Toying with the idea of a home-based business? There are some really unique office spaces to be found here, and an entrepreneurial supportive community like the BoQ is what you are looking for; road frontage, zoning flexibility and accessible main-floor space are additional key features to keep in mind for future success.
Look for good bones! You want to see that the original character and design of a house have remained intact. Think: ranch-style homes with large windows and gracious open plans to bring the outside in, or bungalows maximized for efficiency and easy access to those characteristic large porches.
Belleville and Quinte West are areas rich in history, and there are plenty of ornamented century homes with original wood doors, grand staircases and decorative trim waiting to be loved again. Sadly, many homes get re-muddled over the years, losing the very features that defined them. While any building can be ultimately restored, you’ll want to be sure to speak with a professional to find out if the materials you’ll need are accessible and the work required fits within your timeline and budget.
Older, rural properties may present foundation issues, septic surprises, faulty electrical components, lead pipes, rotting porches, leaky eaves, asbestos insulation/siding and my personal nemesis, oil paint covered with a peeling layer of latex. These are all fixable but require some measure of cost. Your lender will likely give you a very definite time frame in which to remedy these issues.
Find a tradesperson who shares your vision, and don’t be afraid to explore alternative options for sourcing materials. The Quinte Home Builders’ Association is a great resource for finding professionals. There are many outlets for supplies in the BoQ area, from traditional hardware stores, resellers of vintage-and-antique architectural salvage, not-for-profit sources that deal exclusively in donated new-and-repurposed materials and those very important independent manufacturing craftspeople when custom solutions are required… Who knew 1800s trim work wasn’t available off the shelf in a variety of shapes and lengths?!
It’s okay to be the worst house on the best street—it’s actually a good thing! A compromised location, however, no matter how amazing the house, is something to give serious pause and second thought before saying yes. Ask yourself if it’s romance or reality you are buying into. Spend a stretch in the area during a wide range of times to get the best idea of what you will be able to expect. I love booking an overnight stay to really get a feel for a place.
Park the car and walk those new streets, living how you imagine your routine will be. Are there any cafés close by? Somewhere to pick up late-night necessities? How far do you need to travel to get mail? Is your commute home from work a smooth one? Will there be a place to run, cycle or walk? Are you going to be happy with the selection at the local grocery store? Will there be young children in the neighbourhood, or is it a quieter senior community? Remember, it doesn’t have to check all the boxes; just think about your anticipated needs over the next five years.
Another good tip is to visit the local planning office. You’ll get invaluable information about possible community development, areas that will see significant investments/upgrades and planned zoning changes for the future. Sometimes it’s very advantageous to overlook perceived setbacks when you know substantial improvements have been planned for a region you hadn’t initially considered. Being prepared and informed will be one of your finest tools in making a great investment.
Last words of wisdom: once you move into your new home, give it some time to settle. Don’t be in a big rush to finish all the projects and have the perfect home. It’s so much more important to find balance, giving yourself time to become part of your new community. Get out and talk to local business owners, invite neighbours over to visit, join some local groups and be adventurous in exploring what makes the BoQ such an awesome place to call home.
I promise you’ll find friendly, welcoming receptions. Most of us were once new to the community ourselves, facing the very same challenges. The BoQ community is here to cheer you on toward grand success on your new adventure.
- Story by Laura Smith
Keep an eye out for parts two (Build It) and three (Buy It) in this series on finding a home in the BoQ.
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