New home in the country, new friends
My boyfriend and I have been planning to move to a rural area for the past 3 years. We were finishing renovating our home in the city, which we truly loved, and planning our next step. We often laughed that if we could pick up our home and place it on a lot, we would. Now, obviously you can do that but .. that wasn't going to happen and I certainly wouldn't 'move house' with one that was completely redone and updated.
Over 6 years we grew to love our neighbourhood and the neighbours. We were close to many shopping options, Ottawa's hospital hub, public transportation, multiple arteries to access the city and many parks. At the end of the day though .. we wanted more space for us and our dogs and desperately needed a garage for our motorcycles and for Ryan to be able to do construction projects, vehicle and bike tuning and welding/carpentry. Due to the location of the driveway and space between the property lines, it just wasn't possible without going really tall (which is wasted space for our needs) and that would of sacrificed most of the backyard. It just wasn't an option.
Now, full disclosure. I'm a realtor.ca junkie. Yup, I am. From the moment we bought our last home .. throughout the ownership and even now .. I'm constantly looking at property. I have the fortunate opportunity to work from home. I have chosen to come into Ottawa twice a week. I need to! I need to have human connections - even if some days I feel humanity sucks. Two days is a good option and they are not fixed in stone. If weather is bad, I do another day .. it's very flexible. With this option we though long and hard about WHERE we wanted to take this next adventure. Although there is never certainty, we made decisions with the idea that this is the last home. We are in our late thirties and early forties and we want to make decisions that will adapt to our lifestyle for the next 20-30 years.
We have some requirements. We needed a garage, preferably a detached workshop .. clearly! We wanted a bungalow, we wanted it to be small but useful space. A 2400 square foot space for a couple with dogs makes no sense and we had no interest in paying to maintain/clean it. We wanted privacy. In the city, although a quiet crescent, we still had neighbours on either and two others back to back with our yard. Privacy depends on the lot. I remember seeing a bunch of options throughout the Ottawa Valley that fit most of our needs and the lot size was very good BUT .. it was 50 ft from the road (some busier than others) and the lot was narrow but deep. So even though it was 2, 3, 4, 9 acres .... you still had neighbours 50 feet on either side of the home, or no mature trees, no visual barrier by a hedge etc .... We just knew it wasn't right. If we were going to commit to moving to the country .. we didn't want to compromise on that. We had a large area to consider. We wanted a 1hr commute each way (good weather) as a loose location limit. We looked south to Kemptville, moving clockwise to Smiths Fall, Carleton Place, Almonte, Arnprior and everything within.
Once our house sold, it was bittersweet but exciting and the search began. We made a shortlist of 20 properties and that weekend we spent 4-5 hours plotting a route and viewing each one, from the outside. We really knew what we wanted to space and location so we were confident we could cross off homes based on the drive by, and not actually viewing inside. We were also not interested in homes in extensive farming areas, like lots that have been cleared from previous farm fields that are flat with no mature trees. We wanted character, we wanted trees and wanted wildlife. At the end of that tour we had two properties to compare against each other and through talking it out .. we narrowed it down to the one. Called our agent and made appointment as soon as we could to view. Had the proper home inspections, septic and water tests. The size was perfect .. the lot was pretty perfect, the house is solid, the interior finishings are .. uhmm .. not what we were use to but .. FINE. We could move in right away and pick at renos by room .. bit by bit .. whenever, not a big deal.
The house is on a dead end road, off Cedar Hill Road in Pakenham. We are at the top of the hill before it slopes down to a couple of farms at the end. It's 5 acres and beautifully treed. There are only two things it didn't have - a garage .. I KNOW I KNOW. However everything else made it worth moving forward with. We already have a spot for the workshop and Ryan is building it next spring/summer. The other thing is because it's beautifully treed, there is no spot for potential solar panels. This is something we were able to construct the base and connect ourselves and tie into the house/shop. We had talked about it and thought about it as an option. However, unless we bought the field at the bottom of the hill from a farmer on Cedar Hill .. there is just nowhere to put them. We have tall trees surrounding the house so even on the rough - the efficiency would not be worth it.
We rushed to get the septic completed before the cold weather, we JUST made it. We also got a dog fence erected in time. Half the basement is finished but very truncated and we are going to take out all the walls and redo. In the interim, it is storing all our rubbermaid bins, motorcycle gear and boxes from the move. The other half is the furnace area and workshop and Ryan has organized all his tools and moved our bicycles and motorcycles in. Yes, motorcycles. You see, we don't have a garage .. remember? The basement has a very convenient walk out to the driveway on the side so we literally pushed our bikes into the basement for the winter.
We have already gutted the ensuite washroom in the master. It has a shower that was just so awkward and Ryan could barely fit. We gutted it the first week and shut the door. We decided to demo immediately but it's a project we will finish over the winter, after the holidays. As for the rest ... the flooring upstairs will be redone but .. we'll do that when we redo the kitchen next year. Simple repainting of the rooms, main bathroom upstairs will be redone next summer at some point. There's a mud room off the kitchen with laundry, which is great. It's got crazy red walls, which I love .. actually, but the vinyl flooring is awful. That's not a big project, fix the paint, redo the flooring, put in different cabinets and Ryan is doing to do a simple tile/mini foot/dog shower base for the pups. That way they can come in from backyard, open the mudroom door (making sure door to kitchen is shut!) and hose down their feet if needed. The plumbing is all there .. you just need to think about it, not a big job.
The outside of the house is VERY BLAND. We love the house regardless but she needs a facelift. Two/Three years away .. we will redo the siding. A mix of darker siding with stone and wood. A lot of this we can do ourselves with some family help. A new deck and adding a covered porch. The back deck is not well build and very shaky. We will be doing that project next summer, after the workshop is done. It's quite high with steep, uneven steps. We are going to make the level off the mudroom, smaller, with 6-8 steps down to another platform for chairs and relaxing. Then another set of steps doing down in two directions, one going straight into the dog area and the other into the yard. Fill needs to be backed up against the house, so packed in, right now the waterproof membrane is exposed.
There are fallen trees and wood that's been put aside over the years. The property can use some cleaning up. We will chip the branches and use the mulch to help make some walking paths into the bush. The bush is not as dense as I thought, you can actually walk around quite well. A bit of trimming here and there but not bad. Our dogs are city dogs, very independent and can't be offleash, we also foster dogs which is why we opted for a good yard for them. Even though we are on a gravel dead end road, I want to be able to walk them off the road without getting tangled.
We got a trail camera as a house warming gift from my mother-in-law. So far .. just deer but I love deer so that's ok!