Why does Zoning matter?
A Zoning By-law sets out uses that are permitted on a property, as well as rules for the size, type and location of buildings.
On a Listing you will see the zoning indicated, usually as Res, SLR, RR something similar. What does this really mean? Res may be residential, SLR may be shoreline residential, or services limited residential, RR may be rural residential or rural recreational. It all depends on the municipality’s Zoning By-law, and each municipality is different.
The Zoning provided in property listings is not always accurate. The only way to know for sure, is to check with the Municipality. If you are going to continue using the property exactly the way you purchased it, it may not matter. If a use or building “legally” existed before the Zoning By-law was adopted, it can generally continue until you want to make a change.
But, if you plan to construct something new like a garage, enlarge a deck, close in a deck to make a sunroom, operate a home based business, or put an apartment in the basement, you will want to make sure the Zoning By-law allows these changes.
Imagine buying a property to find out that what you want to do in the future, can’t be done. Wouldn’t it be better to know the potential for a property before you purchase it? With my planning experience, I can help you get answers to your questions about your future plans.
Who owns the Shore Road Allowance?
A shore road allowance is typically a 66’ reserve along the shore of a lake. Some shore road allowances are owned by the property owner, but many are still owned by the municipality It is important to know the status of the Shore Road Allowance for the waterfront property that you are buying or selling.
If the Municipality owns the shore road Allowance in front of your property, your dock, boathouse and gazebo may be located on property that you don’t own. You may be asked to remove them or buy or lease the land from the municipality. Some municipalities do not permit you to construct or place of any structures on the Shore Road Allowance unless you own the shore road allowance.
Some municipalities will sell the Shore Road Allowance to you, the abutting property owner. It is often a time consuming and expensive process with the property owner paying for legal and surveying costs in addition to the purchase price of the land. Some Shore Road Allowances cannot be purchased because they are designated for Environmental Protection or Trails.
Isn’t it better to know for sure? I can help you get the answers you need to make an informed real estate decision.
What do you know about the Septic System?
The Listing says that the property has a septic system. Is it an “approved” system? Where is it located? How big is it? What type? Why does it matter?
An “approved” septic system is one that the owner applied to the appropriate authorities (for example Municipality, Health Unit, or Conservation Authority). The system was installed by a qualified septic system installer in accordance with the Ontario Building Code and inspected by the septic inspector of the approval authority. There is an application form, location sketch, size calculations based on the square footage of the dwelling, number of bathrooms, and bedrooms on the property, type of system, and when it was installed.
Septic System records are available from the approval authorities for a fee and are well worth obtaining.
Sometimes you will see that the permit was approved for an 850 square foot 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. But the house that you are buying or selling is 2000 square feet, 4 bedroom 2 bathroom and a guest cabin. Be cautious! The original system may not have been upgraded to take the excess sewage. Or, maybe you have plans to add a master suite, or build a guest cabin. This may require you to upgrade the septic system.
Gathering as much information as you can about the septic system is essential to make an informed real estate decision. Installing a new septic system and upgrading an existing septic system can cost thousands of dollars.
If the septic system is working properly, is approved and adequate, great. If not, then you may need consider cost of a new or upgraded system.
What else is in the neighbourhood?
You have driven by, attended an open house, visited with your Realtor and home inspector and it’s perfect! But, how much do you know about the neighbourhood?
Have you looked at the imagery or a topo map of the property? What about the zoning of the property and neighbouring properties?
Taking a look at the imagery and topo map will give you a bird’s eye view of the property and surrounding areas. You will see things on the imagery and topo maps that you may not see from the ground, especially if there are a lot of trees. You may wish to know if the property is close to parks or conservation areas, roads, or rail lines.
A review of the Zoning By-law will show the permitted use on the property and surrounding properties. This will alert you to commercial and industrial uses which may be noisy or generate a lot of traffic. The Zoning By-law may also show parks, hiking trails, ATV and Snowmobile Trails that may add to the enjoyment of your property.
What kind of road is it?
A municipal year-round road is owned and maintained by the municipality year-round. There may be a hierarchy of service, especially for winter maintenance, so if you plan to live year round and need to get to work early, you may wish to check with the municipality about their winter maintenance schedule. Generally they give high priority to highways, downtown streets, main routes, then rural roads.
A municipal seasonal road is owned by the municipality but is likely only maintained 3 seasons which means it is not plowed in the winter. If you want to use the cottage in the winter, you may have to snowshoe in. In some cases the municipality may permit the residents to pay for private plowing services, but on the other hand hey may not permit any opening of the road in the winter because of liability.
A Private road is privately owned and maintained, by one or more property owners who use the road. Residents on private roads may have an agreement in writing or informal arrangement such as a hand-shake deal with each other for the maintenance of the road. You may pay pay a yearly fee, or contribute to the maintenance on an as required basis. Some residents choose not to contribute which puts the burden on the others.
A property may have a right-of-way registered on title which gives owners a legal right to cross each other’s properties, or an informal arrangement where a neighbour accesses their property through your property. Often this situation
occurs when a family member or close friends owned the properties and it wasn’t a big deal. When one of the lots sell, there may be no guarantee that the arrangement can continue.
If you don’t want any surprises, you should find out as much as you can about the road before your make an offer on a property.
Where are the lot lines?
The best case scenario is when the iron survey bars are marked and the lot lines are flagged or blazed. But, this is rarely the case.
Retaining an Ontario Land Surveyor is the most reliable way to know where the lot lines are. But, before incurring that expense, there are a lot of things you can do to get a good idea of where the property lines are.
If you have a survey, the survey bars will be shown on the survey, along with the lot lines and distances between the survey bars. The challenge is finding where the survey bars are on the ground. They are often not visible having been covered over by soil, grass or a fence. A metal detector can work well.
Historically fences and hedges run very close to the lot lines. Hydro poles are generally located along the lot lines. Town water and sewer valves are often located at the property line. Sometimes if you ask a neighbour their will know where their lot lines are and you can measure over from there.
If you are a homeowner, it is a really good idea to know where the survey pegs are for your property. Every couple of years it is a good idea to paint them, put a wooden stake close to them, or mark them with flagging tape.
It is important to know where the lot lines are, especially if you are building a shed, fence or extension to a deck. You don’t want to be in a situation where your building is on your neighbour’s property.