Escaping the City: What Does It Really Mean to Live in a Country Home?

Escaping the City: What Does It Really Mean to Live in a Country Home?

What does it really mean to live in a country home and outside of the city? 

If your reading this article you are likely considering what it would be like to live in the countryside, have already made the decision to do it, or are just dreaming of escaping the city and starting a new chapter of your life in the serene setting.

This can look very different from person to person.   

Some people envision a place with a small barn or workshop for hobbies, tinkering or housing their toys.  Others dream of having some animals or a big garden where they can be a little more self sufficient. We even have a few gentlemen clients that just like to smoke a cigar while riding around on their lawnmowers for a few hours on the weekend.

Then there are those that want a larger property where they can run more of an operation or business. Maybe in horses or some other livestock like cows or sheep.

We recently helped a family purchase a property where they did non of that and instead naturalized an entire section of their acreage. They planted over 2000 trees and have a trail system running through it simply for walking and enjoying their land.   

Outdoor space

There are many different reasons people desire a little more space and a lot more privacy. And a country property is exactly where you’ll find it.

Of course, it means more time outdoors, pretty scenery and quiet evenings.  But these are all examples of what people do with their properties, but there is a deeper question of what does it actually mean to them and their families. 

If you were to ask people what it truly means to them you will find its EXACTLY what YOU are searching for.


We all want some sort of connection.  Some people would hate to live in the country, they want the city, the buzz, the restaurants and all the action.  For them that is the connection they want.  Living in the country offers a deeper longing for a connection with the earth and the natural world.  This is a connection with the circadian rhythm, the seasons, the weather, the plants and animals that cohabitate with you on your property.  The chance to connect with family and friends in a more grounded environment.  This is that type of connection those living in the countryside have. 

Lower Stress Levels:

When you wake up in the morning, trade in the ever present hum of traffic, your neighbours car alarm going off, the garbage truck, the construction workers banging their hammers on the neighbours roof or the framing crew building the subdivision close by for stepping outside to hear the breeze in the trees, the symphony of birds chirping, or the gentle call of your animals as you head down for morning feeds. 

When you arrive home, you trade in awkward conversations with your neighbours for meadows and a scenery that changes with the seasons.

There is a lot of research that suggests being in nature has great positive psychological effects. A study done in 2018 showed that between 10 – 50 minutes of time spent in nature can reduce stress levels shown by a measurable reduction in cortisol – a stress producing hormone. Imagine what it can do when you live in a more natural space.

Outdoor space


When you eat a large fast food meal how do you feel?  Usually not very good, but you want to keep eating because your body isn’t getting what it needs.  How do you feel when you eat a healthy and wholesome meal?  Usually you feel satisfied!  You don’t need to over eat. You feel good because you gave your body what it needed and you feel content. 

Contentment is much easier to find when you are in an environment where you have more connection to nature, connection to family actives and lower levels of stress.  When your sitting on your porch or deck in the evening overlooking the nature on your property, hearing the crickets, the frogs, an owl or the song birds singing their final notes of the day, you can’t help but feel a sense of contentment.  The trees, the meadows, the pastures, the animals, don’t judge you for how much money you have, the clothes you wear or the car you drive. You accept things as they are and you feel accepted. This is contentment.


There is a lot of noise in the world, and no-one can avoid it completely. However, having your home be a reprieve from the urbanised world gives you a tremendous sense of peace.   

Peace in its definition means freedom from disturbance.   

There is an endless list of benefits from finding peace that range from the psychological, physiological, and spiritual.  A place to reflect, clear the mind, find your creativity, the list goes on and on. If you haven’t laid in a hammock between a couple of trees in the country side on a lazy afternoon, I highly recommend you try it, you will find peace there.

Peace comes when you find connection, lower stress levels, and are content with your life in the moment. 

This is what is really means to escape the city and live in the country.

House in the suburbs

If you have read this far then there must be a part of you that truly resonates with this vision.

The brokerage we are part of has a motto – live life on your terms. And we often talk about what that means for us, our clients and our families in our Monday morning team meetings.

On Monday we looked at the below chart. It is sobering chart and gets us every time.

It shows how much of your life you have already lived and what you have left … all laid out in plain black and white. If we didn’t know before, the chart definitely helps to show how short life can be and how precious our time is.

If you are thinking of doing something for yourself, like making an escape to the countryside, don’t wait. Start your search for your little slice of heaven and start enjoying where you live sooner rather than later.

House in the suburbs

If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend downloading our FREE Guide to Buying a Country Home in Ontario here!

Alberta guide coming soon!

House in the suburbs
Comparing Albert and Ontario Rural Home Prices

Comparing Albert and Ontario Rural Home Prices

ON vs AB Rural Home Prices.

Being licensed in two provinces has given us access to excellent information on the rural real estate market in both Alberta and Ontario.

The differences between sale prices, the number of sold listings and how long it takes to sell rural listings across both provinces has been an interesting comparison – especially in the current market climate.

Without looking at the data, most people would guess that their money would go quite a bit further out west… Well, at least in Alberta.

We broke down the average sale prices across various acreage ranges in both provinces to see how true this is.

Outdoor space

For rural type properties with .5 acres and more, Alberta came in at 5 months, and Ontario came in at about 7.3 months for the same property type. Indicating a relatively balanced market in Alberta but a much stronger buyers market in Ontario – at least for this property type.

Throughout this article it is important to remember that the rural real estate market should not be used as a representation of the entire real estate market.

For instance, OREA reported “months of inventory numbered 4.2 at the end of September 2023” in Ontario, while Alberta’s months of supply came in at 2.36 months for the same period. This paints a different picture when looking at all real estate types compared to just one sector of the real estate market. But our focus is rural so that is the information we are bringing to you!

Both Ontario and Calgary have some truly incredible rural living options.

For the sake of this article we are looking at rural properties within an hours radius of Toronto vs. Rural properties within an hours radius of Calgary.

The below data is take from the period of Jan 1 2023 – November 1st 2023.


Outdoor space


Outdoor space

None of the above data is particularly shocking.  While it would be a stretch to say Alberta is “cheap”, it certainly offers significant discounts on pricing when compared to Ontario across the board.

Looking at the above average sales prices, we see the highest number of sales in Ontario was in the 0.5 – 1.99 acre range, where as in Alberta it was in the 2 – 4.99 acre range. Interestingly,  Alberta also came in over $100,000 less for double the property size.

The largest price difference was noted on the large acreages though. At 100 acres and above. Large properties in Ontario are clearly very expensive in this acreage range by comparison, coming in at over DOUBLE that of Alberta.

The numbers above include properties that were both farmland and equestrian properties. This is an important note because it is not unusual for high end equestrian facilities to be situated on 50-100+ acres of land. These properties fetch a significant premium when they are sold and would be accounted for in the averages above.

Not only that, it is becoming more common for farmland in Ontario to sell as buildable land for subdivisions and suburban sprawl. If a piece of land within an hour radius of Toronto is developable you can bet it is going to sell for a substantial price.

Ontario had significantly more of both of these types of properties traded than Alberta did for our year-to-date data above. 

To get a better understanding of actual farm prices we looked at the 2022 FCC report – which specifically covers cultivated land, pastureland and irrigated land. Even still, we see that farmland is significantly more expensive in Ontario.

House in the suburbs

Farm Credit Canada’s Historic Values Report noted a 10% increase in Alberta’s farmland prices from 2021 to 2022. While Ontario farmland prices increased by almost double that at 19.4%. According to the same report, price per acre came in at $6,340 for Alberta in 2022. While price per acre was a whopping $17,513 in Ontario for the same year. These are Alberta and Ontario wide averages. Alberta has had a few drought years while the Ontario farmland over the last few years have produced very high yields and this would play a part in how the valuable the land is in one area compared to the other.

We all know there are a number of differences between the two provinces, many of which contribute to the difference in housing supply and prices that we see.

One huge factor is the difference in population.

House in the suburbs

Calgary, Okotoks, Airdrie and Cochrane have a combined population of approximately 1.78 Million people.  The Greater Golden Horseshoe has a population of 9.6 Million people. Simple supply and demand equation. Toronto is also the financial hub of the country.  With 9.6 Million people in and around the Greater Golden Horseshoe, you are likely going to have a greater number of higher net worth buyers with very deep pockets that can pay the premium for these property types.

Another is the difference of geography in the rural areas that are within an hour’s drive of these major cities.

The Greenbelt surrounds the city of Toronto.  Between the Greenbelt and the city there is a large chunk of suburban sprawl all the way around the lake as well, which fills in a lot of the land within an hours drive.  This in turn makes the rural properties closer to the city more expensive simply because of their proximity. Not only that, with Toronto being on Lake Ontario, the hour radius includes a large portion that is not habitable (that is, you can’t actually build on the lake). Whereas our 1 hour radius around Calgary primarily covers habitable land except for a small portion of the mountains and wilderness to the west in Provincial Park lands where your can’t build homes.

Whichever way you slice it, you get more bang for your buck in Alberta, no question about it. 

There may not be as many options to buy, but you also won’t be up against as many buyers when you find that perfect rural home.

If you are looking to buy out west – we hope you contact us first! We can take care of you here, and there, with a dedicated team and contacts already in place in both provinces.

Search Alberta Rural Homes for Sale HERE

Search Ontario Rural Homes & Equestrian Properties for Sale HERE.

Selling Your Rural Home in a Slow Market

Selling Your Rural Home in a Slow Market

Selling your rural home in a slow real estate market …

The never ending traffic delays on the QEW had me re-routing my trip to what I call the “scenic route” home.

Driving down White Church Rd E, and onto Silver Street I noticed the many “For Sale” signs along those roads. I’ve been frustrated enough by the traffic to take these roads many times and the number of FOR SALE signs was out of the ordinary.

I got home, opened my laptop curious to see how long some of these beautiful looking properties had been sitting for. The averages? 76 days, 112 days, 67 days…

It is no secret we are in a slow market… many are electing not to make any big purchases right now because of the state of the economy and sitting tight in their current homes instead.

The days of throwing your house up on the market in an “as is” state are gone (or should be). If you want to be competitive in selling your home, this is our advice.

1. Does your house stand out?

The hard reality is – your house probably isn’t as special as you might think. A hard thing for any sentimental home seller to hear.  We love our home too and think it is better than our neighbours but realistically if we were to sell, we would have to think… what does our house really have that is better than the next best alternative?

This might be more so the case in the suburbs but the difference between your 5 acre property and the 5 acre property down the road is starting to matter less to buyers unless the home offers something that they feel is valuable to them.

Unless your property offers something that stands out to the dwindling prospective buyer pool, it is likely going to take longer to sell. Heck, even if it does, it might still take a long time to sell.

What could that something special be? It could be an amazing view, a special backyard set-up-for-entertaining, a magazine worthy living area and kitchen, event worthy outbuildings and so on.

Outdoor space

2. Touch Ups, Repairs & Decluttering.

If your house does’t necessarily have anything unique to showcase, that’s ok. Your next best option is to have it looks its absolute best.

Our advise would be to keep the colours neutral. CLEAN the house – and I mean clean – baseboards, floors, ceiling fans, window sills.

Decluttering is a must as well – there’s no need to have excessive amounts of things lying around.

Minor repairs such as re-grouting your shower tiles, making sure all appliances are working, all lights bulbs are working, etc. goes a long way with tying everything together.

A well-maintained home not only looks more appealing but also gives buyers confidence that they won’t encounter any unexpected issues.

Outdoor space

3. How is your house priced?

Arrghh! You might think… Of course they bring up price. I can feel your eyes rolling at this point.

Competitively pricing your home is essential in these times… whether you like it or not.

There still seems to be a small passive aggressive battle going on between buyers and sellers. Buyers, realizing we are in a slow market feel they should be able to get a deal on the property they want to buy. Sellers feel their house is worth a great deal more than it might be currently.

Are you listing to sell or listing to test the market? Ask yourself this seriously.

Testing the market for a week is one thing but stubbornly sitting at a price when you get no offers is another.

Right now is not a great time to test the market. If you need to sell, price the house to sell.  Don’t grossly over price your home and leave it at that price for weeks on end.  Set a threshold of time and if you don’t get the interest you should then adjust the price to something that is more realistic.  You run the risk of having your property go stale if you are trying to “see how much you can get”, or “only selling for a certain price”.

Why would you test the market, only to have your property sit and cancel it later? It is public knowledge how long a house has been listed through House Sigma – it’s not just agents and their clients that can see you had your house sit at a certain price for months on end. Even when you cancel the listing, and re-list, which you will, some buyers see and take it as an opportunity to low ball you. Having a house sit for a long period says either something is wrong with the house, or the Seller is difficult to deal with. It make people reluctant to see it, it makes people think they can low ball you because you’re either desperate or it makes people not want to waste their time looking at your house.

Now is NOT the ideal time to test the market.

Sell if you need to, wait to list if you don’t.

Outdoor space

4. To do upgrades or not to do upgrades?

A question we have been asked a lot by home sellers recently is – should I do major upgrades to me house before listing?

Currently our recommendation is no.

Putting in a brand new kitchen for example *may* not bring in a significant amount more money in these times. Having said that, a house with a nicer kitchen will sell sooner and likely for a little more than a comparable with an outdated kitchen. But you may not be able to recoup your costs entirely in this market.

An in between might be to have the cabinets professionally repainted and a new counter top installed to refresh the look of a dated kitchen.

A question we have been asked a lot by home sellers recently is – should I do major upgrades to me house before listing?

Currently our recommendation is no.

Putting in a brand new kitchen for example *may* not bring in a significant amount more money in these times. Having said that, a house with a nicer kitchen will sell sooner and likely for a little more than a comparable with an outdated kitchen. But you may not be able to recoup your costs entirely in this market.

An in between might be to have the cabinets professionally repainted and a new counter top installed to refresh the look of a dated kitchen.

House in the suburbs

6. The bare minimum in marketing.

It should go without saying but professional photographs for your rural listing are a must. A non-negotiable.  Staging and re-staging is very helpful these days and can make a difference to how people see your home. There are a number of other marketing strategies to use but you can hire us if you want to benefit from those. 🙂

This too shall not last. Just like the buying rampage didn’t last, this slow market won’t last forever.  If history is shows us anything, there is likely to be a significant rebound in the next 24 months.  We are in the decade of volatility.

Sell if you need to sell, otherwise why not wait until the real estate market is in a better state? You may not be able to time the market but once buyer confidence increases and interest rate announcements become more predictable, you can feel more confident about listing.

Current Rural Home Market Conditions in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Current Rural Home Market Conditions in the Greater Golden Horseshoe

Current Rural Home Market Conditions in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

How bad is it really?

Most of us have been paying close attention to the current market conditions. Whether you are in the industry, actively in the market, or not, it is easy to see things have slowed down, especially when compared to this time last year. 

We’ve pulled some numbers to give everyone an idea of what is happening with rural real estate market prices. 

Fall is a time of year many expect there to be more activity in the market. If you’ve heard someone say “Oh… we are waiting for the fall market to list” – the last couple of months is the time they are referring to. 

But this year, we didn’t really have a “fall” market. Things have stayed quiet for the most part. 

Any hopes of November being a better month for sellers were dashed by the BOC’s October 26th announcement of the another increase in interest rates.  

Here are some basic statistics for you for AUGUST to OCTOBER 2022:

August - October Rural Home Average Sales Price

Average Sales Prices
We see about a 7% difference in sales prices this year compared to the same period from last year. Prices for rural properties have come down but not by a drastic amount. 

List to Sales Price Ratio
The list to sales price ratio evidently show that properties are no longer selling for over list and buyers are now able to purchase a property, on average, for under the asking price. 

Day on Market
Days on market indicate properties are taking longer to sell than they were in 2021. I think we can all agree we have become accustomed to quick list and sale cycles – with properties selling on offer date in a week, some even within a few hours of being listed. 

Months of Inventory
To give us some insight into the demand and supply balance, we like to look at months of inventory. This is the number of months it would take to sell the currently active listings if no other listings were to come up. A balanced real estate market would show around 6 months of inventory.  Right now we are seeing approximately 4.4 months of inventory in rural homes which is up from this time last year. This is unsurprising given that demand appears to be much less than it was in October of 2021. 

We also think it is important to look at what the stats are saying for properties still listed.

Here are the numbers for currently listed properties:

Currently listed statistics until October 31st

The current average list price is higher than what the predominate amount of listings are selling for. 

This doesn’t mean that if you have a property listed at $2M it is now worth $1.3M.

What the numbers indicate is that higher priced properties, on average, likely aren’t selling as often as those listed closer to or under, the $1.3M price point. The days on market also show that these higher priced properties are staying on market longer than those listed closer to the average. 

The DOM is a good indicator for sellers that this is what they may want to expect in terms of the time it is going to take to sell their home in the current climate. 

The Current to Original List Price Ratio gives us an idea of the difference between what, on average, properties are listed for and shows that these prices, at least over the last few months, have come down from the original list price.  

Right now, we’re in a strange economic time and it is being reflected quite strongly in our real estate market – rural and regular.

One of our favourite instagram accounts to follow for a good laugh is @TheBrokeAgent, and they said it perfectly:

Currently listed statistics until October 31st

All jokes aside, it could be too soon to tell – definitively – what type of market we have. We can see that based on the current numbers the sellers market we had in 2021 is not as strong this year. Purchasers are able to negotiate down in their offers and put necessary contingencies in. Prices have started to come down, properties are sitting on the market for longer and we aren’t seeing the chaos of competing offers that we had been seeing for the last 2+ years. 

Buyers are wary of rising interest rates and need time to adjust to the new rate while sellers with a prime property will likely wait for a better time to list.

We have heard from the BOC and our various mortgage brokers that we should expect another rate increase on December 7th. With a slow down in spending across the country, it is tough to say how long rates will stay at this level.

For more information on tackling today’s real estate market and how interest rates are impacting the rural home market, be sure to check out our article on Tackling Today’s Rural Real Estate Market and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and be one of the first to read our report on the 2022 RURAL REAL ESTATE MARKET. 

2022 Rural Home Report
Environmental Zoning On Your Rural Property

Environmental Zoning On Your Rural Property

If you’re buying a rural home there’s a good chance you have a serious appreciation for nature, green spaces and wildlife. You may also have an affinity for protecting those spaces.

It is not uncommon for rural homes to come with a section that is protected by environmental zoning. In fact, 95% of Ontario’s population lives in a watershed managed by a Conservation Authority.  Each environmental protection authority or protected area having its own requirements, restrictions and at times, prohibitions.

There are 31 Conservation Authorities operating in Southern Ontario. Conservation authorities that would govern over an Environmentally Protected (EP) or Environmental Conservation (EC) zoned area include examples such as the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Grand River Conservation Authority, Halton Conservation and the Kawartha Lakes Conservation Authority. As you might have guessed, each one has its own jurisdiction ensuring the protection of environmentally significant areas in their area. They do so through the conservation, restoration and responsible management of Ontario’s water, land and natural habitats through programs that balance human, environmental and economic needs.

At times, a property may have a registered conservation easement on the land. If one is registered on the property in question you would have to adhere to what has been stipulated in this easement. For instance, some conservation easements restrict the building of any type of building on the property. Properties with conservation easements aren’t as common as properties with simply environmental zoning or conservation protections, but it is always a good idea to check.

With that out of the way, here are some important points about owning a property with environmental or conservation zoning classifications.

There May Be Land Use Restrictions

These restrictions can include things like:

  • Farming – as a way to limit the amount of potentially hazardous runoff or chemical sprays that could damage the surrounding environment. Some EP zoning can even go so far as to limit all agricultural activities.
  • Tree cutting – except for maintenance or limited personal use. Commercial tree cutting in this type of zone is often prohibited.
  • Subdividing or Severing – this is often the case if the property is located in a significant area such as the Greenbelt, Niagara Escarpment Zone or Oak Ridges Moraine Zone.
  • Building – this can be of any type within the environmentally protected zone. More on this below.

We recently had a client inquire about a very picturesque property in West Lincoln. It did have an existing home on it, however, this home was run down and not considered liveable at the time. Before setting up a showing we did some digging into the zoning,

According to the town, because the property is entirely zoned with environmental protections, one cannot develop the property in any way. There is an existing house on the property that is considered legal-non conforming.  In order to alter this existing home, your would need planning approval to do so. If someone wanted to say demolish the existing house and build a new one, you would need to either request a minor variance or apply for re-zoning. Both of which can be expensive and don’t necessarily guarantee success.

Environmental Conservation (Light Grey) and Environmental Protection (Dark Grey).West Lincoln Environmental Zoning

There May Be Building Restrictions

Typically, a property with an existing dwelling in an EP zone can be altered with permission from the local municipality and (importantly) the local conservation authority. Alternatively, the EP zone may not cover the entire property and the parts that are not considered EP or EC can be built on while adhering to restrictions of the other zone classifications (commonly Rural, Residential, Agricultural, etc.).

Here is an example:

The below image shows properties that have environmental protections as portions are considered to be Provincially Protected Wetlands. The main blue shows the protected areas while the more transparent blue shows a 30-meter non-interference buffer. The rest of the image shows mixed zoning with the primary being A-Agricultural. According to the NPCA, one cannot build any type of structure in the blue zone or the 30-meter buffer zone.

It is especially important to do your due diligence on vacant land to ensure you can build your dream home on the property. If a vacant land property is entirely EP or EC and restricts the building of any kind, you would likely have to seek a zoning change. This can cost thousands of dollars and does not guarantee success. It is also strongly advised that your lawyer ensure there are no registered conservation easements on the property that prohibits building.

There Could Be An Impact on Property Value

naturalized yard

When you are starting out on your rural home search you should always be thinking about the perceived future value of the property to other buyers.

It might be surprising to think that sometimes conservation zoning can have a negative impact on the value of the property. This depends strictly on how much of the land is considered protected, how it is protected and how restrictive the zoning regulations are. As with the above two examples, buyers may shy away from these types of properties if they are unable to use the land to say build a small barn or have a few farm animals on the property. Even more would be reluctant of having to apply for rezoning.

This is especially true with vacant land. All other things being equal – a vacant property that is entirely protected by a conservation easement preventing any building, of any kind, just isn’t going to fetch nearly as much as a similar property that allows for a home to be built on it. 

On the other hand, an environmentally protected property can also add value to its owner or potential buyers. For instance, if the property has buildable land (or has an existing home on it) and space for other outbuildings, yet conservation has resulted in a beautiful forest growing at the back of the property, a clean stream running through it or wildlife protection, this would likely be perceived as valuable. This offers buyers land-use diversity while still providing the enjoyment of natural surroundings.

You May Need To Steward The Land

Caledon Farm

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Many of Ontario’s most significant conservation lands are privately owned. 

It is our belief that anyone owning a rural property should steward their land. By this we mean you should try to look after the property and pass it on better than you had it. Maintaining forests, green spaces and conserving wildlife are some examples of how to do this.

It is even more important (if not mandatory) that if you own a property that is under environmental protection you look after the land. This means you may need to control manure run off with correct storage, control and remove invasive plant species, plant native species, possibly tree felling, maintain open spaces, and more.

There Could Be Possible Tax Benefits

There may be tax benefits to owning an environmentally protected property. However, one needs to meet very specific requirements in order to qualify.

For example, if you own a large enough property with a forest, and meet certain eligibility requirements, you may qualify for the Managed Forest Tax Incentive Program (MFTIP). People who qualify for this program can only pay 25% of the municipal tax rate set for residential properties. This is a voluntary program where as a landowner you commit to being a steward of your own forest and as a reward for this you get a reduction in your property taxes.

You can read more about the Managed Forest Tax incentive Program here.

Another possibility is the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program. This program is a little more “exclusive” shall we say. In order to qualify your property or a portion of your property, you will need to meet certain conservation criteria and be accepted. Similar to the MFTIP, this is a voluntary program. However, one difference with this program is that areas are identified, and approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) only. Also, you cannot turn your property into a naturally significant area. 

You can read more about the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program here.


As a final but important note, make sure to check zoning with your local municipality. Do not rely on the listing information and do not take the listing agent’s word for it. This goes to both cooperating agents and you as the buyer. It doesn’t take much to contact the local municipality. They are usually happy to provide you with information and can provide clear maps, information and details about what can or cannot be done on a property. 

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.