When buying land in Nova Scotia, a title search is essential.

Paperwork, right? When what you want is a beautiful slice of Nova Scotia land, who wants to dig through dusty old deeds and legal documents? But as I’ll explain below, a title search is a MUST-DO activity for any prospective land buyer. Let’s dive into why it’s important, and how to get it done. 

What is a Title Search or Land Registry Search?

A title search involves looking up a real estate property to determine important information such as ownership, claims on the property, any rights of way or encumbrances, etc.

Why is a title search important?

A title search is essential because it verifies the identity of the seller, and makes the buyer aware of any claims or restrictions associated with the property. If you’ve ever purchased a home, you’ve done a title search – it would have been completed by your lawyers as part of the sale closing process.

 

When it comes to buying land, particularly with a private sale, you need to ensure a title search is completed. It can be done as part of the closing process, but I strongly recommend conducting a title search much earlier, basically before any money changes hands.

 

To point out just a few of the issues that can be spotted through a title search:

  • Owner fraud: A title search tells you exactly who owns the property you’re considering buying. Don’t take ownership on good faith simply because someone is claiming they own a property for sale – a title search gives you certainty from a trusted source.
  • Claims on the property: Just a few weeks ago I was contacted by someone who had made a large deposit on a land parcel through a private sale. There was no purchase and sale agreement in place, and the buyer hadn’t conducted a title search. When I looked up the property in question, it had an “interest” on it. There was an existing mortgage from one of the big 5 Canadian banks. The seller had a home nearby, and all three parcels of land they owned were included as collateral in the mortgage on their home. So what? Well, if the buyer had carried on with payments, while the seller neglected mortgage payments and fell into default, the bank could then legally take possession of all of the land parcels.
  • Rights of way and easements: Many rural land plots in Nova Scotia are accessible only through rights of way established in dated documents that can be tough to decipher. The ultimate question with a land parcel is, can I legally get in and out of it with a vehicle? A title search will reveal the terms of any rights of way that apply to the property.  

 

When should I do a title search or land registry search?

If you are serious about purchasing a property, it’s best to do the title search as early in the process as possible. Title search fees and services will be included in the closing costs that you would pay to a real estate lawyer, but that step typically takes place at the end of the sale process. Doing a title search early helps you spot any issues that might affect your decision to buy in the first place.

 

Do I need a lawyer to conduct a title search or land registry search?

No. You can do it yourself if you can Access Nova Scotia’s Property Online (POL) database. It’s an online search tool for finding land ownership and related information associated with a Nova Scotia property. Online access costs over $100 per month, so it’s not for everyone, but you can also buy access for a half day of searches for $6.59 (fees are listed here) by visiting a Nova Scotia land registry office

 

You may need a lawyer if the title search turns up items that are confusing or unclear. Rights of way can get particularly confusing when the only definition comes from a handwritten deed from decades ago. Fortunately though, most title searches I’ve engaged in generally show what you want to see – a clean and unrestricted title to the land. When that’s the case, the conditions for buying/selling are clear-cut, and your only restriction on the use of the land will be the local zoning bylaws.

 

What info do you need to conduct a title search?

You’ll typically need one of the following identifiers:

  • Property Identifier (PID#): this is a unique number for each parcel of land in Nova Scotia
  • Assessment Account (AAN): This is the account number associated with a parcel of land’s assessment value and property tax.
  • Owner Name
  • Civic Address: This is tricky with undeveloped land as there won’t be a typical civic address

What information is included in a property title search?

If your search in Property Online (the Nova Scotia land registry database) turns up a result, you’ll see an initial overview page for the property…

Nova Scotia property title search details

Here you’ll find standard information on the property:

  • PID#
  • Type: e.g. Standard Parcel
  • Status: e.g. Active
  • LR Status: NOT LAND REGISTRATION or LAND REGISTRATION. This field indicates if a property has been migrated in the Nova Scotia Land Registry system. For more detail, read our post on how to migrate land in Nova Scotia.

The owner…

  • Name
  • Address

The location…

  • Civic Address
  • County
  • Area: (size, e.g 100 acres)

Assessment value…

  • AAN: You can use the AAN to look up current and historical property taxes on the PVSC website.
  • Value: $(residential, resource). This represents the currently assessed value of the property. For more, read our post on property assessments in Nova Scotia.

From here you have a few options to see more details within Property Online. The “Details” link takes you to more specific information on the property.  You can also click to view a map of the property. While the mapping tool is not as useful as the tools from Viewpoint and RemaxNova, it is THE official record of the dimensions and layout of the property, so it’s worth a look.

 

Diving into the Property Online Details

There are a lot of fields on the Property Online details page – too many to list. Instead, I’ll emphasize the ones with the greatest potential impact for a buyer or a seller of Nova Scotia land.

 

Owner Name: This should match the person you’re intending to buy land from. If there’s a discrepancy, you want to make sure they are entitled to sell and transfer the property. 

 

Instrument Types:

Deed: There’s a section for instruments (documents) that will often have the most critical information. In it, you should find any deeds associated with the property. The most recent, and therefore most relevant, will be at the top of the list. You can click on the deed to read the details.

 

Viewing the most recent deed is essential. It will specify the boundaries and dimensions of the property as well as any conditions or easements associated with it. Now here’s the fun part – there’s no single template for deed documents. While they generally follow the same flow and format, there are differences. Older deed documents will be typed or even hand-written, sometimes in a writing style that is hard to decipher.

 

Registered Interests: If there is a registered interest on the property, it means that a third party (most often a creditor, like a bank) has a claim to ownership based on an agreement. Most often when a registered interest appears, it’s a mortgage lender. You can directly access the mortgage documents, which will let you see when the loan was established, the principal and the rate of interest, and any other conditions on the loan. What you can’t see unfortunately, is how much has been paid off and how much is outstanding. 

 

In order to sell a plot of land or a subdivided portion that has a mortgage-related interest on it, the seller needs to obtain permission (or a partial release) from the lender. This reduces the collateral for the lender.

 

Right of way: There are two places you’ll find right of way or easement information associated with a property. In some cases they are unique instruments (documents) that show on the details page. In other cases they are included in the property description within the deed itself. Rights of way are pretty critical for some properties. You don’t want to unknowingly purchase a landlocked property. Many right of way descriptions are vague. Nothing can stir up neighbourly disputes like unclear right of way details. If you’re unsure what rights that right of way includes, it’s best to consult with a Nova Scotia real estate lawyer. One quick example: I have a lakefront property with a deeded right of way through a neighbour’s property. Over the years, trees and brush have grown up over the right of way area. Can I just show up one day with a bulldozer and start tearing through my neighbour’s land? Better ask a lawyer first.   

 

Easements: Logging companies and utility operators have easements associated with many properties. This gives them the right to access the property based on the terms specified in the document.

 

Our list is not exhaustive. Sometimes you’ll find something more rare like a covenant, which lays out in specific terms how the land can be used by any future owner. The main point is to avoid surprises. Lastly, if you’re looking for detailed advice on buying land, check out our buyer’s guide called “how to buy land in Nova Scotia.”

If you’re involved in buying or selling land, or any real estate, a good real estate lawyer is essential. We’ve provided contact details for several below. A good first question to ask is, “how local does my real estate lawyer need to be?”. In my opinion, you’re better off with a good real estate lawyer hundreds of miles away from the property you’re buying than an average lawyer in the vicinity. Unlike a surveyor, your lawyer doesn’t need to walk the lot. You want someone sharp on property law with good diligence for reviewing and submitting documents, and who responds promptly to your questions. I use the same real estate lawyer for all my deals, even though he’s often at the other end of the province from the properties I’m purchasing.

A real estate lawyer can help you with many tasks, including subdividing land, land migration, purchase and sale agreements, interpreting zoning bylaws.

The days of going in to the law office to sign documents are over, as those things can be done virtually from anywhere. Still, sometimes it’s nice to meet professionals in person, so we will summarize our list of Nova Scotia real estate lawyers by region. Recognizing some real estate lawyers will come and go with different firms, in most cases we’ve listed the real estate law firm rather than an individual.

If you’re looking for surveyors, developers, realtors or other professionals, please visit our Nova Scotia Land Development Guide.

  1. Annapolis Valley real estate lawyers:
  2. Central Nova Scotia real estate lawyers:
  3. Eastern Shore real estate lawyers:

     

  4. Halifax real estate lawyers:
  5. Musquodoboit Valley real estate lawyers:

     

  6. North Shore real estate lawyers:
  7. South shore real estate lawyers:

 

So, you’ve got some land – now what? It will take some time but we plan on building a comprehensive resource covering all the aspects of taking raw, vacant land and turning it into your dream home, cabin, or even a rental property. 

Topics will include land clearing, septic, water and power, excavation, permits and surveys. So, lot’s more to come! To begin, let’s acknowledge the range of professional services that you may need as you develop your property. Those include:

Realtors: for the initial land purchase

Surveyors: for establishing boundaries, and any changes such as subdividing a lot into multiple parcels

Excavation: including clearing land and installing driveways and laneways

Well Services: Most rural areas rely on drilled wells for the water supply

Lawyers: Useful for buying and selling real estate, establishing sale agreements, etc.

Builders: For construction of new buildings

 

Cabot-Trail-Oceanfront

Property Migration: How to Migrate Land in Nova Scotia


“Is it migrated?”

It’s a question that will come up for any property purchase in Nova Scotia. In this post we’ll cover the basics of migrating land in Nova Scotia, as well as some important reasons why both buyers and sellers should care about whether a property is migrated. 

 

 

What is land migration?

Call me a cynic, but the root cause of the need for land migration in Nova Scotia is the price of going digital. Instead of funding the entire paper-to-digital conversion for all Nova Scotia properties, the government elected to have property sellers pay for the legal costs on a per-property basis before any property can be sold. It’s essentially the act of recording property information in the Nova Scotia land registry.

 

Is my property migrated? 

It’s easy to check. Enter the PID in a good real estate search site like Viewpoint.ca. Assuming you found the property, click on it for details. In the accordion menu on the details screen, you’ll see a row for “Land Registry”. Click on that sucker. Look in the center column, “MIGRATED” will show a Yes or a No. 

 

The provincial website also points out that you can determine if your land is migrated by contacting the Land Registration Office in your county. I’ll use the web, thanks.

 

I can’t find any stats on the total percentage of Nova Scotia properties that have been migrated. Many haven’t. Generally, the older the property and the longer it’s remained in the same hands, the less likely it has been migrated. 

 

Do I need to migrate a property to buy/sell?

Yes, very likely. Conversion is mandatory if: 

  • Ownership changes via a transfer of value
  • The lot is subdivided into three or more lots (unless lots are for family transfer)
  • You obtain a new mortgage or increase the principal on your existing mortgage.

 

Who pays for land migration?

The seller typically pays for land migration. In some private sale arrangements, costs may be shared or the buyer may agree to fund the migration cost. (Note: we have a sample Purchase and Sale Agreement for Vacant Land here) In a normal transaction however, the cost is covered by the seller.

 

What are the costs?

I’ve migrated multiple properties, and the cost is typically around $1,200 CAD. Most websites will quote a range from $800 – 2,000. Some properties may be more complex, but for the most part the process is quite simple. That amount should include the government’s $100 registration fee for converting a property. The lawyers pocket the rest.

 

How is land migrated?

You can explore the full details here, but to put it simply, you contact a Nova Scotia real estate lawyer and share the property details. They will look into the title of the property and any registered interests (mortgages, etc.). The lawyer will then submit registration paperwork (a document called an AFR) to the Land Registration Office. It includes sections for parcel information (address, PID), registered owner, Qualifications, Opinion & Certificate of Title, and Parcel Description Information. There’s a few checks and notifications that come next, but most of that happens between the lawyer and the Land Registration Office. 

 

Do I need a lawyer to migrate land?

Yes, I believe you do. I’m a big fan of DIY options, but I think only Nova Scotia-authorized lawyers can complete a property migration. Happy to be told otherwise! We’ve compiled a region-by-region list of Nova Scotia real estate lawyers.

 

How long does it take to migrate land?

About two weeks generally. But wait! Part of the lawyer’s title history search will comb through 40 years of property history. If you have any sort of hiccup in the process this is likely where it will emerge. I have one property that could not be migrated based on the dates of the wills associated with the property. It was lacking “a good root of title” according to the Real Estate Standards. In this case, the land was purchased at tax sale, which means I’m waiting six years from the original purchase of the land. As the Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia describes, “A lawyer may migrate a parcel using a tax deed as the root of title only if six years have passed since the tax deed was registered”. Four more years to go… 

 

What property migration issues should buyers be aware of?

Well, if you’re purchasing land that hasn’t been migrated, there’s a small chance that title issues may surface in the process. It’s rare, but as mentioned above, I’ve had it happen to me first-hand. It’s important to know if a property is migrated, but not as important as our list of Good Questions to Ask When Buying Land.

 

What property migration issues should sellers be aware of?

First of all, not all migrations are a slam-dunk. If you are arranging a private sale through an agreement, that agreement should stipulate what will happen in the event of migration issue. There’s also the cost – you should know if your property is migrated before you attempt to value it for sale, and factor the migration cost into your asking price so that you’re not taking a surprise hit on your profits.

 

When is the right time to migrate a property?

If you have no plans to sell a property, you can carry on with unmigrated as long as you like. However, if you plan on selling, it’s best to get it done beforehand. 

If you plan on subdividing your lot into multiple properties, you should migrate beforehand. That way you can migrate the full lot for one fee. If not done before your subdivision is approved, each subdivided parcel will need to be migrated separately. 

 

A few notes on my real estate law credentials…

I have none. As always, I’m sharing my information on land migration simply as a guy who’s been down a few roads and learned a thing or two. For any complex situation involving land migration, you’re best bet is a seasoned real estate lawyer to help you through. 

For more tips on how to buy land in Nova Scotia, visit our Buyer’s Guide: How to Buy Land in Nova Scotia.

We’ve previously written about how the Nova Scotia Non-Resident Deed Transfer Tax may impact foreigners hoping to buy land in Nova Scotia. But here we’re discussing a different type of legislation (the federal government’s Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act, which came into effect Jan 1, 2023). This Act is far more impactful on the ability of foreign residents to buy land in Nova Scotia. And for a change, there’s good news to share.

Today the CBC posted an article titled “Federal Government eases some restrictions on non-Canadians purchasing property.” The government is walking back restrictions that were passed into law earlier in 2023. 

Here’s some good news. People from outside Canada who have a work permit or are allowed to work here can now buy a home. Just make sure you have 183 days or more left on your permit and only buy one property.

What about buying vacant land? Yes, one of the included amendments repeals the existing provision so that foreign buyers are not prohibited from buying vacant land.  The zoning of the plot of land is important. Non-Canadians and foreign businesses can now purchase vacant land that is zoned as residential or mixed use. After purchase, the vacant land can be used for any purchase by the buyer, including development of residential properties. 

This is a welcome change as we are in the midst of a housing shortage crisis in Canada, particularly in areas like Nova Scotia that are seeing high levels of immigration. Allowing foreign residents to purchase vacant land in Nova Scotia, and develop into affordable housing, will help reduce market pressures and support Nova Scotia’s economic growth. 

If you’re ready to start your journey to buy land in Nova Scotia, we recommend starting with our Guide: How to Buy Land in Nova Scotia – it’s loaded with advice for first-time land buyers in NS and written specifically for someone shopping from a distance. In it, you’ll also find links to the various Nova Scotia land use bylaws and zoning maps, statistics on land sales in Nova Scotia, and so much more. 

 

Since launching BuyLandNS.ca, I’ve had several people reach out to me for help in the process of either buying or selling plots of land in Nova Scotia. Most of my advice is captured in the buyer’s guide to buying land in Nova Scotia, but I do get questions on things it doesn’t cover. Many times people are interested in the process of buying land through a private sale agreement between the two parties. There’s good reason for private sales:

  • The seller can usually save at minimum $3,000 in realtor commissions, savings they can choose to share with the buyer through a lower purchase price  
  • The buyer and seller might choose to arrange seller financing, where the buyer pays for the land in installments over time according to the terms of the purchase and sale agreement
  • Vacant land sales are often less complicated than commercial or residential buildings, requiring less of the professional support and advice that a realtor provides. 

I will say this: realtors can offer amazing value on land transactions. I’ve sold both privately and through realtors. Realtors can bring a lot of wisdom to the process, deal with a lot of inquiries from prospective buyers, and potentially get you top dollar for your land through the great reach of MLS listings which appear on sites like Viewpoint.ca and Remaxnova.

If you feel a private sale is right for you, there’s some things you should be prepared to do:

  1. Have a good Nova Scotia real estate lawyer available to review your documents and to complete the closing process. There are steps like deed transfer and title registration that you need a lawyer to help with. In my experience this costs about $600-800 for a typical parcel of land. Also, if your property needs to be migrated, you’ll need their help for that prior to sale – add another $1,200-$1,400 to your selling cost.
  2. Document your sales terms carefully in a Land Purchase & Sale Agreement. This is the most important document and you want to be sure it’s defensible if the deal goes awry. I worked with a good lawyer to create a purchase and sale agreement. On the next property I sold, I added additional terms based on things I’d learned. I’ve included a generic version of that Land Purchase & Sale Agreement below. It also includes a very simple payment schedule for seller financing.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am sharing this document as a sample only. I am not a lawyer – in fact, 10 out of 10 lawyers agree I am not a lawyer 🙂  This post and the sample purchase and sale agreement do not constitute legal advice, which only your  Nova Scotia real estate lawyer can give.

SAMPLE PURCHASE AND SALE AGREEMENT – VACANT LAND IN NOVA SCOTIA

THIS PURCHASE & SALE AGREEMENT dated the XXth day of (Month), (Year) 

BETWEEN

(SELLER’S NAME), of (CITY), in the Province of (PROVINCE) 

(hereinafter called the “Vendor”) 

– and – 

(BUYER’S NAME), of (CITY), in the Province of  (PROVINCE) 

(hereinafter called the “Purchaser”) 

WHEREAS the Vendor is the Owner in fee simple of certain real property known as ADDRESS – LOCATION, also known as PID (insert #) (hereinafter  called the “Property”); 

AND WHEREAS the Purchaser wishes to purchase the Property from the Vendor on the terms and  conditions contained herein (hereinafter called the “Agreement”). 

NOW THIS AGREEMENT WITNESSETH as follows: 

  1. The Vendor agrees to sell to the Purchaser and the Purchaser agrees to purchase from the Vendor  the Property for the sum of XXXX Thousand Dollars ($XXXX.00) of lawful money of  Canada (hereinafter called the “Purchase Price”): 

(a) The Purchaser agrees to pay the Purchase Price for the Property in three separate installments  directly to the Vendor as follows: 

  1. First payment: $XXXX.00 upon signing of this agreement by the Purchaser; 
  2. Second payment: $XXXX within thirty (30) days of the signing of this  agreement by the Purchaser; 

iii. Third and final payment: $XXXX.00 within ninety (90) days of the signing of  this agreement by the Purchaser; 

(b) In the event that the Purchaser fails to provide any of the above-mentioned payments on or  before the deadlines set out therein, the Purchaser shall incur a five percent (5%) interest  penalty on all late payments, calculated monthly. 

(c) In the event that the Purchaser fails to provide the minimum amount of $(FIRST PAYMENT AMOUNT) by  (DATE), (YEAR), then this agreement is null and void. 

(d) The payments made by the Purchaser shall be non-refundable at the absolute discretion of the  Vendor in the event that the Purchaser does not complete the Agreement. 

(e) The payments made by the Purchaser shall be made to the Vendor by method of electronic  transfer (e-transfer), bank draft or wire order to the Vendor. 

  1. Upon the signing of this Agreement and the first payment referred to in Clause 1(a)(i), the  Purchaser shall have the right to enter upon the property to inspect the Property for building or  logging. 
  2. The Purchaser shall have no right to conduct any operations, including logging or obtaining  building permits, on the Property until the Closing Date, unless approved in writing by the  Vendor.  
  3. This Agreement shall be completed on or before ninety (90) days of the signing of this agreement by  the Purchaser (hereinafter called the “Closing Date”), or any other date as agreed in writing between the parties in the event that the Purchaser fails to provide payments in accordance with 1(a) or 1(c). 
  4. The Vendor and the Purchaser agree that they are each responsible for their own separate legal  fees and disbursements. 
  5. The Vendor agrees to migrate the Title to the Property from the Registry System under the Registry  Act to the Land Registration System under the Land Registration Act prior to the Closing Date.  However, if any valid objection to title is made in writing to the Vendor, which the Vendor is  unable or unwilling to remove, and which the Purchaser will not waive, this Agreement shall be  null and void.  
  6. The Property is vacant land and is being purchased as is/where is with the Vendor making no warranties or representations to the Purchaser, except those referred to in this Agreement. 
  7. The Vendor is to furnish the Purchaser with the applicable PIDs for the Property, after receipt  whereof the Purchaser is allowed seven (7) days from the date thereof to investigate the title to the  Property, which they shall do at their own expense. If within that time any valid objection to title is  made in writing to the Vendor, which the Vendor shall be unable or unwilling to remove and which  the Purchaser will not waive, this Agreement shall be null and void. 
  8. The conveyance of the Property which is subject of this Agreement shall be by Warranty Deed,  drawn at the expense of the Vendor, to be delivered on payment of the purchase price on the Closing  Date. The Property is to be conveyed free from other encumbrances, except as to any easements,  registered restrictions or covenants that affect the Property and do not materially affect the enjoyment  of the Property. 
  9. All lands, buildings, fixtures and all other Property being purchased hereby, shall be and remain at  the risk of the Vendor. Pending completion of the sale, the Vendor will hold all insurance policies  and the proceeds thereof in trust for the parties as their interests may appear and in event of damage  to the said Property, the Purchaser may either have the proceeds of the insurance and complete the  purchase or may cancel the Agreement and have all monies theretofore paid returned without  interest. 
  10. Interest, rentals, taxes, rates on the premises and assessments are to be adjusted to the date of closing. The cost of municipal improvements, (including, but without limiting the generality of the phrase  “municipal improvements”, betterment charges and capital charges for utility or municipal services)  completed as of the date of this Agreement, are to be paid by the Vendor on or before the Closing  Date, unless otherwise stated. 
  11. Except as otherwise provided in this Agreement, if this transaction is subject to the Harmonized  Sales Tax imposed in the Province of Nova Scotia, and hereafter referred to as “HST”, then such HST shall be included in the Purchase Price and will be remitted in accordance with the applicable  legislation. If this transaction is not subject to HST, the Vendor agrees to provide, on or before  closing, to the Purchaser, a certificate in a form reasonably satisfactory to the Purchaser, certifying  that the transaction is not subject to HST. 
  12. Any tender of documents to be delivered or money payable hereunder may be made upon the Vendor  or the Purchaser or any party acting for them and money to be legal tender. 
  13. All warranties and representations contained in this Agreement shall survive the closing unless  otherwise stated in this Agreement. 
  14. Time shall in all respects be of the essence in the Agreement. In the event of a written Agreement of  extension, time shall continue to be of the essence. 
  15. This Agreement shall enure the benefit of and be binding upon the parties hereto, their respective  heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns. 
  16. This Agreement may be executed in counterparts, each of which when delivered will be deemed to  be an original and all of which together will constitute one and the same document and each party  will be entitled to rely on delivery by facsimile machine or by scanned email of an executed copy of  this Agreement as proof that the original has been executed by a party in the manner shown on the  faxed or emailed copy so as to create a valid and binding Agreement among the parties whose  execution is so evidenced as if such parties had delivered an originally executed Agreement in the  manner shown on the faxed or emailed copy. 
  17. This Agreement is to be read with all changes of gender or number required of the context. 

DATED at (CITY), in the Province of (PROVINCE) on the XXth day of (MONTH), (YEAR). 

SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED 

in the presence of: 

(SIGNATURE)

________________________________________ Witness to (Seller) SELLER’S NAME

DATED at _________________, in the Province of (PROVINCE) on the ____ day of (MONTH), (YEAR). 

SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED  in the presence of: _____________________ ___________________________________ Witness to (NAME) 

 

I hope you’ve found this information helpful. If you’re looking for more on buying plots of land for sale in Nova Scotia, check out our buyer’s guide

 

Nova Scotia Zoning Maps

One of the challenges of buying land in Nova Scotia is determining what the potential uses of that land may be. Each municipality maintains their own zoning maps and land use bylaws. Nova Scotia zoning codes, bylaws and maps are useful to pinpoint a particular plot of land and determine its what type of zone it is in. With that established, the land use bylaw contains the details on the permitted and restricted uses (e.g. agriculture, commercial, residential, etc.) of each particular zone. Sounds like fun, right?

Well, here’s some good news. In this post, we’ve created the first all-in-one reference for Nova Scotia zoning maps and land use bylaws. We THINK we’ve found them all, but if something is missing or inaccurate please let us know. Of course, zoning is important to consider when buying land, but so are 1,000 other things. Be sure to check out our guide to buying land in Nova Scotia

So, without further ado, here is our 2023 list of nova scotia zoning maps:

Cape Breton Zoning Map – CBRM zoning map

Cape Breton Land Zoning Map – CBRM zoning map: https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=34b5e62a2a7f4904bde0b56a9e27df05

Cape Breton Land Use Bylaw – CBRM land use bylaw: https://www.cbrm.ns.ca/municipal-planning.html

Halifax Zoning Map – HRM zoning map

Halifax Land Zoning Maps – HRM zoning map:  https://www.halifax.ca/about-halifax/regional-community-planning/community-plan-areas/halifax-plan-area

Halifax Mainland Land Use Bylaw – HRM land use bylaw: https://cdn.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/about-the-city/regional-community-planning/halifaxmainlandlanduseby-law-edition216-eff-22sep15-caserp16-16-toclinked_0.pdf

Queens County Zoning Map – Queens NS zoning map

Region of Queens Municipality land zoning maps and land use bylaws: https://www.regionofqueens.com/municipal-services/planning/land-use-planning

East Hants Zoning Map – East Hants ns zoning map

East Hants land zoning map: https://www.easthants.ca/government/municipal-departments/planning-development/interactive-east-hants/

East Hants land use Bylaw: https://www.easthants.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/LUB-2016-Part-1-Administration.pdf

West Hants Zoning Map – West Hants ns zoning map

West Hants land zoning map: https://www.westhants.ca/planning/planning-documents/3122-mps-map-1-generalized-future-land-use-map/file.html See additional documents here: https://www.westhants.ca/planning-documents.html

West Hants land use Bylaw: https://www.westhants.ca/by-laws-and-policies/by-laws/west-hants-by-laws/3471-wh-land-use-by-law-consolidated-november-18-2021/file.html

Annapolis County Zoning Map – Annapolis zoning map

Annapolis County land zoning map: https://annapoliscounty.ca/Documents/1EzFolderList/CommunityDev/MunicipalPlanningStrategyLandUseBy-law/AnnapolisCounty/Future%20Land%20Use%20Map.jpg

Annapolis County land use bylaw: https://annapoliscounty.ca/community-development/zoning-development-control/291-municipal-planning-strategies-land-use-bylaws

Antigonish County Zoning Map – Antigonish ns zoning map

Town of Antigonish land use zoning map: https://www.townofantigonish.ca/news/757-toa-zoning-map/file.html

Antigonish County land use zoning maps: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Antigonish County land use bylaws: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Colchester County Zoning Map – Colchester ns zoning map

Colchester County land zoning map: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/dashboards/510215b0a4384cbfaf901dac8b25347a

Colchester County land use bylaw: https://colchester.ca/3494-central-colchester-land-use-by-law-chapter-40/file

Cumberland County Zoning Map – Cumberland ns zoning map

Cumberland County land zoning map: https://www.plancumberland.ca/zoning-map

Cumberland County land use bylaw: https://www.plancumberland.ca/documents

Inverness Zoning Map – Inverness ns zoning map

Inverness County land zoning maps: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Inverness County land use bylaw: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Kings County Zoning Map – Kings County ns zoning map

County of Kings land zoning map: https://www.countyofkings.ca/upload/All_Uploads/services/maps/Master%20Map/CountyLUB_map.pdf

County of Kings land use bylaw: https://www.countyofkings.ca/residents/services/planning/lub.aspx

Pictou County Zoning Map – Pictou ns zoning map

Pictou County land zoning map: https://www.townofpictou.ca/planning/244-land-use-by-law-zoning-map-schedule-a-2/file

Pictou County land use bylaw: https://www.townofpictou.ca/planning-by-laws-and-documents

Richmond County Zoning Map – Richmond ns zoning map

Richmond County land zoning maps: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Richmond County land use bylaw: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Victoria County Zoning Map – Victoria ns zoning map

Victoria County land zoning maps: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Victoria County land use bylaw: http://www.edpc.ca/plan_docs.htm

Yarmouth Zoning Map – Yarmouth ns zoning map

Yarmouth municipality land use bylaw and zoning maps: https://www.district.yarmouth.ns.ca/index.php/municipal-operations/development-inspection/land-development-zoning

Zoning map and land use bylaw for the town of Yarmouth: https://www.townofyarmouth.ca/land-use-by-law-and-zoning-map2.html

Shelburne County Zoning Map – Shelburne ns zoning map

Shelburne County land zoning map (see page 27) and land use bylaw: https://www.municipalityofshelburne.ca/by-laws/377-municipal-planning-strategy-and-land-use-by-law-l-101/file.html

Lunenburg Zoning Map – Lunenburg ns zoning map

Lunenburg County land zoning map: https://www.modl.ca/zoningmap.html

Lunenburg County land use bylaw: https://www.modl.ca/zoning.html

Digby County Zoning Map – Digby ns zoning map

Digby County zoning map (see page 13) and land use bylaw: https://digbymun.ca/1078-regulation-of-wind-turbine-development-land-use-by-law-july-2018/file.html

Guysborough County Zoning Map – Guysborough ns zoning map

District of Guysborough land zoning map: https://modg.ca/sites/default/files/pdfs/Existing%20Land%20Use%20By-law%20Zoning%20Map.pdf

District of Guysborough land use bylaw: https://modg.ca/sites/default/files/pdfs/LAND%20USE%20BYLAW.pdf

In Conclusion…

We hope you found the Nova Scotia zoning code you were looking for. We’re continuing to create resources to help people with buying land in Nova Scotia. That includes publishing Nova Scotia vacant land statistics, legislative updates for foreign buyers of vacant land, good (and bad) questions to ask when buying land, and of course, land for sale in Nova Scotia. Are we missing something? Let us know!

 

(Note: this post deals with the provincial deed transfer tax affecting foreign buyers. View this post for information on the repeal of restrictions for foreign buyers purchasing vacant land in the Federal Prohibition on the Purchase of Residential Property by Non-Canadians Act)

 

Effective April 1, 2022 the Province of Nova Scotia introduced a non-residential deed transfer tax. It is described as a measure to make home ownership for Nova Scotians more accessible. The tax amounts to 5% and is paid as deed transfer tax when a property changes hands. 

 

So what about vacant land? Vacant land is subject to the 5% transfer tax if it is classified as “residential”. To my understanding, this includes all land except land classified as “resource” or “commercial”. Most individuals aren’t buying vacant land classified as commercial, however the “resource” classification is not uncommon. On forested lands, there can be a percentage split between “residential” and “resource”. 

 

There are some exceptions, for example if you plan to move to Nova Scotia within six months. You can see full details here. Unfortunately, most out-of-province buyers will be dinged with this new tax. To give an example of the difference, let’s take the average vacant land sale price from our recent post on Nova Scotia vacant land sales statistics: $72,250. There’s a deed transfer tax calculator on wowa.ca. So, on that $72,250 purchase, an out of province buyer is paying $4,696.25. A Nova Scotia resident, in contrast, would pay $1,083.75.

 

So congratulations to Premier Tim Houston –  you’ve chased off a whole class of buyers that were ready and eager to invest in Nova Scotia. Many of these buyers are also developers, with an interest in building on vacant land. Are they building luxury vacation homes so they can helicopter in on weekends, eat caviar and splash around in the pool? No, most that I know are looking to build… wait for it… affordable single-family homes. This new housing would then be sold on the market, providing a much-needed boost in the amount of homes available for local buyers. 

 

With this new tax, many developers will simply look elsewhere. Nova Scotia’s production rate of affordable housing will be limited to the slow pace provided by local economies. It’s a penny-wise-pound-foolish approach designed to win popularity points with voters who tend to perceive “outsiders” as the problem for whatever ails them. 

 

According to a CBC article, there are about 28,000 non-resident property owners in Nova Scotia. Of these, 42% hold vacant land. It’s not a large number for a province the size of Nova Scotia, and the vacant landholders in particular are not to blame for a shortage of affordable housing in Nova Scotia.

 

The legislation brought a lot of negative attention to the Nova Scotia government, leading them to pull back on another component: the non-resident property tax. And the distaste for the new taxes wasn’t limited to foreigners. As one Nova Scotian commented online: “Everyone except the xenophobic types saw this as the bad idea it was.”

 

I spent some time trying to find statistics on land for sale in Nova Scotia, average sale price etc. While it’s easy to find sales statistics on residential real estate, sales of vacant land are seldom reported. So thanks to some help from the Canadian Real Estate Association I was able to obtain some info. 

 

So what is land worth in Nova Scotia? Are average sale values increasing? This chart plots the trendline of average sale price and median sale price for vacant land sales in Nova Scotia from 2019 through to March 2022 (just one quarter of 2022 data, so take it with a grain of salt). During that time, the median sale price has increased from $43,000 to $72,250, a gain of 68%! Sure beats the performance of my stock portfolio. At the same time, the average sale price has risen 39%, from $67,011 to $93,240 during the same timespan.

 

Nova Scotia Vacant Land Sales – Average Sale Price 

Nova Scotia Land Sales - Average Sale Price 2022

 

I was also interested in statistics on the duration of land sales in Nova scotia. How long is the average duration between when land is listed for sale and actually sold? The average days on market for land has dropped dramatically in the last few years, from 265 days in 2020 to an average of 155 days. For this statistic, the median (which represents the “middle” value of the full range of values) is down to 76 days whereas it was 123 days in 2020.

 

Nova Scotia Vacant Land Sales – Days on Market

 

So, not only are Nova Scotia vacant land sales increasing significantly in value, the deals are moving faster.

 

I also wanted to explore the gap between list price and sold price. In a seller’s market, this gap narrows as more competition drives prices closer to the original asking price. As the following chart shows, this gap has been decreasing year-over-year. In 2019 the gap between Average List Price and Average Sold Price was $8,804. In 2020 it was $8,121. In 2021 it was $5,901. For the short portion of 2022 measured that gap is down to $4,607.

 

Nova Scotia Land Sales – List Price vs. Sold Price

Nova Scotia Vacant Land Sales - List Price vs. Sold Price

 

This suggests that buyers likely won’t be able to purchase vacant land in Nova Scotia at the same discount of List Price that we’ve seen in the past. 

 

The Bottom Line

No market is immune to change, and it’s yet to be seen what impact interest rate increases will have on sales of vacant land in Nova Scotia. I suspect these impacts will be felt more severely in the residential real estate market where a mortgage is the most common financing vehicle; many land plots are purchased in full through personal funds rather than a mortgage. 

 

Inflation and the rising cost of living may also put a damper on a hot market, leaving buyers with less disposable income to purchase a property they’ve been eyeing. All in all however, I think any sort of market slowdown will be muted when it comes to land buying in Nova Scotia. Unlike commodities such as stocks, bonds, etc, land holds value well with little volatility. Housing is still out-of-reach for many young people looking to own a home in places like Ontario, and the trend of increasing remote work options makes it likely that a high level of immigration to Nova Scotia will continue, and that will buoy the values of land sales.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on both the buying and selling side for Nova Scotia land sale transactions. I’ve asked 100 questions, and fielded as many from potential buyers. Asking questions is always a good thing, but this post is designed to help you ask smart questions that help you refine your judgement toward a purchase decision versus… questions that don’t. Those that fall in the latter category are typically ones you could easily answer yourself with information at hand. These, what I’ll call “bad questions”, not only waste valuable interaction time, they typically signal a lack of serious buying intent. There’s plenty of tire-kickers out there, but you can be sure that sellers will be less responsive when they sense this is the case. Instead, focus your and the buyer’s energy on questions that really help illuminate the value of the property in question. Use the various tools highlighted in our Guide to Buying Land in Nova Scotia to fill in the gaps, both before and after you engage with the buyer. 

Like our Buyer’s Guide, this guidance is intended primarily for someone at-a-distance (e.g. out-of-province) who may not be able to visit the property with a short drive. It’s also intended for buyers engaging directly with sellers; for those with a realtor, many of these questions will be useful ones for them to answer.

Good Questions to ask when buying land…

01

What’s the PID?

The PID should always be listed alongside a description of a property for sale. But sometimes it isn’t. This is the most single useful piece of information, particularly for looking the property up on a map. If a seller is hesitant about providing the PID, something’s not right. If they have a long story about how it’s multiple PIDs, or if the PID doesn’t match what they’re selling, be cautious.

Here’s a few examples. A seller once gave me a PID for a 50-acre property, but their listing was only 20 acres. I asked about this and was told that the buyer was in the process of severing the lot into multiple parcels (with multiple PIDs). Now, severing land is a process that involves municipal approvals subject to Nova Scotia zoning bylaws and not inconsequential costs, including property migration. A responsible seller would have this completed and closed out before listing a property for sale. Another seller sent me a picture of a gorgeous oceanfront lot with a well-groomed road through it. Once I got the PID, I realized he was selling the adjacent lot, with no road. Factoring in the cost of adding a new laneway changed my buying decision completely.  

02

What’s the Assessment #?

Most people will ask “how much are taxes?” It’s a good question, but you’ll get much better information by asking for the assessment number (or AANN). You can use this number to lookup the property on pvsc.ca where you’ll see a map, detail on any structures on the property, and assessment values for the last several years. 

This may seem like overkill when all you really want to know is what the annual tax bill will be, but there’s useful information here that can be overlooked. For example, a big drop in assessment value, say from $140,000 to $20,000, suggests to me that a residence or commercial building once existed on the property. Was it condemned, did it burn down, is it still standing? Doing a bit of digging once you have the assessment number can provide you with some great follow-up questions.

03

What’s the zoning?

You’ll rarely find any zoning information in online listings, but it can be quite important depending on your future plans. When you know the specific zoning of the property based on the local Muncipality’s land use bylaw, you can then go directly to the bylaw yourself and read the fine print. Most of these documents are readily available online and easy to access – though not fun to read!

04

How far is the nearest pole?

We’re talking about hydro lines here, but Nova Scotian’s use the term “power” rather than “hydro”. If you want electricity, it’s an important question to ask. Now, it’s not a matter of “yes” or “no” here – it’s simply a function of cost. Power is theoretically available to even the most remote areas, if someone is willing to pay to have a series of new poles installed to run the wires. 

According to NS Power, “Under normal circumstances, we supply — free of charge — up to 92 meters of pole and service line installation from an approved attachment point.” Beyond that distance I’ve been told anecdotally that you’re paying about $1,000 per pole. 

05

Tell me more about the road

There’s a few important things to assess here. 

  1. Is the road serviced year-round? Some “cottage country” areas don’t have snow-plow service in winter.
  2. Is it paved, gravel, etc. A rutted road can reduce the appeal and accessibility of your property and even cause damage to your vehicle. Flooding may also be an issue – a significant one when you find you can’t safely drive through the pooled water on the road.

06

What is the terrain like?

Viewing the property (by PID – see #1 above) should be your first step. Then, using a tool like Google Maps, you should look at the different layers of information, particularly the topographic view. This will show swampy areas, elevation, streams, etc. 

So once you’ve completed those steps, your questions here are around specifics. Ask about marshy areas, flooding, erosion, etc. based on your observations.

07

(for wooded areas) Has it been logged recently?

If timber value is important to you – or you just want a mature forest to call your own – ask specific questions about logging activity on the lot. 

Some lots will have a forest management plan available that’s been professionally prepared – a valuable document to review when one exists. There has been a big push for sustainable forestry practices in Nova Scotia. You can learn (a lot) more through the Woodlot Owners Association of Nova Scotia, and the resources they have on their site might prompt additional questions for you to ask. 

08

Where’s the nearest… ?

Nova Scotia can be quite remote, so here’s your opportunity to ask about proximity to the things that matter to you. 

09

Does the title have… ?

You want to ask about material items on the title that might affect your purchasing decision. Some examples include any rights of way or easements. This information is included in a typical title search by a lawyer, but it’s best to get the most relevant facts up-front rather than later in the buying process. 

It’s common for some form of easement to exist – don’t let it scare you off too easily. Just be sure you understand what it entails. 

10

What are the financing terms?

If you are considering seller financing, be up-front in asking about the downpayment, the repayment period, monthly payment amounts, interest rate, late-fee penalty, etc. Walk through each step in terms of obtaining and signing-off on a buyer agreement, from the initial down-payment to the final transfer of the deed.

You’ll also want to clearly understand any provisions about use of the land during the financing period – e.g. can you build on it with or without the owner’s permission? – in order to ensure that the terms suit your plans for the lot. 

11

Can I visit it on my own?

Most land sellers will be perfectly happy with you wandering in and taking a look on your own, but make sure first. Better yet, get it in writing so that you have written permission. Reason being, if you were to say.. fall down an abandoned well and injure yourself (please don’t!), a negligent seller might claim you were trespassing in the first place if it’s not in writing.

12

Are there natural water sources?

This one may not matter to most people, but a fresh spring is an asset that has material value, and is not often included in a property description. For off-grid enthusiasts this has the added appeal of microhydropower opportunities. 

With these questions, you can drill in on the most relevant information about the property you’re considering. You’ll show up as a knowledgeable prospect that should be answered promptly and taken seriously. My work is done here! Oh wait, that’s right I promised to include…

Bad questions to ask when buying land

-1

What’s the street address?

Before you ever ask this question, go back to #1 above – get the PID! Land parcels don’t have numbered street addresses like residential homes. PID is the best way to view them in a mapping application like Viewpoint or ReMaxNova. Some prospects will go to their default mapping application (Apple Maps or Google Maps) – these are much better used as a secondary source of information. For example, if I’m viewing a property in Viewpoint and see houses nearby, I might grab the street address of one and enter it into Google Maps so I can see the quality of nearby homes and take a Street View stroll as close as I can get to the land for sale. But it all starts with a PID!

-2

Can I build on it?

There’s legitimacy to the question of course, but … build what? An off-grid cabin? A casino? A coal mine? You’re much better off with the approach in #2 above – determine the zoning of the lot in question and then look up the permitted uses yourself. If you’re looking for a shortcut, that’s ok, just be specific. If your plan is to build a 4-season home, ask whether the zone allows for building a detached, single-family home.

-3

Is it on the water?

I’ve listed many things above that may or may not appear in an online land for sale listing, but there’s one thing I can assure you of: if it’s on the water, it will be mentioned in the listing. No one says “oh that’s right I forgot – it’s got 300 metres of white sand oceanfront.” Furthermore, back to #1, if you have the PID you can look it up and see for yourself.

-4

Is the price negotiable?

I love Canada, and Canadians, but sometimes we’re too polite! My view on it is, like residential real estate, everything is negotiable unless the listing specifically states the price is firm. So skip this formal parley and get to the good stuff – when you’re ready, make an offer. The worst that can happen is they say it’s too low. 

-5

Is the obvious, obvious?

Not everyone catches every detail from a listing, but try to avoid making the owner answer questions that are clearly specified in the listing itself. Again, we’re all pressed for time and sometimes you’re pursuing multiple properties so the details get confusing, but I’m talking about egregious inquiries here. I listed a property with a title like this: “6 Acres Lakefront Lake Ainslie – $99,000” and one person came back asking:

  • Is it waterfront?
  • How big is it?
  • How much?

I’ll stop here – hopefully the obvious is obvious 🙂

That covers both the good and the bad questions. Happy hunting! If you should need any help along the way, contact us and we’ll be happy to provide free (and hopefully useful) advice, or explore our comprehensive Buyer’s Guide: How to Buy Land in Nova Scotia. No bad questions, we promise! While you’re at it, check out our current listings of land for sale in Nova Scotia. There are new gems being added all the time.