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Chronicle Four


Miranda and Jane, tired and fed-up from their unsuccessful three day marathon of house-hunting in Victoria, called their friend Jasmine from the Empress Hotel lobby. Jasmine had been the first of their group to leave Toronto and move to the West Coast. It had surprised all of them when Jasmine left; no one had realized how dissatisfied she had been with her life in Ontario. Even the fact of leaving a daughter and a grand-daughter behind hadn't deterred her.

"They're happy," said Jasmine. "Now it's my turn."

Jasmine had visited Vancouver in March, for a conference on telecommuting, and had caught the floatplane out of Coal Harbour for the twenty minute flight to Ganges, having decided, on the spur of the moment, to check out Salt Spring Island. The conference had finished on the Thursday, and Jasmine had made up her mind to take an extra two days, deciding to fly back to Toronto on the Sunday. She had seen Li Read's ad in the real estate section of the Vancouver Sun newspaper, three listings, without photos, but the last one had caught Jasmine's attention. '12 acre farm, character cottage, Salt Spring charm -- sheep can stay. See Li for successful solutions to YOUR real estate questions!' Jasmine had seen that ad on the Monday night she had arrived in Vancouver, and had thought about the cottage for the next three days of meetings. On the Thursday night, she had called Li's number, and had arranged with Li to be picked up at the floatplane dock in Ganges. Li had promised to find her a quiet B & B for her stay, and to show her three properties that might interest her.

"I'm tall, and I have grey hair," said Jasmine. "And I have to make a plane connection to Toronto on Sunday."

"I'm middle height, I wear glasses, and I'll be standing beside a bright blue Chevy Blazer, right next to the seaplane dock," replied Li. "We'll find each other, don't worry...this is Salt Spring!"

And it had been that easy, Jasmine had later reported to her fascinated audience back in Toronto. The realtor had shown her those three properties, and yes, she had bought one, making up her mind that very afternoon, and signing the contracts that evening. The offer had been accepted the next morning, with only one small counter-offer, and Jasmine had become the owner of 5 acres, with no sheep, and with a house, not a cottage. She would be moving in two months. Her group had stared in silent admiration.

Now it was October, and Miranda and Jane, frustrated at not finding what they had hoped to discover in Victoria, had decided to look up Jasmine on Salt Spring. The guide book in their hotel room at the Empress had included a section on the Gulf Islands; they were surprised to find their friend wasn't that far away from them.

Miranda was about to hang up, disappointed, with no answer after eight rings, and no answering machine cutting in either, when suddenly, there was Jasmine's familiar rasping voice, breathless, as if she'd been running. For a minute, Jasmine had trouble hearing who it was on the other end of the line.

"Miranda! Good heavens! Where are you? What?... Victoria? And Jane, too? You have to come to see me! You quit your jobs? You're moving out here? Oh, I see...well, Victoria is nice, you're right...oh, you haven't...well, why not call my realtor, Li, and ask her...she knows a lot about Victoria, too, so she might be able to give you some advice...we'll call her when you get here. If you hurry, and get out to the ferry terminal right away, you could just make the 1:10 sailing...I'll wait to have lunch with you. This is great! I can't wait to see you both!"

Miranda gave Jane a hug. "Jasmine says to come and stay with her. Everything will be fine, you'll see. We'll talk to that realtor who sold Jasmine her place...she knows Victoria, too, apparently."

Jane drove, Miranda directing her from the city map the hotel had given them; they just missed the ferry by five minutes. They could see the little ferry nosing out of the terminal harbour, pushing a wake towards Salt Spring.

"Well, that's it. Let's go phone Jasmine, and tell her not to wait lunch. The next ferry doesn't go until 3:00."

Miranda and Jane went to collect coffees and muffins from the terminal coffee shop, and walked down to the tangled rocks heaped into a breakwater at the ocean's lip. It was still warm enough to sit outside, even though it was mid-October, and they propped themselves against a giant boulder, with a view of the Vancouver bound superferries coming and going to their ferry slips, long lines of cars and trucks streaming off and on each sailing. Another small ferry, bound for the Outer Gulf Islands, left its slip, just before the Salt Spring ferry returned to its dock. The loudspeaker announced the arrival of their ferry, and they jogged back to their car in the Salt Spring line up. There were now three lines of cars waiting to get on the three o'clock sailing.

"There must be a lot of people who commute to Salt Spring from Victoria," offered Jane. "This isn't the tourist season, and look at all the cars."

"Didn't Jasmine write us that she had found a part-time contract job in Victoria with the university there?" reminded Miranda.

"Well, maybe we could do the same thing," said Jane. "We could commute to work in Victoria, too, just until we can support ourselves on a farm...maybe we don't have to look for a place on the outskirts of Victoria...maybe we'll find what we're looking for on Salt Spring, too."

"Maybe," agreed Miranda.

They stood out on the upper deck; there was no breeze, and the pale sun warmed them. They watched the forested shoreline of Salt Spring glide past, as the ferry plowed down its central channel in Fulford Harbour. Mount Maxwell, bulked against the sky at the Harbour's end, seemed to be calling them home.

"It's beautiful", breathed Jane. "I can see why Jasmine liked it."

"Don't fall in love too quickly," warned Miranda. "We haven't even docked yet!"

They drove off, the first car off, and there was Jasmine, standing at the side of the road just where they exited the tiny ferry terminal, peering intently at each car. They pulled off to a side road, and parked.

"Jasmine, Jasmine, here we are!"

They flung themselves into a triple hug, delighted to see each other again.

"Let's have tea here, at the cafe, before we do anything else," said Jasmine, happily. "I can't believe you're here! It's so good to see you both again. But," she said, leading them to the lopsided little coffee shop, squatting on stilts, leaning into the harbour, right beside the ferry terminal, "you have to tell me why on earth you quit your jobs, and what it is you're up to!" Miranda and Jane, smiling like conspirators, happily followed her.


Li Read arrived at the coffee shop in time to hear the tail end of the story. She took off her jacket and Australian hat, smiled at Jane and Miranda, and asked Jasmine how things were going. She had brought a map of the Island, some real estate information about current listings, and her own information package on the Island itself.

"So," began Li, interrupting herself to order coffee from the waitress who appeared at their table, "you're looking for acreage on the outskirts of Victoria, Jasmine says?"

"Well," replied Miranda, "we thought it would be easier to find jobs, and to commute to the outer areas of Victoria from downtown, but we couldn't find anything we liked that we could afford. It meant we'd have to log property, and create fields, and we don't want to farm exactly...."

"No," interjected Jane, "we want to grow waterlilies for the commercial market, so we have to have marshy ground to create ponds...we need lots of water."

"Well, that's a different idea," said Li, sipping at her cappucino. "That's the kind of thing I'd expect someone to be doing from Salt Spring! Would you consider commuting from here? The sea is just a highway you least, on the ferry, you can sit and read, or think, or talk to your're not driving an hour or more without a break...lots of people do just have to get that ferry schedule in your head and make sure you do your day around it...."

"Can we afford Salt Spring, though?" challenged Miranda. "We don't have the same resources as Jasmine."

"I don't know. Let's talk about that, and let's look at a couple of places, so you can see if there's an appeal for you. No obligation...we'll just look around, and if it's not for you, I'll refer you to a good realtor in Victoria, and you can see what you find there, on a second trip." They left their car at the side-road, and all of them piled into Li's 4 X 4. James, Li's dog, was in his space in the rear cargo area, and barked a quick hello.

The first property was too rocky; only one area would have been suitable for a water garden, and the cottage on the property was derelict, not charming. Miranda held Jane's hand tightly, encouraging her not to lose heart, to have faith that their decision to leave Ontario to pursue their dream together had not been a futile one.

The next property they viewed was exactly what they were looking for, but the price was more than they could afford. A huge pond had been developed, and seeded with looked as if it had been there forever. The cottage was huge, including a daylight entry lower level, taking advantage of the sloping nature of the building site chosen. A mini-forest of trees screened the small acreage from neighbours, and the property faced south, ensuring excellent sun exposure.

"This would be perfect, if we'd won the lottery," sighed Miranda.

"Don't despair," promised Li. "The reason I wanted you to see this one, is because I know it's what you see yourself moving into right away. It's my experience, though, that we have to create our vision...the important thing is to buy the right screen to paint our individual idea, the next one we're going to look at is exactly that, a blank has the privacy and the sun, and the right water potential, but you'll have to be the ones to turn it into what we just saw...finished products always cost the most, and if that's not where you are, then get the raw material and enjoy the process of shaping it."

Miranda and Jane stood on a rocky knoll, staring down at the area Li had pointed out as the future pond. The trees they would remove for their cottage site could be milled up on Island, and the lumber used for the building. It was private, quiet, and exactly what they wanted...and, they could afford to make an offer, and build the cottage, on the money they had brought with them from Ontario.

"This is it," said Miranda, looking at Jane. Jane nodded assent. She was already thinking about the lilies and the irises she could envision in the future pond. "How do we do it?"

"First," said Li, "we write up a subject contract, so that you can go to the financial institution of your choice, and check into the best financing options for you. I'm your real estate agent, working for you under Buyers Agency, and I'm a good negotiator. The next step is to present your offer, and to get the property for the price, or close to it, that you're able to pay, and are comfortable paying for it. We have to discuss things like the completion and possession dates that you're comfortable with, too. Also, you need to know that, in B.C., you, as the purchaser, are responsible for all conveyancing costs, plus must pay the provincial government property purchase tax. I'll give you the names of some local lawyers, and you can talk to them, to see who is giving the most competitive price for this conveyancing service. I'll meet you back at my office, next door to the Dairy Queen in Ganges Village, and you can read the contract of purchase and sale used in B.C. real estate transactions. We have one of the toughest real estate acts in North America, and this is great, as your interests as a purchaser are protected. I'll explain more about this when we meet at the office!"

Li dropped them back at their car at Fulford, waved goodbye, promising to meet with them in half an hour at her office, and went to give James a walk on the beach at Fulford, to stretch his legs.

"Too many milk bones, James!" she warned him, as he nosed his way among the seaweed and driftwood on the deserted beach. "You're getting pudgy!" She boosted him into the 4 x 4, and wound her way up the Fulford Valley towards the village. "Back to work, James!"


To be continued...

Do Jane and Miranda win a national prize for waterlilies? Does Jane raise llamas in the neighbour's leased field? Does Miranda get invited to talk about her book of experiences on a Vancouver television show?

YOUR ideas are Li with your suggestions!

Contact Li Read at Sea to Sky Premier Properties (Salt Spring), 4 - 105 Rainbow Road, Salt Spring Island, BC, V8K 2V5; Direct Tel: 1-250-537-7647