– Home buying in Gatineau vs.
A 5,000-square-feet mansion was recently
offered for sale in a thickly wooded
neighbourhood of large, modern homes
a 15-minute drive from Parliament
In Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa's priciest
neighbourhood, the asking price might
have been $2 million or even $3 million.
But this house, just across the Ottawa
River in a semi-rural area of the
Quebec suburb of Aylmer, was on the
market for $975,000.
The neighbourhood is "a hidden
pearl," according to real estate
agent Philip LeMay, who was seeking
a buyer for the property and who specializes
in high-end West Quebec properties.
The four-year-old house is at 113
rue des Montagnais, close to several
golf courses and about five minutes
by car from the Champlain Bridge to
Much of the ground floor consists
of an open area with a cathedral ceiling.
The area is flooded with light from
windows on three sides, including
some that stretch from floor to ceiling.
It contains an area for formal dining,
a large living area, and an equally
large kitchen fitted with very expensive
appliances, including a $14,000 stove.
The staircase leads to a balcony
overlooking the living area. Upstairs,
the most spectacular feature is the
master bedroom-suite, which extends
across most of the front of the house
and includes a huge bathroom with
oversized tub and a shower that comfortably
has room for two.
The house has seven or eight bedrooms,
if you count the nanny suite over
the garage with separate entrance,
and the large finished basement that
has served as rec room and play area
for the sellers' three grandchildren.
The house shows stunningly well,
as I found when given a tour by owner
Glynn House Murray. She is a designer,
originally from Texas, who gave the
home an extensive makeover after purchasing
it with her Canadian husband, Robert
Murray, a wholesale supplier of office
equipment. The couple plans to move
to Hudson, Que.
Mrs. Murray estimates she spent close
to $300,000 in the past year or two
enhancing the home's interior, which
she decorated in what she called "traditional
style." The style of the kitchen
is "Versailles," she said,
with cabinets made to look as if they
came from the palace of French kings
Expensive plaster mouldings, added
by Mrs. Murray, give extra elegance
to many of the rooms. The house has
a heavy double front door, of cedar
and glass. The three-car garage has
matching cedar doors.
It's difficult to compare real estate
prices on the two sides of the Ottawa
River, because there are so many variables.
But Mr. LeMay says he believes "you
get between 25 and 30 per cent more
house for your money" if you
buy on the Quebec side of the Ottawa
One of the difficulties of any such
comparison, he points out, is that
it may not be possible to find anything
in Ottawa that compares with the Aylmer
The Aylmer house is just a few minutes'
drive from downtown Ottawa, he says.
But on the Ottawa side of the river,
most semi-rural areas of such large
homes are at least twice as far from
the heart of the city.
Rockcliffe Park, of course, is a
special case. It is even closer to
Parliament Hill than the $975,000
Aylmer house. Marilyn Wilson, the
real estate agent who handles the
sale of many expensive homes in Rockcliffe,
has estimated that buyers may have
to pay three times as much for a home
in Rockcliffe as they would in other
parts of the capital region.
Higher income taxes in Quebec deter
some Ottawans from relocating there.
But Mr. LeMay argues that higher Quebec
taxes are far outweighed by savings
in house prices. He would seem to
have a point, if he is correct in
saying that a home costing, say, $750,000
in West Quebec might cost $1 million
Tax differences between Ontario and
Quebec also depend on individual circumstances.
And it's not just differences in income
tax rates. There are also factors
such as health insurance costs and
child benefits that vary between the
The extra income tax burden imposed
by the Quebec government depends on
one's level of taxable income. The
biggest difference between the two
provinces in marginal tax rates is
on taxable income between about $60,000
People with a principal residence
in Quebec pay 42.37 per cent tax,
federal and provincial combined, on
taxable income in that range. In Ontario,
the rate is 32.98 per cent on any
taxable income between $61,206 and
There is little difference in property
taxes between Ottawa and Gatineau
– that is, on homes assessed
at about the same value. Of course,
if you can find a lower-priced home
in Quebec than you could in Ontario,
you would pay less in property tax,
since this tax is tied to a home's
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