Twenty years ago, Anne Schmidt thought the 50 acres of land she lived on wasn’t good for much. Her scrubby plot mainly served as a buffer between her quaint farmhouse and the rapidly-growing suburbs of nearby Barrie, Ont. Zoned for rural development, she and her then-husband knew the plot wasn’t even good farmland. But there was enough room for their two Ford pick-up trucks and plenty of time to consider how one day they might make the most of it by building their dream home.
So you can’t blame Anne for being caught off-guard when a housing developer came knocking 15 years ago offering her an astounding $600,000 for 40 acres of her land. Almost as suddenly as he appeared, the deal fell through. But Anne realized that her land wasn’t good for nothing after all: Barrie had become one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities and it was only a matter of time before the developers came knocking again. The only barrier? That her land wasn’t zoned for housing development.
Today, in her mid-50s, Anne has almost completed the long, complicated task of rezoning and selling off 40 acres of her land. She didn’t expect that it would take more than a decade to accomplish, but she has no regrets. After all, she’s right on the verge of every land investor’s dream payoff. When she completes the sale in a couple of years she expects to clear more than $3 million before costs.
For many people, land is the ultimate investment. As the saying goes, they’re not making any more of it. Even before the last spike was driven home in Canada’s transcontinental railroad in 1885, savvy speculators were trying to hit paydirt by purchasing cheap land with lots of potential, then selling it for a tidy profit when demand grew.