Fiddler Lake is a resort in the Laurentians about an hour north of Montreal consisting of privately owned homes with a short term rental structure for owners. I am very familiar with the resort having sold 6 homes there last year! There have been problems with management and an uncertain future for the resort. Here is an article by Rupert Bates that I found to be very interesting!
''If David Cameron wants to see the Big Society in action, he should head for eastern Canada and Quebec’s Saint-Sauveur valley.
In an age where some British buyers abroad have lost, or are in danger of losing, their homes due to economic woes, the tale of Fiddler Lake Resort is an inspiring one.
Fiddler Lake was an initial hit. This four-season resort features log homes, stunning forests and lakes beneath the Laurentian mountains between Montreal and Mont Tremblant.
The resort, especially popular with British purchasers, has annexed 250 acres of French-speaking Quebec, with 86 houses built to date. If Grizzly Adams was a chartered accountant, he would live there.
This year-round resort has it all. There is winter skiing, the maple syrup rite of spring, tennis, biking and autumn hues of gold and russet. And with owners opting into rental schemes for tax breaks and income, it was an investment as well as an attractive family holiday home.
“The log homes largely sold themselves, given the location and historical exchange rates, mainly against sterling as most buyers originated from the UK,” says Robert Thompson, one of the British buyers.
Then the international market melted away. Owners became nervous and an internet forum at Fiddler Lake was set up to share information and news. The forum started to chatter with fears that the resort was in trouble.
“It soon became clear that if we were to avoid a financial meltdown, thepropertyowners and the developer needed to come up with a solution that saw the completion of the resort,” Thompson says.
A deal was eventually struck and the owners acquired the remaining assets of the resort from the developer.
“We own and control the entire business and future development of Fiddler Lake,” says Thompson, who is now president of Fiddler Lake Resort (www.fiddlerlakeresort.com). That’s the short story. The full one is of an extraordinary community spirit forged by a group of families refusing to lose their plots of paradise.
“If you had asked me for the odds of success at the beginning of the deal, I would have said you would get better odds at the casino. It is a tribute to the owners and their passion for Fiddler Lake that we managed it,” he says.
A corporate finance lawyer from Newcastle, Thompson, 46, knows all about deals. But this one was maple-syrup thick with emotion and personal financial risk.
“Being a lawyer I should know not to act emotionally. But I first fell in love with Fiddler Lake when I saw an advert in a newspaper. I saw the picture of a deer house-type in the snow. The rest is history,” he says.
“I am a keen outdoorsman, so had been to Canada several times on hunting expeditions for moose and deer, mostly on the west coast. I never considered the east coast.”
When the proverbial hit the fan in spring last year, a working group of mainly British owners determined to save the resort met in an Aylesbury hotel.
Hands up those who can make the acquisition happen and turn Fiddler Lake into a viable ongoing business? Step forward a lawyer, a surveyor, an accountant, company directors, an HR professional and many others. If they had hand-picked the skill sets needed to save the resort they could hardly have done better.
There was even a business turnaround specialist in the mix, while the work of a Dallas couple, Phillip and Kelly Parsons, both chief financial officers of major American companies, was crucial.
By Christmas, eight months after the financial warning bells had first sounded on the resort, the owners had finally acquired Fiddler Lake.
“It was all very stressful and holidays became work, interviewing staff, answering questions and dealing with problems. We have learnt an awful lot along the way, including how expensive it is to clear snow. We simply did not want to be part of a failed resort,” says Phil Blackford, a chartered surveyor from Cambridgeshire. He takes family skiing holidays at the resort with his wife, Sue, and sons, Sam and George.
“The smell of the wood, the colours of the fall and the ski slopes lit up at night – it is a magical place,” says Blackford, who is still amazed by seasonal temperatures that can range from -4F (-20C) to 80.6F (27C).
Another shareholder, Kate Kellner, 39, from Merseyside, puts the successful buy- out down to a “can do” attitude among the owners. Her husband, Stuart, an accountant, was soon drafting budgets and business plans. “A house in a Canadian forest was Stu’s dream from the start. Our three kids, Sophie, Nathan and Ben, just love it. It is the perfect four-season family resort,” she says.
When the deal was completed, apparently even the moose were cracking open bottles of Molson.
There are currently nine development lots for sale and also plans for six lakeside homes. The cheapest two-acre plots are around £100,000, before build, while a larger “Moose” beside the lake will cost around £670,000.
“Rentals are picking up and staff are motivated. Fiddler Lake will become a five-star holiday resort, all done by a bunch of owners with different backgrounds who originally did not know each other,” Blackford says.
Now there’s a fine example of a grand British endeavour.
CANADA TOP 10 TIPS
1 Get some space Canada is the world’s second largest country, with just 33 million people. If you crave the great outdoors, buy here.
2 Research après-ski Go out of ski season to make sure there’s still plenty to do.
3 Do your sums Property taxes vary. There can be tax breaks if you rent out your property.
4 Respect the natives Don’t put a hunting trophy of a bear’s head in your sitting room. His grizzly grandson might see it through the window.
5 Sniff out the culture Montreal and Vancouver are clean, cultural cities if you want a bit of indoors.
6 Get the gear Canada can be very cold and very warm. Pack for the season.
7 Think local If in a local bar, talk about Wayne Gretzky (ice hockey legend) not Wayne Rooney.
8 Bank your bonus There were rumours that the United States and Britain were going to invade Canada when they heard it had the world’s healthiest banking system.
9 Pick your region Eastern Canada may be far more accessible from the UK, but Western Canada is attracting increasing tourist numbers.
10 Smile Canada always ranks highly in “Friendliest Places in the World to Live” lists.''
By Rupert Bates
5:00PM BST 10 Sep 2010