Is now a good time to build a new home? Q&A with Myles Li at Affinity

In the last few months, we’ve had a lot of renewed interest in Sarilia from people looking to simplify their lives. They’re looking for a connection with nature and a strong community spirit. They’re seeking more space, cleaner air, less noise and less stress. The river view and water access are the icing on the cake.

We’re also fielding questions about whether now is a good time to build a new home. It turns out, lots of people are still buying and building their dream homes in and around Saskatoon. We recently chatted with Myles Li, a personal banker at Affinity Credit Union’s Langham advice centre, to get a sense of what’s going on in the real estate market locally, and if now is a good time to get a new mortgage. 

Tell me a little bit about yourself. 
I’m a personal banker at Affinity Credit Union. I’ve been with Affinity Credit Union since 2016. I really enjoy reading and watching movies. I was born in China and immigrated to Canada in 2012 and I completed my bachelor’s degree in finance in 2015. I live with my wife and my 1.5-year-old son in Saskatoon.

What makes Affinity different from the big national banks?
Affinity is different from big banks because we’re a Saskatchewan-born co-operative financial institution owned by our members, for our members. We only operate in Saskatchewan, so you can be sure our advisors understand your local needs.

We believe people come before profits and are dedicated to looking out for your financial health by offering great products, competitive rates and genuine, professional advice.

Affinity exists because of and for our members. That’s why we’re committed to giving back to the communities we serve. We do this in a lot of different ways including sponsorships, donations and community funding. We see our involvement as more than just writing a cheque—it’s a partnership.

What is happening lately in banking when it comes to new mortgages? Is it a good time to buy a new home or property? 
At this point, the housing market appears to be holding up quite well in Saskatchewan. Affinity is seeing a significant number of mortgage applications, including construction, in the local market at the present time. Mortgage rates are currently low, which makes it a very good time to consider purchasing a home, whether that’s buying an existing property or building new. Affinity Credit Union is very familiar with construction financing, including ready-to-move homes (RTMs), and we have the expertise to help make the entire process easy and uncomplicated.

What else are you seeing in the real estate market? Any trends? 
We’ve seen an increase in numbers of home equity loan applications recently. I believe two main reasons are: 

  1. People have been spending more time at home because of COVID-19, and are finding that they’d like to make some upgrades to better enjoy their home time going forward; and 
  2. Mortgage interest rates are low. We’ve seen more home equity loans to consolidate other high interest rate debts as well, which can be a great strategy to pay down high interest debt and improve household cashflow. COVID-19 has impacted many people’s incomes and made it challenging for them to keep up with payments. 

Are there any common themes or conversations you’re having with clients?
I talk with members a lot on how to save for retirement or down payments for purchasing a home, also about downsizing debts to build up net worth, etc.

I know Affinity is dedicated to supporting local charities—which charities does your advice centre currently support and how? 
It’s about working together to make a difference and finding ways to improve life in our communities. For example, we recently provided $30,000 in funding to the Food Banks of Saskatchewan because we understand the growing and demanding need for them in our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We also contributed $20,000 to the Royal University Hospital Foundation’s COVID-19 Hospital Fund to help provide the resources its dedicated medical and support teams need to respond to COVID-19 now and into the future. 

Aside from that, we’re involved in our communities’ local assets, such as rinks and centres, sports teams, as well as community events and organizations from literacy programs to environmental sustainability and more.

Q&A with Courtenay Chudy at Warman Homes

Courtenay Chudy began her career with Warman Homes 16 years ago, starting as an architectural draftsperson, before making her way into sales. In 2016, she became the sales manager. The company has built three homes at Sarilia (two custom RTMs, and one custom site build), so we recently chatted with Courtenay to ask her about Warman Homes, their home-building process, building costs, and what makes building at Sarilia a little bit different from building in other communities. 

Can you tell me a little bit about what Warman Homes does?
We build site homes and RTM (ready-to-move) homes. Our site homes are stick-built on land and that could be in Warman, Martensville, Langham (which includes Sarilia), Dalmeny and Saskatoon.

Our RTM homes are built on our site here in Warman and then moved on to our customer’s foundation. We can move them anywhere in Saskatchewan, most places in Alberta and some locations in Manitoba. 

The Carlyle model, which is featured in Sarilia’s Buyer’s Guide

Based on your customers who’ve moved to Sarilia, what would you say are the main demographics in the area?
I’ve been to Sarilia many times and I think it’s so beautiful when I drive down there, so I don’t necessarily think it depends on your age. I think if you wanted to live somewhere with wide-open spaces and you wanted to have that beautiful river valley view, Sarilia would be the place you would want to be. You’re close enough to Saskatoon that you can still use all the amenities there, plus you have this beautiful landscape that you’re surrounded by when you go home.

How did building the custom stick-built home at Sarilia differ from building such a home in Warman or Saskatoon?
Once we had the plans finalized, we sent them to Sarilia’s engineer to get the raft foundation stamped and sealed. Then we were ready to start building. We don’t typically build raft foundations with projects in other areas—we just build a regular concrete foundation. Because Sarilia doesn’t have water plumbed in, the customers had to install a water tank in their basement, and a septic system, so that was something we had to take into account for them. These clients also asked for a grey-water system. Other than that, the entire house was exactly the same as what we would normally build. 

What is a raft foundation and why is it necessary at Sarilia?
Raft foundations are a floating foundation. It’s exactly as it sounds—it’s a raft. They are typically used in areas where the soil is poor or variable—where the ground might be prone to more movement. So, if the ground is moving and you’re building a house on top of it, the house has to be able to move with the ground. As the foundation moves, the house moves with it. Obviously, building down in a river valley, it’s going to be prone to ground shift. Knowing all those variables, it makes perfect sense that they are enforcing a foundation specifically designed for that. 

Sun-filled living room in The Carlyle

There’s a plan for The Kodiak RTM in the Sarilia Buyer’s Guide. If a customer wanted to build the Kodiak at Sarilia, what part of the process would Warman Homes handle, and what is the customer responsible for?
If we are building the Kodiak specifically, it would be the main floor and the second floor. We would be building that on our yard in Warman—everything from the main floor joists up. Then, we finish it here and deliver it to a foundation that’s already completed at Sarilia and roll the house on.

The customer typically takes care of the rest, so they would hook up their sewer, water (septic and cistern for Sarilia), their mechanical system, their electrical, things like that—they have to hook up their utilities on-site. We typically don’t supply the furnace or the hot-water heater on an RTM. Things like that typically get done after.

So, the customer would hire another company to pour the foundation?
Yes. But if we are building on site for them instead of an RTM, we take care of all that. We put in the foundation and then we stick build on top. We complete everything as a turn-key project.

Ensuite in The Carlyle

What has it been like to build within Sarilia’s design standards?
As a home builder, we are always working with developer’s design standards no matter where we build. If we build in Rosewood in Saskatoon, we are working under Boychuk’s design standards. If we’re building in Warman—in Legends, Traditions or Southlands (subdivisions)—we’re working under KH Development’s design standards. Anywhere you build these days, unless it’s your own farmland, you have a design standard that you have to follow. So, to have to follow design standards is not new for us. But every developer has different standards. 

The way I interpret Sarilia’s guidelines is they are concerned with how the house will look at the end, and the property as a whole—the out buildings, drainage and grading, etc. They also want you to think about how much you’re changing the natural property. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It takes more time…but we all kind of need to do our part to take care of mother nature. 

What would it cost to build a Warman Home at Sarilia?
We often have customers that come here and we have a base price that we tell them—kind of like our starting point. We like to look at their plan and what kind of finishes they want before we can give them a number. 

There are a lot of variables so this is a hard question to answer but typically our RTM homes start around $105/square foot and our site homes start somewhere around $150-$160/square foot. Typically, we do a plan, review and discuss options you’re looking for before we decide on a base price. The price also depends on if we are building on land that we own, or if we are building on land that you own.

Open-concept kitchen/dining area in The Carlyle

Check out our Sarilia Buyer’s Guide to view two Warman Homes plans that would fit within our architectural guidelines. Prices (including the price of the lot) start at $362,000 for The Carlyle custom site build. 

Project bluebird

This spring, two of our Sarilia residents, Annette and Al, launched “Project Bluebird,” an initiative focused on building new bird houses in our community to help conserve the species. Five like-minded neighbours also chipped in to help. We recently chatted with Annette to learn more about their endeavors to help and house our feathered friends. 

What inspired you and Al to take on this project?

We love spring and watching how everything comes back to life after a long winter. The change in seasons, and especially the colorful changes, brings us joy—especially seeing the pretty bluebirds return each spring. We want to see the bluebirds thrive and we want to ensure they have somewhere to nest in the area where we live.

We saw the old bluebird houses on the fence line and the terrible condition they were in. We thought, “We have wood—we can build new houses.” So, we did. Well, to be honest, Al did. He gets nervous when I use his power tools.

Tell me about your process.

Al and I thought it might be a good idea to ask our neighbours if they wanted to build a birdhouse—mainly to build community. We did a Google search and found a good plan. Al cut the wood and made kits so the houses were easy to put together and we emailed our neighbours to see who was interested. We built five houses, and five of our neighbours built five houses, for a total of 10.

Where did you install the birdhouses?

The Saskatoon Nature Society has some good information on their website about bluebirds. They were out in our area on March 29 and reported seeing them. Their website shows and aerial view of the roads where we have put up new houses. 

Have you seen any birds using them so far?

We saw bluebirds on the fence line at the end of March, but we haven’t seen any since. We looked last weekend when we put up some new houses and moved a few houses around. We will keep looking. We know they are here.

Can you tell me about the Bluebird trails? What are they?

The Saskatoon Nature Society has an explanation on their Facebook page. It reads:

“It all began as a conservation program 50 years ago. Native cavity-nesting birds like bluebirds were becoming species at risk due to habitat loss and the introduction of European cavity-nesting birds like the House Sparrow and European Starling. To conserve our native birds, many individuals and organizations set up “Bluebird Trails”. A bluebird trail is a line of nest boxes stretching several kilometers through the countryside. The Saskatoon Young Naturalists have a line of roughly 260 nest boxes running from Langham to Hanley. Our conservation science program involves monitoring each nest box to determine which species of bird is nesting in the box and recording its productivity by counting the number of eggs or young. We also monitor the survivorship of “our birds” through the use of leg bands. We have a permit from Environment Canada to fit the birds with a uniquely numbered leg band. It is our hope the bird may be recaptured someday and we will learn things like where it migrated to in the winter or how old it is. The data we collect is used by a wide variety of scientist studying everything things like pesticides, climate change, and, of course, species recovery. It is a great hands-on nature science program for kids to learn the importance of monitoring biodiversity.”  

Do you think the project helped build community spirit at Sarilia?

I hope the project brings the community together. When people drive down the road and see the houses they or their neighbours built, or see the bluebirds, they should feel proud they did something positive to keep their community colorful and connected to nature.

A nostalgia for home

I was born and raised in Whitewood, a small town in southern Saskatchewan. My childhood home was over 100 years old and situated on a four-acre parcel of land close to the edge of town. The land was well treed, hilly and had a small creek that ran through the bottom of the property, close to the garden. The house sat on a hillside, so we had a great view. 

My childhood home in Whitewood, Sask.

I was one of four kids. We spent our free time building forts, making rafts to paddle on the creek, playing ball, hosting picnics, picking Saskatoons and helping our mum garden and our dad cut grass.  

My husband Ronn and I have owned this 86-acre parcel of land, that we now call Sarilia, for about 25 years. We always planned to retire here. About 13 years ago, we decided to sub-divide our property and began researching how to build a village. 

While I was working on promoting the first phase, I met a couple, Walter and Eileen, from Saskatoon when they came out to look at the available lots. While the three of us were standing on one of the riverfront lots, Walter got really quiet, and eventually broke the silence.

 “I was born and raised on land like this and I just loved it so much,” he said. 

 I told him, “I get that. So was I.”

A nostalgia inducing view at Sarilia

I don’t think I consciously understood what I was doing until that moment. I realized that I have always had this hankering to go back home. I had wanted to raise our kids the same way I was raised. 

A place with a lot of space and trees. 

A place where you can ride your bike everywhere because you know everyone and it’s safe.  

A place where there is a strong sense of community, and that community becomes your family of choice.  

I guess you could say I was a little late to the party as our kids were all grown. 

My grandkids, admiring the spring crocuses at Sarilia

But today, we have ten grandchildren that beg to come out for sleepovers and cry when they have to go back home.

When they visit, we build forts. We drag our blankets and pillows onto the back deck so we can look at the stars. We sing and play guitar in the sun porch. They help me with my garden, they go fishing down at the river and for walks at the nearby golf course. We fly kites. We pick crocuses together in the spring and go sledding in the winter.  

We’re creating memories that I hope they look back on, just as fondly as I look back on my own childhood memories. 

It’s a pretty good life we’re able to share with them, and oh boy, that makes me happy.

The vineyard next door

Here at Sarilia, we’re lucky to be surrounded by great shops, services and other amenities in nearby Langham, Borden and Dalmeny. It means we don’t have to drive into Saskatoon for a haircut, a massage, or a dentist appointment, and we don’t need to go far to find a grocery store, greenhouse, restaurant, pharmacy or even a bowling alley. The latest addition to the area is the charming Three Beans Café in Langham. Oh, and did we mention we have a cherry orchard next door?

And in a few years, we’ll be able to add a vibrant new vineyard to that list. Just a short drive from Sarilia, Nadine Ness and her husband Jonathan, have planted over two acres of grapevines, and they plan to plant more each spring until the vineyard covers about 14 acres of their land. 

We recently chatted with Nadine to learn more about their plans, and what people can expect to see sprouting up at Ness Vineyards in the coming years. 

What kind of grapes are you growing at Ness Vineyards?

They are cold weather varieties—hybrids. A lot of the ones we are growing are the same varieties that they’re growing in Minnesota, so they should handle our winters. 

We haven’t had a winter yet though. We’ve been growing some in our backyard in Osler and they’ve been doing really well. We’ve been experimenting with some of them—we’ve got about 1,200 plants now but we’re going to be growing probably 2-4 acres more per year until we get to about 14 acres. We are going to be growing table grapes as well. 

What makes this area ideal for growing grapes?

If you look at the acidic level—or the soil pH level—required for growing grapes, we need 6.1-6.7 and if you look at the map of Saskatchewan, there’s only a small portion where you can find that. It starts in the Langham area south of the river and it has that perfect acidity level. 

We also needed river water to irrigate because the well water is too basic and has too many minerals. We also needed the downhill slope, because we needed the angle of the sun to be right. The other side of the river wouldn’t have worked.

The other thing is, a lot of the dirt that we’re growing in is sandy and rocky soil, which,  for growing anything else is not ideal, but for growing grapes it’s actually the most ideal situation. 

We also wanted to be close to Saskatoon because we’re planning on eventually having a wedding venue space that can also be used for corporate events.

Photo of the grape vines at Ness Vineyards
Ness Vineyards – a work in progress

What will the venue space look like and when will it be ready?

We want it to be something that can accommodate bigger events because, in Saskatoon, there’s a huge lack of that. Most places can only accommodate 200 people and I would like to accommodate groups up to 300 or 350. 

We want it to feel like a castle. It’ll be a lot of stonework and wood beams, with a tower as well. We want it to be theplace to get married around Saskatoon—a higher-end experience. That’s our goal. 

We’ll be adding some high-end single bedroom cabins as well. In the winter, it will be an awesome place to go for a romantic getaway, with an ice rink and a real wood fireplace in your cabin—similar to the experience you get when you go to Banff—we want to bring something like that to Saskatchewan. 

The venue space will be called Chateau Ness. 

Will you live there as well?

We’ve got 222 acres, and we’ll be building our home about half a mile from the venue. I think we’re going with a plantation-style home, but we haven’t finalized our plans yet. We’re working on that now and we plan to start building this fall. 

When will the vines be established enough to produce wine?

The winemaking won’t start for 3-4 years. We still have to plant more—with two acres you don’t get that much wine! So, the more we plant, the more it’ll grow each year, but we should have our first harvest in three years. In the meantime, I’m taking classes in viticulture and oenology. 

Do you plan to offer wine tastings?

Yes, we’ll probably have a little boutique where you can come and try the wine as well as purchase the wine. We’ve thrown around the idea of having a restaurant but that’s not in our current plans. However, we will have a fully functioning kitchen available for the venue space and have seating available for a restaurant, but that won’t be for awhile if we were to decide to proceed with a restaurant. 

How do you envision your operation ten years from now?

In 10 years, I would say we will have a venue space out there and we’ll have cabins as well, and like I said, possibly a seasonal restaurant. 

Another thing we may get into is grazing some animals—so possibly some buffalo, but that would be on the second quarter, not the first quarter adjacent to Sarilia. 

We might also have a u-pick option at some point for the table grapes, once those are established. 

How are the vines doing so far?

We thought they weren’t doing very well, but then we went to Nova Scotia a couple of weeks ago and toured the vineyards there. We learned some tricks and tips on how to get them ready for the winter, and ours are doing just as well if not better than the ones in Nova Scotia.

Ness Vineyards

Tell me about the trip to Nova Scotia. Was it purely for research purposes?

Yes. We toured about 11 vineyards. We also visited some vineyards in New Brunswick because they’re a bit colder climate than Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. It was really neat to see how the vineyards are doing and we got a lot of really good information—we sat down with a lot of the owners. Eventually we’ll be travelling to Minnesota to see the vineyards down there as well. 

Q. A lot of people are curious about the vineyard and are interested in having a look. Will you be providing tours in the future?

A. Yes. Once the vines are established, we’ll be providing guided tours. At this early stage, the vines are very delicate, and well-meaning visitors could potentially bring contaminants in with them, which could—unfortunately—harm the plants. It’s a brand new nursery, so we have to protect the biosecurity of the vines until they’re more established. We’re really excited to be able to share our vineyard with visitors once it’s safe to do so. We encourage anyone who is interested in a guided tour to contact us at nessvineyard@gmail.com.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your new venture?

It’s a family-owned business. It’s going to be owned by my husband and me, and eventually our kids will be put to work—right now they’re a little too young. We have a 10-year-old, a 5-year-old and a baby on the way.

Interested in the other shops, services and amenities near Sarilia? Check out Borden’s and Langham’s business directories.   

Open Houses & Lot Tours on the North Saskatchewan

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in the river valley? On Saturday, August 24, you’ll get a chance to see for yourself. We’ll be hosting lot tours and four open houses between 1-3pm. Take in the stunning river vistas and breathe in the fresh air —this is your chance to experience the beauty of Sarilia in the summer.

With our river valley lots on sale  (prices have been reduced by $10,000/lot) there’s never been a better time to build your dream home at Sarilia. And if you’d prefer a move-in-ready home, there are four open houses to visit—each with their own unique features and vantage points. You’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the current homeowners and ask questions about their homes and the relaxed Sarilia lifestyle.

We chatted with two homeowners (whose homes are featured in the upcoming open houses) to ask them why they’re selling, what they’ve loved about life at Sarilia, and what kind of person would appreciate their home.

Why have you decided to sell your home?

Rosemary: I’m selling to relocate closer to family.

Kathleen: I am selling to move to my home town.

What are some of your favourite aspects of living at Sarilia?

Rosemary: The wholesome people. I love the quiet lifestyle. The nearby services (in Langham) are plentiful—I love the Chinese restaurant, coffee shop sandwiches and ice cream, and the convenience of the credit union, grocery store and gas station. Being surrounded by nature is my favorite.

Kathleen: I love the rural lifestyle at Sarilia and I love that my home sits directly across from permanent green space. Coming home feels like going to the lake. Any stress you have left over from being in the city just melts away. The air is fresher, the stars are brighter, we get to see the northern lights dance and flit across the sky, and the meteor showers are out of this world.

Everyone here is so friendly. It’s nice to live in a place where you know your neighbours and everyone looks out for each other.

What are some of your favourite activities to do at Sarilia?

Rosemary: In the summer, I love sitting in the hot tub and sitting out on the deck. I like walking the trails and visiting the neighbours on the beach with the birds and the geese in the background.

Winter is my favourite season. I love just getting out and walking—enjoying the paths in the wintertime. I don’t have a dog myself, but my son brings his dog quite often and I enjoy taking her out for a walk and just being outdoors.

Kathleen: Summer and winter, I love to walk along the miles of trails that meander through the trees. The trails even go down to the river. It’s great to be able to get together with neighbours and friends to have a hot or cold drink and a chat.

I loved gardening in the community garden. When I was there alone, the nature sounds and song birds were wonderful to listen to. When other gardeners were there at the same time I was, it was a great time to listen to some tunes, work a bit and then meet in the centre lounge area for a refreshing drink and a chat before we continued with our gardening.

What kind of person would your home appeal to?

Rosemary: My house would appeal to a variety of people. It’s child-friendly so it’s ideal for a young family, but it would also appeal to other lifestyles and life stages. There are several features that a potential owner would enjoy, such as the enclosed decks. The upstairs guest bedroom has river view and its own four-piece bath and a walk-in closet, and there are extra washrooms beside each of the guest bedrooms on the main floor and lower levels so it’s great for having company. People who meander through this home love the finished basement and entertainment nook, and the electrified hot tub pad nestled in the trees is a favorite.

Kathleen: My house would be a great fit for a retired couple, a family, or even a single person. The yard is low maintenance with only a small area of grass to cut as most of the yard is gravel, which means there’s also lots of off street parking. The plants that surround the yard consist of wild fruit bushes such as Saskatoon berries, chokecherries and raspberries, as well as wild roses and other native trees and shrubs. Both decks are large with no stairs to the ground level, which is perfect for children and pets. Both decks have electrical outlets. The 20’ x 20’ deck has two natural gas hookups, great for the BBQ and a patio heater or gas fireplace. There’s a 10’ x 12’ pergola with a sun shade and a 4’x6’ glass insert in the deck floor from which you can watch the critters below. I’ve seen rabbits, squirrels and even deer.

Sarilia Open House locations:
410 Saskatchewan Road *
416 Saskatchewan Road *
104 Saskatchewan Heights** (click for MLS listing)
356 Laurier Crescent** (click for MLS listing)

*For questions about these two open houses, call Kathleen at: (306) 220-1850
**For questions about these open houses and lot tours, call Vaughn Krywicki at: (306) 381-9161

Both Kathleen and Rosemary’s homes have been reduced in price. For more details, including features and pricing, check out the attached feature sheets.

410 Saskatchewan Road – Feature Sheet
416 Saskatchewan Road – Feature Sheet
416 Saskatchewan Road – Features and Upgrades

See you on Saturday, August 24!

Q&A with Sarilia resident, Vaughn Krywicki

Vaughn and Stacey Krywicki moved to Sarilia five years ago this fall. A year after settling in, their family expanded with the birth of their son, Huxley.

Vaughn has a unique perspective on river valley living, given his role as a Realtor, and as a board member of the Sarilia Community Association. We recently chatted with Vaughn to find out what’s new and exciting at Sarilia, the new lot sale ($10,000 off every lot until Sept. 23!), and what kind of lifestyle the river valley offers him and his family.

As both a resident of Sarilia, and a Realtor, what do you see as the main reasons people move to Sarilia?
The people who are have moved to Sarilia recently are a lot of young families that are looking for more space and freedom. A lot of them come from smaller towns or farms and have lived in Saskatoon or even smaller bedroom communities, like Martensville or Warman, and they are looking for something more.

It’s a good opportunity to buy property at Sarilia now to build a new home. Gwen (Sarilia’s developer) and I have put together a plan where every lot has been reduced in price by $10,000 until September 23.

It’s more like pricing from 10 years ago. So, that’s a good opportunity, and builders are also aggressive right now with their pricing.

You’re a member of the Sarilia Community Association. What kind of community improvement projects are underway right now?
I’m on the Parks and Rec committee, and we just cut a new trail system this winter with the approval of the RM—we received some funding through the RM to make it happen.

We’re also in the process of building a new playground and an outdoor recreation area for kids and adults. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids. That’s something exciting that I’m proud to be part of. And it’s exciting for the community and the residents. We’re looking at estimates for features like park benches, playground equipment and maybe a basketball net and a horseshoe pit—any sort of outdoor recreation. It’s nice because the area is sheltered in the tree belt.

There will continue to be more improvements and interesting things like that in the future.

What kind of person would appreciate the lifestyle that Sarilia offers?
Someone who appreciates nature. Someone who doesn’t mind a short commute that they can use to wind down. I know for myself, that living at Sarilia with that short commute—it’s nice to have. Initially it was hard to get used to, because I was used to everything being 10 minutes away—but you can’t even get to everything in 10 minutes in Saskatoon anymore. It’s actually been better for me as it’s forced me to be more efficient with my time and planning.

A lot of people want to know how much it would cost to buy a property and build their home at Sarilia. What do you think is the entry-level price, when you combine the cost of a lot and home construction?
Lot prices are coming down, and in my opinion you can have a beautiful home for under $300,000. That’s very affordable for a brand-new house.

I hear you have a family cabin at Candle Lake. Some residents have compared living at Sarilia to spending time at the lake. Do you find any parallels?
It certainly has a lot of attributes that are like the lake. You can do all kinds of outdoor activities just like at the cabin—hiking and fishing and that kind of thing.

What kinds of activities do you do as a family at Sarilia?
We ride our bikes and walk. Our son is four. He’s a madman, so he’s always running around, doing whatever four-year-olds do.

What’s it like to raise a child at Sarilia?
In some ways, it feels a little bit safer. There’s less traffic and you know your neighbours. We know everybody. You look out for each other in that respect. There’s lots of young kids out here too—a lot of young families are moving in.

What are a few of your favourite aspects of living in the river valley?
The air is fresher. Just being outside. I’m a big advocate of getting outside. When we were kids we did a lot of that—camping and spending time outdoors and over the years I’ve expanded on that. Being next the river is certainly an attraction. That’s a mainstay for Sarilia. It comes back to that lake lifestyle.

Would you say you appreciate the outdoors during all four seasons at Sarilia?
Yes. You bundle up and get outside during the winter. Our son goes outside every day in the winter, even when it’s minus 40—briefly of course. He enjoys it too. And it helps you sleep well at night.

What kinds of activities do you do out on the river?
I fish quite frequently. It’s a passion of mine. Once every other week I would like to get down there this summer. And I often meet a lot of my friends from the city out here. They’ll come out to Sarilia to meet me, so they’re making a commute to where I am and the fishing is right in my backyard.

I would really like to get out on a canoe this summer. I went on a paddling trip as a novice canoer last summer up at the Churchill River and I kind of got hooked on that. I’d like to bring a little bit of that home. I know my neighbours are going to be reading this blog post so maybe they’ll invite me to go to Petrofka, or Borden, or something like that.

Vaughn currently has two beautiful listings for sale at Sarilia:

104 Saskatchewan Heights

426 Saskatchewan Road

From Grey Cups to Geo-fencing: Q&A with Rhett McLane of Alair Homes

Rhett McLane has transitioned from a professional football career to the life of an entrepreneur through his partnership with Alair Homes—a home-building company with 122 franchises across North America. He became the Saskatoon franchise owner last summer, and says his past athletic pursuits have a surprising amount in common with his current career.

All photos courtesy of Alair Homes

“It’s no different from playing football,” he says. “You’re system oriented. You’re driven to one goal. I always approach it as, my project managers are my star quarterbacks, the bench is my sub-trades. You always want the best people on your bench—you can tap them and bring them into the game or bring them onto a project and let them do what they do best.”

Rhett says there’s a similar systemic approach with Alair. “It’s very organized because you’re drawing from the experiences of 122 other franchise owners, which spoke to my heart because I won a Grey Cup with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2005, so I approached Alair Homes and the business that I run the same way as I approached my football career.”

As one of Sarilia’s suggested builders, we chatted with Rhett about his home building experience, industry trends and what drew his attention to Sarilia.

How did you get your start in home building?

I’m a new franchise owner but my history in construction goes back about 10 years. I started working with a home builder in Saskatoon as a salesperson and it progressed from sales,into project management, and now ownership. I’ve always wanted to own a business and when I started working in construction I wanted to own a construction company. I just didn’t know enough back then, so I talked to as many people as I could and I listened. I observed on the residential side and then I went and worked with a commercial construction company out of Edmonton for two years and I learned a lot about the bid process on large $15-20 million schools, shopping centres, hotels and things like that. Then the opportunity came up to become a partner in Alair in Saskatoon which is my home city.

What kinds of trends are you seeing in the home building industry today?

Home automation. It’s something that comes up more and more when speaking with clients. Home automation can be more than using an app on your phone to control the thermostat or using a remote control to put blinds up and down. It can go through to your lights, your plug ins, your stereo, your TV—everything is integrated off of one remote.

But when you take it up to the next level—it’s called geo-fencing your home. So if you’re driving home and you start pulling up to your driveway and open your garage door, the home recognizes that you’re coming home and it turns up the furnace, it turns the lights on, it unlocks the doors, everything like that. It readies the home for you to walk inside before you even get there.

What was it that enticed you to take a look at Sarilia?

My wife and I both grew up on a farm and I think it’s important for (our) kids to have that extra space. Our goal was to try to transition our family into acreage living at some point, so I was always looking for these types of developments around Saskatoon. I think the views that Sarilia provides—and the trees—are the big thing.

Not to talk badly about the developments that are south of Saskatoon, but people drive that highway to Regina and they just can’t believe what people build out there. There are no trees—you’re just building on the barren prairie. So when you can get into places like Sarilia, you have these beautiful vistasdown into the river valley, but you also have trees as well, which offers you privacy on some of the lots. And there’s just a lot of variety with the lots. There are different elevations: you can have riverfront, or you can have river view where you sit up a little bit higher. There are a lot of different options—lot sizes and pricing and things like that as well.

You met Gwen, Sarilia’s developer, for coffee back in December. What did you learn about the development during your meeting?

Just the community feel that she’s trying to convey out there, which is something that really spoke to me because, like I said, I grew up in a small town and she is offering the same type of values: knowing your neighbours, a community garden, a playground, things like that. There’s lots to do. Have a walk, a riverbank snowshoe—there’s lots of positives.

What kind of winter activities does Sarilia offer?

We’re often asked about what kinds of winter activities our residents partake in here at Sarilia. In fact, that’s one of the most appealing things about living here in the river valley–nature is right on our doorstep. We don’t have to get in the car and drive somewhere else to experience it.

Here are a few things we like to do when Sarilia is blanketed in snow: cross-country ski, snow shoe, walk on our nature trails, ice fish, and warm up with friends around a bonfire by the river.  As they say, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothes.”

And the kids here love to head for the hills to toboggan. We asked a few of them (Gwen’s grandkids) what their favourite winter activity is. Here are their answers.

Jackson (age 11): Having fun with the people in my life that I care about the most.

sledding at Sarilia

 

Bentley (age 5): I love doing canon balls down the hill, being outside, playing with my cousins and racing up and down the hill!

 

Hannah (age 11, white toque): Just being with my cousins makes me HAPPY!

 

Q&A with Jade

Jade and Devin are our newest soon-to-be residents at Sarilia. With two daughters (Sloan, age 2, and Neve, 5 months old) and a dog named Philly, they’re eager to start their new life in our river valley community this summer—they expect to move into their new A-frame-style home by July. We chatted with Jade to learn more about her family, what drew them to Sarilia, and how it felt to meet some of their future neighbours back in October.

How did you first hear about Sarilia?
We were looking at acreages online and we stumbled across one that was for sale at Sarilia. We drove out there and we realized how beautiful it all was, and how there was all this other property that we could look into.

I got out of my vehicle and stood there, and I was like, “Okay, we are going to be moving here.”

How would you describe your first impression?
We felt like we were at the lake. It felt like we were at the cabin—instantly relaxed and laidback and just where we wanted to be. It felt like home.

Where are you both from originally? And where are you moving from?
I grew up in Martensville and Devin grew up in a little town called Frobisher, just outside Estevan.  We live in Warman right now, so we will be moving from here.

What was it you were looking for that you found at Sarilia?
When I grew up in Martensville, it was a small town. And the community that Devin grew up in has about the same amount of people that Sarilia has. We both wanted that for our daughters.

When we moved to Warman it was a bit smaller. Now, all the sudden, grocery stores are behind our house, Dairy Queen is right there, and the highway is right there—everything was just too close. It was too city-like. We needed to get away.

Right now, we have the street lights shining in our house all night long, the grocery store lights are on 24/7 in our house—we just need to be in the dark for a little bit! (laughs)

Was there one feature at Sarilia that solidified your decision to move?
It was a number of things. We didn’t know about the river access until we met with Gwen. We just thought we’d have a view of the river and we didn’t know everything Sarilia had to offer until we met Gwen.

Our first impression would have been that we just want to be out there for the calmness and the view. Upon talking to Gwen a few days later, we realized the (little free) library, the river and the little nature reserves all around were just kind of bonuses.

Is there something you’re most excited about in regards to your new home?
It’s a little bit of everything. We’re really excited for the small-town community feel, and to feel like we can go and talk to our neighbours. Our girls can go down the street and ask a friend to hang out and we don’t have to be breathing down their necks or watching them all the time to make sure they’re safe.

And the laidback lifestyle. Because you come home from a long day at work and it would just be really nice to go down to the river and have a wiener roast—just feel like you’re at the lake every day.

Can you tell me about the style of your new home?
We’re going with an A-frame. It’s going to feel like a cabin/cottage. We’re trying to go with that mentality—so a stone mantle above the fireplace and the A-frame overlooking the river.

Why did you decide to hire Griffin Properties to build your home?
I’m good friends with Sarah (Reid, the co-owner) so I’ve known them to be extremely hard workers. I’ve seen all the houses that they’ve built for themselves and all the time and energy they put into all the little details to make the house perfect for their family.

I know when Sarah started looking at designs for our family, she was thinking about our family—not what everybody else would have wanted, but what our family needs and wants. Every little detail was thought of. They put a lot of TLC into the project.

What do you and Devin like to do in your spare time?
We like to travel a lot and we like to be outside and go to the lake. We have a cabin up at Chitek Lake with my parents, so we love to be up there all the time.

I like to snowshoe, cross-country ski and snowboard, and Devin likes to snowmobile and downhill ski, so we’re very wintery people. We like to be outside more in the winter than probably in the summer. I run too—anything to be outside really. We’re always up for trying something new.

Do you think you’ll get out on the water at Sarilia?
Oh yeah. Devin wants to buy a canoe. He wants to do that and I like to (stand-up) paddleboard. We’d like to do more of that.

My dad taught me how to fish, so I’d like to do that with the girls and teach them how to do things like that and appreciate nature.

Do you plan to get involved in the community garden?
Yes. I have two garden beds right now so I am definitely going to be doing that.

Even now, I know they’re really young, but we have raspberry bushes and in the summer Sloan likes to go pick them and eat them. That’s kind of what I want to get my girls into—just being more with nature.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We came out to Sarilia for a potluck at the beginning of October and it felt like home. We were like, “We don’t want to drive back to Warman.” (laughs)

It was really nice to meet everybody and we had a really warm welcoming. Everyone was so relaxed and laidback. I don’t know if that’s their personalities always or if being there brings it out of them, but I also felt like it was more of a family—like I could rely on some people to help out if need be and that kind of feeling. It made us more excited and we are very eager to be out there.

 

 

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