So You Want Buy a Cottage…Everything You Need to Know First
Owning a Cottage
Before we dive into what might be seen as a negative view of #CottageLife we should tell you that we are all ‘cottage people’ at Team Alldread. Seriously, from Kim’s own cottage ownership experience to family cottaging for some and trailer-ing and camping for others – we spend a lot of time on docks collectively is all we’re trying to say! Cottage life can be relaxing, fulfilling and a source of memories for years and years to come – but there is a lot of things that most of us forget about when we see the beautiful lake view in front of us – so we’re diving into the things you don’t always think about before you buy or build a cottage.
We all know the old saying in Real Estate – ‘Location, Location, Location’, right? Well, it’s even more true in selecting a cottage property! Whether it’s vacant land you’re planning to build on or an existing cottage you’re looking at, you need to think about a few things. One being – how close is your cottage for home? Are you willing to drive 4 hours every weekend to enjoy the lake? Or is something under 2 hours more realistic? As much as we love the views Northern Ontario has to offer but perhaps it makes more sense for the ‘weekender’ cottagers to stick to the Southern part of the province! If you know this is a place you’re planning to retire to, also consider the local amenities – even the distance to the grocery store could be important! Especially when it’s the middle of Winter!
Something else that you should consider is if you’d like to be on a specific lake, or body of water, or if you would like to have private waterfront at all! Sometimes, a cottage can seem like it only means ‘waterfront’ but that also means a lot of work too! Sometimes a home with deeded access is more in line with your lifestyle, but if you are looking for waterfront, it’s important to know which kind you’re looking for. Riverfront properties can be handy for boaters who like to explore but not as good for those with little kids looking for a beachy area on the property. Lakes, on the other hand, can range from rocky and clear to silty and weedy. Knowing the type of lake you’re looking for, based on what you’d like to do on it (boating, water sports, kayaking, swimming, fishing, etcetera), is a really key factor in your cottage hunt.
Listen, it’s hard to have a perfect idea of what a cottage will cost in the long term, but you should keep in mind that it will have costs regardless of whether you build or buy. It’s clear that building a cottage is much more capital intensive than buying one that is already constructed, but that doesn’t mean it won’t cost you anything, or that it can’t be very expensive! Ask yourself – am I willing to incur unexpected costs? Am I willing to accept the seasonal costs of maintaining the cottage? What about the ‘toys’, such as motorboats, ATVs, docks, trampolines, etcetera – those all have maintenance costs, too.
If you’re building your cottage, unexpected costs are something that should be, well, expected! Generally, you have the cost of the land, and a simple cottage costs about $250 per square foot to build, and more upgraded and $275-$325 per square foot to build. However, you may find extra costs in installing a septic tank, electrical work or buying fill to bring the property above the floodplain levels in the area. The best thing to do before buying vacant land is to do your research and speak to the local planning department and ensure you can build on it (easily) first.
Pack your patience – in more ways than one. When you are searching for a cottage, it can sometimes feel like you’re searching for a needle in a haystack. You want the right lake, location and lot, as we mentioned above, and that coupled with budget and the heightened demand we are seeing for cottages and rural properties this year can make for a long search. Think of it in this way – you don’t want to rush into buying the wrong cottage.
The other end of this is that if you are buying vacant land to build a cottage on, it will take you more than a few weeks and months to get this wrapped up. Between permits, planning, building foundations…you know the long, long list HGTV usually leaves out Time will pass, and it may be months or even years before you’re sipping coffee on the dock. Not to say that won’t feel extremely satisfied at the end of the project or have tons of amazing memories at the cottage – but if you’re looking for turnkey – this may not be the path for you.
We all want to kick back, relax and enjoy! That’s why you’re considering a cottage in the first place, right?! But something most people can forget about when they start a cottage search is how much maintenance is required, and that it is a different type of maintenance than is required of a home. There are many seasonal tasks – like closing the cottage – that you need to consider. Closing the Cottage is when you prepare your 2 or 3 season cottage for the upcoming Winter season by doing things like shutting off utilities, bringing the dock in, defrosting the fridge, storing patio furniture and wildlife-proofing your roof, vents, main cottage, and storage shed(s). Then you reverse it all come Springtime! Of course, there are plenty of other things like a Sump Pump or Septic System that will need your attention throughout the year. If you’re not someone who loves DIY projects, or aren’t comfortable with these kinds of systems – find a local handyperson to put on speed dial!