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5 Questions to Answer Before You Buy a Cottage


Owning your own waterfront cottage is such a romantic notion, actual life goals for many Canadians. As much of a comfort as it is a status symbol, having a vacation property can simplify summer planning for many families who enjoy the tranquility of Cottage Country.

Before you dive in, though – ask yourself these 5 questions to make sure you’ve got all the info you need to help you choose a location.

1. How do you vacation?

Will you (and your family) be content to head to the same destination year after year? Will you enjoy the stability of knowing exactly where you will spend your weekends or holiday weeks, or will you miss the variety and excitement of trying something new and different each year? How will you feel if the kids grow up and decide that they don’t want to go to the cottage anymore? Answers to these questions can help you decide whether you will get enough use of a summer home to make the purchase worthwhile.

2. Will you rent out the property for income?

If it’s unlikely that you will use your cottage every weekend, you may decide to rent it out part of the time. This is most practical if you live within a reasonable drive of the cottage, since you should be ready to go there in person in case of emergency. Some summer homes belong to homeowners’ associations or other management groups, so be sure you know the rules around renting to non-owners. Be aware of additional expenses, such as extra insurance, maintenance, concierge fees, and income taxes. Once you have calculated the costs, you will be in a better position to decide whether offering your place as a rental is a good idea for you.

3. Do you want a seasonal cottage or year round?

Think about what the appeal is to having a vacation home. Is it strictly for summer fun, barbecues, water sports, and summer evenings under the stars? Or do you see yourself cuddled up by the fireplace on cold winter weekends while you watch the snow falling out your cottage window, too? If you dream of tropical beach vacations to escape Canadian winters, a three-season cottage might be the best fit. Be sure to read our in-depth cottage article here.

4. What is the ideal location for your cottage?

Ontario has many areas that qualify as “Cottage Country.” Algonquin Park, Pelee Island, Muskoka, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Lake Erie’s shores are just a few. Each region has its own appeal. Wise cottage buyers will visit a few different vacation spots and get a feel for what they offer. Do you want to ‘rough it,’ and be as far removed from city life as possible? Or will you prefer the option to wander into a nearby town to shop, eat at restaurants, and be close to conveniences during your time away from home? How far are you willing to travel to get to the cottage? Be realistic about whether you will truly enjoy a 4-hour drive in traffic on a Friday evening to get to a cottage for the weekend.

5. Will you need to hire out maintenance?

Unless you buy property in a managed park, there will be some regular maintenance tasks for you to consider. Who will mow your lawn, water your plants, clean up after summer storms, or shovel snow while you are not there? Does your insurance company specify what they will cover if the property is vacant for periods of time? Be sure to calculate the cost of property check-up and maintenance visits when you work out your budget.There will be other questions as you go through the process, too. Be sure to learn as much as you can about owning a cottage before you buy so that, once you take the plunge, you can fully enjoy your second home.

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