Cottage life has always had its appeal, especially for people in Toronto and the GTA, who have easy access to the gorgeous lake-filled Muskoka and Haliburton areas. With the pandemic, the idea of escaping from densely-populated Toronto up north for a vacation and/or to work remotely became much more attractive. As a result, cottage prices, like Toronto real estate prices, have soared.
Many working Toronto families are now searching for cottages for sale in Muskoka or other nearby cottage country regions to see their everyday home office views filled with more nature, wildlife and to experience a feeling of tranquility that you can find only in Muskoka.
Keep in mind that there are many things to consider when searching for a cottage. Here are four things to consider before you buy a cottage.
Identify Your Cottage Wants
Before you start your cottage hunting journey, it’s a good idea to compile a list of things you want out of your future home. Why do you want the cottage? Here are some examples of questions to answer on your wish list to help narrow down your search
Are you looking for a remote property for privacy or do you prefer a community of cottages?
How close do you need to be to the nearest town?
Is your desired view that of water, forests, mountains or all of the above?
Will you be commuting back to the city several times a year/month?
Will the cottage be year-round or seasonally used?
Will you be renting the cottage out when you’re not there?
Research Cottage Areas
Now that you’ve got your wish list, it’s a good idea to begin researching areas that will best suit the life you’re looking for. In addition to the above, here are some other things to consider:
- Is the cottage property linked to a municipal water supply and sewage system, or is it on a privately-maintained septic system?
- Is there garbage and recycling collection? Seasonally? Or all year round?
- Are there any land and construction restrictions in the area? i.e. building additions or landscaping? It is important to review all zoning by-laws and consult the municipality for guidance if there is something specific you want to build or do with the land.
- Is there cellphone and/or internet service in the area? If so, how efficient is it? Internet services and hydro are more expensive in cottage country than in Toronto.
- Is there winter maintenance performed on the roads? If so, are there additional fees for these services?
- Are there any noise, light or motor restrictions on the lake?
- How close is the cottage to your home? Traffic to cottage country from Toronto on weekends is exceptionally heavy.
- How is the accessibility for family and guests? Consider whether the land is flat or rugged, and whether there is safe access to the water, especially if you have young children.
- What type of wildlife is in the area? Squirrels, raccoons, opossums, skunks, coyotes, bears, moose and deer are just some of the animals that also enjoy cottage life.
All of the above may impact your decision.
Try Renting a Cottage First
All of your research will be useful in helping you decide on a cottage region, but it’s better still to experience a cottage first-hand. If you’re not in a rush, it may be worthwhile renting a cottage available on a cottage rental site such as Airbnb on the lake or within the area that you are considering. Being able to experience the feel of the surroundings might help you to decide if that cottage you have been looking at is the one for you. Being 20-30 minutes from a grocery store or post office may sound manageable but prove to be a deal-breaker in practice. Use this time to get to know the area and talk to the locals to better understand about living in the area.
Sort Your Finances
A pre-approved mortgage will save you lots of time, energy, and frustration when searching for a new cottage. By determining how much you are financially capable of managing ahead of time, you’ll know what regions and properties to avoid outright. In today’s competitive market, it is important to know what you can afford before starting your search so that you can quickly and confidently make an offer when the right property comes along.
Other fees you will have to consider include land transfer taxes and legal fees, cottage insurance, utilities, and upgrades and maintenance costs. Take these costs into consideration when deciding to purchase a cottage.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider before you buy a cottage.
You may be interested in reading, “Cottage Etiquette: How To Ensure You Get Invited Back“.