How to Buy a Vacation Home or Cottage in Ontario

How to Buy a Vacation Home or Cottage in Ontario

Justo Team | June 14, 2019

Introduction

Purchasing a vacation home or cottage in Ontario can be a great investment for those looking to get away from the traffic, hustle, and bustle in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. Purchasing a vacation home or cottage in Ontario could be a great investment given the growth in the real estate market in certain areas such as Prince Edward County. With the recent increase in home prices and the real estate market in places like Prince Edward County means that if you can buy now you might be able to see a return on your investment whenever the time comes to sell your home and see how your investment appreciates over time as more people are looking to escape the city. While the increase in home prices and real estate in the Greater Toronto Area, and stories about intense bidding wars and houses being sold for thousands of dollars above the original asking price means that it might be more affordable for some to buy a second or vacation home or cottage outside of Toronto instead of buying a home in the Greater Toronto Area.

Related article: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid for a First Time Home Buyer in Toronto

Moreover, vacation homes and cottages can be great for those looking to escape the traffic, hustle, bustle, and noise associated with living in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) during weekends, holidays, and summers. While Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area have many cultural and food offerings as well as some impressive natural offerings, parks, beaches, lakefront bike, and walking paths, it is normal that there are some times when you want a break from urban or suburban life. Buying a vacation home or cottage can be great since you whenever you want a break, you can visit your home with minimal advanced planning. If you are a person who enjoys frequenting holiday and weekend destinations in Ontario having your own vacation home could be great for you since if you decide that you want or need to go away for the weekend you can go away for the weekend with minimal planning.

Finally, Ontario is a province with many things to do including ski resorts near Georgian Bay, many lakes you can enjoy during the summer and fall, where you can go swimming, kayaking, boating, sailing, and more when the weather is warm. Depending on where you decide to buy, you might be able to enjoy a white sand beach if you buy near Wasaga Beach or if you buy near Georgian Bay you might be close to a ski area such as the ski area in the Blue Mountains where during the winter you can go downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc. While if you enjoy lakes, waterfalls, and/or Canadian wineries there are plenty of smaller vacation towns in Ontario where you can find homes near such amenities. The choice is yours and the options for cottages and second homes in Toronto just hours from the city are almost limitless.

Steps to Buying a Vacation Home or Cottage in Ontario

  • Decide to buy a vacation home or cottage in Ontario

Congratulations, you are officially taking action to make your dream of owning a vacation home or cottage in Ontario a reality! Before you can seriously begin looking at homes you will first need to figure out your answers to the following questions so you can figure out what how to best proceed, where to look, etc. with your search. You can write down your answers to these questions and keep them somewhere safe so when you are looking at homes you can refer back to your goals, desires, your reason(s) for doing this, etc. if and when you want to refresh yourself as to why you are doing this and what you are looking for.

Questions to ask yourself when you decide you want to buy a vacation home or cottage in Ontario

  • In what community or communities am I interested in buying a home? (Do you have any specific areas in mind?)
  • What do I want to be near? (Lake, mountains, farm, rural/country, small town, woods/wilderness, a resort such as the Blue Mountains near Georgian Bay, some  combination of all of the above?)
  • What type of home do you want? (House, cottage, farmhouse, cabin, camp, lakehouse, etc.)
  • How large is your ideal house? (How many bedrooms, bathrooms, SQ feet, etc.?)
  • What does your ideal home look like? (Is it a small rustic cabin in the woods maybe near a lake, a farmhouse, a lake house, a house near a cute town, large lakefront mansion, etc.?
  • What does the inside of your ideal home look like? For example, is it kitschy and rustic nothing super new or updated or is does it look like it belongs in a spread for a glossy magazine, super luxurious and updated top of the line finishes, appliances, etc.?
  • What amenities do I want for the community where I am buying to have? (Examples: year-round activities, restaurants, lots of culture, cute bars, maybe boutiques, outdoor activities, stuff for the whole family, close to a resort, etc.?)
  • What are your goals for buying a vacation home or cottage (Are you hoping to spend weekends and summers here, diversify your real estate holdings and make an income renting out this home, is it cheaper to buy a home here than in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area, are you planning planning to eventually retire to a cottage here, hoping to pass down this home to family and/or kids, etc.?)
  • When are you hoping to use this home (summer and fall, all year-round, etc.?)
  • How far away do you want to be from your primary residence?
  • How far are you willing to travel to visit your home? (How many kilometres from your primary residence and how many hours with traffic are you willing to travel?)
  • Are you willing to rent out your home when you are not using it for extra income?

Related article: How to invest wisely in Toronto’s real estate?

2. Figure out your budget and get pre-approved for a mortgage

At this point, if you have already done so you will need to figure out what your financial situation looks like, check your credit score and see what money you have available for a down payment. Knowing what your credit score is and having a solid handle on your financial situation will help you determine what your budget is and help you may be to gain an idea of how much you the money you might be able to be pre-approved for when requesting a loan. It is important that you and your real estate agent understand monitor your mortgage commitment since pre-approvals for home loans are uncertain and subject to change.

Related article: How to Boost a Low Credit Score (and Qualify for a Mortgage) in Ontario?

It is important to remember that a lender pre-approving you for a loan depends on the information you are providing to the lender at the time you are requesting pre-approval for a home loan. Any changes in your financial situation, have the potential to put your pre-approval status in jeopardy making it so you cannot be eligible to get the full amount of money you were originally pre-approved to receive or impossible to get a loan. Finally, it is important to remember that you should avoid making any large purchases (such as buying a car) or taking out any other loans for things before you close on your home, avoiding doing these things can help you to maintain your pre-approval status.

3. Start looking at homes online and do some research about the community or communities where you are interested in buying a home

If you have not already done so you should be looking at some homes online, doing research about the area(s) where you are interested in buying, and looking at potential real estate agents and/brokers who can represent you as the buyer in this scenario.

4. Find a great real estate agent to represent you as the buyer and look at homes with them

Having a great real estate agent representing you as the buyer can make a huge difference in your house hunting and buying experience, they can save you money with negotiations, headaches and do even more. You want to find someone who has experience in the area(s) you are interested in, who you like, trust, who understands you, and you believe is a good match for you, your needs, goals, etc. A great agent is worth their weight in gold so you should not hesitate to do the necessary research and work to find someone who is an excellent match, who can be your advocate throughout this process. Once you have signed the necessary documents to have an agent(s) or broker(s) represent you, you can start looking at houses together and hopefully, you can find your dream home quickly!

Related article: How to choose the right real estate agent when buying a home in Toronto?

5. Find your vacation home or cottage and make an offer

At this point, hopefully, you have found your dream vacation home or cottage and are working with your real estate agent(s) or broker(s) to draft an offer. After your agent or broker submits your offer, you will be waiting to hear from your agent or broker as to whether or not they decided to accept your offer, sent a counter offer or rejected your offer. You have done all you can at this point, now it is time to relax, wait and see what happens.

6. Sign the Agreement and Purchase of Sale (APS) documents to purchase your home

The seller(s) has accepted your offer, soon you will be signing the Agreement and Purchase of Sale (APS) documents to purchase your vacation home or cottage. When you go into your appointment to sign the APS documents arrive prepared with your chequebook and a valid government issued photo ID (driver’s license, passport, etc.). At this point, your agent or broker will be walking you through the process to sign the APS documents and answering any questions you have at this time.

7. Home Inspection and Property Survey

Before closing on your home you need to have your home and any other structures on the property inspected and if your property has not already been surveyed have the property surveyed. This home inspection is important so you can find out if there any deficiencies or things that you need to have the seller fix before closing. It is important to have the property inspected so you can avoid any future legal issues related to encroachments and easements.

8. Closing

At your closing appointment, you will be meeting with your lawyer, real estate agent and/or broker as well as possibly meeting with the seller, their real estate agent(s) and their lawyer(s). Today you will be making the payments to take ownership of the house, today the process to transfer the title and ownership of the house from the seller to you begins. You will be getting the keys to the house since the home and property are officially yours, congratulations! You can officially begin moving your stuff into the house as the new owner.

Things to Consider When Buying A Vacation Home or Cottage in Ontario

Whenever you are making an important and possibly life-changing decision, to invest in real estate, there are some things you should consider related to costs, maintenance, risks, the actual house hunting, and purchase process and the future.

First, are you prepared for the possibility that when the time comes to look at vacation homes and cottages in Ontario you might not be looking at homes during the high season on vacation? Are you ok with driving in the middle of the winter or fall to an area possibly on a weekday or weekend to go look at homes with your real estate agent or broker? Are you ok with the fact that sales for homes in the area you are interested in might happen relatively quickly i.e. a home might sell within weeks or a few months of being put onto the market? You might need to be ready to jump and make an offer quickly if the right home comes up for sale. This is especially important to remember since in these vacation communities it is not a guarantee that all of the homes for sale might be on the MLS or posted online, in this case you will need a local real estate agent or broker to take you through this process who is aware of all of the goings on in the area(s) you are interested in purchasing a place. Another important consideration is the future.

Are you willing to commit to going somewhere for a lot of weekends, holidays, and/or summers for a while? What will you do if you want to do something different, want a break from going to this house and/or unable to go to your home or cottage? Would you be willing to list your home or cottage on a site like Airbnb or HomeAway or rent it out using an agency? Are you willing to spend enough time in a given place to make purchasing a place there worth your time, money, energy, etc.?

Related article: How to Find the Best Places to Live in Toronto?

Pros for Buying a Vacation Home or Cottage in Ontario

There are many pros for buying a second home in Ontario given the experiences you can enjoy having your own place to go during weekends, holidays, winters depending on where you decide to buy. For example, if you are a friend who is bringing people together and planning fun activities with your friends and family having a second home just hours away from your primary home means you will have even more options for entertaining friends, family, and colleagues. You will be able to invite people to visit whenever you want. Furthermore, in the long term if you are visiting a certain vacation area a lot you might be able to save money on accommodations since cottage rentals during the high season can cost thousands of dollars for use of a lakefront cottage for only a week. Depending on how much you are paying for a given vacation home, with a mortgage, taxes, utility bills, maintenance, etc. if you are renting out an expensive home for a couple of weeks at a time you might save money with owning your own home instead of renting.

Moreover, while you might dream of having a second home in Ontario for weekends, summers, winters, and holidays, others may see the investment potential for owning a vacation home or cottage a few hours away from Toronto. While you are not using your home you could rent it out with an agency as a vacation rental to earn rental income or rent out your property on home sharing websites such as Airbnb. Owning real estate that you can earn rental income from renting if you out as a vacation rental property can be a great investment. If you do your research, choose wisely when buying your cottage or home, it’s location, amenities, size, etc. you could see how it appreciates in value and if you are lucky you could stand to earn a profit off the income you are earning from renting your home as a vacation rental.

This is especially true for homeowners in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) who are taking advantage of how the value and equity in their homes in the Greater Toronto Area have increased and are using this money to invest in vacation rental markets outside of Toronto instead of purchasing a property as to use as an investment in the Greater Toronto Area. This investment strategy is ideal because you will actually be able to use this home and enjoy all that it has to offer, whereas if you buy an investment property and are planning to rent it out for rental income, you probably will not be able to enjoy that property like you would if you were buying a vacation home or cottage where you could go when it is not being rented.

Additionally, if you want to invest in real estate but cannot afford to buy a home in Toronto because of high prices, you could always consider buying a vacation home or cottage in Ontario and rent in Toronto. This strategy could allow you to invest in real estate but avoid the high prices of Toronto real estate and also earn money on your investment since you could rent out your property whenever you are not using it. If your primary residence is the Toronto Area you would have a harder time listing your home on a home sharing website such as Airbnb if you if your home there is your primary residence and you spend a lot of your time there. This way you could maintain a home in Toronto and earn passive income on your vacation home when you are not using it. Finally, homeownership, maintenance, and labour costs might be lower than Toronto, if you are a homeowner in a vacation area such as Georgian Bay.

Buying a vacation home or a cottage in one of Ontario’s famous cottage communities now could be a great investment if you are hoping to one day leave the city or suburbs and move to a cottage community and/or retire a cottage community. If you are hoping to eventually move full time or retire in a cottage community buying now could be great since you can purchase a home now and pay today’s prices. This can give you time if you are buying a fixer-upper to do any repairs, renovations,  additions, and/or improvements you wish to make to customize your home so it more closely resembles your preferences. This way if you purchased a fixer-upper when the time comes for you to eventually move out there your home should be ready for you and you can enjoy it without having to worry about renovations or construction. Even better is you can also earn a passive income renting out your home whenever you are not using it, which can help cover the carrying costs for owning this home and supporting you as you build your nest egg.

Depending on where you buy your house, i.e. if you are buying a home near a lake, you will benefit during the summer from having a place to go to escape Toronto’s hot, humid summers. On hot summer days when you are feeling sticky, you can take a dip in the lake, go sailing or boating and cool off. If you are at a place such as Georgian Bay or Lake Huron, if you have a boat or befriend someone who has a boat and can take you, you could take a boat to different uninhabited islands, where you can have picnics, spending afternoons swimming, walking, and hiking around the uninhabited islands in the middle of the lake. Spending summers on or near the water is beneficial for people of all ages.

If you have kids, spending summers at the lake means they can become stronger swimmers, learn the basics about sailing, boating, kayaking, and become proficient at water sports. Throughout the course of this, they will have the opportunity to learn important skills about self-reliance and responsibility as well as other practical skills for the great outdoors such as navigation, tying knots and more that they could use for the rest of their lives. These benefits do not only apply to kids, but adults can also benefit from spending time on the water and learning these skills since skills such as swimming, navigation, and tying knots are life skills. While the experience and skills one gains from boating and learning and the confidence you can develop knowing how to fix things, solve problems when you are out on the water, how to take care of boats and do basic maintenance, these are transferable skills. Almost everyone in our hyper-connected internet age could do to spend less time online or on their devices, be more present, more connected with others and nature and having a cottage on or near a lake could help you to disconnect and be more present.

Finally, if you are buying a home on the water or with a water view, whether this is at or near a lake or river, you can expect to take advantage of certain benefits that you can only have living near the water. While scientists may not totally understand why humans are drawn to water, scientists who have studied people who live near water, noted in their findings that the people who they spoke to who lived near the water reported feeling happier, calmer, and more creative than people not living near water. While lakefront living in Toronto might not be possible for you, you can take advantage of living near the water by having a home on or near a lake in Ontario. And all of the benefits you can enjoy being closer to nature, such as watching the sunrise in the morning or the sun setting in the afternoon or evening after an activity-filled the day out on the water or a quiet day spent in contemplation, meditation, reading, writing, etc.

This time that you are spending being in nature or in a more tranquil, rural setting, away from some of the hustle and bustle of the big city can be restorative. Meaning you could go to your home for the weekend and return at the end of the weekend to work or school feeling refreshed and reenergized to tackle whatever problems you might face. Having this designated place where you can go and unwind, relax, and recharge can help you avoid feeling burned out and depressed which increasingly common in our modern world. While this would be great for adults of any age, kids of all ages would definitely benefit from being able to experience nature and have time away from screens to play, read, be outside, and in nature. Escaping the city even for a short time can be great mentally since it can give you a great excuse to disconnect for a bit, be more present and really unwind in a way that might be hard if you are surrounded by a lot of people, noise, etc.

While reading about all of the potential positives for vacation home or cottage ownership in Ontario may have you ready to go visit, staying a week to look at homes in some of the vacation communities outside of Toronto and Ottawa, there are some potential cons and things that you should be aware of before committing to buy a cottage or vacation home.

Cons for Buying a Vacation Home or Cottage in Ontario

Simply put, having an additional home, whether that home is an investment property in your area, or a vacation home or cottage means that you will have more on your plate and potentially more headaches than someone who only has one home. These headaches could take the form of additional taxes you will be paying for this additional home, paying for maintenance and upkeep for this home, finding someone to take care of your home or cottage while you are away, figuring out how to rent it out when you are gone, insurance, managing rentals and guests, and more. Moreover, you might need to rent out your home a certain amount of time to cover your costs and/or visit a certain amount of time each year in order for you to make owning a vacation home or cottage worth your time, money, energy, etc. Having a cottage or vacation home is a huge responsibility, which might be made more difficult even more difficult given the fact that you will not be living in this home full time.

Related article: Pros and Cons of Buying Homes in Downtown Toronto

Maintenance Costs and Other Considerations

It is important to note that Maintenance costs and upkeep can be quite high for a vacation home or cottage, more expensive than maintenance costs for your primary residence. You might be wondering why this is the case. Consider the following example.

Here is a hypothetical situation to consider, if you are renting out your home when you are not using it and have renters in your home, chances are that you might be hours away if and when and something happens or something breaks. Resolving this problem and fixing whatever has been broken, could be challenging to resolve from a distance unless you have a caretaker helping you out and/or other people who are helping you manage your rental(s) and everything else associated with it.

While owning a home in a cottage community might cost less than owning a home in Toronto, you will probably need to find and hire a responsible, reputable person to care for and look after your home and property (as applicable) while you are gone. This is an additional cost that you will need to take into consideration. Another related thing to consider is maintenance and the costs associated with maintaining a vacation home that might in a rural area, i.e. how this might influence how much you are paying for utilities (water, electricity, gas, internet, etc.).

Maintenance and upkeep for a house and property, they are not sexy and can be headaches in and of themselves. Maintaining an additional home and the property it is on can be more expensive and time-consuming than you might imagine. For example, if you are buying a home with significant acreage that happens to be on the water, be prepared to pay more money to maintain the property e.g. mowing the lawn, weeding, gardening, taking care of the trees on your property and other landscaping tasks.

For example, if you have a larger property, you might have a longer driveway than a city house so you will need to pay to have someone plow your driveway and salt the walkways come winter time. If you are renting out your home you will also need to pay to have someone clean at the very least before renters or guests arrive and after they leave and deal with all of the headaches associated with renting out your home. If you are in a more rural area you might have to worry more about pest control than if you are in a more populated area. Furthermore, you might have a septic tank for sewage, and this will need to be emptied and maintained every so often so you will need to have money set aside to cover this cost. Also, if you are in a more rural area, you might be using well water, so you will need to pay the well maintained and the water treated.

If you are especially fancy, you might have a pool which will need to be cleaned and maintained and closed for the winter, unless you are planning on heating it. If you are on a lake and have a dock and boats, you will have to take the boats and dock up in the winter and have them stored, and then during the summer put them back. If you have boats they will need to be maintained and you will need plenty of accoutrements specific for boating. For example, if you have a property on Georgian Bay since the waves there can be strong and large, you will not be able to moor a larger boat, this means your boats will need to be stored on shore above the water to avoid being damaged by the waves. All of this stuff is in addition to your regular maintenance.

While you might have additional special maintenance for your property depending on its size, location, etc. you will still have to do the regular maintenance for a vacation home or cottage that you might need to do for a regular house, such as dealing with plumbing, roofing, electrical and structural repairs, having someone to come clean the gutters for your roof and trim, painting, fixing appliances if and when they break, dealing with heating and cooling systems, etc. Plus there are almost always unexpected things that come up that you might need to have fixed. And as you can imagine all of these costs related to maintenance and upkeep do have a tendency of adding up.

Water and Sewage Considerations

An important consideration related to maintenance and upkeep is related to issues as to where your water is coming from and how your sewage is handled? In other words, is your home or property connected to municipal sewer and water lines meaning potable water comes to your house and out of your tap and sewage flows away from your house and the municipality where your home is located has sewage treatment facilities, i.e. you do not need to worry about a septic tank? Or does your property include a septic tank, where your waste goes that will be responsible for emptying every so often, and maintaining? Where is your water coming from (well-water, is your home connected to municipal sewer and water lines) and sewage, is your home connected to a municipal sewer system or do you have a septic system? Is your home connected to municipal water lines or a well? If you have a septic tank for sewage, this will need to be emptied and maintained every so often so you will need to have money set aside to cover this cost. Also, if you are in a more rural area, you might be using well water, so you will need to pay the well maintained and have a water treatment system. You will probably need to have regular maintenance done on the well and water treatment system. Another thing to consider is that some homes do not have municipal water or well water, so in this case, these homes will have cisterns or large holding tanks that will need to be regularly refilled.

Heating and Electrical Considerations

You might be surprised to learn that there are more options for heating in the areas filled with cottages in Ontario when compared to the options available in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). If you have a cottage in Ontario chances are your furnace might be fueled by natural gas or propane, which implies that you will have to pay for and schedule regular deliveries for propane, or your home might be heated using a fireplace or stove or electric heaters in your baseboards. Given that you will be further away from an urban area, it is recommended that you purchase a portable generator since it usually takes utility companies to fix power outages in more isolated, lower density, and less populated areas, i.e. non-urban and suburban areas. You might be surprised that your hydro (electricity) bill from Ontario’s Hydro One is higher, maybe $50 or more per month than your electricity//hydro bill living in Toronto. You might be wondering why this is the case, in more densely populated urban areas since there are more customers so the costs tend to be lower per person since they are shared among so many people.

Another thing which might surprise you is how your internet bill for your home in Toronto or the surrounding area might be less than your internet bill for your vacation home or cottage. While large internet providers in Toronto and the surrounding might not provide the best service, they offer faster internet for a lower price than what you will pay at your vacation home or cottage. This might be one of the few things that will you pay less for living in Toronto and/or the surrounding area compared to living in a cottage or vacation area in Ontario.

Something you might not have considered is how trash collection and recycling vary from place to place. Living in Toronto and the surrounding areas your property taxes probably will pay for these services provided by whatever city or municipality you are living in. Therefore, since the cost of these services is included in your taxes you are not paying additionally. However, this might not be the case for wherever your vacation home or cottage is located, you might have to pay for trash collection by the bag, paying to drop off your trash at a municipal dump and/or responsible for taking all of your recyclable items to a municipal recycling center.

Given that maintaining their home might not be the previous owner’s first priority, means that when you buy a house, you might also be getting a house with a lot of deferred maintenance, e.g. you might be spending a lot of time, money, and energy getting the house in order and taking of things when you first get it your first year or two might involve a lot of getting things fixed and in order, painted, decorated, and set up, etc. as well as having fun so down the road you can really begin to enjoy all that your vacation home or cottage has to offer and won’t have to worry about everything since you will have systems and will have had figured out how to do all of this and be in a position where you can enjoy your home.

Owning a vacation home or cottage can be quite rewarding and fun but it definitely is not for those who do not enjoy dealing with logistics, maintenance, upkeep, and responsibility. However, if you are ok with taking on the additional responsibilities, and costs, along with the benefits that are a part of a vacation home or cottage ownership this could be great for you. However, there are other important considerations related to taxes and insurance.

Tax and Insurance Considerations if this is your second home

If you are looking to purchase a second home, i.e. your vacation home or cottage will not be your primary residence, there will be some tax implications if this is your second home. If this is your second home you might have to pay a one-time property transfer tax when you purchase your home. If you plan to rent out this home for rental income there will be some tax implications, speak to an accountant if you have any questions about how this might work for you. If this is your second home this will probably be seen as a taxable investment, so any money generated from its use is taxable for the owner. This includes the Capital Gains Tax that you will be responsible for paying when you sell it.

It is important to remember that how much people living in different parts of Ontario pay varying amounts of money for property taxes. The amount you will pay in property taxes in part depends on whether or not city services such as water, sewer, trash collection, etc. are included in taxes. Toronto property taxes are lower than other communities since Toronto is such a big city, there are more people contributing and paying taxes to fund public services, which means Toronto taxes are lower since the cost for city services is spread out among more people. This is not the case in smaller, less densely populated areas that usually have higher taxes since there are fewer people contributing, hence the higher taxes to offset this. If you have any questions about taxes and/or the tax implications of purchasing a second home you should definitely speak with an accountant about this matter. Another cost-related consideration is insurance.

It is important as a homeowner to have the appropriate amount of coverage and an insurance policy that best fits your needs. This is important since if you are purchasing a vacation home or cottage that you will not be living in full-time you can expect to pay more money for homeowner’s insurance. You will pay an additional premium if your home is located further away from fire and other emergency services. Even if you have an absentee home insurance policy, these policies usually require that someone visits and checks on your home every 30 to 60 days.

Also, if you have any plans to rent your home whenever you are not using it, you should be honest with your insurance company about this. You will pay more money for your policy if your insurance company knows that you are renting out your home when you are gone. However, if the time comes and you need to file an insurance claim and your insurance company learns that you lied, they will deny your claim. If you have any questions about insuring a second home, you should speak with your insurance agent. Another important consideration is the seasonality of your home and when you will be reaping the benefits of having a vacation home or cottage in Ontario.

Related article: How to choose the right mortgage broker in Toronto?

The seasonality of your vacation home or cottage

Depending on the types of houses you are looking at, where you are looking, what you want, and other factors, you might be getting a year-round house that is winterized, a home with insulation and heat that you can visit no matter the season or you might be getting a home you might only be able to use a few months out of the year depending on its location, if it’s winterized, etc.

This is an important consideration since living in Ontario during the warmer months can be fantastic. Spending the summer at lakes in Ontario can be amazing and a great respite from the heat and humidity in Toronto, but the majority of the year is cold. Some vacation home destinations have amenities and activities you can do during the winter months such as the Blue Mountains near Georgian Bay, which has winter sports activities and other indoor activities.

However, if you have a lake house near or on the water, are you ok with during the winter that the closer you are to the lake during the winter, the colder your home will be, especially if there are strong and cold winds blowing off the lake? During the colder months the closer you are to the water, the more money you can expect to pay to heat and insulate your home to prevent heat loss. If your home or cottage is located in a more isolated or rural area, you should not expect that the access road(s) to your home’s driveway will be plowed at no cost to you by your municipality. In other words, be prepared to pay if you need to have these roads and your driveway plowed so you can reach your home during the winter? Furthermore, it is important to remember that some of the roads near your home or cottage might not well-maintained, so they may only be accessible if you have a four wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicle during bad weather, are you prepared for this? Are you comfortable driving down roads that are not well-maintained, that might not have been plowed if there is snow and/other inclement weather? Do you have a vehicle or access to a 4WD or AWD vehicle if this happens to be the case?

Special Considerations if you are on or near the water

If you are looking at homes near or on the water you should take some precautions to ensure that people or animals who do not want to go to the lake do not accidentally fall into the lake. If you have children and/or pets and have a house on the water with a lawn sloping down to the lakeshore, you might consider fencing off part of this lawn so people and/or pets are not going into the lake when they are not supposed to be going in. You might consider putting in motion activated lights near the edge at night in case someone does go in so you can see them more easily in case anything does happen. Another water-related consideration is moisture.

The closer you are to the water means that there is more moisture in the air, which means metal items closer to water will rust more easily than they normally would. Moisture in itself is not a bad thing, however, excessive moisture has the potential to cause issues such as mould and mildew. This also means that you can expect for your maintenance costs might be higher the closer you are to the water, higher than if your home is a few blocks away from the water. If you are on the water, you will need to be on the lookout for moisture, making sure items are drying properly and are not rusting because of moisture. Finally, two more water-related considerations are related to zoning and the shore road allowance.

If you are looking at waterfront properties, it is important to remember that there are a lot of zoning regulations that are specific to waterfront properties, especially properties which have shore or beach frontage. The regulations related to waterfront properties tend to be related to environmental regulations and zoning, many of them function to dictate how big any new structures can be, how far you are allowed to build onto the shore or how far from shore you are allowed to build a deck or other structure(s). In other words, if you are considering doing any major construction on your property i.e. building, additions, renovations, etc. you will need to research these regulations and familiarize yourself with them to avoid having any issues with receiving permits for construction on your property.

It is important that you understand the zoning and environmental regulations affecting your property since in many cases in Canada, the Crown retains the right to build on the shore, this is known as the Shore Road Allowance. This means that anyone owning a building encroaching onto the Shore Road Allowance could have some serious problems if the government decides it wants to develop this land that is part of the Shore Road Allowance. Therefore, if you are looking for waterfront property, you want a property with a “closed” shoreline since this helps you to avoid running the risk that in the future the government might want to develop this land.

Furthermore, many waterfront properties, especially in rural areas have never been surveyed. In other words, this means it is possible that encroachments and easements might have gone unnoticed. Be sure to check to see whether or not your property has been properly surveyed, and if your property has not already been surveyed, you should have it surveyed before closing to avoid any potential legal headaches

While this might not apply for homes in urban and suburban areas, however, many waterfront properties, especially in rural areas, have never been surveyed, this means that encroachments and easements may have gone unnoticed. If your property has not already been surveyed, you should consider having it surveyed before closing, to avoid any potential legal headaches down the road.

There are several steps involved in the process of purchasing a vacation home or cottage in Ontario. How this process looks and will function, will vary from buyer to buyer, agent to agent, broker to broker, and community to community. However, the steps outlined below represent the basic components of this process.

Conclusion

Buying a vacation home or cottage in Ontario, whether you are buying your first home and plan on staying and renting in the Toronto area, this is your second home or you are a seasoned pro with real estate investment is not for those who lack patience, foresight, flexibility, and a passion for the community they are buying into. Deciding to buy a vacation home or cottage can be great personal and (for some) a great investment. While vacation home and cottage ownership can be really fun, it is not for everyone, it can be expensive, time-consuming, risky investment-wise, and potentially draining.

However, if you are willing to accept the joys and challenges that vacation home and cottage ownership present you might really enjoy cottage living and spending your weekends at your vacation home. However, if you plan well, are lucky, do your research, and due diligence, you might be able to see a high return on your investment, given how much people pay during the high season to rent a cottage in Ontario for a week and how vacation home prices in Ontario seem to be increasing. However, if you are going to see the return on your investment, you will have to be strategic and need to carefully consider whether or not buying a vacation home or cottage in Ontario is the right choice for you and your family.

Related article: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Buying a House in Toronto

Photo by Aude Lozano on Unsplash

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