Country and city buying: What’s the difference?

Is buying a rural property or cottage different from buying a home in the city?

That is a timely question, and the short answer is yes.

With housing prices high, supply low, and competition tough, we are seeing more and more people gravitate towards buying homes outside major cities.

Whether you are thinking about purchasing a rural property or cottage to call it your primary residence or you want to treat it as a holiday getaway, they are both very different from city properties. If you are in the market to buy either, I strongly suggest hiring a real estate agent who has experience with such properties in the area you are considering, and expertise to support the transaction.

While rural homes and cottages have a lot to offer, it can be a big change from city life and there is much to think about. Here are a few to things to get you started.

Account for maintenance. As you look at different properties, keep an eye out for the amount of land, and the landscaping features. Reflect on the cost and time for upkeep. You may also want to look at the driveway length or road to access the property. Snow removal can be quite an undertaking in the winter.

Consider the distance. If you physically go into work, you may want to think about commute time, traffic and gas (if you are driving), and assess your comfort level accordingly. Alternatively, if you are working from home, double check that the property’s location has access to good quality internet.

As well, find out how far the property is from hospitals, walk-in clinics, grocery stores and schools. Be mindful that if the home is zoned as “seasonal,” it is possible that the municipality will not provide snow plowing and emergency services during winter.

Know the water systems. Many rural properties and cottages are not connected to municipal water systems. Since the water source may be a well or a lake, it will be essential for you to hire a specialized company or work with the local public health office to conduct a water-quality test to make sure the water is safe to drink.

If the home you are interested in is not on a municipal water or waste system, it is often wise to include a clause in your agreement that allows you to confirm that the water is safe to drink (potable) and that there is adequate supply (flow rate). It is also key to have a septic inspection to confirm the system is in good repair and was installed following all government guidelines.

If you are looking at a waterfront property, confirm whether you have direct access to the water. Ask your agent to verify whether you will own the shoreline and, if not, whether you have the legal right to use it. A local real estate lawyer can determine how to ensure access to your property and whether you must cross another one to get to your own.

Regardless of the home you choose to move forward with, do your research and due diligence. Seek your agent’s guidance and ask for the property survey. If there isn’t one, have a survey done. As well, consider getting a home inspection so that you have the full picture before finalizing the transaction.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email

This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at

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