Tips for buying your home away from home



Picture yourself sitting on the cottage dock, dipping your toes into the water while watching the sun go down. Or, stepping outside your chalet in the crisp morning air and climbing aboard your snowmobile for an exhilarating day on the trails.

For many Ontarians, these idyllic moments are reason alone to own a recreation property. But what happens when a tree falls on your roof or your septic tank fails? Who cuts your grass when you aren’t there? Or plows the driveway so that you can get into your property on a late Friday night?

Recreation properties can be your playground and therapeutic oasis. But before you decide to purchase one, you need to know what you are committing to. Recreation properties, by virtue of their location, often have costs and characteristics you wouldn’t normally worry about with your home in the city.

Local knowledge goes a long way

“Since vacation properties have unique characteristics, it is best to hire a real estate professional with experience in this sector, and ideally in the area you want to buy,” says RECO Registrar Joseph Richer. “A sales professional with local knowledge will be able to help you ask the right questions about a property and determine what this investment means to your lifestyle and budget.”

A professional home inspection to look at heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical is always a smart idea.

Remember water and septic

Two additional considerations for a vacation property are water and septic systems. If your water source is a well, ask for a water quality test to be done and consider hiring a well inspector to make sure you will have sufficient water.
The health of a septic system can sometimes be difficult to determine, but you can ask for service records or find that information at the local health unit. A qualified environmental inspector can also be hired to conduct an inspection.

Access and easements are other matters to investigate. If you do not have year-round access by a municipal road, how do you get to your property in the winter? Is it through a neighbour’s property? If so, is there a formal agreement in place? And if the property is zoned seasonal, does the municipality provide emergency services in the winter?  These questions and more need to be answered before you purchase.

Cost considerations

Finally, it is important to know your carrying costs for the property. Whether you occupy it year-round or seasonally, there are certain expenses that are constants, such as mortgage payments, property insurance and taxes.
Utility charges can vary widely depending on the property and how it is used, so consider how it is heated – the price of electric, gas, propane and wood can differ dramatically – and what you can expect to pay for hydro.

Even travel time and fuel costs should be taken into account. If traffic jams are a constant problem in getting to your property, it would be good to know there are alternative routes to take. And what does it cost in gas to get there and back?

All of these questions – and more – are important considerations when contemplating the purchase of a vacation property. A registered real estate professional with knowledge of the recreation property market can help you get the answers you need so that you can determine whether owning a cottage is right for you.

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