Cottage buyers urged to consider internet service, water supply and lake entry
The call of the loon is strong in Ontario where competition among cottage buyers has been especially fierce while the pandemic curtailed other vacation options.
Some features of rural ownership should be deal-breakers, starting with inadequate cell and internet service, according to a June survey of 275 resort area Royal LePage agents.
Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said first-time cottage buyers frequently make the mistake of failing to test the cell reception and Wi-Fi in and around the property they’re considering.
The second and third biggest concerns involve water. Sixteen percent of cottage country agents said buyers need to know the details of the kind of waterfront access they’re purchasing. Thirteen percent said purchasers should thoroughly research the household water supply. The GTA’s popular cottage destinations to the north still have many pockets of poor internet service, said Lakes of Muskoka brokerage agent Jay Richardson. She checks with internet providers in the area of the property her clients are considering to find out whether the address is served and the speed of the service being provided.
“Often people feel if they have their cellphone and they’re getting a couple of bars of service it’s fine. Well, it’s not,” she warned.
Richardson says she sometimes allows newcomers to the area the use of her office so they can do a video conference because they don’t have that connectivity in their home. The Ontario government has been rolling out funding for rural internet and Elon Musk’s Starlink internet is providing cottagers with hope, she said.
The kind of waterfront you buy should depend on what you want to do at the cottage, said Richardson. If a buyer wants to kayak and enjoy wildlife, “we’re going to be looking at smaller lakes, more natural waterfront that can give you that nice experience,” she said.
Boaters will want deeper, choppier, windier water.
“If you have little children, it’s paramount we have a gentler entry and that we have some shallow, warmer water,” she said.
Most Muskoka properties run on filtered lake water. If you’re using the home in the winter, you have to put in a heated water line, said Richardson.
“Using it year-round means not just a winterized cottage but winterized systems,” she said.
If you’re planning to finance your vacation home by renting it out on a platform such as Airbnb, realtors warn that many resort areas have restricted short-term rentals and cracking down on those who violated noise and parking bylaws.
If you are planning to rent out your property, Richardson warns that overuse can mean replacing a septic system more frequently at a cost of between $12,000 and $18,000 depending on the location.
“I’m talking to home inspectors who are saying septics are having to be replaced every eight to 10 years if they’re misused and used as a party house,” she said.
Royal LePage is forecasting cottage prices to rise 15 percent this year after a 16 percent increase last year.
This is a reprint of an interview on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, with Jay Richardson, Broker by Tess Kalinowski, Real Estate Report with the Toronto Star.