6 real estate trends

The trends shaping this year's cottage market and the next

By Jay TeitelJay Teitel

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2. Fewer Americans are buying

Moguls aside, the cottage owners in Canada—both present and prospective—who were hit hardest by the ’08 meltdown weren’t Canadian. They were the Americans who cross the border in 
a vacationing torrent every June to summer in the Great White North or, more important, to look for a summer place to buy. The torrent dwindled to a trickle in 2009 and 2010, dramatically in the Rideau Lakes region north of Kingston and south of Ottawa, which has traditionally welcomed up to half its warm-season residents from the lower 48. Disaster loomed for this cottage real estate market.

Luckily, cottage seekers from Toronto, a mere three hours away, came to the rescue. “We lost a lot of American buyers in 2008,” says Tanya Lemcke of Century 21 in Westport, an almost criminally picturesque town on Upper Rideau Lake, “but they’ve been completely replaced by Toronto clientele. It’s been a huge shift—for the past two years the bulk of our e-mail has come from Toronto. They’re very different from the Ottawa clients we’re used to servicing, by the way, in that at least half of them are more interested in privacy than being on the water. The first thing I hear from a lot of them is ‘I don’t want to be able to see my neighbour.’ ” The Rideau region is another one 
of those non-Muskoka anomalies: Cottage prices have either remained stable or risen over the past five years. Any gregarious Torontonian who’s interested in a four-season 1,200-sq.-ft. cottage on a prime lakefront property can expect to pay $300,000 for it.

Or, if they’re looking for a better deal, they can always 
head for Florida. In the now very mobile recreational property real estate market, a number of Canadians are doing just that. They’re drawn to the Sunshine State by vacation home and condo prices that have plummeted more than 60 per cent, walloped by the subprime mortgage tsunami. Karen Arbutine, 
a real estate broker in Orlando, is currently selling properties to foreign buyers, a number from Canada, who have traded the notion of a summer cottage up north for a “winter cottage” down south. Prices are such that even with the cost of airfare factored in, the southern option may be a bargain. What will it cost you to get that prime 1,200-sq.-ft., three-bedroom, two-bathroom place on the shores of a waterskiable lake in Orlando? About $140,000 US.

Same place on a nice golf course? $60,000 US.

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