Q&A

Is what you see what you’ll get when it comes to the shoreline?

By Kim PittawayKim Pittaway

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Photo by Chris Goddard

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The Question

Is what you see what you’ll get when it comes to the shoreline?

The Answer

No. You may not own to the water’s edge, even if the property includes the shore road allowance. In many areas, you own to the high water mark. “But in a few areas, you may not own the bank or from the bank down, so you may not be able to put in steps down to the beach,” says Kim McCann, a broker with Century 21 in Grand Bend, Ont.

Infill can also distort shorelines, says Pauline Aunger, a Smiths Falls broker with Royal LePage. “Let’s say in 1920, the seller’s great-grandfather bought a cottage, and it was a little swampy down by the shore, so he just kept putting earth in, and over time, his lot went from ending at the swamp’s edge to being an additional 20 feet further out. As a buyer, you need to know if that infill land has been properly conveyed and reflected in your survey.”

Shorelines can also change over the course of a season. Realtor Chris Winney of Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty lives on Kashwakamak Lake on the Mississippi River where the water level is lowered by 1.5 to 2 metres just after Thanksgiving. She considers it an advantage: “We don’t have to worry about taking our dock out of the water.”

And what’s under that shoreline water can also affect what you should pay for your property, says Winney. “Dip your feet in the water. You don’t want to get into muck—but if you’re going to buy mucky shoreline, it better be very cheap.”


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