Should you get a cottage-country real estate agent?
While it’s technically true that any agent can sell cottage-country property, it may be smarter to go with an agent who knows the region.
Consider this true tale shared by one realtor: A Toronto buyer opts to use his Toronto agent as he searches for a family cottage. They find the perfect property: a relatively new cottage on a bay. They look at it in November. The bay is skimmed over with ice and a dusting of snow. The cottage is stunning. The Sold sign goes up. The buyer makes plans for a dock, perfect for his boat and for his teenaged kids to dive into the water from. Which all comes to naught when spring arrives—and he discovers that his beautiful bay is only half a metre deep.
Look for an agent who is a member of the local real estate board and is knowledgeable about the local lakes, advises John Sallinen or Re/Max Parry Sound-Muskoka Realty. “That kind of agent will know, okay, you and your family of teens love pwcs, but on this lake, they’re all canoe people, and if you buy there, you’re going to be the black sheep of the lake, so that might not be the lake you want to be on,” he says. He suggests using a local lawyer as well. “We have a local cottage development that went in in the 1960s, and the developer did not transfer all of the rights of way correctly,” he says. Local lawyers know that when properties in that development change hands, they need to ensure that the seller has clear access and title—and if not, to ensure that the seller, rather than the buyer, pays to clear it up. “I’m not saying an outside lawyer wouldn’t notice it,” says Sallinen, “but a local lawyer would be unlikely to miss it.”
Chris Winney of Royal LePage Pro Alliance Realty in Land O’ Lakes suggests localizing yourself, as well—by picking up the local news-paper regularly as you’re cottage-hunting so that you’re in the know about regional issues and concerns. “And talk to the neighbours. A neighbour is going to give you the honest truth about what the water’s like, what the lake’s like, what the community is like.”