Real Estate

5 (potentially) confusing cottage real estate terms

Miniature houses with question marks above them By Doucefleur/Shutterstock

“In my business, familiarizing buyers with what they need to know involves some new terminology,” says Chris Winney, a broker with Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty in Northbrook, Ont. Here are a few potentially confusing terms for cottage buyers.

Road access Wait, how is that confusing? There’s “road access” and “water access.” Simple! But this term can require some explanation “if part of the way into the cottage takes you from a township-maintained road to resident-maintained lanes that may criss-cross neighbouring properties,” says Winney. “That’s when using a local lawyer is beneficial; they know the area well and understand how the buyer may or may not be impacted by this situation.

Cottage Q&A: If neighbours access their dock via our property, are we liable if they get hurt on our land?

Road maintenance fees “It’s important for buyers to understand that when they purchase a cottage that uses resident-maintained lanes for access, they need to accept that there will be an extra annual shared fee,” says Winney. Everyone who uses the road helps pay for the road: for maintenance—grading and dust control if it’s gravel, for example—insurance, and potentially snow plowing. (Even if you don’t use the cottage in the winter, your cottage association or road association may expect you to pay for winter maintenance.)

Cottage Q&A: How can we ensure everyone pays their share of road maintenance fees?

Crown land Any land, lakes, and rivers managed by the government. Is there any Crown land near the lake? “Having it facing or around your property is beneficial,” says Winney. “It’s a constant view, it probably means the lake is clean, and it provides everyone with privacy.” Not to mention trees. Everyone loves trees!

A guide to buying and building on Crown land in Ontario

Public access points This could affect how much boat traffic the lake gets. “Are there public access points on your lake or is it a closed system? On larger lakes, both residents and visitors can often put their boats in at different boat launches,” says Winney. On smaller lakes, you may need to own property to be able to boat there.

Lake level Well, duh: it’s the level of the lake! But you’ll want to investigate what controls it, and therefore, what can affect it throughout the year. “Is it spring-fed? Is it part of a river chain controlled by dams? Does the water level fluctuate to allow you to keep your dock in place in the winter?” says Winney. “Knowing this happens will reassure a buyer when the water drops at the end of October by five to six feet. Yikes if they didn’t know!”

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