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Cottage Q&A: Selling a classic boat and insuring century-old cottages

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This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

My family has recently transferred ownership of our two century-old cottage properties to a not-for-profit company (for estate planning and general management). We’ve been told that we cannot hold personal insurance policies in the company name, and cannot hold commercial policies either, as we are not conducting business on the grounds. What should we do?

—Unsure About Insurance

Look for a different broker. The type of policy you need does exist—but many insurers are reluctant to cover you because the situation “falls into a grey area,” says Bev Mitchell of Johnston Meier Insurance Agencies Group in Maple Ridge, B.C.

Chances are, a company with a lot of experience handling cottage policies won’t find your request odd. “That situation does not present a problem for me,” says Ross Robertson, of R. Robertson Insurance in Toronto. “It’s done quite often. It’s part of cottage life,” he says. “But there are a lot of other insurers out there who don’t get it.”

You could also look for an independent broker who will submit this to a special risks facility, says Mitchell. “There are companies that specialize in risks that don’t quite fit in the normal insurance box. The broker should be able to put together a submission that is essentially all of the details that an underwriter would need to determine insurability, and send it out to markets designed for these situations.” Some of these insurers offering “niche” products include Premier Group of Companies, Can-Sure Underwriting, April Canada, and Aviva Canada. But you should keep in mind that this route will come with extra fees, such as a policy fee and a commission split, says Mitchell.

Don’t give up. (Seriously, don’t give up. You need to have liability insurance at the cottage.) “You will find someone,” says Robertson. “It just might take more research and legwork.”

What determines the value of an antique or classic boat?


“Just like anything else, it can depend on what’s trending,” says Mark Krzyzanowski, the vice-president of Antique Boat America, the world’s largest broker of antique and classic boat sales. “People buy boats that they remember growing up with,” he says. This means that the desirability of a boat can change with the boat-buying population. These days, boats from the ’50s and ’60s are popular; pre-war boats, less so. (Quick terminol- ogy lesson: generally, “antique” boats are those from 1919 to pre-Second World War; “classic” are those post-Second World War to 1975.)

Also important is brand popularity. This can vary quite a lot depending on region, says Bruce Middleton, a co-owner of Absolute Classics Marine in Kelowna, B.C. “In Muskoka, boaters will recognize brands that someone in Florida will have no clue about.” Meanwhile, a Chris-Craft “will always be more valuable because it’s so well known,” says Middleton. “The name automatically gives those boats an aura.”

Obviously, the boat’s condition plays a key role. Bristol (a.k.a. near-perfect) will fetch the most cash; at the lowest end are project boats that need restoration. Want to fix up your ride before you try to sell it? Careful: restoring a boat in a way that deviates from the original could detract from its value, says Krzyzanowski. Taking this type of stylistic licence is a faux pas for some.

Contact a local broker or do some web searching to learn more. Middleton recommends the boat insurer Hagerty ( Its online price guide shows typical value ranges for certain types of boats, both antique and classic.

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