Real Estate

Cottage Q&A: What does selling “as is” mean?

A hand dangling a key over a miniature cabin By Chizhevskaya Ekaterina/Shutterstock

My wife and I are looking to buy a cottage. The owners are selling it “as is.” Is this common? And is buying a cottage that’s being sold “as is” a good idea?Bewildered Buyer

It’s not uncommon. Selling “as is” usually means: what you see is what you’re buying. The owners aren’t prepared to fix any problems discovered during an inspection. But there are different reasons for this language—it’s not always code for reno nightmare. “The term ‘as is’ can be a little ambiguous,” says Judy Forster of Forster Realty in Regina Beach, Sask. It’s typical in an estate sale or in a situation where the bank has foreclosed on a cottage. After all, “if the owners aren’t around, you can’t ask them to fix anything,” says Chris Winney, a broker with Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty in Northbrook, Ont.

15 real estate terms for first-time buyers

Other possibilities: the sellers don’t have the cash to deal with the fixes that the cottage needs, or they suddenly inherited the cottage and have no interest in tackling any renos. Or “as is” may have nothing to do with the condition, says Wayne William Heine, with in Spruce Grove, Alta. These owners could be using the term to indicate that they want to sell the contents of the cottage too. “Some people say, ‘Hey, I just want to take my personal belongings and walk out of here.’ For buyers, that might be a good thing.” Especially if the owners leave behind a valuable comic book collection or bottles of 70-year-old malt whisky! (What? It could happen.)

A real estate agent’s tips for buying a cottage sight unseen

Still—and this goes for buying any cottage, in any condition—as a buyer, you have to do your due diligence. Get all the necessary inspections—duh—but also gather as much intel about the lot, the area, the lake, and the local politics as you can. Winney’s tips include reading at least three issues of the regional newspaper, visiting the property at different times of the day, and talking to the neighbours. “Almost anything that’s wrong with the cottage is fixable, but the environmental factors aren’t,” she says. “And if someone is putting pressure on you to make a decision, walk away. There are other properties out there.”

Got a question for Cottage Q&A? Send it to

Featured Video