How young buyers afford cottage ownership: a strata?

Published: October 7, 2020

Spring Creek Alpine Village Landscape and Autumn Colors with Distant Three Sisters Mountain in Town of Canmore, Alberta Foothills of Canadian Rockies, strata Photo by Autumn Sky Photography/Shutterstock

Is cottage real estate becoming a young person’s game? While boomers still account for the majority of cottage sales, Re/Max’s 2019 Recreational Property Trends survey revealed that even Canadian millennials (roughly aged 24 to 39) are interested in buying a recreational property—56 per cent of them are in the market to purchase, up a full 14 per cent from the previous year.

The cottage market is seeing the effects, and prices are rising across Canada. Tofino, B.C., topped the list: waterfront property prices increased by a whopping 80 per cent since 2018, with the average price now at $2.5 million. Collingwood and Blue Mountain, Ont., jumped by 36 per cent. And Prince Edward Island is dominating the Atlantic cottage market, seeing a 15 per cent median price increase.

There is no shortage of media reports about young families struggling to find affordable housing in Canada. So, who are the younger buyers moving into the cottage market? How did they do it? And what did they learn?

In search of: An affordable cottage we can use all year

Tamara Cinnamon, 37, and Ken Robb, 40

When Tamara Cinnamon, who owns a real estate brokerage, and her husband, Ken Robb, an electrician, bought their first cabin, a Steiner Arch on Idabel Lake, B.C., they made sure they could escape their busy work lives in Vernon without having to drive too far. “It was only an hour and 20 minutes away,” Tamara says. “For us, it was a holiday every single weekend.”

They’ve since sold the cabin, but initially bought it for $150,000, splitting the cost with Tamara’s brother and sister-in-law. Tamara estimates that the cabin would currently go for $225,000, but adds that this is not indicative of the Okanagan Valley real estate market. “Idabel is a small lake in the mountains,” she says. “Okanagan is the big lake. If you’re thinking there, you’re definitely half a million for a tiny, little arch cabin.”

The cabin’s affordability was helped by its location on an 18-acre strata (i.e., condo) cottage complex, formerly a resort. So Tamara and Ken owned their cabin, but shared ownership of the strata’s property with 15 others. While they liked the nearby recreational trails, they found the strata set-up claustrophobic. “I’m a private person, and I enjoy my own space,” says Tamara. “Plus I didn’t like having to deal with meetings and budgets.”

Tamara suggests that buyers read over the strata’s rules carefully to uncover any fees that might be lurking in the fine print. Their strata had fees for road maintenance, upkeep of communal spaces (including a shared dock and a games room), and the salary of a caretaker who doubled as a rental manager for owners who rented out their cottages. “There are benefits to stratas for people who are not as handy and just want to go and enjoy it and not take care of everything,” she says. “But for us, we didn’t need the help, and we preferred to be on our own.”

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