If there’s an existing road to the property or access to the shore and the current owners use it, should I assume I can too?
No! “You need to be sure that it’s a deeded right of way, not just a verbal agreement,” says Kim McCann or Century 21 in Grand Bend, who has had situations where buyers think they can use the steps down to the shore next door, only to find that “it’s just a favour that’s been granted and it may not go on.”
Access isn’t the only issue when it comes to roads, though. Will the road to your cottage be plowed in the winter? Who pays for its upkeep? While some cottagers are lucky enough to have county or township roads that run right to their driveways, many cottages are accessed via private roads. Usually, the local cottage or road association—made up of the property owners who use the road—will assume care of the road, assessing members an annual fee for maintenance and, if the road is open in the winter, plowing. “We pay $125 a year to keep our lane maintained, insured and plowed,” says Chris Winney Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty. “It’s the best $125 I pay.” Note that in some areas, seasonal cottagers may be assessed a lower rate than those who use their properties year-round, though this isn’t always the case.