The perks of buying a cottage instead of a house in the city

a-young-couple-at-a-cottage-in-winter-skiing-vacation Photo by Dejan Dundjerski/Shutterstock

With housing prices skyrocketing in urban centres such as Toronto and Vancouver, it’s not surprising that interest in cottage country is on the rise —including from first-time home-buyers.

According to a 2017 RE/MAX report, two-thirds of Canadian millennials say that they would consider buying a recreational property in the next 10 years. Residential sales in regions such as Muskoka are also on the rise. It’s a consequence, say some real estate agents, of buyers being locked-out of city housing markets.

“Because houses in the city have become very expensive, we have seen buyers choose to invest in cottage country,” says Karen Phillips of RE/MAX Parry Sound-Muskoka, a realty agency specializing in cottages.

The perks of buying in cottage country

Beyond lifestyle choice, buying in cottage country offers some very real advantages over an urban investment. With a lower entry point into the market, there’s no argument that you’ll get more bang for your buck. While you’d be hard-pressed to find even a shoebox-sized condo for $250,000 in Toronto’s core, that same amount could buy you a waterfront three-bedroom cottage with a hot tub elsewhere in Ontario.

It’s also a solid choice if you want to get a return on your investment, especially in highly trafficked areas where renting your cottage is an option.

The real costs of cottage ownership

In the long run, it’s not safe to assume that the costs of buying a cottage will be lower than those of owning a home in the city. When Phillips says that a cottage may be more affordable than a city home, she puts the emphasis on “may.”

Regardless of where you buy, there will be legal fees and taxes involved. Monthly expenses such as utilities can add up quickly. Thanks to unexpected issues such as raccoons in the attic and burst pipes, on average cottages will have higher maintenance costs associated with them than city properties. As for that fixer-upper you saw on the cheap? The “fixer” part of the equation will cost very real time and money.

“People often romanticize cottage ownership and although we are huge believers in the benefits, advantages and wonderful lifestyle that it provides, there are costs, responsibilities and challenges associated with cottage ownership,” says Phillips.

Ultimately, one of the largest factors to consider is whether you’d leave the city for good, or if your cottage would be a vacation property. If you have the latter in mind, it’s important to recognize that maintaining two residences (even if one is just a rental in the city) can be a financial strain.

However, if you’ve already decided that a cottage is the right investment for you, Phillips advises seeking out a reputable realtor. “This will ensure that they purchase a property that will meet their needs and will be a practical, affordable choice,” she says.

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