So You Want to Buy a Cottage!
You've looked at magazine after magazine, drooling over
those spectacular sunset views across the lake. The distinct sound of crying loons, and the aroma of pine needles floating on a fresh soft breeze all come to life as you turn the magazine pages.
Buying a cottage property isn't like buying any other type of Real Estate. Yes, it starts with an Agreement of Purchase and Sale and if all goes as planned, ends with a deed to the title of the land. But many of the details involved are unique to cottage properties. It's not the same as buying a home in the city.
To assist you, here are some of the more common issues you should be aware of before buying a cottage or any recreational property.
#1. SELECTING THE RIGHT AGENT:
Now this may seem to basic, but be cautious. Just because an agent works in a community that is surrounded by lakes and cottages, do not assume they have the knowledge to answer your questions. They may be commercial specialists, or sell in-town homes. Not all have a thorough working knowledge of cottage properties. The agent who sold your home or sold you a home in the city may not be your best choice either. In short...
"WORK WITH THE AREA SPECIALISTS."
#2. ZONING AND DEVELOPMENT:
As I am sure you are aware, most homes in the city are found in
subdivisions. They are developed in predictable patterns, usually based upon subdivision agreements registered on the title of the property. These agreements will set out the pattern of building, confirm water, sewer and other utilities and establish the layout of roadways, sidewalks and parks.
Rarely does a cottage development follow the same pattern.
Normally, cottage properties that border waterfront have been carved up over the course of many years.
Development is sporadic and will change tremendously from generation to generation. In many cases, municipal involvement is kept to a minimum and most of the day-to-day concerns are handled by the cottage associations.
Some cottage country municipalities have passed season use zoning
provisions. This single issue could very well prevent converting the cottage
into a year round retirement home. If this is in your plans, be sure to ask
your agent to verify the zoning by-laws for you. Plans for expansion or
winterization may be futile if the municipality relies upon these provisions
to refuse your intended of future use.
Without the availability for year round use, the cottage's marketability
can be adversely affected.
Waterfront cottages are normally subject to numerous regulatory bodies
that control what can and cannot be done with the beach and shoreline.
Conservation Authorities in Ontario regulate and control the use of lands
falling within the historic "high water mark". The regulations these
authorities are empowered to enforce may prevent cottage owners from
making additions to existing buildings or installing new structures
in sensitive areas on the property.
The authorities may also prevent a cottage owner from altering the slope
of the land in any way and placing fill in certain areas.
Docks, boathouses, retaining walls, and other structures that impact
the shoreline require permission before they can be built or altered.
To safeguard and preserve the natural flora and fauna of Ontario lakes
and rivers, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Department of
Fisheries and Oceans have been reluctant to approve projects that
would alter the shoreline or waterbed in any way.
Provisions should be included in any agreement of purchase and sale
to warrant the legality of any current structures, or to ensure intended
changes can be made in the near future.
#4. ROAD ACCESS:
Few city dwellers concern themselves with the ability to drive to or from
their homes. In cottage country, the situation is quite often the opposite.
Access to a public highway is not always along a public roadway. In many
cases, it will be along a private right of way.
The buyer of a cottage property needs to investigate whether access is
public or private, who is responsible for the upkeep of the roadway,
and whether it is open year round. In some situations the cottage may be
on an island oe accessible by water. Provisions must then be made
for water transport as well as parking facilities on the mainland.
#5. WATER AND SEWAGE:
Cottage properties are seldom serviced by municipal water and
sewage systems. Household water is usually obtained from wells
or lakes and rivers.
Waste disposal may be provided by an on site septic system or
other sewage system designed for residential use.
Cottage owners will want to be able to provide potable (safe
drinking water). The water provided at the cottage can be
delivered in a sample bottle supplied then tested by the local
Health Authorities. This test will indicate the levels of contamination
of the water. What you want here is a double zero finding
by the health department.
With fluctuations in the weather and water levels, and because of
the physical terrain, safe water may not be available, without
treating the source or installing a mechanical purifier.
Septic systems are strictly regulated under the Environmental
Protection Act, especially when they are located near lakes or rivers.
Failure to comply with the provisions of the act could result in fines
as well as having the system blocked and possibly even removed.
In many older cottages the septic system, if there is one, is usually
a crudely built improvisation.
If additions are made to the living space of a cottage, these
former systems may no longer be adequate or even allowed .
And, in fact, an addition may may require a new septic system
to serve the whole cottage.
Not everyone buys a cottage "CASH", usually there is some
form of financing assistance. The amount of available financing
lending institutions will advance can range between 60-75%
of the purchase price or appraised value, which ever is
the lessor amount.
However, if the cottage is useable and accessible year round
with a safe, winterized water supply, then lenders will generally
consider this as they would a year round residence,
offering financing up to 95% of the purchase price or appraised value,
which ever is less through CMHC (Canada Mortgage and
Housing Corporation) in conjunction with your banking institution.
It is always best to discuss your financing options with a lender
or mortgage broker who works in the same area as the cottage
property you are considering.
Local lenders are more familiar with the financing process
and options available for cottage and recreational properties.
Many people enjoy the benefits of cottage ownership. The pitfalls
should not discourage would be owners. They need only to ensure
that all these matters are addressed to their satisfaction.
We hope you enjoyed this feature. If we can be of any further assistance to you or your, family and friends, when buying or selling in the Kawartha Lakes, please let us know.