Cottage-buying fever is in the spring air

Knowledge gained from home-buying experience is a big asset when you’re in the market for a cottage.
And while buying a cottage is similar in some ways, there are a lot of unique considerations.
Having the right kind of representation goes a long way. When you’re looking for a real estate professional to help you, be sure they have experience with recreational properties. Talking to friends and family who have recently purchased a cottage is a great way to find someone who knows the ins and outs.
As with any property, location is a key consideration. Think about what kind of amenities you want nearby, like a lake or a ski hill. Do you want a place with neighbours nearby or something more isolated? How close do you want to be to the nearest town? Do you want a lot of sun or prefer to be surrounded by trees?
You’ll also want to consider how far you’re willing to drive. Traffic is typically much heavier in the summer, so keep that in mind when you’re cottage hunting. Think about the colder months, too: the roads leading to the property may not be open year-round. In some cases, the property will only be accessible by water, which means you won’t be able to get there when the lake is frozen.
In other situations, you might have to go through someone else’s property to get to a cottage. A survey can determine if that’s the case, and it can also provide a lot of other key information: the size of the lot, the exact boundaries and which buildings are included. If you have to go through someone else’s property, you’ll want to know if that access is legally provided for in a registered easement or if it’s just an informal agreement with the neighbour. Questions like this are best answered by an experienced real estate lawyer.
As with any home, the municipality will have rules about what you can and can’t do. The zoning for many cottages doesn’t permit owners to live there all year, and in some cases fishing, hunting and motorized boats may be prohibited.
When you buy a house, a home inspection is crucial. That also applies to cottages. A qualified home inspector can identify underlying issues with a property’s major systems, including heating and cooling, plumbing and electrical.
On top of that, most cottages have wells and septic systems, and these aren’t included in a typical home inspection. Make your offer conditional on tests of the well’s water quality and quantity. For information on how to do that, ask your local public health unit. A qualified well inspector can look at the installation of the well and conduct a water-flow test.
It’s harder to measure the condition of a septic system, but you can ask the seller for its service records and a permit that shows when the tank was installed and that it complied with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment regulations and the Ontario Building Code. If the seller doesn’t have the permit, you can find it at the local health unit. A qualified environmental inspector can conduct an inspection of the septic system.
Whether you’re buying a house, a condo or a cottage, ask the right questions and carefully consider your options. Any real estate purchase is a big investment and having a qualified representative is essential to guiding you along the way.
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