Owning a camp or cottage is a dream for many people. If you are one of those people who think about owning a lakefront property for your weekend and vacation get-away or as a future retirement home, I hope you realize your dream.
Buying A Cottage
Purchasing a cottage can be a little different adventure than purchasing a home in the city. Cottages are usually located out of the city in rural areas, and have certain characteristics that are different from city homes.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t buy a cottage, quite the contrary, but there are things you need to consider.
10 things to consider before you buy a cottage:
1) Can you really afford it? Of course this is number one, if you cannot afford a cottage your best bet is to wait until you can. In addition to the purchase price, cottages attract property tax, power bills, septic pumping bills, landscaping and maintenance costs.
Don’t forget about the costs directly associated with country living, like water pumps and road maintenance. Some cottage places have road co-ops that require you to pay an amount of money for annual road maintenance like gravel, grading, or snow plowing in winter.
2) Do you have time for a cottage? Having a second home in the country means you have a second place to maintain. That means, beyond having time to enjoy your cottage, having time to do things like cut the grass every week or so, painting the cottage, repairing insect damage etc.
If you are working full time and your cottage is several hours drive away, you will need extra time off to keep ahead of things. In addition to time, do you have the aptitude and health?
Cottages are in rural areas, which mean do-it-yourself for a lot of things, like plumbing
the water pump, repairing a broken window etc. Tradespeople are often in short supply in cottage areas, so you need to be prepared to do a lot yourself, or be able to depend on friends.
3) OK you can afford the cottage and the maintenance, what about the toys? I am talking about the extras that seem to go hand in hand with cottage living.
Toys like boats and four wheelers cost mucho dollars, but most cottagers have a boat or two around and these days four wheelers all terrain vehicles are very popular.
Boats require wharves to dock them, four wheelers need a garage or building for storage. They all cost money.
4) Is the rest of your family interested in a cottage? Your spouse or children may not be as outdoorsy as you are.
Many kids, especially teenagers, have other interests that don’t include spending all summer at a cottage on an island with no television, no internet and no cell phone reception. They won’t want to go, at least not all the time, so depending on their ages, you may end up not able to go as well.
5) Carefully consider the place you are planning to buy a cottage. What services are available? Is there a fire department nearby? If not property insurance may be difficult to obtain, or very expensive.
Is there power?
Is there a well? Just because there is a well on the property, drilled or dug, doesn’t necessarily mean there is potable drinking water.
In additon to the services, what other facilities are in the area? Is there a general store, or a grocery store, gas station and car repair shop? What about things like restaurants? These can be important to some folks.
6) Along with number 5 above, a lot of cottages are built by owners, not necessarily tradespeople. Therefore you should seriously consider having some qualified tradespeople, plumbers, electrician, and perhaps a carpenter look at any property you are considering before you purchase it.
Things like bad wiring jobs, faulty or non-existant, or non-working septic systems can be hard to detect unless you have an expert look at it.
7) Financing a cottage purchase is usually a little different than financing a home in the city. Banks and other financial lending institutions may be reluctant to loan you money for a cottage, particularly if it is located in a remote area without services, such as on an island.
You may have to do some creative financing in order to purchase the property. For some folks that is not a problem, for others it can make purchasing a cottage prohibitive or downright impossible.
8) Check out the local land use bylaws and zoning restrictions before you buy. You might be surprised to find out that the property is not zoned for what you want to do, or find out you cannot tear down the existing building and put up a new one.
There are all kinds of rules and regulations that can catch a purchaser off guard, particularly someone who is not financing the property through a recognized lending business or a realtor who should be able to advise you on local regs.
9) Request an up to date survey completed by a certified licenced land surveryor before you buy. You want to know exactly what it is you are purchasing, where it is located, what pre-existing right-of-ways might exist etc.
You also want to know exactly where your property lines are, and have official land survey markers placed in the corners so you and your neighbors know and understand who owns what. In the country it is not unusual for old property markers to be X’s on rocks or wooden stakes driven into the ground that have long since rotted and disappeared.
10) Travel time. Remember you are going to want to go to the cottage on weekends, probably most weekends, especially in summer. How long a drive is it?
A three or four hour drive to the cottage on Friday night and another three or four hour drive home again on Sunday can become very tiresome and very old quite quickly.
I know some cottage owners who eventually lost interest in going to the camp because of the long drive and the rising cost of gasoline etc.
As I mentioned at the outset, I am not trying to discourage you from buying a cottage, not at all. However I want you to look past the romantic visions of lakefront property and consider the realities before jumping in to a large expenditure.
Alternatives To Cottage Ownership
If it turns out that buying a cottage is not in the cards for you, there are some alternatives.
You can rent a cottage for the summer, or at least for your vacation. Depending on the location, size of the cottage etc, cottages can often be rented for a reasonable price.
Alternatively, you could buy a travel trailer, or tent and spend your time camping, again, this is often an excellent alternative to cottage ownership.
You might also consider purchasing a travel trailer and keeping it on a permanent lot in a campground. This is a great way to have a cottage at much less the cost than a traditional building on a piece of land.