National Post (Latest Edition)
There’s a fervour in the desire to own a piece of the cottage country.
PHIL SOPER, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF ROYAL LEPAGE, ON SECOND HOMES.
Last year’s demand for cottages was unprecedented, with buyers scouring cottage country in search of a lakeside haven. This created a seller’s market, and the industry is expecting more of the same this year.
“There’s a fervour in the desire to own a piece of the cottage country,” says Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal Lepage. “It started last summer and has run consistently through the winter and into spring.”
Some realtors showed properties on islands accessible only by snowmobiles or by walking across a frozen lake. Some buyers purchased properties unseen. With demand for recreation properties up across the country, Soper calls it “a national phenomenon.”
Demand is highest in Ontario and that’s reflected in price increases.
“Not just in the double digits but in the 20 per cent range,” Soper says, “which is very high and is compounded because we saw that kind of increase in 2020 over 2019.”
Shawn Woof, senior vice president of sales with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada, agrees the Canadian dream of having a cottage is stronger than ever.
“If people can’t travel, they want to know they have somewhere else to go. For most, having a cottage offers a feeling of escape and luxury,” he says.
For many, the pandemic accelerated their dream of owning a cottage. Others expect to be able to continue to work from home once the pandemic is over.
“If they find good internet and a year-round opportunity, they’re on the move full time,” Woof says.
The number of cottages and cabins on the market is “relatively low” and agents are accepting multiple offers on properties “both above and below the $1-million price tag, both lakefront and riverfront, and even off-water properties,” he reports.
Markets like Haliburton, Georgian Bay and the Rideau Lakes close to Ottawa are experiencing “unusually high price appreciation” but demand is “fairly consistent across the board,” says Soper. “There is moderation in recreational condominiums. Prices tend to be rising at a normal rate — in single digits to high single digits.”
Realtors in Atlantic Canada and to a lesser extent in B.C. are reporting significant demand from Ontario.
“People have long known the south shore of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and parts of Newfoundland are beautiful places to buy inexpensive recreational property and what holds them back is the distance,” Soper says. “The distance seems to have been less crucial over the last couple of seasons, probably because people think of that kind of recreational property not as a getaway for a week or two on vacation, but as a place they’ll go to work remotely for at least part of the year.”
COMPROMISE IS KEY
If you’re committed to buying a cottage this year, be willing to compromise on the ideal property, which is typically turnkey, located on a lake with southwest exposure on a fairly level lot, and offers year-round access.
“If you’re looking for something like that, chances are you’re going to be competing with a lot of other buyers,” Woof says.
If you’re willing to consider a riverfront property, an island property or an off-the-water property that’s close to a lake, for instance, you open yourself up to opportunities others might not consider. In fact, a growing number of prospective buyers are willing to drive further to achieve their dream of cottage ownership.
“A lot of people have moved to smaller lakes past Huntsville because they’re not getting in on the lake that they were once able to buy a cottage for $500,000 — that doesn’t exist,” says Re/ Max broker Leah Ambler.
Interest is also growing in small pieces of recreational farmland in areas like Prince Edward County, Belleville and Kingston.
“People are simply seeing it as a way to get a few acres and get away from the city,” Soper says.