May marks a time of change for those who own or who wish to own a vacation property. The snowbirds are returning from the sunny south and the Victoria Day holiday has historically been “opening weekend” for many cottagers. It is also a time of year that sees a lot of turnover of vacation properties — whether north or south — which might make you wonder how you can achieve your dream of owning a vacation property.
Get your financing in order well in advance – make sure you can afford a second home. Financial institutions offer several methods to pay for a cottage, such as increasing the mortgage on your city home, or creating a second mortgage.
Once you’ve determined the amount you can afford to spend, you need to decide on a location. Keep in mind what you want close by, such as lakes for lots of boating, or forests if you enjoy hiking and camping, and that you ideally want to limit your driving time to somewhere around two and a half to three hours.
Do your research. Once you’ve picked your location you want to research the area and learn more about any building restrictions, zoning laws - there is a long list of things to consider regarding a cottage or recreational property that you probably didn’t consider when purchasing your primary home.
- Is the road to your cottage open and maintained year-round?
- Does the property have a well? Or does it pump in water from the lake?
- Will you be able to renovate or build additions if you want to in the future?
- What are the local laws regarding water exclusivity, as well as hunters, snowmobilers, and others crossing your land?
- What are the municipal laws about fishing, hunting, bonfires, and boating?
- Is there garbage pick-up close by? How far is the closest grocery store or small town?
Keep in mind the costs of maintenance and upkeep. Cottages may need new roofs and other expensive and unexpected maintenance requirements just like your home – and there’s also property taxes, insurance and utilities. Make sure you have a home inspector or contractor come out to the property to do an inspection, and give you an idea of the things you might have to fix right away or in the future.