How to Buy a Home, Cottage or Waterfront Property in Ontario

Buying a home, cottage, vacation home or land can be a complicated process.

Buying a waterfront home, cottage, vacation home or land can be a very complicated process.

A local REALTOR® who regularly deals with waterfront properties knows that the process of purchasing a waterfront property involves much more than purchasing a non-waterfront property.  

Choosing a local REALTOR® who has experience with buying and selling waterfront properties is wise advice.

To read more why using a local REALTOR® is the best choice look no further than The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) website here:


Here is some advice to consider when purchasing a property by the water:


  1. Use a local REALTOR® who lives in the area you are looking to buy

A local REALTOR® knows what the area is like in different seasons. Although the waterfront property you fall in love with in the fall seems like the perfect place for you to buy, a local REALTOR® knows potential issues that are not apparent until another season.

 “A client of mine was adamant that a particular waterfront cottage was perfect for them until they were told that there was a noisy supply barge that ran back and forth to an island several times a day in the summer. This barge launched just down from this cottage and would take a path right in front of this waterfront property’s dock. Not quite what the client wanted.  In the end the client was glad to have used a local REALTOR® to find them a property better suited to their needs.”                           - Fred Heinzler – Broker – Century 21 Granite Realty Group Ltd. – Dorset Branch.

Would a sales representative or broker from out of the area have known this?

Remember that you can renovate the house, but you can’t change the location, so make sure that the property that you really love is one that doesn’t come with unwelcome surprises.

  1. Look into financing before you start your search

Since waterfront properties are different in many ways than other non-waterfront properties, lenders may have different conditions for buyers to meet before being pre-approved.

Pre-approval means that a lender has stated in writing that you qualify for a mortgage loan based on your current income and credit history. A pre-approval usually specifies a term, interest rate and mortgage amount.

A pre-approval is typically valid for a brief period of time and usually has a number of conditions that must be met.

Buyers should start the financing process before they start looking for a waterfront property as that can take much longer than a normal home mortgage.


  1. Find out what you can do with the property

If you are considering changes to your dream waterfront property, such as adding a dock or a boathouse, start this process early to ensure that these alterations will be possible.

Some levels of government are very strict to deal with and may require application fees, specific conditions to be met as well as lengthy timeframes to receive an answer as to whether or not you will be permitted to proceed with your intentions.

You don’t want to commit to purchasing a waterfront property without knowing what is allowed by the local township.

Some lakes also have a “no motorized vessels” restriction while other lakes may not have a boat launch.

Will you own right to the water and if not, can the Shore Road Allowance be purchased?

Ask your local REALTOR® for more details.


  1. Utilities and services

Waterfront properties may or may not have cellular phone service, cable or internet available.

If these are important for your waterfront property to have, check if these services are available before buying.


  1. Waterfront homeowner responsibilities

The waterfront property you are interested in may have restrictions if it is leased land or governed by a condo association.

Make sure to find out what kind of upkeep and maintenance of the property will be required from you by reviewing the conditions, covenants and restrictions.

Legal advice is advised.


For answers to these and other important questions, ask a local REALTOR® who lives and works in the area you are looking to buy.