In this series, we ask professionals our cottage-related questions. See more Ask A Cottage Expert in our Cottage Guide (on newsstands now or order it here)!
How should you decide where to look for a cottage?
People need to make a wish list and prioritize what’s important to them. If you’ve previously had a family cottage, you might know exactly what you want, but a lot of people haven’t. They need to think of the size of the lake, whether they’re looking for a quiet lake with restrictions on powerboats, and the distance from the city. In Ottawa, we’re spoiled; a lot of people want to be within an hour’s drive, but two hours is definitely cheaper.
What’s the most common mistake people make in setting their priorities?
When people have small kids, they’ll look for a place with shallow water and a sandy beach. But even in shallow water, small kids need a life jacket, and of course they grow up quickly and end up bored with it almost right away.
Should cottagers view their property as an investment?
My initial answer is yes, but it’s really a family place to spend quality time. If you’re in it for the long term, you should make some money, but the market goes up and down like houses do. There’s that downside when the market changes.
Are there still bargains to be found?
What’s your definition of a bargain? Everyone’s is different. If you’re willing to do some work for it, there are bargains on every lake. It just depends on your budget.
Should you ever buy with friends or family?
I’ve helped people get out of this situation but never helped them get into it.
It generally doesn’t work out. It’s not that people don’t get along, though there can be problems with sharing the workload or who gets it for a long weekend. The bigger problem happens when one family wants to sell quickly and the other doesn’t want to lose money.
Drive in or boat in?
Island properties are stunningly beautiful, but they’re not for everyone. It’s not always easy, and we live in a society where everybody wants everything easy. It involves lugging things from car to boat, from boat to cottage. Not everyone wants that, but if you’re looking for a complete and absolute getaway, it can be the way to go.