Buying recreational property in winter

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As more and more Canadians reach the point in their lives where they have paid off their mortgage, or have greater financial resources, their thoughts may turn to buying a vacation property. Demand for summer cottages or year-round vacation homes has increased over the years. What was once a relatively low cost alternative to an annual family vacation has now become a significant financial investment.

Generally, there are three primary factors that drive the demand – and price – for a recreational property:

  • The commute time / distance from a major urban center
  • Proximity to leisure activities (either waterfront for summer, or ski hills in winter, or both!)
  • Accessibility to the property throughout the year.

As you would expect, the cottage that can be used in winter as well as summer has the greatest usage and appeal, and that usually translates into a higher asking price. However, although the price may be higher, a year-round property usually offers the best opportunity to increase in value over time, as well as offer more potential for rental income.

A different perspective

If you’re considering a year-round property versus a summer cottage, winter can be an ideal time to view the property. It will give you a realistic idea of how long it will take to get there, and how accessible the roads are in challenging weather. If the roads to the property are not plowed, it may actually be accessible only by snowmobile or ATV, and that will have a major impact on its selling price and future resale appeal. Viewing the cottage in winter also lets you see the heating system in action. Wood stoves and fireplace inserts do a far better job of heating a space than an open fireplace, but only the hardiest individuals would find them adequate to meet all the demands of a cold Canadian winter. If there is no back-up heating system, either electric baseboards or a furnace, you will want to allow for the expense of installing one as part of your budget. Remember that if you plan to add baseboard heaters, they draw a lot of power, and you’ll need to be sure the existing wiring has the capacity to run them.

Get the right protection

One area of caution for winter viewings: If outside improvements such as docks, decks and building features such as the roof are obscured by snow, you should be prepared to clear them if possible, and/or add an appropriate condition to your offer to assure that they are in serviceable condition.

Beat the competition

The best news about viewing a recreational property in winter is that there are usually less buyers on the scene to compete with your offer. So don’t sit back and wait for summer to roll around again turn the winter season into your buying advantage!

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Originally published on October 10, 2014

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Written by Brandon Buller

Husband. Dad. Award-winning Real Estate Broker and Luxury Property Specialist with the Buller Real Estate Group at Keller Williams Edge Realty based in Burlington, Ontario, Canada.