1. Identify your priorities
What are the social and recreational pastimes most important to you and your family? What do you think they will be in the future? As your kids get older and head off to university your cottage use may become a place where family traditions will be continued and extended. You will want to assure yourself that the cottage environment will physically and socially accommodate your family’s passions, pastimes and future development. Have you considered what services are most important now and what will be important to your family needs in the future?
2. What are your location options?
How does your location affect your lifestyle choices? Point lands often enhance view corridors. Point lands also put you closer to the boat traffic and ‘lookey loos’. Secluded bays may offer quieter waters for swimming but may concentrate noise or restrict the views. Remember what you see is what you get – for years and years….
3. What is your development potential?
Do you know the municipal by-laws and restrictions? Do you understand the environmental concerns for the property regarding the lake and how they may impact your use and enjoyment of it? Find out if there is a Lake Management Plan in place or a local Cottagers Association. These can be great resources that will increase your understanding of environmental issues, standards of architecture and the quality of other and/or adjacent properties.
4. Kids, Kids, Kids…
Is the lot located on a lake with neighbours who have kids of a similar age? Kids love to play with other kids – the social potential of your cottage is as important to kids as it is to you – if they are in their teen years – it could be a major factor in their desire to be ‘at the cottage…‘ at all. Also remember that being close to town can be important for your kids’ health, emergency trips to town; or for your own mental health when you need a quick video fix to make those rainy days survivable.
5. The Commute
Is today’s novelty commute tomorrow’s drudgery drive? Close to a major metro centre shortens the drive, but near-metro recreation real estate will exact a heavy toll on the family budget perhaps restricting the collection of all the necessary cottaging toys (boats, A.T.V’s, etc.). Driving a little farther can save (hundreds of) thousands and if it’s done on a major highway, the drive can be safe and easy. You may want access to the cottage over four seasons so make sure that access to your paradise is easy and safe in all kinds of weather. And remember, the road more travelled may just be travelled by everyone. If you’re not ready for a traffic jam on every commute, you may want to look outside of the prime access corridors. The bottom line is “What is your tolerance for the length and quality of the commute vs the monetary savings?”
6. Is the Cottage a year around retreat?
There is no better way of leveraging the value of your cottage investment than using it throughout all of the seasons. Late fall, winter and early spring are seasons which yield unsurpassed tranquility and beauty to those who make the effort to venture forth. It is important to consider insulation, heating systems, water and septic delivery systems when first building, as retro fitting major mechanical systems can be very expensive and complex depending upon the situation. Other things to consider: does the town plough your road? Has your municipality taken the cottage owners service needs into account in all seasons?
7. Water Supply
What is your water source? Is it potable according to your local Health Unit? All rural water sources must be checked periodically for suspended organics and inorganic content. It is relatively easy to stay on top of, but remember – you are your own water treatment plant. Quality must be job #1! Will your lake provide a reliable water source in terms of quantity/quality? Will the source of potable water be secure and stable for now and well into the future?
8. Septic Systems
Your septic system requirements are tied to the size and capacity of your buildings. Be certain that you take into account bunkies and other shelters that put demands on your water and sewer utilities. Septic systems can run from $7,000 to $30,000 depending on site conditions and restrictions. The good news is that once these systems are installed they are long-lived and generally easy and inexpensive to maintain.
9. Getting Good Help
It is essential to protect your recreational real estate investment by getting good advice. Seek the advice of experienced professional contractors, trades persons and your real estate agent. Check with the Chamber of Commerce and cross-reference the advice to be certain that the information is accurate.
10. Environmental Considerations
Do you know all you need to know about the property in terms of its historical uses, the present condition of its (environmental) health and the future development within the community that may affect the environment over the long haul? Investigate what work, if any, is being done (or being planned) by government agencies to preserve, protect and improve the health of the environment over the expected lifetime of your use of your property.