Buy your cottage and keep it, too

June 27, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

Owning a cottage in Ontario Canada - Ingrid Bjel McGaughey mortgage broker Toronto - www.CanadianMortgageCo.comWe just got back from our cottage on the Ottawa River. We find it wonderful there… Wild windswept forest, water gently lapping onto the sandy beach, fresh air strongly scented with pine. (Oh, and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, but hopefully some long overdue hot dry weather will beat them into submission).

Are we there yet?

I always know that summer’s coming because the smaller members of our household start negotiating, “Can we go to the cottage tomorrow? Why not? Well, when can we go?” And I find myself wondering, just how much school do those kids really need, anyway?

We own the cottage, but rent it out part of the year.  Here’s why:

The reality of our situation however is that taxes, insurance, maintenance, and small renovations really tap into our cash flow. In addition, with our busy jobs it’s hard to get away as much as we would like. So, like many people, we rent the cottage part of the summer. It accomplishes two things: one, the rental income helps with our expenses, and two, we have wonderful renters who take care of the cottage as if it were their own, so that we don’t have to worry that an empty cottage is just sitting there, vulnerable to thieves.

If you’ve been bitten by the cottage bug, or a vacation home is crowding in on your daydreams, you have probably realized another reality. Nowadays, property prices have greatly increased in many of Canada’s popular vacation destinations, making it a challenge to purchase the beach house of your dreams.  Just take a look at the latest Recreational Real Estate market reports published annually by Royal LePage.

Some people choose to share these costs by renting, as we have, while others manage the cost through joint ownership with family or friends, or even some combination of the two. However, before taking the plunge into co-ownership or renting, you need to be sure that you really understand what you’re getting into.

Here are a few things to think about:

1.  Does owning a vacation property fit your lifestyle?

In addition to the fun and leisure aspects of a vacation home it is important to factor in the time and cost involved in year-round upkeep. How will the property be used? If your dream is to own a ready-to-live-in relaxing hideaway while your co-owners dream of a northern DIY project, you may not see eye-to-eye when it comes to how you will be spending your weekends.

2.  How much time do you and your co-owners plan to spend at the vacation property?

Will you be vacationing as a group, or do you want to trade off on weekends? Will one use the property more than the other? Will it be a 50/50 split?

How will disagreements be resolved? Can your relationship withstand potential friction regarding decisions involving money?

3.  Have you thought about what’s involved before you put it up for rent?

While most Canadians buy a second home for recreational use, growing numbers are also buying for investment purposes. Determine in advance how you will split, and claim, the rental income. In the case of a vacation property that you intend to rent out most of the time, the lender may deduct the rental income from your total monthly debt payments when qualifying you for a mortgage. It is important to be aware that not all lenders will take rental income into account – a mortgage broker can advise you on this. As well, if you do rent the property for the majority of the year, you may have additional expenses – insurance would be more expensive, and you may wish to consider using a property management company. How do these fit into your spreadsheet?

4. Can you afford the mortgage financing?

While it certainly helps to go in with a co-purchaser, you want to be sure that your waterfront property isn’t putting you underwater. Seek independent advice on what size of mortgage you can reasonably handle – again, a mortgage broker can help you with this. And as with any purchase, if you think you will need financing, make sure you get a pre-approval to ensure smooth sailing when you put in your offer to purchase.

Regardless of whether you are buying a cottage that you yourself will enjoy, or as an investment, some pre-planning will help make sure it is a relaxing and rewarding venture. And don’t forget your bug spray!


Photo credit: [c] meepoohfoto for

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About the Author (Author Profile)

I'm a Toronto Mortgage Broker. My focus is on saving people time and money in financing and re-financing their homes. Am passionate about helping people make informed choices, giving back, and helping to improve financial literacy in Canada.

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