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It’s cottage time. Should I buy or rent? Add to ...

Question:

I've always wanted a cottage. Nothing fancy - just something to sleep in when we're not swimming or canoeing. My friends say it's a waste of money and I should just rent. But I don't want to sleep in someone else's cottage - there's something about owning that I like. What do you think? Rent or own?

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Answer:

Given the climate in Ontario (and most of Canada), whether to buy or rent a cottage or a cabin can be a tough choice. Right off the bat, your cottage season can be very limited depending on whether you decide to get a “winterized” cottage and road access in your chosen area. Assuming you decide to get a cottage to be enjoyed during the warm months, know that in the best case scenario you will have a maximum of 5 months of use.

The debate between owning versus renting a recreational property goes beyond the financial factors. I believe one of the key decision drivers is one’s willingness and ability to deal with cottage maintenance and repairs. We tend to have a romantic notion that owing a cottage involves loading up the car on Friday afternoon, piling in the kids and dog, and simply driving up to enjoy the cottage for the weekend, then locking up and heading home on Sunday. Well, guess what? It isn’t that simple.

Cottages require extensive maintenance ranging from property and lawn care to structural and mechanical issues. A vast majority of cottage properties aren’t connected to city sewer systems, but instead rely on wells and septic tanks. Something like getting clean water can become a challenge that many of us take for granted as city dwellers.

Renting a cottage eliminates the responsibility of these issues. Just pay for your rental and off you go! At the end of your time, pack up and leave all of the issues associated with cottage ownership behind you. Additionally, you have the added benefit of variety. Within a cottage season, you can choose to explore different communities and properties instead of being tied down to one. Even if you are thinking about purchasing, it would be wise to try out one season exploring different areas to see which one will be suit your needs down the road. It would also serve as a trial run as to whether you would like to take on the additional responsibilities I’ve mentioned associated with ownership.

Many people who have ever owned a property – whether it is their principal home in the city or a cottage will point out the benefits and satisfaction they get from it. The single biggest benefit of owning is that you have an asset that will hopefully appreciate in time, and thus advancing your financial situation. For hands-on people, ownership allows you to have fun building, improving and fixing your property all while unlocking it’s unearthed potential.

To give you an idea of the vast range of options in terms of locations and pricing, consider this:

For waterfront property in Ontario, expect to pay anywhere from $75,000 to $625,000 on average depending on location. The most expensive area you may not be surprise to hear is Muskoka. (Source: Royal LePage 2013 Recreational Property Report). In Ontario alone, you have the Kawarthas, Haliburton, Parry Sound, Georgian Bay, and Orillia as potential locations – just to name a few! There is truly something out there for everyone and in every price range.

Ricky Chadha is a broker with Royal LePage Estate Realty in Toronto, and specializes in applying social media and other digital tools to the business of real estate. You can find Ricky on Twitter @your416 or at his website RickyChadha.com.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Real Estate Expert is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional real estate advice.

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