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Muskoka chair on the dock, Huntsville, Ont. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Muskoka chair on the dock, Huntsville, Ont. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Sale of $5.4-million private lake crowns a busy winter market in Muskoka Add to ...

A few days ago, Paul Crammond of sent a missive from cottage country: A remarkably-large piece of land near Huntsville, Ont. had sold for $5.4-million.

“I’m pleased, of course, as it indicates that our market is attractive even in these uncertain times, says Mr. Crammond.”

I happened to call the Chestnut Park Real Estate agent to talk about the deal just as he was checking up on his own cottage in the Lake Rosseau area and one possible factor in the timing of the sale emerged: Mr. Crammond had no need of the big boots he normally dons in January just to fight his way through the snow to the cottage door.

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The unseasonably balmy weather in many parts of Ontario has meant unseasonably robust real estate action in Muskoka.

“Our business is very seasonal,” says Mr. Crammond. “There has definitely been more activity in November, December and January than usual.”

Mr. Crammond is surprised at the number of people looking - not only because it’s taking place in the dead of winter - but also because the global financial climate has been so turbulent in recent months.

Mr. Crammond, who co-listed the property with Susan Brown of Chestnut Park, said the 2,866-acre tract they sold near Huntsville was on the market for two years. The property is as large as the next-door Arrowhead Provincial Park, and includes 130-acre Jerry Lake with 15,000 feet of shoreline.

The parcel was used by the same family for 100 years as a fishing camp. When the unusual property was first listed, the sellers did not want to set an asking price below $15-million, says Mr. Crammond.

“Part of the challenge when we listed the property was there are no comparables,” he says.

Eventually the sellers lowered their expectations until the last asking price was $7.5-million.

The buyer, he says, bought it for investment purposes and doesn’t plan to build right away. The previous owners received regulatory approval to divide the land into four lots but Mr. Crammond said that further sub-division would not be easy because of the rigorous approvals process in the area.

Also, he says, the unique appeal of the property was that it contains a private lake.

“When you’re out there in a canoe or a tin boat, there’s nobody around.”

The sale came at the end of a choppy 2011 in which the typical summer selling season got off to a late start because of a cold spring. Even then, deals took longer to come together, he says, and some potential buyers walked away from negotiations.

“A couple of deals fell through because of the chaos in Europe,” he says. “It was a very unpredictable year.”

Still, cottage country did see six sales at prices of more than $4-million last year, says Mr. Crammond. Of those, five were valued at more than $5-million. The tally wasn’t record-setting, but it did show healthy demand at the high end, in his opinion.

Mr. Crammond is hopeful that those sales at the top end augur well for the entire market in 2012. There is some pent-up demand, he believes, and the assuredness in the luxury segment may overflow into the mid and entry-level slices.

“Maybe these people have weathered the recession well,” he says. “You have to feel confident to make that buying decision.”

Send your tales of the Toronto real estate market to cireland@globeandmail.com.

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