3286 County Road 8, Prince Edward County, Ont.
Asking Price: $5.4-million
Taxes: $7,594.24 (2023)
Lot Size: 33 acres
Listing Agent: Andrea Bertucci, sales representative, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
Cast your mind back to the summer of 2020 as the pandemic tightened its grip and recall it was a wild season in real estate, particularly in recreational properties.
Over the August long weekend of 2020 two sisters and their husbands came together to pay just short of $4-million for a 33-acre beachfront cottage compound in Ontario’s Prince Edward County … without ever setting eyes on it.
“We had only seen pictures,” said Daina Fencott, the elder sister. “Properties were just going like that,” said Nicole Romkema, the younger. “That was the third property we had expressed interest in.”
For the two couples, it was the cancellation of two family vacations abroad that convinced them maybe the future of family time was closer to home.
“We spent a lot of time there that first winter – everything was remote,” said Mrs. Fencott. “My husband and son bought all the equipment to make maple syrup and tapped 40 trees.”
There were also a lot of renovations to be done, and Mrs. Romkema’s husband Mark (a firefighter in Mississauga with a landscaping business on the side) would labour mightily over the next two years to help upgrade the property.
The plan was always to rent it out over the summer to cover the costs of ownership, and indeed the sisters say they can charge $1,500 a night on Airbnb to rent the property during the high season.
But a lot of things have changed since 2020 – mortgage rates for example.
“Interest rates are very high,” said Mrs. Fencott. “It makes carrying it difficult, that’s no secret.”
Mrs. Romkema said the property remains profitable, but they had hoped the profits would be great enough to allow them to add even more income-generating amenities. High interest rates have cut into that goal. “It just makes the profit less so,” she said.
Changes at home have also made life busier and left less time for vacations on the lake.
“We prioritized income generation,” said Mrs. Fencott, which means it’s booked solid from June to September in the nicest weather. And they have less free time generally: “When we purchased, I wasn’t working,” she said. “I’m back working now.”
When they purchased in 2020, Mrs. Fencott’s husband, Trevor, was also the chief executive officer of Fire and Flower Cannabis Co., then one of the country’s largest marijuana retailers. On June 1, 2022, he resigned from the board and as CEO, and a year later, when the publicly traded company sought bankruptcy protection, it filed court papers saying it had lost more than $200-million from 2018 to 2023.
Over the past few seasons there have been lots of memories created: of girls weekends, birthdays, and Christmas parties and the husbands have enjoyed an annual boys’ weekend to grill meat and play paintball on the lot.
“My husband is probably the most heartbroken,” said Mrs. Romkema. “He’s always wanted to live on a farm, with a tractor. He’s always out in the forest chopping wood and making sure everything’s ready for the guests.”
The cottage today
The main building is a somewhat unusual tall peaked barnlike structure with the ground level given over to a massive garage space with six doors. Another garage space was segmented off to make a sort of kids bunkhouse/recreation room. There’s also a bathroom on this level.
All the main living spaces are on the second floor starting with a large great room with open-concept kitchen, living room and dining space that’s about 45 feet long and only slightly less wide.
The great room is an angular space with ceilings and window dormers that lever 22 feet up to the central span, with large windows on the south side facing the lake. There are sets of double doors that access the lake-facing deck (with another set from the primary suite) which is T-shaped with a step-down to a large seating area.
If the great room was split into quarters the living room would join together the two facing the lake with the remaining quarters on the north side occupied by the dining space and the kitchen, which uses a large island and long peninsula counters – with bar seating – to create separation from the rest.
Past the kitchen are a short hallway to a three-piece shared bath, two small guest bedrooms and a large 24- by 18-foot primary bedroom with its own ensuite bath and walk-in closet. There’s also a loft space with more beds that looks out over the great room.
There’s also a beach house on the lake – which the sisters gutted and renovated to winterize it – a single-storey rectangular building with two more bedrooms, a full kitchen and a bath/change room off the enclosed sunroom. As charming as it is, with decks rebuilt by Mr. Romkema, the standout feature of the property is the eponymous Two Sisters Beach.
The wide sandy beach stretches across the mouth of the inlet, and the previous owner had built a huge covered outdoor kitchen and dining area a stone’s throw from the beach house. For those looking to party a week away in Prince Edward County, it’s both private and well-appointed. There’s even a tiki-themed lounge area with thatched shade.
It seems a shame to leave it behind, but both sisters live in Oakville, Ont., and are spending more time in the Niagara area taking care of their aging parents. The time and attention a 33-acre rental property requires is beginning to make life a little too busy.
Even so: “I’m sure we’ll regret it,” said Mrs. Romkema.