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Want to Buy a Cottage? Here’s What to Keep in Mind

When you’re admiring a marshmallow roasted to gooey perfection in front of a crackling campfire or sitting on a dock in the thralls of yet another firey orange sunset, it’s easy to wonder why you shouldn’t buy a cottage of your own, so you can fill up your memory with more of the joyous moments that come from living the cottage life.

Seven Things to Keep in Mind Before You Buy a Cottage in Canada

If, like many prospective buyers in our Cottage Trends Report, you’re looking for a quality of life that can’t be found in large urban centres, before you get ready to pack your favourite canoe paddle and head out into the hinterland, here are seven things to keep in mind before you buy a cottage in Canada:


Whether you’re considering selling your home in the suburbs in favour of a rural place to relax year-round or evaluating a cottage property solely for investment purposes – location – as in whether your prospective cottage has direct waterfront access, even more so than the many amenities you can add to your property – will likely be a significant factor in your decision.

While not a must for year-round dwellers, waterfront properties are favoured by summer renters looking to unwind with wild swimming, fishing or boating activities.

But precisely because of their potential to pull in higher revenues and more frequent stays from short-term renters, waterfront properties typically have a higher resale value than their landlocked cousins, making it more expensive to buy a cottage of this type.

Meanwhile, cabins surrounded by lush green forests with water within a few miles will often check all the boxes for buyers looking for long-term living quarters in the great outdoors – provided their cabin in the woods has plenty of our next item up for consideration, i.e. access.


It won’t matter how amazing your cottage is if getting to it is difficult or expensive. This is especially relevant if you plan to buy a cottage on an island that requires a boat trip before landing. Still, it also applies to cottages located just beyond the distance that you or your renters are willing to travel for vacations.

For city dwellers wanting to put down permanent rural roots, regularly-plowed roads providing safe, all-winter access to cottages are a must. However, because rural municipalities may not supply them, you may have to pay out of pocket for the snow removal services you require.


The heating, plumbing, electrical and telecom services that are standard fare in a bustling metropolis may not exist the further you venture outside city limits. Before you buy a cottage, you’ll need to weigh your need for services against what the area supports or what your budget can supply.

For example, if the cottage you’re currently considering lacks electricity but has a good amount of land or roof space with southern exposure, you may be able to install solar panels and a battery solution that powers lights and essential appliances and pays for itself in five to ten years. But if the property currently has no running water and no way to access municipal services, costs to drill a bore well could be prohibitive.

Maintenance + HOA Fees

You may not want to buy a cottage if you bought a condo instead of a stand-alone home because of your fear of maintenance.

No matter what a seller might tell you, even if a cottage is new, recently renovated or outfitted with all the latest bells and whistles, maintenance remains most of the cottage’s middle name. From docks that need pulling in and pipes that need draining in seasonal dwellings to wood that needs stacking and roofs that need repairing in long-term abodes, either you’ll need to do the work yourself, or you’ll have to find and pay someone else to do it for you.

If you buy a cottage with the intent of renting it for extra income, you’ll definitely require one or more house-cleaning professionals to tidy up and change linens after each rental stay, and you may also need a house manager or handy person who can respond at a moment’s notice to furnace or refrigerator malfunctions and more.

Lastly, if your cottage resides within a community where utilities, BBQ facilities, playgrounds, water recreation equipment or other amenities are shared by multiple cottages or cabins, homeowner association (HOA) fees will need to be researched and accounted for in your budget.


If you buy a cottage to serve as your primary residence, its insurance needs will be similar to your home in the city.

If it’s a secondary property, you might be able to bundle it with your current homeowner’s policy for savings and get similar dwelling, property, personal belongings and liability protections.

Seasonal properties can be insured under comprehensive packages that protect buildings and their contents against all threats or basic “Named Perils” packages that cover common claims such as fire, explosion, smoke or water damage.

Watercraft such as motorboats, jet skis and sailboats may be able to be rolled into various packages or may need their own policies, depending on what sort of coverages your insurer has to offer.

Due Diligence Requirements

Just as you would before purchasing a residential or commercial property, before you buy a cottage, it’s important to do your due diligence.

Due diligence for a cottage includes ensuring the property meets all local permitting and zoning requirements, finding out if there are easements or other burdens that you need to be aware of – and if you intend to buy a cottage with waterfront access – gaining a thorough understanding of your riparian (water) rights.

You’ll also want a professional with experience in evaluating cottage properties to thoroughly inspect all buildings and structures, as well as heat, hydro, water and septic systems (if they exist).

Tax Implications

If you plan to buy a cottage to generate passive income, any revenues you receive must be declared on your taxes. If the revenues result in your total income being pushed into the next tax bracket, in addition to a higher tax bill, the extra income could also disqualify you from benefits such as the GST/HST credit or the Canada Child Benefit.

If you’re a senior, the effects could be even worse, making you ineligible for the annual Age Amount Credit or causing an OAS Clawback.

If you’re not renting, but your cottage or cabin still isn’t your principal residence, you’ll likely be subject to capital gains taxes when you sell the property.

Finally, if you expect to inherit a cottage, check out our blog to find information designed to help you keep it.

Ready to Buy a Cottage?

Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s crucial to accurately assess the total annual operating costs for your cottage venture, or your little slice of paradise could quickly become a sinkhole for your hard-earned savings.

So, break out the spreadsheet software, start building your bunkie budget and have your real estate agent and an accountant or lawyer familiar with cottage transactions review your document to ensure you’ve unearthed all the relevant costs.

Once you get the go-ahead from the professionals, make your offer and prepare for bliss-filled slow-living adventures only cottage dwellers can claim.

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