‘It’s not a great time to buy a cottage, frankly. It’s a great time to rent, and that will allow you to understand what you like and what’s important,’ says expert
With the pandemic allowing more flexible work schedules, and soaring home prices in urban centres, many continue to look for opportunities to enter the housing market in cottage country.
According to a report from Statistics Canada, from July 2019 to July 2020, Toronto saw an exodus of 50,375 people moving to other regions and provinces.
Editor for Cottage Life magazine and host of the Cottage Life podcast, Michelle Kelly says the demand for cottages increased during the pandemic.
According to a Re/Max report from 2021, 21 per cent of Canadians are looking to recreational markets after being priced out of an urban centre.
“I really believe that a lot of people turned to cottaging during the pandemic and would have previously not have considered it,” Kelly said. “They have been turned onto the lifestyle, which is a great way to connect with friends and family. It’s relaxing and makes financial sense.”
She predicts the market for cottages will remain strong as the pandemic wanes based on what realtors have told her.
Prior to the pandemic, Kelly says a lot of people were already being priced out of the city.
“We called it the ‘skip a house, buy a cottage’ trend,” she said.
And once the pandemic hit, Kelly noted people were able to look at the cottage as their primary residence, even if they had to commute to the city a few times per week.
“It (the flexible work schedule) just made cottages a more appealing option for people. In addition, it allowed people to look further afield,” she said.
The shift in buying trends has put pressure on supply in the cottage market, both for buying and renting.
“A lot of new owners who have paid premium prices have a rental income, and this has put pressure on the rental market,” she said.
Because people weren’t able to easily travel abroad over the past two summers, cottage rentals became increasingly popular. Kelly says buying a cottage is much different from buying a home.
“It’s not like you can go to one agent and that one agent can direct you,” she said. “With cottage country, it’s a huge place, so it’s good to get a look at cottage life and see what’s good for you.”
Right now, because the real estate market is so hot, Kelly recommends renting cottages in different areas, in a “try before you buy” concept.
“There’s no rush here. It’s not a great time to buy a cottage, frankly. It’s a great time to rent, and that will allow you to understand what you like and what’s important to you,” she said.
Cottage Life has partnered with VRBO to showcase cottage rental listings across Canada.
Kelly herself is a current renter and says there are now more renters in the market than those who are renting out.
“It’s a challenge. You just need to look in the right places,” she said about finding a perfect getaway space.
She recommends potential cottage buyers and renters look in remote areas for the best deals.
“The further you get from urban centres, the more you are going to be able to find a deal,” she said.
One spot she says is a good option for potential buyers to investigate is Land of Lakes, north of Belleville.
“It’s kind of a little secret to finding more value for your money. Maybe a bigger lot, a less crowded lake, you’re going to find if you go a little bit northeast in the pockets between Belleville and Algonquin Park,” she said. “You do get more mileage out of your dollar in that area.”
Kelly says not only are cottages in high demand but boats as well.
“It’s really hard to buy a boat right now. There are so many people interested,” she said, noting there was a 40 per cent increase in the issuing of boat operator cards last year.
Kelly is looking forward to speaking to cottage and outdoor enthusiasts next month at the Spring Cottage Life Show at the International Centre in Mississauga.
This will be the first in-person show in two years, after having to go virtual in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
“We are just so excited to see everyone again and meet the new cottagers,” she said.
The Spring Cottage Life Show returns to the International Centre in Mississauga from Thursday, April 7 to Sunday, April 10. There will be seminars from experts on renting out cottages, safe boating, and bunkie building.
Tickets are available at shows.cottagelife.com. This year’s Spring Cottage Life Show celebrates the 35th anniversary of the brand. It also hosted an in-person Fall Cottage Life Show event at the International Centre in November, which attracted more than 15,000 attendees across the three-day event.
The Cottage Life podcast returns for a third season in July 2022 and will be available on all podcast platforms and cottagelife.com/podcast.