Top 10 Things To Consider When Buying A Cottage

Top 10 Things To Consider When Buying A Cottage

Are you looking to buy a cottage but feeling overwhelmed by all the things you need to consider when looking for your dream vacation property? 

By the end of this blog, you are going to have a huge list of things to consider so you can feel confident when purchasing your family cottage and have you making long lasting memories by the water in no time.



In town or in the city, the municipality usually arranges pick up for your garbage and recycling. When purchasing a cottage, ask you realtor if they have garbage pick up, a local dumpster within an association, Or if you need to bring all your garbage home to dispose of yourself. 

With waste management also comes with the question of, how is our own waste being disposed of?

In town most of us deal with municipal sewer systems. We flush and forget it.  At your new cottage you may need to upkeep a septic system, holding tank or even a compostable toilet. 

Have your realtor inquire how old the waste system is, a copy of the inspection report, when it was last pumped or even the size.
If you plan to have many people at the cottage, its important to note that the current system may not have originally been installed for more than a specific amount of people for that property. Without going into great detail in this video. Stick to these main points on septic’s, the age, size, location, when it was last pumped, and an inspection report to confirm good working order or any risk factors you need to consider.


Are you looking for a 3 season cottage or a 4 season and what’s the difference?

A 3 season cottage in Ontario usually allows you to use the cottage from about may to October. This main reason being that cottagers are shutting down their water lines so they don’t freeze and break over the winter. Three season cottages are also usually not insulated well or don’t have a good heat source. 

If you’re looking to utilize the cottage year round or potentially retire at your cottage, you will want to verify that the cottage is winterized or has the potential to be. Meaning the water lines are insulated so they don’t freeze, you have a proper septic system like we discussed earlier, you have a reliable heat source and the house is well insulated to keep you warm during those winter months. 


Being able to access your cottage anytime you want isn’t usually high on your cottage need list, but it should be.

If you want to be able to drop things off here and there, check up on the place, or even still have a winter getaway location. You will want to ask your realtor if the road to your cottage is maintained in the winter, who maintains it and if there are any costs associated with that. 

I have shown many cottages that are snow plowed by a local farmer and not the municipality, so always double check how you can access your cottage.


Let your realtor know your intentions for the cottage purchase. If it’s to rent it out short term or long term, make sure you check local bylaws to verify that your intended use is permitted. 

Many cottages around Lake Huron are rented out short and long term. But some municipalities only allow short term rentals if approved as a bed and breakfast and hotel/motels. This is drastically going to affect your indented use if you find out the municipality won’t allow that after you purchase.



Some areas around Lake Huron have small private associations that provide things such as snow removal, community wells, water tests, beach maintenance and so forth.

These costs can range anywhere from a hundred to six hundred dollars per year or more, depending on how many things they cover. 

Be sure to inquire with your realtor IF there’s an association, how much it is and what it covers. 

Let’s talk about Utility costs. Many cottages don’t have access to direct natural gas lines or municipal water and sewers. When these services are not available, many cottages rely on propane, natural wood or electric heating sources.  If you’re not a wood cutting lover like my dad, or don’t want higher electrical bills from baseboard heat, you will need to give this point some deeper thought.

Ask your realtor to search a few past listings in the area that may have some old utility bills from those properties. From there you can start to build out an average utility cost for your budget.


What type of beach are you looking for? Do you want a sandy beach, or is a rocky beach okay if you don’t plan to swim much anyway? 

Do you need a boat dock?

Would you like to walk out from your cottage to the beach or are you okay with walking up and down stairs? Are the stairs new or in need of repairs?

What about the access? Do you need direct beach access or do you just want those gorgeous Lake Huron sunsets?

These are all VERY critical things you need to know because it will make a HUGE difference in price. 


When you get started viewing cottages you will quickly come to learn that some cottages can be very private and others have next to no privacy.

Make sure you clearly identify your property boundaries with your realtor. If the property doesn’t have a privacy fence you want, can you put one or will it inhibit your neighbours view of the lake?

Could your view of the lake be better by trimming some trees or properly landscaping? If you don’t clearly identify the property you could potentially be cutting your neighbours trees or even be altering environmentally protected land.

Also ask your realtor if there are any right of ways over your property.  A right of way is a right to pass from one point to another across a person’s land, and is therefore strictly a right of passage only.

If you see a public beach access nearby, verify any potential visitors you may need to expect passing over your property, so that you dont get caught in your undies with neighbour nancy trying to get to the beach.


#3 – WATER

We are going to talk about quantity and quality.

Have you ever gone to a house showing and ran the water taps, showers and flushed toilets to check the water pressure? If you answered no, you need to start doing this.  Assuring good water pressure is important as the water being sourced to your cottage could be coming from a private well, community well or even the lake.  If the pressure tank, pump and related equipment aren’t strong enough to pump acceptable pressure to the lines, you will want to inquire about that. Ask for an inspection report for the well if available and the location of the well.

Don’t be quick to grab a glass of water from the tap.  I’m a tap water drinker, always have been but It’s not safe to assume that the water at your new cottage is potable or in other words, safe to drink. Ask the realtor if they have obtained a water test result.  If they haven’t already, which many of them do because they are free from the health unit, request one in your offer.


Number two on my list is the fun part about cottage shopping.

What are the local amenities in the area?

Are there local historic spots, grocery stores, hiking trails, golf courses, restaurants, bars, boutique shopping, parks, and so on. Is there a local hospital or health center, because we all know things can happen when we are having too much fun. 

Learning about the area first can help you narrow down a specific place you would like to buy a cottage.  Whether you choose Goderich, Bayfield, Zurich or so on. Finding a neighbourhood you love is sometimes more important than the specific property that you can put your own personal touches on later.


Maybe you have seen it but didn’t know that’s what it was called. 

So what is erosion?

Erosion is a natural process that has been happening for over 10,000 years. In recent years it has been a hot topic and unfortunately can force home owners to alter, fix or move buildings on their properties. But without erosion, our beaches would disappear. 

We’ve had lots of rain in the last few years that is raising our lake water. The storm waves that crash along the shoreline for a lack of a better word, chews at the bottom of the bluffs, and when enough waves constantly crash onto the shoreline, the bottom of the bluffs become unstable and cause large portions of the land to slides or fall to the bottom of the beach or into the water.  As the water continues to  move, the waves then sort out the material of clay, silt and sand.  The weight of the sand falls along the shoreline of our beaches and the remaining soil particles get deposited offshore.

What should you look out for when viewing properties?

You may be asking, Megan how can I prevent erosion?

As there are ways to help protect your property and slow down erosion. You may see cottage owners already have preventative measures such as shore protection structures like concrete blocks, metal seawalls etc. As these do help and they are a good sign to help protect the property. It is important to note that those structures only divert erosion to somewhere else, not prevent it completely.

If you would like to learn more about erosion Click Here.  


Join The Discussion

Compare listings