5 Tips for Cottage Shopping in the Winter

March 30, 2021
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Is it smart to think of buying a cottage in the depths of winter? Everything is covered with snow, there is ice on the lake, most of the cottages are winterized and freezing cold. Is it even safe to buy a cottage this time of year? The short answer to this question is yes.

With the right plan, it is absolutely possible to safely, confidently and enjoyably go cottage shopping without warm weather and flip flops. You might even be able to beat the crowds to the perfect cottage property.

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our friends at RE/MAX Boardwalk share the inside scoop from local lakeside real estate expert, Peter Bastedo. He’s shared the top 5 questions you need to consider while cottage shopping in the off season. 

Here’s what you need to know.

  1. Are you planning on using the cottage year-round?
    Even if just on weekends, if you’re going to be heading up to the lake twelve months of the year there are additional things to consider. Shopping in the winter then becomes a good time to see what the road is like, does anyone on that road live there year-round? Is it cleared and easy to get to in the snowy month? Is there an association fee involved with clearing the road ways of snow and ice? 
  2. Do you like sunsets or sunrises?
    It might sound funny to say, and no it’s not an answer to your dating profile. Where the sun tracks over the property will influence how you will use the property on a day to day basis as well as your lakefront views. Your preference between sunrise and sunset will have a massive impact on your cottage shop priorities and which sides of the lake you target to view properties.

    Remember that the sun tracks much lower in the sky in the depths of winter than in the height of summer. If it is an established property, have a look at where they have placed their decks or seating areas, chances are they are in those spots for a reason. Will give you an idea of where you will be placing your lounge chairs and outdoor dining sets. 
  3. Do you smell fresh wood?
    It is not uncommon for “weekend warriors” to tackle renovation or additional projects themselves. Some projects are grandfathered in due to when they were constructed. But if you see additions like bunkies, docks, or other large structures and they look relatively new, make sure to confirm that a permit was acquired for their build if/where needed. You don’t want to inherit problems in updates and maintenance projects on these structures down the road.

    Important Insurance Note: this is especially true for bunkies and insurance, confirm the legal permit to ensure you can get the coverage you want/need for the property!   
  4. But where’s the kayak?
    When most people put their cottage to sleep for the winter the docks come in, patio furniture goes away, tables get covered etc. It is important to have a detailed list of what chattels and fixtures are included with the sale of the property to save on confusion or disappointment come closing day.
  5. Hire an agent.
    Specifically, an agent that knows cottage properties in the area you are shopping. Why? They know the shoreline and what to look for on that lake, including: 
  • Knowing what to look for in water, septic and heating systems is one thing, but one of the major deciding factors in your search should be the quality of the waterfront itself.  You need an agent that can confidently tell you if, when the ice goes out, you will be left with “Clean and Deep”, “Sloping and Gradual”, “weedy and shallow” etc.
  • If your city agent does not know the lakes you’re looking on, ask them to refer you to a local professional to help, they will be happy to!
  • Oftentimes you will be looking in a few different areas, or even provinces! Make sure your Realtor has the connections needed to cover the distance and areas you’re open to!

At the end of the day, having a professional you trust – in real estate and insurance – ensures your best interests are protected. Learn more about Recreational Insurance coverage or connect with us today to get a quote!

Questions about Cottage Life?

Tune in to our recent chat with experts in Real Estate, Finance and Insurance answering your questions on seasonal properties.


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