Out-of-Season Cottage Buying

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 05 October 2021 00:00

Most cottage buyers traditionally wait until the summer frenzy has revved up real estate prices before they plunge in.

To escape this “hot” summer competition, cottage shop in the Fall, or even Winter. The benefits of an out-of-season recreational real estate purchase may include less competition, first-in choices, lower prices, and less pressure during the transaction.

• If you rented, borrowed, or guested your way into your love affair with a recreation paradise, most of your location research is done.

• If you want to move to somewhere you’ve never visited, squeeze in an out-of-season visit or two to size up the lay of the land, figuratively and literally. (Just keep in mind that if your search takes you south to tropical climes like the US Virgin Islands, you’ll hit the height of travel season.) If actual travel is out, online research, zooming, and phone-interviewing locals will enable you to zero in on a location and identify the community you want to be part of. Is there a travel or property-buying series to start you off?

The 5W’s Lead You to “HOW?”

Use the powerful, probing communication tool—The Five W’s—to unearth cottage buying issues and resolve your concerns. Investors, journalists, entrepreneurs, and real estate professionals often base their research and analysis on answering the Five W’s: WHERE?, WHAT?, WHO?, WHY?, & WHEN? This then leads them to resolve “HOW?.”

The order in which you answer these questions is up to you. Your existing or initial connection with the location may dictate where you start. Watch out for assumptions. Check everything out, especially if you are buying virtual.

1. Narrow Down Your WHERE?

What do you want to be near, to see out your windows, to walk to, to be part of, to avoid...? Make a list of essential property features including which specific stretch of shoreline, side of the road, sun-orientation, water access…you consider ideal.

Then, there’s local amenities to consider. What do you want on-site or easy-access to? Hiking, swimming, fishing, and boating? Is close proximity to snowboarding or snowmobiling important, too?

Maps—online and fold-ups—will help you clarify context for your purchase. They may also reveal a near-by location that may be more spectacular or less expensive. Or, you may discover that up-wind is a smelly factory or a proposed large subdivision that you’ve been too happy playing during the summer to pay attention to.

How far from home is practical? Establish your maximum drive time. That’s tied to how often you’d like to visit: overnight, weekends, weeks, or full seasons. Reliable internet access may also determine how long you can and want to stay during each visit.

2. WHAT do you want to accomplish?

Will this property be an extended-family hub, so that proximity for all family members is essential? Is this a get-away where seclusion and isolation are key? Does access to local amenities or back to nature matter most?

Is all-season road access important or do you relish using your own boat to travel to your cottage? What supplies and materials will you have to bring in and what can be bought or rented locally?

Must this be a move-in-ready and fully modernized property? Or, are you prepared to pay for the best-possible location and take on a few renovation projects to stay within budget?

3. WHO are you doing this for?

How do your partner and family feel about this venture? If your children are off to college soon, perhaps a smaller but ”expandable” property with a backyard “bunkie” for visitors makes more sense? If your partner is unsure about the location or the type of property you want, talking to a local real estate professional may help combine both your dreams in one property.

4. WHY now?

For years, you may have planned or dreamt of buying a recreational property. Or, perhaps the forced travel restrictions of the past 18 months have given you cabin-buying fever. Is the shift to working-from-home the impetus for this relocation? 

How are you going to pay for this purchase? Will a home-equity loan or line-of-credit on your current home finance the purchase?

Low interest rates make the purchase of a second property affordable for many, but lenders may be more cautious about lending on three-season or boat-access-only properties. 

There may also be other factors, like local flooding patterns, that increase insurance cost or undermine lender approval. For instance, if you intend to rent your cottage out occasionally, especially short-stay, this may not be acceptable to some insurers or lenders because of increased liability. Talk to local mortgage brokers and real estate professionals about the financial and insurance side of this purchase.

5. WHEN does buying make sense?

If you want a four-season property, now may be the ideal time to buy, so you can enjoy the winter months at your new cottage.

However, if you’d prefer a summer-only property because you already have a winter place you’d like to keep visiting, buying now may not be ideal. You’d be faced with the over-winter care and maintenance for a place you don’t know and can’t use.

Instead, complete your research over the winter and build your cottage-owner and local-expert contact network. You’ll also have more time to save and to line up the financial side of this purchase. This way, in late winter and early spring, you’ll be among the first to hear about properties coming on the market and you’ll be ready to act quickly.

HOW will you turn your cottage dreams into reality?

Work with experts to ensure their expertise protects you from disaster and ensures success on all fronts. Local real estate professionals know the pitfalls of buying in their area. For instance, in some locations, property-line disputes are common, so boundary-defining surveys are prudent before a buyer commits.

This approach can also unearth wells, septic fields, and any encroachments of buildings or docks that may cause problems with neighbors or lenders. Local professionals from other fields can also fill you in on typical problems with heating, potable water, over-winter damage, snow clearance, hydro outages, sewage systems, and local flooding.

Check with your insurance broker to clarify insurance concerns. Water-access-only properties may be hard or expensive to insure because this isolation hampers speedy action by emergency fire crews.

Property inspections can identify poorly-done or DIY projects that may make insurance difficult or expensive. They may also require costly correction or renovation. Learn about these potential risks in advance of signing the contract. Negotiations can make resolving these issues affordable and doable.

With so much available online, buyers can feel they are in control of the entire investigation and transaction. However, often it is what is not said or not revealed that eventually causes problems.

Don’t make your “learning curve” the deciding factor. If you are not familiar with the area or cottage buying, there may be unpleasant surprises ahead. Rely on experienced real estate and local professionals to put their “learned curve” to work heading off costly surprises for you.

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PJ Wade —       Decisions & Communities

Futurist and Achievement Strategist PJ WADE is “The Catalyst”—intent on Challenging The Best to Become Even Better. A dynamic problem solver and author of 8 books and more than 2800 published articles, PJ concentrates on the knowledge, insight, communication prowess, and special decision-making skills essential for professionals and their clients who are determined to thrive in the 21st-Century vortex of change.

PJ Wade's latest business bookWhat's Your Point? Cut The Crap, Hit The Mark & Stick!—further proves PJ's forward-thinking expertise and her on-point ability to explain technical, even non-verbal, communication details in practical, actionable terms. Print publication: Fall 2022.

PJ: “What's Your Point?the pivotal 21st-Century business question—must be answered before you open your mouth, hit a key, tap anything or swipe. Too often 'Your Point' is not clear to you and communication remains an expensive illusion.”

As The Catalyst, PJ concentrates on enhancing communication ROI for experienced advisors, executives, entrepreneurs, business owners, and other savvy professionals, who may not have received as much formal training in communication as they have in their own field.

Onward & Upward—The directions that really matter! Reach PJ at [email protected] and visit her What's Your Point? Blog. Keep up-to-date with PJ's popular column  Decisions & Communities


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