Buying Your First Cottage? Things You Must Know Before You Buy

Jordan Stephens Real Estate Team
Published on March 4, 2019

Buying Your First Cottage? Things You Must Know Before You Buy

A weekend away in a cozy cottage is all it takes to have one dreaming about a cottage of their very own.  

With the right planning, the dream of owning a cottage can become a reality. However, the dream can quickly turn into a nightmare if you rush into buying the first cottage you see.

As a homeowner you may think you have it all figured out, but you’ll soon realize buying a cottage isn’t the same as buying a home.

There are considerations unique to buying a cottage that rarely have to be thought about when buying a home. It’s better to review these considerations prior to purchasing instead of letting them become an afterthought.

So if you’re reading this you’re already on the right start. Continue on to learn what you need to know before buying your first cottage.

Where to Start When Buying Your First Cottage: The Buying Process

With this being your first time buying a cottage you may not even know where to begin, so let’s start with the buying process.

First, be prepared to commit more time to the buying process as it’s much different than buying a property in the city. Where checking out properties in the city may take a few hours, it may take a whole day to drive out to cottage country to look at your options.

Second, it’s alright if you don’t quite know what you’re looking for. Buyers often have to look at multiple properties before understanding what their likes and dislikes are in a cottage.

One last thing to keep in mind during the buying process is every cottage is unique. You may have fallen in love with a cottage owned by a friend or family member, and now you want one exactly like it. There may not be another one like it on the market, but I’m confident you’ll fall for the unique charm of a cottage that will soon be all your own.

Considering the Costs

Experienced cottage buyers will likely tell you there are costs they didn’t consider until after they bought the property. Here’s your opportunity to consider them beforehand.


Insurance costs may be higher than anticipated because cottages tend to sit empty for extended periods of time. Insurance may also be higher depending on the location. For example, islands are harder to get to, which drives up the insurance cost. If you intend to rent out the property that will also add to the insurance.


As with any property, be prepared for general maintenance costs. Maintenance on cottages is different compared to a property that’s being lived in full-time. When you’re not there you may need to pay contractors to keep up the lawn, clean up after storms, take care of any repairs needed after the winter, and so on.


Don’t forget to inquire about the cost of the average hydro bill. Depending on where the cottage is located, the delivery fee could end up being quite high. Ask your real estate agent or other cottage owners in the area about the average monthly cost of hydro.


When it comes to utilities, there are two things you’ll want to inquire about. One – is the water drinkable? Two – how’s the septic system? There’s greater potential for water problems in rural areas. So it’s important to find out whether you need to bring your own water, and whether the septic system is in working order.

Winterized vs. Non-Winterized

Even if you only intend to use to your cottage as a summer getaway, investing in a winterized cottage is worth considering. For one, lenders tend to look more favorably on cottages that are winterized, so it may be easier to secure financing.

A winterized cottage will command a higher price, but it’s possible to offset the cost by renting it out during the months you do not plan to use it. Renting a vacation property can make it even easier to turn the dream of owning a cottage into a reality.

Of course, if you do plan on using the cottage year-round, then there’s absolutely no reason not to invest in a cottage that’s already winterized.

Choosing the Location

Up to this point we’ve been talking about what to look for when choosing the right property. Be careful not to get too enamored with a particular property that you forget to consider where it’s located. Here are some things to look for when choosing the right location.


Perhaps the most important thing to consider with respect to the location is how you’re going to access the cottage. A remote and quiet location away from the city is what tends to be most appealing about cottage life in the first place. However, a location that’s too remote could be more trouble than it’s worth.

Does the cottage have road access? Or is it only accessible by boat? If you intend to stay at the cottage during the winter make sure the roads will be cleared of snow.

Consider whether you will be inviting friends or family members with limited mobility. If so, look for any difficulties such as too many stairs or long walks from the car to the cottage itself.


A cottage’s surroundings can make or break the experience. When assessing the environment you’ll want to consider:

  • Whether it has a sunrise or sunset view
  • The size of the nearest lake
  • What kind of shoreline the waterfront has
  • How many neighbors are close by
  • Land composition and how fast the soil is eroding
  • Property slope – level, medium, or steep


Consider what’s near the cottage, such as grocery stores, marinas, fire halls, hospitals, and things of that nature. Not only are these important for overall convenience and safety purposes, they can affect insurance costs and likelihood of being able to rent the property.

Local Laws

This is the least sexy part of buying a cottage, so I saved it for last. It’s important to be aware of local laws, especially if you plan to make any modifications to the cottage.

For example, most shorelines are protected and unalterable, which could restrict your ability to build a new dock. If you just plan to buy and enjoy the cottage as-is, the local laws likely won’t be a concern. If you have other plans in mind, then ask your real estate agent if there’s anything you need to know.

In Summary

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when buying your first cottage. I understand the temptation to rush into buying the property of your dreams and enjoying the season in cottage country. Believe me, you’ll have plenty of time for that after the sale.

Considering all of the aforementioned aspects is paramount to your overall enjoyment. Years from now you’ll be thankful you took the time to pick the perfect cottage for your needs.

Our team has helped many clients find their dream cottage. Reach out to us we’d love to have a conversation about your cottage needs 😃

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