If you’re Canadian, you have likely had access to a family cottage, visited a friend’s or dreamt of owning your very own at some point. Before you get swept away by the many advantages of owning a cottage, it’s a good idea to consider the less glamourous side of things.
Purchasing a second home can be a big undertaking, so it’s essential that you take a close look at your finances before making an appointment with your realtor.  As with a home purchase, it’s a good idea to use the 32-per cent guideline – the cost of both mortgages, property taxes and utilities should not exceed 32 percent of your gross income.
As an option, renting out the cottage for a few weeks during the peak summer season is a smart way to cover some of the costs.
Once you’ve determined affordability and a budget, you need to consider the location of your cottage. Can you stomach a three or four-hour drive every weekend? Will the traffic drive you crazy? Is your family into recreational activities? Would you prefer to be lakefront or inland? Do you want close neighbours or would you rather an isolated, quiet space? The answers to these questions will all factor into your chosen location.
Cottage ownership is not quite the same as urban or even suburban living, so don’t assume garbage is picked up weekly! In some spots, you need to take your trash to the nearest dump. And you should always hire a professional to inspect the cottage’s sewage system before purchasing, as replacing a faulty one could cost a small fortune.
If your water supply is from a well, is it a well that’s been drilled or dug? Has it ever dried out? If the water supply comes from the lake, which is very common, make sure the cottage has a water filtration and purification system on it to eliminate sediment and bacteria.
You will also want to know if the road to your cottage is plowed during the winter and maintained by the local municipality year-round.
Also be sure to check the zoning and find out what recreational and sporting activities are permitted. What a shame it would be to launch your brand-new powerboat only to learn that they’re not allowed on your lake!