There are so many things to consider when buying a waterfront home in Peterborough and The Kawarthas. Here are some items that will help you to understand what to expect, and we look forward to helping you in the future!
We all know how hard it can be to find the perfect cottage property in Peterborough! The options are endless, and there are so many amazing lakes and bodies of water to choose from.
So, which one is right for you?
Where you end up could be completely different from what you currently have in mind, due to a few reasons.
Waterfront is tricky. There is SO much to consider, including weeds, depth, privacy, and what your primary goals are with your property.
We would like to help guide you through the process the best we can, so we have compiled a list of due diligence items that we believe will come in handy with any waterfront property you’ll look into.
These things do take some effort, but we are here to help. It is well worth it to find the waterfront home that meets your wants and needs.
Let’s get started.
When you're looking at a waterfront property, it's crucial to think about how you plan on using it the most. Is fishing your hobby? Do you prefer kayaking, or just lounging on the dock and drinking a morning coffee? Once you’ve specified your wants and needs for yourself in a waterfront, then you can get a little deeper into how you need your waterfront to perform.
Sun exposure might be important to you in a waterfront home or cottage. Exposure can be important for many reasons. You may want the side of your yard near the water to be sunny during the time you use it most, for instance. Make sure the hours you book your showing are the same as when you'd expect to be out in your yard, as this will be your best guide! Consider the yard’s exposure and be sure to note any trees or shrubs that could provide shade during certain times of the day. Another thing to consider is that the sun’s trajectory changes a bit throughout the year. If you’re just looking for the view, exposure will determine whether or not you get those sunrise or sunset views you’re looking for!
The depth of the body of water you want for your cottage can impact what type of lifestyle you can enjoy there. The depth at different locations, like the dock and at the bottom, are also important to evaluate. Nautical charts and township websites are always helpful when it comes to this information. If it’s too shallow, it’s possible that it won’t house a motorboat, or a boat of substantial size. Depth at the end of the dock also determines if it’s a decent depth for swimming and jumping off of your dock, or if you’ll need to have a floating dock further out to make full use of swimming in the summer. It can also determine the type and size of fish that thrive in that specific body of water. It's important to figure out what your lifestyle is like before you buy a cottage property so that you know exactly what you want.
Something with a hard and rocky bottom would ensure there is less seaweed, but it comes with the downfalls of things such as zebra mussels and sharp edges if you’re looking to wade in from the shoreline. If you are an avid fisher looking for a place to fish without leaving home, you may want something with a lot of weeds off of the dock. We know that in the Peterborough region, certain lakes have shallow entries and enough depth to houseboats of any size, but there are also little nooks that are nothing but weeds and lilypads that would clog your motor and limit any swimming out front. If you’re not into the weeds, there are always bubblers that can be installed at the end of your dock. These bubblers limit the number of weeds immediately surrounding them, but they don’t solve any long-term problems because they only help within a certain range. In contrast to other properties, there is a higher level of upkeep that comes with owning waterfront property. The amount of weeds will dictate how much you have to maintain the shoreline.
On top of the lake dictating the lifestyle you can practically live, it’s important to be aware of the different restrictions or by-laws the body of water may have. In Canada, there are many pieces of legislation you need to be aware of. There are provincial and federal laws that will affect your body of water. For example, in Ontario, the Department of Natural Resources and Forestry regulates the use of motorized vehicles on lakes, so it’s important to know what is allowed where you’re fishing or boating. Depending on the location you’re looking in, you can call your local Conservation Authority to ask them for all of the information on that body of water.
Depending on where you are looking to purchase, making note of the type of access to the cottage is important. Some townships close certain back country roads during the winter because of safety concerns. Seasonal roads are often rougher than regular ones, with narrow, hard-to-navigate turns, which makes them difficult to maintain in the winter, and end up in seasonal closures. This is especially important if you’re looking at this as your permanent residence, or if you’re planning on using your cottage over the winter months. Think of all of the family skating you can do!
Peterborough and The Kawarthas also has many waterfront properties that need to be navigated by boat. These are called WAO properties - meaning they are on islands only accessible by boat. If this is something you’re willing to consider, you’ll need to do some research on a few things:
Sometimes roadways leading to waterfront properties are deemed private and are unmaintained by the township regardless of the season. It is important to research if there is a fee paid for by the residents on the road for maintenance that goes toward covering things like snow removal, storm cleanup, and roadside repairs. Typically if the road is considered private, the sellers of the cottage would have a contract or bill on hand that explains the scope of coverage for the fees that are paid by the residents.
Peterborough and the Kawartha Lakes lake system is unique with a lot of their lakes being a part of the Trent Severn Waterway, allowing the residents to be able to travel freely along 386km through rivers, lakes, lock systems and canals. This historic waterway makes travelling from Trenton to Lake Simcoe possible with multiple stops along the way in Peterborough and the Kawarthas. It’s not guaranteed the body of water you're looking into is part of the Trent Severn and could be a landlocked body of water meaning there is land surrounding the water completely. To see a full map of the Trent Severn Waterway click here!
If you’re looking to do some travelling by boat, a fun fact about the Trent Severn is that it allows access into the USA as well as out through the Gulf of St Lawrence into the Atlantic Ocean. You can complete what is called “The Great Loop”, which takes you from Peterborough (or wherever you choose to start along the journey), all the way to Florida and back in a giant loop. This is said to take over nine months to complete. But wow - what a way to spend your year!
Of course, many cottage owners feel the urge to own some sort of motorized watercraft, but you may need to investigate where you’re going to keep your boat.
During the summer it will be easier to decipher what type of set up the property already has in terms of a dock or boathouse. Docks are generally removed or lifted in the cold and snowy months, so if you don’t see any signs of one in the photos or on the property, your Realtor will have to speak with the listing agent to confirm whether or not a dock is included in the sale.
Docks alone are decent for boat storage during regular use, but when it comes to overnights and poor weather, most boat owners like to store their boats in a more secure place. Crank lifts and boathouses are the most common things we see for the safe storage of water toys.
Make sure to explore what the best option for you would be (along with the cost associated with it). And remember, if your waterfront is too shallow to house a boat, you’ll be looking into docking at a nearby marina or trailering it for each use.
Depending on the property you find, you may need to consider docking at a local marina. Marinas can be great for long or short-term docking solutions, for visitor parking, or even just for getting gas on the water. There are some essential things to consider if you’ll need to dock at a nearby marina:
For a list of marinas local to Peterborough and The Kawarthas, click here.
Due to the rural element of the property, waterfront homes and cottages typically have some form of well and or septic system. You will come across things such as community wells, which are maintained by the township, but for the most part, your property will likely have its own systems in place, and you’ll need to make sure they are functioning properly.
Well and septic systems are costly to install, especially in challenging terrain areas of North Kawartha where the Canadian shield begins to show itself, so if there are any issues with these systems it’s a good idea to get quotes on the repair or replacement costs upfront from regional service providers.
You’d likely also like to know where the well and the septic systems are located so that you can ensure that the access is unrestricted, and that these systems interfere with any future plans you have for construction or landscaping. Other helpful information to gather within this topic would be:
Your Realtor will likely add a clause into any offer you write stating that the seller warrants that the well and septic systems are in acceptable working order, and that they will continue to be working upon the completion date.
There is a web page on the Ontario government website that shows well records. You can enter a location on the map, and it will bring up nearby wells - it doesn’t have every well up to date, but you will be able to see nearby well information such as depth, flow rate, and the date installed.
Can you picture yourself gathered around an outdoor fire with a hot chocolate, snowflakes falling, and a game of shinny going on out on the lake?
Outdoor fires are actually my favourite in the winter.
Enjoyment at the cottage doesn't have to be limited to the summer, so if you’re hoping to use this investment year-round you will need to make sure that it is a 4 season cottage or that you’re able to reasonably winterize it.
Other due diligence you can do to ensure that you can fully enjoy the area surrounding your cottage in the winter include checking for seasonal trail closures, and if you enjoy snowmobiling, ensuring that the body of water is known for being safe to ride on during the winter is probably at the top of your list.
Wherever it is you’re looking, make sure to ask your Realtor and the neighbours around you so you can be sure that the area is suitable for what your intentions are with winter activities.
If you intend to use this property year-round, you’re going to need some form of warmth. We know the ambiance of a wood stove or natural fireplace is pretty wonderful, but you’ve got to make sure these are WETT-certified and in good working shape in order to be able to keep you nicely thawed on those frosty days.
It’s okay if the property you’re looking at doesn’t have a fireplace, but make sure the heat source is sufficient, the ductwork is throughout the entire property, and the furnace is working and has been maintained.
If you don’t plan on using the property through the winter, make sure you check for the AC if that’s important to you!
Things tend to look foreign when everything is covered in snow.
It’s not unheard of or even uncommon for you to request that your agent asks for photos of the property in the summer months when everything is booming and thriving.
During the snowy season, all of the gardens have wilted from the cold, you can’t tell what the waterfront and waters edge actually looks like, what condition any docking systems are in, and if trees have lost their leaves you could be wondering what the privacy is like in the summer months when all the foliage is in full bloom.
You want to ensure your waterfront is structurally sound and not deteriorating, and that you’re not getting into extra costs having to replace the docking system that you were told is included with the property.
This doesn’t have to be limited to winter either - waterfront looks vastly different in the fall and the spring when the leaves are gone, everything is mucky, and the lake is seemingly abandoned.
Most homeowners will be happy to share photos of their waterfront property in the summer, including sunrise and sunset shots, and sometimes these photos can showcase how busy with activity the lake is!
Some townships impose fines and bans for cottages used for rental purposes. Some will have a permitting system where you have to go through the township if you want to operate as an Airbnb or short-term rental (STR) of any kind.
Some townships will have no by-laws at all, and some will have active or pending by-laws. Locally, in Douro Township, many mayoral candidates are speaking in their election campaigns regarding this topic. There was even an online survey for the township where they were seeking public opinion on whether or not to regulate short-term rentals within the township.
You will want to know if the municipality is encouraging short-term rentals or wanting to limit them. You wouldn’t want to make an investment purchase and not be able to use it as you intended.
Talk to neighbours about whether STR is something that affects the area, and if so, how active they are in your immediate neighbourhood.
Too many short-term rental properties in close proximity could infringe on your enjoyment of the property, especially if this will be your permanent residence or you’re looking for a quiet location.
You might expect issues such as disruptive noise, random fireworks, an increase in traffic on your street, and even safety and access issues if the road is narrow and you’ve got excess vehicles parked along the roadway.
In the Peterborough region, a lot of our waterfront properties reside on fire route roads, which are quite long and narrow.
There’s a website that we can recommend, Air DNA, and you can see if the property in question or any surrounding properties have been listed as rentals on Airbnb recently.
There are so many things to consider when buying a waterfront home in Peterborough and The Kawarthas, and the Realtor you choose to work with will end up being a key element in protecting you in that journey.
We have grown up in Peterborough and lived in the surrounding areas of Bridgenorth and Otonabee South Monaghan, and not only have we frequented cottage country, but we have also helped numerous clients with waterfront properties over the years.
If you’re looking for a waterfront property during the winter months, we have written an article on things specifically geared toward helping you navigate the unknowns when everything is covered in snow and ice - so check out that article here!
Reach out today and we can help you get started in your waterfront search. We can tailor an automated search for your wants and needs in a property, and they will hit your inbox as soon as they come on the market!
We look forward to hearing from you,