We all know how hard it can be to find the perfect cottage property, and it’s even more challenging in the winter months when properties are less accessible, less visible, and not being used in their prime seasons to showcase all they have to offer. We're here to help!
We all know how hard it can be to find the perfect cottage property, and it’s even more challenging in the winter months when properties are less accessible, less visible, and not being used in their prime seasons to showcase all they have to offer.
We would like to help guide you through the process, 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. Keep in mind, some of these will require some extra effort, especially in the off season, but we are here to help!
When you’re looking at a waterfront property, you really have to get down to what you will be using it for the most. Are you an avid angler, more of a paddleboarder, or do you just like to sit on the dock and enjoy 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.
Depending on what your waterfront goals are, sun exposure might be something of importance to you. You want to make sure that you’re getting that sunrise or sunset view you’re looking for, as the sun follows a slightly different trajectory during the winter months and tends to rise more North than East, and set more South than West.
Knowing the depth at the shoreline, at the end of the dock, and throughout the body of water you are considering can help determine the lifestyle you are looking to live at your cottage. Nautical charts and township websites are always helpful when it comes to this information. Depending on how shallow your waterfront ends up being, you may not be able to run a motorized boat. It also determines the size of boat you can have at your dock, if it’s a decent depth for swimming and jumping off the end 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. Deciding on the lifestyle you’re working towards with this cottage purchase is important, that way you have a clear insight on your wants and needs from a property.
Something with a hard rock filled bottom would ensure there is less seaweed, but if you’re an avid angler you may be looking for something with more weeds off the dock to make fishing convenient. We know that in the Peterborough region, there are certain areas, such as sought after Chemong Lake, that have great shallow entries yet enough depth to house any size of boat you can imagine, but there are also little nooks in there 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 amount of weeds immediately surrounding them, but they don’t solve any long term problems because they only help within a certain range. There is a unique maintenance that comes with owning a waterfront property, and often the amount of weeds dictates the level of upkeep required.
Water fluctuation is important due diligence to do in advance of a purchase of a waterfront property, especially if you purchase in the winter and close in the spring. Rising water can risk contamination and pollutants being brought into your yard and depending on the space between the shoreline and the actual cottage there could be potential for flooding. Because a lot of the bodies of water in Peterborough and the Kawartha Lakes are controlled within the lock systems of the Trent Severn Waterway, you can look online at their water level mapping system to determine if the area you’re interested in is affected by high or low levels of water at any given time.
When considering waterfront properties, it’s important to be aware of the different restrictions or by-laws the body of water may have. These are different rules and regulations townships implement to keep the community clean and safe, and they’re different in every township. Regulations can include things such as the restriction of motorized boats on the lake, and whether or not the public can access the lake or if it is for residents only. The governing body that regulates the waterways in terms of by-laws, motor rules, and accessibility, is Conservation Ontario. Depending on the location you’re looking in, you can call your local Conservation Authority and ask them for all of the information on that specific body of water.
Depending on where you are looking to purchase, making note of the type of access to the cottage may be important. While back country roads may be beautiful in spring, summer and fall to travel down on your way to the cottage, there are some townships that close certain roads during the winter for safety. Generally speaking, most seasonal roads have rough terrain and are often narrow and hard to drive on with their sharp turns, and by deeming them seasonal they are often unmaintained in the winter.
Peterborough and The Kawarthas also has a ton of awesome water access only (WAO) properties, which means they are on islands which you can only access by boat. During the winter months, it's not likely you'll be able to view these properties in person. If this is something you’re willing to consider, you’ll need to do some research on a few things:
When roads are deemed seasonal, you may notice the term ‘private road’ on the listing description. This means that it is not monitored or maintained by the township the road resides in. 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. Though a lot of our major bodies of water are connected, 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 are no inlets to other lakes or rivers. This topic needs to be discussed in terms of how you plan on using the lake. If you're planning on doing some overnight boat travelling this could be a top priority! To see a full map of the Trent Severn Waterway and its connected bodies of water click here!
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 store your boat. Docks are typically removed or lifted in the winter, so your Realtor will have to speak with the listing agent to confirm whether or not a dock is included in the sale, as they can get expensive depending what you’re looking for, and properties don’t always have them. Docks alone are decent for boat storage during regular use, but when it comes to overnights and bad weather, most boat owners like to store their boat in a safer place. Crank lifts and boat houses are the most common things we see for safe storage of water toys. Make sure to investigate the best option for you (along with the cost associated with it) depending on what kind of watercraft you have, or may have in the future. If your waterfront is too shallow to house a boat, you’ll be looking into docking at a nearby marina.
Depending on the property you find, you may need to consider docking at a local marina. Marinas can be a great for long or short term docking solutions, for guest parking, or even just for getting gas on the water. There are some key 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.
When purchasing a waterfront home or cottage, due to the rural element of the property, it will likely 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 expensive to install, especially in tough terrain areas of North Kawartha where the Canadian shield resides, so if there are any issues with these systems it’s a good idea to get quotes on the repair or replacement costs up front from local service providers. Due to the difficulty of accessing well and septic systems in the winter months, 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 good working order, and that they will continue to be working upon the completion date. You’d also like to know where the well and the septic systems are located so that you can ensure that they both are easily accessible, and don’t interfere with any future plans you have for construction or landscaping. Other helpful information to gather within this topic would be:
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.
Who’s up for a game of pond hockey?! Fun at the cottage doesn't have to be restricted to just the warm and sunny months, 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 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 annual trail closures, and if you’re a snowmobile connoisseur ensuring that the body of water is known for being safe to ride on during the winter. In the Peterborough area, Rice Lake is a lake that is known for the abundance of ice huts for ice fishing in the winter. Wherever it is you’re looking, make sure to ask around to see if the location is well suited for winter use.
If you plan to use this property year round, you’re going to need some form of heat source. We know the ambiance of a wood stove or natural fireplace is pretty incredible, but you’ve got to make sure these are WETT certified and in good working condition in order to be able to keep you warm 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 adequate, the duct work is throughout the entire property, and the furnace is working and has been well maintained. If you don’t plan on using the property though the winter, make sure you check for the AC if that’s something that’s important to you!
It’s not unheard of or even uncommon for your Realtor to request photos of the property in the summer months. Things look vastly different when everything is covered in snow. All of the gardens have wilted from the cold, you can’t tell what the waterfront and waters edge actually look like, what condition any of the 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 eroding, that you've gotten the privacy in the yard that you hoped for, and that you’re not getting into extra expenses having to replace the rotting docking system that you were told is included with the property. Most homeowners will have lots of photos of their beautiful waterfront property in the summer, including some great sunset shots!
Whether you're looking at using your waterfront property as an investment or income property, or purely for personal use, you'll want to know what the rules are locally. 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 towhships 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 favourable of short term rentals because 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 nearby could infringe on your enjoyment of the property, especially if this will be your permanent residence or you’re looking specifically for a quiet waterfront location. You might expect issues such as excessive noise, unannounced 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. We recommend using a resource such as Air DNA, where you can see if the property in question or any surrounding properties have been listed as rentals on AirBNB recently.
Because you are purchasing the property with a certain amount of unseen elements, it is important that you protect yourself and the investment you are looking to make. Whether it be from uncovered problems after the snow thaw, or unique rural property features - you want to be sure you are not surprised by anything once you take possession of the property. Being open and transparent about your concerns with your Realtor is important to ensure that they protect you in all aspects when it comes to writing an offer. Realtors can draft custom clauses to protect you in a variety of situations, including:
There are so many things to consider when purchasing a waterfront property in the winter, and in any season! You really want to ensure that your Realtor knows the waterfront market, and is knowledgeable and experienced in your area. Having the right Realtor is essential to help protect you as a buyer.
The members of The Kamar | Cleary Team have grown up in the Peterborough area. We have spent countless hours in cottage country with our own families and friends, along with having helped many clients buy and sell waterfront properties for a number of years.
Whether you're looking to find a cottage in the next month or next year, it's never to soon to start the search. It could take some time for the right place to come along, and you want to be sure that all of your boxes are checked, and you're really sure about the things that are important to you in a waterfront property. Reach out today and we can help you narrow down your wants and needs for your future on one of the beautiful bodies of water in Peterborough and The Kawarthas. Our team can tailor a unique automated search for your waterfront goals, and matching properties will hit your inbox as soon as they come on the market!
We look forward to helping your waterfront dreams become a reality.