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Buying the Dream - A Primer for Purchasing Your First Summer Home

Purchasing a cottage is the perfect way to replace the chaos of your weekday schedule with a summer sanctuary that lends itself to quality family time and stress-free living. The decision to buy a summer home should be a celebrated one, however it’s important to practice due diligence in finding the perfect retreat for you and your loved ones. Whether you’re buying a cottage or building on vacant land, don’t let the excitement of your lakeside view distract from other issues which should be addressed at the forefront.

Access to your new lot should be carefully examined as municipal streets have now been replaced by private right-of-ways evidenced only by a thirty year old agreement. Road maintenance and winter ploughing are also an issue and prospective buyers should inquire about cost sharing arrangements amongst neighbours which may not have been subject to written agreement. Similarly, access to utility lines should not be taken for granted and conversation with your local utility provider is well advised before you consider building to determine the feasibility of obtaining power supply.

The reliability of your municipal water and sewage systems have now been replaced with well and septic, and prospective buyers are should have both tested as a condition for purchase. The quantity and quality of well water should be analysed as soon as possible as your Lender will likely want to see satisfactory water testing results as a requirement for your financing. A good rule of thumb when buying vacant land is to find your water first and site the location of your cottage second to ensure that your well is placed in the optimal location on the property to ensure a steady water supply. The same rule applies for septic placement as setback regulations can be very restrictive on where you can “tuck away” a septic tank. If you’re buying a cottage with a pre-existing septic tank make sure the seller adequately discloses service history of the septic along with any issues encountered over the years.

The certainty of your 50 x 100 land parcel from the city, which is bordered on all sides by fence and readily identifiable survey markers, is also gone. It has been replaced with a written description bounded by old stones and oak trees, having never been properly canvassed by a qualified land surveyor. If you’re purchasing a newly subdivided country lot, don’t assume that the land developer has done the due diligence for you. Take a walk around the property and look for any evidence of third party use like boat skidways or beaten trails. A recently subdivided parcel of land doesn’t necessarily trump adverse claims over your property such as access paths historically used by neighbouring landowners to reach the water. Having beach parties at your summer home may sound like fun, just make sure it’s on your own terms by making the proper inquiries before you purchase.

For many people the purchase of a family cottage is a payoff for years of hard work and dedication. Don’t short-change yourself by accepting anything less than perfect. By taking a few precautionary steps you can ensure that your time at your new summer retreat is used for its intended purpose - sipping wine with friends and enjoying the view.

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