Moving to cottage country? Bring lots of money

Secluded and relatively boat-free Blackmore Lake, near Bracebridge, has just three cottages on it – and one of them is on the market for $1-million.

As high temperatures and abundant sunshine finally arrived in Ontario’s cottage country, real estate broker Anita Latner was heading out on a tour of Muskoka’s “big three” lakes with a couple who are looking for their first cottage.

Ms. Latner says the family from Toronto has $1-million “or a little more” to spend. That’s pretty much an entry-level budget for a property on Lake Joseph, Lake Muskoka and Lake Rosseau.

Ms. Latner says clients from Toronto often tell her that they had to trim their wish list when looking for a city house because prices are so rich. When the time comes to purchase a cottage, they will take the time to find exactly what they want. Ms. Latner is used to spending a couple of years helping buyers to find their getaway.

“It’s really hard on the big three to do anything under a million,” says the broker at Anita Latner Realty Inc. “They’ve already made compromises on their home. This is their dream; this is their oasis.”

Ms. Latner says cottage country was buzzing in July because so many city dwellers were avoiding the influx of PanAm Games athletes and visitors. But the height of summer tends to be the time when people enjoy cottage life instead of buying and selling.

“It just seems to be a nice pace,” she says of real estate activity. The number of listings is fairly typical for the summer months, she adds.

Ms. Latner recently listed a rustic cabin on 100 acres on relatively untouched Blackmore Lake for $1-million. There are only two other cottages on the lake and the owners of this property use the lake for water skiing because of the lack of boat traffic. They’ve set up a permanent full slalom water ski course that will be sold with the cabin.

“It’s a little bit quirky,” she says of the property.

The cabin has an outhouse and no electricity, she says, adding that the lake is surrounded by bush. A new owner could build a large cottage, she says, or keep the existing building. The relative isolation and lack of neighbouring cottages is unusual.

“It’s just so still and you don’t have to get up early in the morning and hope you beat the traffic.”

Ms. Latner says more U.S.-based buyers may head to Canada’s cottage country now that the loonie has fallen steeply in value against the U.S. dollar.

“Holy Toledo – that’s a lot of money in your pocket,” she says of the difference, which knocks the price of the Blackmore Lake parcel down to $800,000 in U.S. dollars.

Ms. Latner recently represented a buyer who purchased an investment property in the heart of Gravenhurst. The three retail shops with three apartments above them were listed for sale with an asking price of $629,000.

Ms. Latner says the Toronto-based client was looking farther afield because land prices have soared to dizzying heights in the city. The businesses that occupy the space – including a hair salon and a clothing boutique – will stay on, according to Ms. Latner.

“To invest in commercial [property] in Toronto is excruciatingly expensive,” she says. “I think a lot of these guys are shying away from Toronto.”

Meanwhile, the residential real estate market in Toronto has been quiet, agents say.

Some properties changed hands during the two weeks of the PanAm Games – including some that drew multiple offers – but, over all, the pace was slow, says Patrick Rocca of Bosley Real Estate Ltd.

“I suspect most people, because of the fear factor around the traffic, left town [because of] the Games,” Mr. Rocca says.

Mr. Rocca says he chatted with owners of shops and cafés on Bayview Avenue and some estimated that their business dipped 10 per cent during the Games.

The recent interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada has not yet sparked an increase in buying, he adds, but Mr. Rocca expects listings to pick up now that the Civic holiday weekend has passed.

Sohail Mansoor, an agent with Royal LePage Signature Realty, also found July fairly calm. But many listings also get a second look in the middle of the summer, he says, as buyers concentrate on the properties that are sitting instead of waiting for new ones.

An agent in his office received an offer recently for a property that had been listed for three months.

Mr. Mansoor’s listing at 85 Lake Promenade was still waiting for a buyer, despite a price cut to $1.85-million from $2.1-million. The four-bedroom property, which hit the market in early May, is right on the shore of Lake Ontario.

He says the location is ideal for buyers who want an unobstructed view of the water but the layout of the house is better suited to a couple or a family with older children. He figures it’s taking longer to sell because it’s not a typical family home.

Others on Lake Promenade in Etobicoke are also still on the market, he adds.

“It’s a good time to be a buyer because there’s less competition,” he says.

Source: CAROLYN IRELAND The Globe and Mail Published Thursday, Aug. 06, 2015 1:03PM EDT

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