Category Archives: cottage country

Mike Holmes: Getting ready for cottage season

If you’ve been dreaming of going to the cottage all winter, well, it’s almost that time. But before you fire up the grill, and take that first jump off the dock – you’ve got the task of opening up the cottage.

Here are a few of the major jobs you want to get out of the way that first weekend up north.

Start From the Top

You probably cleared the eavestrough before shutting down for the season – but one of your first tasks should be to clean out any debris that accumulated over the winter. You want to make sure that water can properly drain away from you home. While you’re on your ladder, it’s a good idea to check the roof for any signs of damage or intruders.

Animal Patrol

You want to be on the lookout for telltale signs of animals. I’m talking about obvious signs of entry – things like torn window screens, or holes in your soffits. Animals can even pull away siding, or find entry through your chimney or roof venting.

Even a seemingly harmless mouse can cause issues. They will eat away at wood in your home or chew through electrical wires. If you spot any chewed up wires or cords make a call to your local electrician. They need to check your electrical system and make sure it’s safe.

If any critters have taken up space as unwanted tenants, you will also want to bring in a professional pest control expert. Believe me, you want them evicted before they reproduce and cause an infestation.

If you find signs of mice, you will want to spray any area they’ve been with a disinfectant. It’s important to keep those dirty particles from floating around, because breathing in materials from their droppings or saliva can make you sick. Remember to wear a disposable mask and gloves to reduce the risk of contact.

Let Your Home Breathe

Once you’ve checked for signs of pests, it’s time to inspect the interior. Start by opening the windows. The space will need circulation, especially if it was locked up tight all winter long.

Trust your nose. If you notice a strong musty smell, it could mean a moisture problem – and that can lead to mould. You need to stop the source of moisture first, otherwise you’re going to be dealing with mould problems again and again.

For small areas, you can likely clean it yourself as long as you have the proper cleaning solution and safety gear (goggles, gloves, and a respirator or mask), but for large mould infestations, bring in a remediation expert.

Check the caulking around windows and doors and replace any damaged areas. Broken caulking leaves the perfect entryway for water to seep in, and it’s an easy fix. Same with the weather stripping around doors – if it’s damaged it’s simple to fix, but if left unrepaired, you’re leaving an open invitation for water penetration.

Bring Back the Power

When you turn the power back on, take things room by room. Make sure everything is working as it should, and be on the hunt for flickering lights, a burning smell from appliances, or any sparking fixtures.

Next, switch the water back on. Again, room by room, you want to be looking for any leaks. Finally, test your HVAC system, and change the air filter.

Inspect Your Deck

Before entertaining this season – make sure you are checking your deck thoroughly. The railings, steps, and ledger board (the piece of the deck that holds the structure to the building) all need to be safe and secure. You want to see that the decking material is still in good condition with no dry rot, or damage from insects.

Most home inspections will include a deck safety check, so if you’re unsure of what you should be looking at, a licensed home inspector can help point out areas of concern.

Your cottage is your home away from home during the summer – but just because you may only be there on weekends, doesn’t mean you can slack on your regular maintenance. Cottage season goes by so quickly, but treat it like you would your home – make it right, and make it safe.

Watch Mike Holmes in his series, Holmes Makes It Right, on HGTV. For more information, visit

Source: National Post – Mike Holmes | May 6, 2017

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Impact of Trump win on Canada’s real estate: Time to hunker down in your cottages

U.s. presidential election - donald trump

The world’s collective jaws dropped after the early morning announcement: The next President of the United States is reality-TV star, Donald Trump.

But Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential race raises more questions than confidence—which was reflected in the greenback’s dip early this morning while safe-haven sovereign bonds and gold shot higher. The market is now reflecting fears of a prolonged global uncertainty over the new presidential leader’s policies.

What happens to interest (and mortgage) rates?

For the last few weeks, analysts were predicting that the U.S. Federal Reserve was poised to gradually start increasing interest rates, to reflect the country’s slowly growing economy. Trump’s win may have scuttled this strategy.

Part of the problem is that Trump’s promise to deport 11 million workers—because they presumably entered the country illegally—will have a dangerous impact on America’s currently tight labour market.

Unemployment in the U.S. dipped to its lowest in June at 4.9%. “The country is entering what economists call full employment,” says Phil Soper, CEO of Royal LePage. “By taking that many workers out of the labour force, Trump could bring business to a grinding halt.” Quite simply, it’s a plan that most business people and many leading economists say is very damaging both to the U.S. and to the Canadian economy.

Remove that many workers from the labour pool and you create a labour shortage, which could prompt businesses to contract and slow down in order to fend-off the quickly rising cost of wages.

To combat a business contraction, the U.S. Federal Reserve may abandon decisions to start raising interest rates. The idea is that by keeping rates low, the Fed will continue to encourage banks to lend money and convince businesses to expand (through the use of cheap credit). But it’s been six years of near-zero rates. For many it was time to start seeing better returns. With prolonged low rates from the Feds, it’s unlikely that the Bank of Canada will increase rates, so we can probably expect a prolonged ultra-low rate environment in both Canada and the U.S.


Impact on home buyers: Continued low mortgage rates

For anyone buying a home, Trump’s win may help suppress any potential mortgage rate increase that was on the horizon.

This continued low-rate environment won’t stop the slight uptick in mortgage rates, caused by the recent Federal Liberal mortgage rule changes. However, it may prompt different levels of government to consider alternative methods for cooling heated housing markets. According to, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa believes:

“something has to be done” to help people deal with soaring home prices in Toronto.

Sousa is poised to make an announcement next week as to how provincial government will help first-time buyers in Toronto, without hurting home prices in surrounding areas.

For tips on how U.S. citizens can buy in Canada, visit the BRELTeam’s primer on buying homes in Canada.

Impact on home sellers: Could be a rush to buy in Canada

Trump’s presidential win could be a boon for some home sellers in Canada. We could actually see a surge in demand for Canadian homes, says Soper. “Some [Americans] may be so fed-up that they decide to head north.”

This would certainly bolster “Brand Canada,” says SopeMo, as more demand may help support real estate prices, particularly in larger urban centres. Of course, this assumes the American dollar won’t lose value and remove the relatively high purchasing power a U.S. buyer would have in Canada.

If Americans do decide to move north, sellers in bigger urban centres could see the biggest impact as the U.S. dollar still has about 30% more buying power than the Loonie. Home sellers in Vancouver, however, shouldn’t expect a big uptick in American interest, as the Foreign Buyer’s tax that was announced and introduced this past August, will probably dampen interest in property in the Lower Mainland.


Impact on vacation properties: Hunker down

Probably the biggest impact will be felt by vacation property owners. Americans are the largest foreign buyers of Canadian property. “Part of the reason is the relative affordability of our recreational properties based on the strength of the American dollar,” says Soper. But the dip in U.S. currency, could mean a wholesale withdrawal from the Canadian vacation property market—and this could impact Canada’s recreational property market for years.

For instance, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were extremely popular destinations for Americans prior to the 2008/2009 financial collapse. But after the global credit crunch, cottages and lake-front home prices plunged as much as 60%. Some of these markets are still in the process or recovering, almost a decade later.


Impact on house prices across Canada is uncertain

The impact of Trump’s election doesn’t stop there. Pre-election promises to place massive tariffs on Chinese imported goods and to “tear-up NAFTA” could mean trading-wars that could seriously impede Canada’s currently slow-growing economy.

In relative terms, trade is much more important to Canada than to the United States. The Americans can afford to be insular since they have 325 million people in their market to our less than 35 million. “Any protectionist stance from the U.S. would do significant damage to Canada,” says Soper. And any hit in our slow-growing economy could further prolong our climb out of the ultra-low interest rate environment. Worse, it could prompt lay-offs in certain parts of the country, where exports and trade help shape the local economies. This will impact localized housing markets.

Think Alberta and low oil prices, and you get the picture.

Source: Money Sense – by   November 9th, 2016

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Muskoka now ‘Hamptons of the north’ for luxury cottage living

Wealthy buyers are looking to snap up luxury real estate such as Tokata, a home located on a nine-acre peninsula in Parry Sound, Ont. The property is listed for $4,750,000.

High-end Muskoka waterfront purchases were up 66 per cent in 2014 over 2013, much of it fuelled by the weak dollar and growing international interest.

Toronto Star

By: Business Reporter, Published on Fri May 15 2015

MUSKOKA—Tokata is one of those idyllic enclaves of waterfront real estate — spacious, gracious, packed with modern amenities and perched on a private peninsula jutting into quiet Silver Lake.

You can watch the sun rise from its stunning granite-and-wood Muskoka room facing the east deck, and the sun set from the elegant Great Room overlooking the west deck.

If you can pass the extensive background check, the phone interview and the three-page questionnaire setting out house rules, all this and more can be yours — for $12,000 per week.

Personal chef and yoga on the dock are optional.

In the quest to make Muskoka a manageable experience, Sotheby’s realtor Ross Halloran created a “Take your dream home for a test drive” rental program, now headed into its second summer.

It aims to help the growing number of wealthy buyers looking for luxury waterfront real estate navigate their way around cottage country’s Big Three of Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau and Lake Muskoka, plus dozens of others.

“We’re seeing a renewed interest in Muskoka,” says Halloran, echoing a recent Christie’s International Real Estate global luxury white paper. It noted a 66 per cent increase in high-end Muskoka waterfront purchases in 2014 over 2013, much it fuelled by the weak dollar and growing international interest from the wealthy of the world.

“People view Muskoka as the Hamptons of the north and it’s definitely a destination that’s now known internationally. This is a region in transition,” adds Halloran.

View from the private boat launch at Tokata.


View from the private boat launch at Tokata.

Muskoka sales — and prices — started rebounding dramatically last spring and really took off in the fall, with sales for properties over $2 million hitting record levels by the end of 2014, says Christie’s Canada CEO Chris Kapches.

Some of the grand “old Muskoka” landmarks, built by American industrialists back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, have been coming on the market for the first time in decades as families age out, grow too big to share all that history or simply realize the costs — which can be $20,000- to $70,000-plus in taxes alone — are unbearable for a two-week summer get away.

“We went through a few years after the last recession where buyers’ and sellers’ expectations were not in sync — buyers were just not prepared to pay what sellers were asking — so we had some properties that were on the market for three seasons with price reductions year in and year out,” says Kapches.

The Lakelands Association of Realtors, which represents Muskoka, Haliburton and Orillia, says this January through April has been the best start to overall waterfront sales since 2010, with total transactions up 44.8 per cent over the same four months in 2014.

Muskoka-area realtor Storey Badger thinks this year could set a new record: As of May 12, 27 waterfront properties have been sold on Muskoka’s Big Three lakes, including a $7.5 million Lake Joseph property this week. That’s up from 17 waterfront sales, year over year.

Halloran, like other realtors who focus on the Muskoka market, are suddenly seeing renewed demand from GTA buyers, long-time cottagers looking to move up, ex-pats living overseas but longing to give their families quintessential Canadian summers and international buyers looking for a serene and safe place, ideally with a sunset view, to park a few millions.

Halloran started the luxury rental program because he realized it was difficult for even the most savvy of investors to navigate Muskoka’s dozens of lakes, given that the Big Three of Rosseau, Joseph and Muskoka are daunting all in themselves.

Some are good for fishing, others for golf and socializing, so the program, which now features some 30 luxury waterfront properties throughout Muskoka lets vacationers and, more importantly potential buyers, try out a lake for a while.

Not all the properties, like Tokata are up for sale.

There are many where the owners are simply looking to fill some empty time and recoup a few of the costs of having a pricey house in the woods where they only have maybe two weeks a year to just sit and relax on the dock.


Lap of luxury: Four luxury Muskoka properties on the market

You can grab a game of tennis at the courts at this Lake Joseph home has six bedrooms. (Chestnut Park Real Estate)


You can grab a game of tennis at the courts at this Lake Joseph home has six bedrooms. (Chestnut Park Real Estate)

List price: $14.7 million

Where: Lake Joseph

Lot size: 8.5 acres, 744 feet of water frontage

Size: 7,600 sq. ft., six bedrooms

This “personal waterfront resort for the buyer seeking seclusion and privacy” is gently nestled in granite galore. It features tennis courts and a two-slip boathouse with its own guest suite and super-sized entertaining deck right at the water.

This Bass Island home sits on a private island.


This Bass Island home sits on a private island.

List price: $11.8 million

Where: Bass Island, Lake Muskoka

Lot size: 11 acre private island

Size: 8,500 sq. ft., six bedrooms, four bathrooms

Just finished last year by its European owners, this “elegantly designed architectural masterpiece” offers panoramic sunsets and a lake-water plunge pool — inside — so you can avoid the black flies after your hot tub or Finnish dry sauna.

Enough room for all your friends: This home has 18(!) bedrooms. (Chestnut Park Real Estate)


Enough room for all your friends: This home has 18(!) bedrooms. (Chestnut Park Real Estate)

List price: $5.3 million

Where: Beaumaris area of Lake Muskoka

Lot size: 4+ acres on private Marco Island

Size: 7,000 sq. ft., 18 bedrooms including boat house and guest residence

This rare offering is as “old Muskoka” as it gets, right down to its guest residence, six-slip, four-bedroom boat house and wicker furniture. It was once owned by Donald Hunter, son of the co-founder of Canadian communications giant Maclean-Hunter Ltd.

Modern meets traditional at this 4,000-square-foot home. (Cody Storm Cooper for the Toronto Star)


Modern meets traditional at this 4,000-square-foot home. (Cody Storm Cooper for the Toronto Star)

List price: $4.75 million

Where: Silver Lake

Lot size: 9-acre gated peninsula, 2,990 feet of water frontage

Size: 5600+, four-plus bedroom home with tennis courts

This 10-year-old, four-plus bedroom property, called Tokata, is design perfection, offering a modern spin on age-old Muskoka traditions like the screened-in Muskoka room and Great Room with fireplace. A 4,000 square foot, wrap-around deck offers sunrise and sunset views.