Cottage industry: Kawartha Lakes, “the new Muskoka”

In the July issue of Maclean’s, and every week here online, recent buyers divulge what they had to do to acquire their dream cottages: pool family money, send relatives to visit, take the first flight to Atlantic Canada after the bubble, or buy on sight, sometimes thousands of miles away.

Kawartha Lakes, Ontario

Average price of recreational properties (2021): $798,000

The market: On a good traffic day, residents of the Greater Toronto Area can drive to tree-studded Kawartha Lakes in less than two hours. Its proximity to urban centers and abundance of waterfront views have made the 3,000 square kilometer area a particularly good bet for young workers keen to slam their laptops docked and sightsee on weekends. -ends of summer. From 2020 to 2021, average cottage prices for landlocked properties soared 48%, while waterfront properties fetched just under $900,000. According to real estate agents, these days buyers are asking fewer questions about fishing and more about Wi-Fi.

The buyers : Scott Clayton, a 54-year-old tax consultant, and his wife, Angela, a 55-year-old retired nurse.

Angela: I live in Houston, Texas, but have stayed close to my college girlfriends, many of whom are still in Ontario. Every summer my family used to rent a cabin in Muskoka near my former roommate. She always said, “There’s a house for sale near me, and you have to have it!” During the confinement, she fell ill and died in June last year. I decided that I couldn’t miss seeing my friends anymore.

In July 2021, Canada removed the quarantine requirement for vaccinated Canadian visitors; I was in the Kawarthas looking for cabins within 24 hours. Scott is American and can’t work here, so we wanted to find somewhere close enough to the airport for him to come for short stays. It also needed to be big enough to accommodate a group of friends, so we needed a minimum of three bedrooms. I also wanted good bathing water; no weeds or mud. I quickly learned that any property I liked, Everybody like.

Our realtor told us that the winning deals in the area were usually unconditional offers, made in cash and much more in demand, sometimes by the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We found a place that had five bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and trees all over its property. It was perfect. I got home to Houston and the next day we got a phone call saying there had been eight offers. The winner was $200,000 higher than ours. I thought, Will this happen every time?

After that, I didn’t visit any more cottages in person; we bought ours without seeing it about a month later. The property needed a lot of work, but the bones were there. It had three bathrooms, three bedrooms, no weeds, and a basement where people could stay up late making noise. It was the same thing again: six offers, all cash, no strings attached. Our winning bid was 30% higher than the ask. Despite the number of improvements needed, Scott and I decided: we were going to have a cabin here, even if we had to renovate. Our friends can come visit us now, as can their children. Buying here was like getting a piece of home.


This article appears in print in the July 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here or purchase the issue online here.

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