What to Look Out For When Buying Your Muskoka Cottage – Buyer Tips

April 13, 2018

What to Look Out For When Buying Your Muskoka Cottage – Buyer Tips

Muskoka is home to thousands of cottages, but it is doubtful they all fit your preferences. Without taking the time to decide what exactly you are looking for, you may end up with something you will regret buying down the road. A cottage is often a place of retreat; a place where friends and family go to muffle out the sounds of their realities; a place where created memories last a lifetime. All these reasons make purchasing a cottage different from any other real estate transaction. With emotions involved, it is easy to act impulsively and make an uneducated decision. Giving you all the factors that go into making a decision you will be satisfied with, this article will help you to find your dream Muskoka cottage.

Knowing What You Can Afford

It is very important to know what you can afford when purchasing a cottage. If you spend over your budget on a cottage itself, you may not have enough money to complete additional renovations and repairs once you acquire the cottage. Boats, kayaks, canoes, tubes, water skis, furniture, and barbecues are among other expenses to consider. Feeling financially restricted after purchasing a cottage can cause you to be stressed and take away the relaxing aspect of a cottage. Therefore, set a realistic price range that gives you flexibility.


If you plan on only using your cottage for a few weekends or weeks here and there, consider renting it out. By renting out your cottage, it becomes more affordable. There are many websites for the Muskoka area who advertise rentable cottages. If you have any questions regarding how to rent, contact The Aben Team; they would be happy to refer you to a reputable renting company and answer any questions you may have.

Understanding the Market

While knowing how much you can spend on a property is the first step, it is also critical to understand what type of properties exist within your price range. For example, a family looking to purchase a year-round cottage for $500000 on Lake Muskoka, Joseph or Rosseau will surely have no luck; something further north on a smaller lake would better fit their criteria. By staying current with the market you will know exactly what type of properties are within your price range. Market statistics are a way of life for The Aben Team and they are always happy to talk numbers with you.

Year-Round vs. Seasonal Use

There are two types of cottages to look for when buying in the Muskoka region. The first type are known as type A properties and entail any cottages with year-round access and utilities similar to a house, like hot water, potable water, electricity, furnaces, etc. Type B properties, in contrast, may only have accessibility during certain seasons and often are more basic with minimal heating and utilities.

Location, Location, Location

Location is everything when it comes a cottage. Research the Muskoka area and determine where exactly you would like to be. Determine how far the nearest towns and their amenities are from your cottage. If you plan on playing a lot of golf when you are up at the cottage, make sure you are situated near a golf course. Find out how far the nearest emergency services are from your cottage and ensure you are comfortable with how long it would take for them to reach your cottage. These are all things needed to be taken into consideration, as well as the cottage’s distance from your home. Sometimes it can be beneficial to rent a cottage in your area of interest before purchasing, as things like boat traffic, privacy and weather can all be checked out.

Additionally, you want to make sure you are comfortable with the cottage’s accessibility. Whether you can access it from a private road, public road or whether it’s only water accessible is important, as you are depending on the condition and accessibility of the roads and boat launches to get to your cottage. This is where your type of car comes into play: if you purchase a cottage in the middle of the woods with a difficult driveway, your 2WD car may not be able to get you where you want to be. In Muskoka, it is important to have a reliable vehicle that can withstand the terrain leading to your cottage. If you depend on a local marina’s boat launch to get to your cottage, you may not be able to access the launch after the business’ hours. Take the time to think of all the possible complications that could arise with a cottage’s location before buying it.


Where a cottage is constructed and what direction it faces indicate what type of exposure it receives. A cottage that has western exposure will be in the shade until late morning and will be facing the sun until it sets. Western and southwestern exposure are the most popular types of exposure amongst buyers, as many people love watching evening sunsets over the lake. With southern exposure, cottagers can also see the sunrise in the morning. Another type of exposure is eastern and means your cottage will get sunrises, but likely no late afternoon sun. For early risers, eastern exposure dries your dock quicker and is great for enjoying your morning cup of coffee. Depending on the topography of the area, northern exposure often means your cottage receives limited amounts of sun, but if you are on level land you may get sun most of the day. The type of exposure your cottage has can affect your cottage experience. If your planning on spending the majority of your time at the cottage sun-tanning, south-west exposure is what you want, but if you are an early morning riser and love to see the sunrises, eastern exposure is more fitting. If you are looking for a mobile app to help identify how much sun a location receives at different times of the year, download Sun Seeker or Sun Surveyor from Google Play or the App Store.

Thinking About the Future

Another recommendation for when it comes to looking for a cottage is to think about the future. If you’re planning on having grandpa and grandma up to the cottage is 60 ft of stairs down to the waterfront a good idea? Not only should you think about the immediate future, but also about who you plan on selling it to down the road. It is wise to understand the market and which lakes appreciate more than others in order to protect your investment.

Water Quality

Testing the water quality of a cottage before purchasing it can ensure the water is potable and can determine the efficiency of an existing filtration system if there is one. Most cottages in Muskoka have their water supplied by lakes or wells and such methods of retrieving water can affect a cottage’s water quality over time. Using a reputable local real estate agent can ensure you are properly taken care of. An agent will get a cottage’s water tested for types of bacteria like E. coli and coliform, keeping you informed.


It is up to you to make sure the waterfront at a cottage is everything you hoped it would be. Sometimes it’s hard to identify how deep the water is at a cottage or what the bottom of the lake is like (rocky, weedy, sandy); so by asking questions, you can be sure you get what you are looking for. In addition, if you plan on making any changes to a waterfront such as updating a dock or building a boathouse, you must first find out whether you are legally permitted. If you are considering adding a bunkie or other accessory structure, you should also determine what size is permitted, where you are allowed to put it, and whether it is allowed a bathroom to avoid repercussions once it is built. Your local realtor will help you through the intricacies of whatever task you wish to accomplish and will help inform you whether your visions are possible. Talking to your real estate agent about shore road allowances is also suggested.

Deal Breakers

If you decide to put an offer on a cottage you should always put a house inspection as a clause. This protects you as a buyer if anything unforeseen comes up. Ensuring problems are discovered before fully owning a cottage is crucial to remaining within your budget and saving time on repairs. A home inspector will thoroughly inspect your cottage to identify any hidden defects. They will check the condition of the roof, will test the existing septic, ensure the docks and decks aren’t rotting, check for signs of mice or other pests, and will inspect utilities and electrical among other things. By hiring a home inspector you can be confident a cottage is in the condition sellers say it is in.

Contact the Professionals

Using a local realtor to help guide you through the process of purchasing the cottage of your dreams is always recommended. Having grown up in the Muskoka area, John and Mark of The Aben Team are very familiar with the communities and lakes of the area. Bringing their patience and honesty to every transaction, they ensure you find exactly what you are looking for. John and Mark offer their clients the latest in market statistics, so you as a buyer are always aware of current market conditions and of any intricacies specific to purchasing a Muskoka property.

All in All

After reading this list, you now know there are countless things to take into consideration when purchasing a cottage in the Muskoka area. Rather than settling on the first property you see, take your time through the process and make sure what you purchase fits your lifestyle and suits your budget. Try to make a checklist of your must-haves and wants and remember sometimes it’s okay to compromise! Good luck on your journey to finding your own Muskoka haven and contact The Aben Team if there is anything they can do to help. Happy hunting!