Nothing is better than spending quality time in the great outdoors with your family and friends. As we move into the colder months, what better opportunity is there to begin looking for a cottage? Cottages are fantastic ways of having a mini-vacation with the ones you love. They are also an investment that can be passed on for generations to come! However, buying a cottage is a huge commitment. There are many things to consider when looking into buying a cottage. Luckily, isure is here to help you with our list of seven things to consider when purchasing your second home.

1. Is the cottage “winterized?” 

Even though we are approaching the winter months, buying and maintaining a cottage is a year-round commitment. If you and your family plan on using the cottage during the winter months, it’s important to consider whether or not the cottage you are looking at has been “winterized.” This means it’s ready to use year-round. One of the most important aspects to look for in a winterized cottage is whether or not it is WETT certified or not. A WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) inspection carefully goes through all of the wood-burning appliances in the cottage. This includes fireplaces, fireplace inserts, wood stoves, pellet stoves and outdoor boilers. All of these appliances are beneficial in the winter months, especially if the cottage is older and there is no central heating installed.

If you and your family don’t plan on visiting your cottage during the winter, “winterizing” it will mean preparing it for the vacant winter months. The insurance premium that you pay on your cottage property may depend on how well it’s been prepared. It also includes how it withstands the winter season. Ensuring your cottage is winterized may not only lower your premium, but can help to prevent other losses, such as theft.

There are many steps to take when it comes to “winterizing” your cottage. These steps include:

  1. Securing the property and its surrounding area (ex. bringing outdoor furniture inside, securing canoes or other watercraft and/or draining fluids from your pool or garden machinery)
  2. Protecting windows and screens with plywood shutters
  3. Draining your septic system and opening all indoor and outdoor faucets, shower fixtures and taps
  4. Ensuring all personal belongings are packed up and not left behind
  5. Unplug all electrical devices and appliances to allow the sump pump to protect against any melting snow

2. Fire safety 

Another very important factor to consider when buying a cottage is whether or not there are fire safety options nearby. This is especially true around common cottage locations, such as Huntsville or Muskoka. These places can be difficult to find a property close to the local fire hall, let alone a fire hydrant. Although this factor cannot be helped, it is important to be prepared in case of a fire or fire damage. Typically, insurers will ask if a fire hall is within an 8-10 km radius. Speak with your isure broker before buying a cottage so you understand the difference between fire hall protected and unprotected. Take note that this may also affect your insurance as the further you are from fire safety, the higher the risk, which can result in a higher premium.

If you and your family are also planning on using the cottage during the winter, ensure the driveway is properly shovelled. Most insurers will measure the distance to the fire hall, as well as whether the snow is plowed municipally or privately. In the case of an emergency, firefighters should be able to easily access the property, as well as any hydrants nearby. We also suggest that you ask your isure broker beforehand about whether the fire hall has volunteer firefighters or paid fire fighters. This can have an effect on your insurance, and it is important to not make assumptions when it comes to fire protection!

3. Have updates been installed professionally? 

If you and your family are planning to purchase a pre-owned cottage, this factor is especially important. Let’s face it, many of us like to save an extra dollar or two by doing small jobs ourselves, but it is important to hire a professional for the complex tasks. Electrical and water work should be handled by a skilled tradesman, especially when it comes to older properties. Ensure that these renovations have been properly completed for safety and to code. With this in mind, it isn’t always a red flag when a former owner has completed a renovation without professional help. If you’re unsure, hire a pro to do an inspection beforehand.

4. Overall location

Of course, finding a location that you and your family enjoy visiting is crucial when it comes to buying a cottage. However, there is also safety considerations that you should keep in mind when picking a location for your cottage. For example, if the property is located on an island, it will be much more difficult to receive help in case of an emergency. If the cottage is located on the mainland, it is important to consider the distance from medical centres and fire halls. Additionally, you want to be near grocery stores or other superstores. Nobody wants to get to the cottage and realize they need to drive another hour because they forgot something crucial!

Keep in mind whether or not the cottage is located on a hill. If it is, you will need to ensure that your walkways surrounding the property are stable.

5. Water and boat safety

Does the cottage you’re interested in back on to a body of water? Do you have small children or pets? If so, water safety is obviously going to be a huge consideration when buying a cottage, specifically around the dock area. if you own a boat, you should also plan for proper boat storage and boat insurance. Does it have a boathouse that can lift your boat out of water for long periods of unuse? If not, can your boat be stored safely at a marina nearby? These are all things to keep top of mind when you are looking at a cottage located near a body of water!

6. Maintenance costs

As mentioned before, the costs and work associated when it comes to cottage maintenance can be huge! However, there are some aspects that will affect just how much maintenance you will have to put into your cottage. Cottages are much different when it comes to maintenance compared to a full-time residential house, and many factors come into play. Since you won’t be spending 100% of your time at the cottage, consider how much maintenance will need to be done when you aren’t there. Is there a big lawn that needs to be cut? Will shrubs and plants need to be maintained around the property? In the event of a storm, will trees and branches fall and damage your property? These are all things to keep in mind when purchasing.

7. Insurance

There are many different factors that come into play when choosing the correct insurance premium for a cottage. Because of the areas most cottages are located, there are also many issues that can potentially arise involving insurance at a cottage. In many coastal areas, you have risks of flooding and hurricanes. If you are surrounded by trees and wooded areas, sticks and branches can come loose and damage your cottage. You may be interested in purchasing items, such as a boat, that you’ll need to insure. Luckily, isure can provide you with incredible coverage when it comes to all your cottage and boating needs! With cheaper premiums and 24/7 service, we can be contacted anywhere in case of an issue or emergency. So, what are you waiting for? Get browsing and find your dream cottage!

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