Managing your well in a Muskoka Drought

dug_wellIn all areas, including Muskoka, groundwater levels in wells will vary over time.  While we are not experiencing an official drought yet, we are definitely in a “dry spell” and more and more people are starting to have issues with water levels and the quality of water in their wells. Water conservation and pump adjustments can help manage your water well during drought.

Droughts can be stressful for the many Muskoka residents who rely on private wells for their water supply. As wells tap groundwater aquifers that cannot easily be seen or monitored the very invisible nature of groundwater leads to an uneasy feeling among home and cottage owners relying on wells. There is an almost constant fear that their water supply could dry up without warning. 

The Normal Cycle of Groundwater Levels

The water level in a groundwater well will fluctuate naturally during the year. Groundwater levels tend to be highest during March and April in response to winter snowmelt and spring rainfall. The movement of rain and snowmelt into groundwater is known as recharge.

Groundwater levels usually begin to fall in May and continue to decline during the summer. Groundwater recharge is limited during late spring and summer because trees and other plants use the available water to grow. Natural groundwater levels usually reach their lowest point in late September or October. In late fall, after trees and plants have stopped growing and before snow begins to fall, groundwater levels may rise in response to rainfall and recharge. Groundwater recharge persists through the fall until cold temperatures produce snowfall and frozen soil that limit the ability of water to infiltrate into the ground. Groundwater levels during winter may be stable or fall slightly until spring snowmelt and rainstorms start the annual cycle again. Given this natural cycle of groundwater, most problems with wells tend to occur in late summer or early fall when groundwater levels naturally reach their lowest levels.

How Can I Conserve Water?

Water conservation measures become critical during times of drought. If you rely on a private well, you should conserve water as mush as possible always and especially as soon as drought conditions occur.

You can significantly reduce the water use within your cottage or home by making changes in habits and by installing water-saving devices. Examples might include flushing the toilet less often, taking shorter showers, only washing full loads of dishes or laundry, not rinsing dishes before the dishwasher unless especially dirty, not rinsing anything under running water but filling a sink or basin to rinse, brushing teeth with a glass of water and not a running tap, collecting water from roof gutters into rain barrels for outside use. Other good things to implement are household bans on the nonessential use of water such as car washing and lawn watering.  

What Can I Do If My Well Runs Dry?

There are a number of reasons why a well may quit producing water. Water quality problems like iron bacteria and sediment may clog the well and severely restrict water flow and the recovery rate of the well. This becomes more noticeable in dry seasons when there is less ground water available. Shocking or cleaning your well may increase the flow of water however it will not bring back water to a dry well unless the water table comes back up.

Under persistent dry weather conditions, the water level in your well may drop below the submersible pump or intake foot valve, causing a loss of water. In some cases, the water level may only temporarily drop below the pump/intake when water is being frequently drawn from the well during showers or laundry. Under these conditions, you may be able to continue using the well by initiating emergency water conservation measures and using water only for essential purposes.

If the water level permanently drops below the submersible pump or intake, it may be possible to lower the pump/intake within the existing well. In most cases this will only provide a short-term solution to the problem. More permanent solutions require either deepening the existing well or drilling a new well. Be aware that deepening an existing well may not increase the well yield and could produce water of different water quality characteristics. You should consult with a local well driller  to determine the best solution for your situation.

Proper management of private wells during droughts will become more important as competition for water in Muskoka increases.

Can I have water delivered to my well?

The simple answer is of course yes but the honest one is that it is not worth it. A well is a tube not a cistern. It has no bottom so if you put in several hundred gallons of water it will seep out of the bottom until it is gone or reaches the level of the water table. You will only be able to benefit from the water for a brief time before it drains away. Having water delivered to your well is not a fix and much of what you pay for will seep away.

As a Muskoka realtor I try to ensure that my buyers are aware of the water source at any potential home or cottage they want to purchase. I include a potability (safe drinking water) clause and often include a clause about the well pump and production. However, no home owner can control the water table and if you are living with a well, or plan to be, you will need to understand how it works and how to best protect your family in the occasional drought we experience here in Muskoka.

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Planning a New Kitchen in Your Muskoka Home?

Sargeant49 important questions before you start

We all want a dream kitchen so before you start here are some tips experts have developed to help you get one. Start with a clear view of what you intend. Focus on the things you want and those you need. This will help you see where you can compromise if necessary and where to stick to your goals.

A kitchen renovation can seem overwhelming when you start the process. There are lots of elements to get right. It is not simply the design but all the other factors from appliances to how will it fit the style and décor of the rest of your home or cottage.

1.Define the vision. Ask the big questions before you do anything. You need to establish how you want your kitchen to function. Do you have a large family and want your new kitchen to be the place where you all spend time, eat meals do home work? Do you love to entertain and envision a stunning space to show off your culinary skills? Ask yourself some clear questions to help build your vision, do you love to cook or is it a necessary function? Will you need a desk or work space here?
By asking yourself questions before you start making decisions you identify exactly what you want and what you need out of your available space. By knowing what you want at the beginning you are less likely to get off track once you have started.

2.What are my needs? After you’ve defined the vision or theme of your new kitchen, you need to identify the nonnegotiable things that are at the top of your wants and needs list. Your needs are the things you cannot do without. Things like an eating area or a large window – the important things that will control your joy level when being in the new kitchen. Don’t over focus on things that will go out of fashion over time like paint colours or even appliances as they can all be changed. Hopefully, you won’t need to make compromises on these needed items.

3. Making a compromise or two. Once you have defined the vision and made sure the needs are in place it is time to look at your want list and perhaps some of the compromises that may be required. You may want a new gas range but it is not in the budget! The solution is simple, make sure the space for the dream stove is created now but buy it next year and use your existing one for now. Some compromises are a bit harder to make. You may have wanted a feature that the space available simply cannot accommodate and that is a tougher compromise to come to terms with.

4.Creating an efficient layout? The layout of your kitchen is a big decision, and you may need professional advice. It is best to sketch it carefully and note where the gas and electrical outlets are going to be for each appliance, and of course drainage for plumbed items. Kitchen designers like to create zones for cooking, washing and prepping which is a great tip for creating good flow.

Consider the space between cooktops and windows or tower cabinets, and between electrical outlets and sinks. Think about which appliances can sit near others, and remember to make sure doors can open safely. Don’t put islands too close to a run of cabinets as you will want to be sure to have a comfortable walkway. Many cabinet retailers will have software that can draw a plan for you and some will even visit your home or cottage to measure and check the positions of things.

5.Don’t forget the lighting and heating? It is very important that while you are still in the planning stage you consider the accompanying elements of your new kitchen design. The lighting and heating are important and it is vital to get it right, not only to create a welcoming atmosphere, but also to see clearly while you’re cooking! Decide whether you need direct lighting over the work surfaces and pot lights in the ceiling. Lighting has come a long way and there are some very glamorous options that can have a significant impact without a huge cost.

The heating system is like the kitchen cabinets and appliances, it’s best to decide on positions for these at the outset so that you can get services installed at the correct locations before the kitchen goes in. Once you’ve decided on the layout of your heating and lighting, as well as the position of your appliances and cabinets, try not to make any huge changes as it can be costly to reposition or divert your utilities once you’re at the installation stage.

6.Don’t forget about building permits? If you’re having structural, electrical or plumbing work done as part of the job, you may need to obtain a building permit before you start work. If you’re undertaking this level of work you may have an architect or a building contractor who will be able to tell you how to go about applying for the right sort of permission for the job.

7.What’s my style?Once you have determined all the practical aspects of your reno you can start to think about the fun stuff! You most likely have browsed the internet or the pages of decorating magazines but now with your vision, wants and needs list you can zoom in on the final “look” you want. Perhaps it’s a farmhouse kitchen with a huge harvest table or perhaps a sleek minimalist block with hidden appliances? Whatever you seek, with careful planning you should be able to achieve it and  stay within budget.

8.Hiring a contractor? Perhaps the weightiest decision you will have to make when undertaking a kitchen reno, is choosing the right people to do the work. Many builders will be happy to take on your whole project, with responsibility for the building work, cabinetry, electrical and plumbing considerations too. However, if you are not making any structural changes you may not need a building contractor. You can act as your own general contractor and coordinate the tradesmen you need to do your project. You may need to employ a cabinetmaker, a certified plumber or electrician, tilers and drywall and plaster experts as well as flooring and heating trades. Remember to ask for estimates and get references.

9.Choosing the finishes. Before the work has started finalize as many things as possible like sinks and faucets, countertops, and appliances as well as the tile and flooring. Don’t wait until your contractor needs the items and you rush to obtain them, rather get ahead of the time line so that you won’t be rushed at installation stage. This will ensure that you do not make snap decisions that you may later regret.

These 9 steps are a great guide to a successful kitchen renovation. No matter the reason for the reno, getting it right will bring you a great deal of pleasure and add value to your Muskoka home or cottage.

Understanding Algae in our Muskoka Lakes

Lake Vernon - Karen ActonHave you noticed there is a lot more talk about algae blooms on our lovely Muskoka Lakes even though the conditions this season have not been conducive to the development of blooms! Over the past 10 years throughout Muskoka there has been an increase in the number of algae blooms reported.

Something I have learned and think you may want to know is that the relationship between algae, algal blooms and water quality is complicated but that the presence of algae in your lake does not necessarily indicate reduced water quality.

What are Algae?

Algae are tiny floating organisms (phytoplankton) or attached (periphyton) plants found in lakes and rivers. They contain chlorophyll and carry out photosynthesis.

Algae are the base component of the aquatic food chain and are a critical component of a healthy aquatic environment. There are many different types of algae found in Muskoka that include diatoms, green algae, pigmented flagellates, and blue-green algae.

Like all life forms algae require a food source and they require sunlight for growth.  It is the amount of nutrients available (especially phosphorus and nitrogen) that will limit the amount of growth of algae in a lake.

There are several other factors that affect the growth of algae in our lakes. Environmental factors that determine the type and number of algae in your lake are:

  • Water temperature;
  • The physical removal of algae as it is flushed downstream;
  • Grazing on the algal populations by microscopic organisms and fish;
  • Parasitism by bacteria and fungi; and
  • Competition from aquatic plants for nutrients and sunlight.

 Phosphorus and Algae

Phosphorus in reasonable amounts is required to help drive aquatic systems. It is a valuable nutrient that promotes plant growth and forms the base of food chains in ponds, streams, lakes and rivers.

Unfortunately, when lakes become nutrient rich it can lead to algae blooms and eutrophication. Algal overgrowth can destroy the appearance of water, make water taste unpleasant and smell, reduce clarity, and change the colour of the lake to a vivid green, brown or yellow.

Natural sources of phosphorus include wetlands and the atmosphere, while man-made sources include:

  • Urban and agricultural runoff
  • Sewage discharges and septic tank seepage
  • Eroded streambanks
  • Fertilizer runoff and detergent wastes.

Nothing can or perhaps even should be done to reduce the nutrients entering your lake from natural sources however reducing the nutrients from man-made sources should be minimized and can hopefully prevent excessive algae growth in the future.

What are Algal Blooms

When there is excessive growth of one or more species of algae, it is called a “bloom”.  Algal blooms can happen at any time of the year but are most common in summer.  Algal blooms usually occur after calm, hot weather when the water gets warm. Blooms are caused by several factors but an increase in nutrients and the right weather conditions often result in the formation of a bloom; just as fertilizing a lawn makes the grass grow faster. In other instances, something may change in the environment to favour one species of algae over another, leading to a population explosion.

One of the most serious consequences of an algae bloom occurs when the bloom dies off. As algae die, they sink to the bottom of the lake and decompose, depleting oxygen levels. The depletion of oxygen in the bottom layer of the lake can free phosphorus trapped in the sediments and reduce the amount of oxygen available for the survival of other aquatic organisms, including fish.

Algal Blooms can occur sporadically in lakes that don’t have elevated levels of nutrients. Therefore, increased levels of phosphorus cannot be relied on as the sole rationale for sporadic or individual algal blooms, and the presence of an algae bloom does NOT necessarily indicate nutrient enrichment.

Blue-green Algae

Blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, are photosynthesizing bacteria, not plants. Blue-green algae are commonly found in lakes and ponds. Some types of blue-green algae produce toxins while others do not.

The only way to determine if a sample of blue-green algae contains species capable of producing toxins is to analyze the sample in the lab.

Blue-green algae blooms are likely to occur during sunny, calm weather when high concentrations of nutrients are present in water. Fresh blooms may smell like fresh-cut grass, while older blooms may smell like garbage. When the algae die and decompose, toxins may be released in those species that produce them. Symptoms from drinking water contaminated with blue-green algae include headaches, fever, dizziness, diarrhea, abdominal pain or stomach cramps, sore throat, nausea and/or vomiting.

Blue-green algae have several characteristics that enable them to out-compete other species of algae, including:

  • The ability to adjust their buoyancy so they can float or sink depending on light conditions and nutrient supply
  • Using nitrogen fixation to maintain high rates of growth when other forms of nitrogen are depleted
  • They are less favoured by predators than green algae because they produce chemicals that make them ‘taste bad’.

 

So here is the bottom line as a cottage owner or renter. Algae are a normal part of the ecology of aquatic life. They usually pose no risk to us. They need specific conditions to “bloom” some of which we can help mitigate by being aware of our phosphate loading from our septic system. This can be done by selecting our detergents and fertilizers with care.  Most algae are not harmful to humans but blue-green algae can cause sickness and in extreme cases serious illness. Water that has a blue-green bloom should be avoided.

I AM NOT AN EXPERT ON ALGAE but I do feel that good stewardship of our lakes is vital and the Muskoka Watershed Council and Muskoka Water Web have great resources to assist us in doing that.

Algal bloom sightings can be reported to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Changes Spills Action Centre at 1-800-268-6060.

Keeping Your Muskoka Home Mould Free

mould-in-bathroomCan you safely and permanently clean up mould and mildew in your Muskoka Home? We have all heard about how some moulds are toxic so how do you know what you can tackle and what you should leave to a professional?

As a Realtor, I see all types of homes and cottages, from elaborate and grand to small and cozy and I can assure you, that any one of them can be prone to mould. It is not a question of cleanliness but more one of ventilation.  When you find mould in your home it is better to take care of it sooner rather than later. Mould can cause health problems and damage what it grows on. The spores of mould fungi commonly float through the air and when they adhere to damp surfaces and start to grow, they can gradually consume the surface. The key to keeping your Muskoka home in great shape is to get the cleanup done before any damage happens.

There are lots of different types of mould which are more accurately called fungi. Many produce allergens that can cause health related reactions in some people

  • Eye, nose and throat irritation
  • Coughing and phlegm build-up
  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Symptoms of asthma
  • Allergic reactions

Health Canada has a great web page with helpful video segments and lots of tips and recommendations.

Moulds cannot grow without moisture so controlling moisture is the key to preventing and or eliminating mould growth. Moulds are very fast growing organisms and can take hold in a very short time. Add a little heat to the mix and in just a few hours mould can have a real grip on your home. In warm Southern climates, if you leave your laundry in the washing machine for just a few hours after the cycle has finished, you could have mould all over the laundry.

Where is Mould Most Common

A leaky roof or plumbing, flood damage, or indoor humidity that’s too high and without proper ventilation can all lead to mould problems. Anyplace that remains damp and unventilated is a potential mould-forming zone. “Anywhere water travels” in a structure is vulnerable to mould. That includes areas where major plumbing arteries are located, crawl spaces with drains, walls plumbed from bathroom to bathroom and between floors. Incorrectly sealed tubs and faulty construction can cause water to seep into crevices and create big problems over time.  Buildings that are tightly sealed may lack adequate ventilation, which can lead to moisture buildup.

Most Mould-Prone Areas

  • Basements or cellars
  • Under kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Under or behind refrigerators
  • Behind walls that house plumbing
  • Around air-conditioning units
  • Baseboards or around windowsills
  • Under carpeting

Mildew is another fungi-produced coating that can form on damp surfaces. Mildew usually grows in a flat pattern and appears powdery and white or gray. Moulds are darker in color, usually black or green but can be almost any colour. Moulds penetrate the surface of what it’s growing on. You may follow the same cleaning steps below to remove mould and mildew.

Mould Removal

Here are some options I’ve seen on a variety of websites for simple surface mould removal.

Bleach: Mix 1 cup bleach with enough water to make 1 gallon. Put the solution in a spray bottle, or spread it with a sponge or cloth. There’s no need to rinse.

Borax: Mix 1 cup borax with enough water to make 1 gallon. Borax is less harsh-smelling and corrosive than bleach. Apply the solution to the surface and scrub with a brush; don’t rinse. Wipe the surface dry.

Vinegar: Use full-strength vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the affected area and wipe off.

Ammonia: This is suitable for killing mould on smooth, nonporous surfaces. NEVER USE IT WITH BLEACH. Treat the area with a solution of equal parts ammonia and water, leave on for 10 minutes, and rinse with water.

Hydrogen peroxide: Spray full-strength (3%)hydrogen peroxide on the mouldy surface and let it sit for 10 minutes to loosen the mould. Wipe the surface and don’t rinse.

Baking soda: Mix ½ teaspoon baking soda in 1 gallon water and scrub the mouldy surface, then rinse with water. This is particularly useful for killing mould on upholstery.

Tea tree oil: Use 1 teaspoon tea tree oil per cup of water and spray on the surface. Leave it on for a few minutes and then wipe off.

Note: Health Canada suggests that before beginning any mould clean-up, take steps to ensure that you do not expose yourself or others to mould spores. It is recommended that you wear an adequate breathing mask (N95 or better respirator), safety glasses or goggles and rubber gloves.

Even with adequate precautions, mould spores may become airborne. As a precaution during clean-up, children, the elderly and sensitive people such as those with asthma, allergies or other health problems should leave the house. Consult your physician if in doubt.

To Clean or Throw Away?

If the mould is on a porous surface, such as carpeting, ceiling tiles, drywall or wallpaper, the items might have to be thrown away since the mould may be impossible to remove.

When Should You Call a Professional?

Wiping down mildew in damp areas is always a good idea, but how do you know when it’s time to bring in a professional? Health Canada advises using a mould remediation expert if there is

  • One or more patches of mould larger than 1 square metre
  • More than three patches of mould less than 1 square metre
  • Patches of mould that keep coming back after cleaning
  • A mould problem that you cannot solve on your own

 

Testing for Mould

Chronic allergy-type health problems or mildew odors mean it’s time to consider more extensive mould treatment. Start by using a mould testing company, which will take samples, send them to a lab, and obtain a report on mould levels and species. Use a company that does testing only, to avoid a conflict of interest. Once the mould species are identified you can determine if a remediation specialist is indicated.

Mould Remediation

There is no doubt that some types of mould are toxigenic meaning they produce substances toxic to humans. They are rare in this region but it you have a lot of mould or several different looking moulds you really should call a professional to take care of the situation. Below are several companies that service this area and should be able to assist you.

Mold Removal | Mold Remediation | Muskoka, Huntsville, Bracebridge

www.svmmuskoka.ca/services.php?s=mold

Mould Removal & Remediation | Restoration 1 Muskoka

muskoka.restoration1.ca/moldremoval/

Mould Removal & Remediation ON | R&F Construction | R&F …

www.rfconstruction.com/mould-asbestos/mould/

 

How to Prevent Mould

Just like granny always said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so the very best way to deal with mould and mildew is to prevent it from growing in the first place.  Controlling moisture inside your Muskoka home is the key to avoiding mould. Consider an annual inspection of roofing, plumbing, exterior drainage and interior ventilation to verify that there are no repairs required. Check for leaks under sinks and in crawl spaces. Always use ventilation in a bathroom to remove condensation from showers.

Building a Muskoka Cottage

renovatingSometimes when a client is looking for a perfect Muskoka Cottage they can be disappointed since many of the best and most appealing lot/cottage combinations can be quite expensive. In some cases clients then start to think about finding a lot and creating the perfect cottage from scratch.

Here are some important considerations to ponder before you decide to change track and start looking for a vacant waterfront lot:

  • Is the lot “ready to go?” In Muskoka realtors usually use the language “partially serviced” or “fully serviced” in the listing details to indicate if all or some of the required services —electricity, water, sewage, cell, internet—is directly available to the site.
  • If a road access is not developed and utilities are not already available to the site the lot value will be significantly lower than a serviced lot, but before you snap up a bargain you NEED to first find out whether it is even possible to connect to these services and determine how much it will cost to hook up. When additional utility poles are required to bridge the distance from an existing service to the building envelope, the costs can be prohibitive.
  • If utilities are not available or are excessively expensive, you may want to look into what, if any services you can generate yourself. Electricity is most likely the largest obstacle and if road access is seasonal, private or non-existent, you may need to consider solar or wind as a source as well as traditional electrical generators. Most cottages have septic systems and draw water from the lake/river or a well. Consider these expenses as well.
  • Do not forget your design costs. To get a building permit you must have certified plans so even if you do not have custom drawings you will need to make sure any plan you buy is stamped. If you are planning to use older plans that have been given to you, you will have to pay to get them stamped and maybe modified to meet current code requirements.
  • Throughout the Muskoka region there can be lot levies to pay at the time of obtaining your building permit. Depending on the municipality and the level of services at the site they can range from $6000 -$15000 and must be paid in full before a permit can be issued.
  • If you are not building your own cottage and intend to use a local contractor you would be well advised to have several contractors bid on your project. Get references and have a contract drawn up. Make sure your builder has WSIB coverage for himself and any of his sub trades. You will be expected to pay a significant portion of the cost up front to offset the cost of material and labour. You may want to consider acting as your own General contractor and work on a time and materials basis with your builder by setting up accounts with the suppliers and paying for the material directly. You should also budget many hours of your time to oversee the project. Whatever you decide, get more than a hand shake! There are many excellent builders in this area but there also some who will take on a project beyond their capabilities and cause you no end of additional expense.
  • It is possible to manage costs by building in stages. Put up a basic cottage initially but have it designed to put an add-on wing in a few years.. If this appeals to you, the only thing you need to do at the start is make sure your final plan can be accommodated under the applicable zoning regulations.

In conclusion building your perfect Muskoka Cottage may be what you end up deciding to do, however it is unlikely you will actually save a large amount of money. The process can be challenging and at times very frustrating.

Ultimately, clients who build, do seem to have a great sense of pride in their cottage. There is no doubt building to your exact needs will make your Muskoka Cottage the place you love to spend endless hours with family and friends!

Remember I am always happy to help and can put my years of experience and contacts to good use on your behalf.

Buying Your First Muskoka Cottage

zeleznik 003So you think you are ready to buy your first cottage! As a Muskoka Realtor I am here to help you navigate through the process smoothly, so you can begin to enjoy cottage life.

The starting point for this adventure is to sit with your family and determine what it is you are really looking for. The considerations are many, from the size of the building and the lake, to the type of access you will want.

You have probably spent time in a cottage, either rented, or with friends or family. Think about the very best of those experiences. You may be surprised to find that the favorite memories of your cottage experiences centre on things you had not thought you wanted or needed.

Some of the most important considerations are:

  • Distance from your home – A long drive after work on Friday afternoon may not seem like a big deal now but it needs to be factored into the decision making process. It will affect the amount of time you spend at your cottage. Will you continue to love and enjoy your property if the drive to Muskoka becomes a trial with jobs and children?
  •  Size of cottage – is the size of your family established or will there be children in your future? Do you want to be able to rent it and if so, what is the best number of bedrooms for a rental?
  • Size of the lake or river – often buyers want to be on a large lake and are willing to pay a premium for it. However, in reality they do not have a large boat and never utilize all of the lake. A smaller lake or substantial river is often quieter and for most families will be more than sufficient. And they usually come with smaller price tags!
  • Accessibility – Do you plan to use the cottage in the winter? Are you prepared to pay private road fees, if any? Would water access work for you?
  • Stunning view or level to the water? – Remember that Muskoka is famous for its rugged beauty so there are far more lots with some elevation than there are level ones.
  • Privacy – Everyone wants privacy so it is a feature that will increase the cost. How private do you need it to be? Great memories at the cottage often include activities with other cottagers!
  • Services – To some, the cottage experience is a rustic, 1 bathroom, lake water no dishwasher cabin. To others, the cottage is a place of relaxed luxury, with en suite bathrooms, 5 appliances, a drilled well and high speed internet? Muskoka has it all; you just need to know what you want.

In general, you can expect properties on larger lakes to be more expensive than those on smaller ones. Properties that have level to moderately sloped lots tend to have a higher asking price than those on steeper lots. A western or southern exposure will have a higher price tag also!

It is worth remembering that the building itself, is of secondary importance. Buildings can be repaired, renovated, and rebuilt over time. In many cases, the building represents only a small part of the property's value. So choosing the right lot and waterfront is of primary importance.

Finding the perfect cottage is a highly personal adventure, everyone has their own dream. I can help you to determine your wants and needs, and select appropriate properties for you to view. Rest assured you will know the right cottage when you see it. I would love to help you make your cottage dream come true! Call now to get started.

Investing In Muskoka in 2016

Green - #1Investing in a vacation property is a big decision and one that, if you do not make wisely, will likely cause more heartache and stress than joy and relaxation. So here are 10 things you should consider before you start this venture:

1. Why are you buying it?

A vacation home isn’t always just about a place to retire or relax. It can and probably should be an investment. Maybe even an investment which generates income when you don’t want to be there. You need to determine how this purchase will fit into your overall investment portfolio. Will it “grow slowly” as the market value increases or will you operate it as a profit maker each year?

If it is mainly for a profit making investment, you need to consider what a renting family is looking for, as much as what you may be looking for!

2. Keep your emotions in check

Buying a vacation home is fraught with emotions and therefore risk! Do not let this be an emotional decision, as it could lead to heartache and stress. Before you start on your journey make sure that you do a thorough check on your finances. Can you carry the operating costs? Do you know what the carrying costs will even be?  If you still have a mortgage on your primary residence can you carry both properties?

3. Where do I buy?

In Ontario, Muskoka, Parry Sound and Haliburton Highlands are the traditional summer vacation locations, and for many people winter locations too. They are within reasonable driving distance of major cities like Toronto, Ottawa and London and are therefore easy to access and enjoy. The important thing to think about is the time and hassle it takes to get there and how often you will actually use it. You’re more likely to head north to cottage country for the weekend if it is only a few hours away, than if it takes 5 or 6 hours to get there.

4. Consider pooling resources

One way to ease the burden or to get a nicer property is through joint ownership. Your brothers or sisters might want to go in with you. Friends may want to do the same. The key is to make sure everyone understands the rules of the road, including a fair way to split up prime time use, what happens when one party wants to sell and who inherits the property. If you are thinking of taking this route, please make sure you have legal advice. Setting up a family trust or a company with share holders can work very well but if not properly established can lead to serious upset.

5. Beware of tax implications

Buying a second or recreational home has tax implications when you sell, as the sale of this property could be subject to capital gains, and advice from a tax accountant or lawyer should be sought.

6. Location is key

Buy a cottage that is set back from the lake or up high on a hill and your potential rental income could drop by half. Vacationers are willing to pay extra for that week or two they spend in paradise. Views and private lakefront are traditionally two of the main features people look for. Consider the trade-offs. You may go for a lesser property on a great lot rather than a larger property on a steep one or without a view.

7. Condo vs Cottage

Do you have a big family and like to be surrounded by friends? Or are your vacations a chance to get away from it all? Thinking about this will help you decide whether you need a small condo, or fully detached cottage with lots of space.

Make a list of your important features. Things that were important in your family home may not be as important in a vacation property. Do you really need tons of closet space for your two suitcases? Will a galley kitchen do since you plan to be eating out a lot?

8. Check out the neighbourhood

Once you’ve decided what to buy and where, stay in the area for a few days and look around. Rent a cottage on the lake or a condo at the resort you are interested in. You’d be surprised how many people buy from blueprints only to have a rude awakening later.

You may have vacationed in the area before but not really gotten to know anyone. Talk to neighbors and locals. What do they think of the area and what is it like in the off season? Can you walk beautiful trails and get to shops in a reasonable time? Are there cross country ski or snowmobile trails in the area for winter fun? Is this a good fit for you and your family?

9. Look for hidden costs

What will it cost to pump the septic, have propane delivered, get the roof shovelled off after heavy snow, keep the lane open in winter? If you are buying a condo, does the condo association allow rentals and if so under what conditions? Must they be long-term periods of several months or can it be weekly? Does the condo association have an adequate reserve fund to pay for future repairs? If not, you could be hit with a special levy once you move in.

10. Cheap doesn’t always mean bargain

Buying on impulse is probably the worst thing you can do. Just because you enjoy your summer in Muskoka, step back and consider all the factors. Don’t be blinded by a seemingly great price. Do your due diligence. Hire a great Realtor!