All Decked Out
Hidden costs of cottage ownership
You look out across the rippling water, take a deep breath, admiring the rise of evergreens painted against an indigo sunset. A warm breeze on your face, a cold beverage in hand…Priceless, right? Wrong.
Whether you’re reminiscing about younger days, recalling a recent visit with a friend, or just holding an image in your mind, cottage life can be very appealing. Savour those memories fondly, and dream what feelings the future holds.
At the same time, you need to be thinking both conceptually and practically about the cost of that life of leisure. Without puncturing those visions entirely, let’s look at some of the costs and trade-offs of owning vacation property.
There and back again: The cottage commute
Be sure you are up to the travel. Weekend cottage migration can be time-consuming and costly, as gas is obviously not free. If you are able to work remotely, maybe you can ease your woes by heading up a weekday earlier, or staying on while others join the Sunday stream of headlights. That can be a sanity-saver, but can also impose its own costs, especially if you need rural high-speed internet access. And if you’re breaking the family into two vehicles to coordinate commuting, that convenience will cost you.
Year-round or seasonal? Measuring maintenance
Is this your getaway, or a duplicate home? Either way, you need furniture (rustic, though you could choose it to be), appliances, and the periodic roof, fence, or deck mending. Bills and utilities will vary by usage, or are due seasonally, while notices, such as property tax, will apply annually. For year-round access, you may need a local snowplough contractor, or at least, own a dependable snowblower.
Careful not to be trapped by trappings
Just being at a cottage is good for some, but ‘doing’ is what many people look forward to. Often that means being out on the water, or at least, at its edge. That can range from a foam floaty, to a canoe or kayak, all the way up to a powerboat with waterski line.
Did I mention the cost of gas? Though smaller items can easily be packed away, motorcraft will have to be winterised and may require off-site storage.
Keep it clean and tidy, and share your good fortune
Do you like housework? Hopefully so, because you now have two houses to work. Again, I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but we all had chores at our family cottage, and they doubled-up with the arrival of guests. Of course, welcoming visitors is a large part of the charm (and it’s a good antidote to cabin fever with one’s siblings), but guard yourself against going from gracious host to inundated innkeeper.
Rent to ease finances
If you’re stretched to carry the place, whether from the outset, or once you’re established, you could consider renting it out to defray some cost. This is a lifestyle concession as much as a financial boost, as you may have to concede prime times when you would like to be there yourself. But with prices being at historic highs, this may be the route for you, if you are intent on making cottage realty your reality.
MIKE MACDONALD is a Senior Wealth Advisor with over 25 years’ experience in helping people achieve theirnancial goals MIKE.MACDONALD@MERIDIANCU.CA.