Sunday, October 31, 2010

Shutting Her Down

My brother and I headed up to pick up the keys and to have a look at the cottage before closing it down for the winter. I took some photos and measurements of the place, so that over the winter my wife and I could think about what we’d eventually like to do to the place. Fortunately nothing really needs to be done right away, the cottage came with contents, so we could start enjoying it “as is” starting in spring. But anyone who has read my other blog will know that I have a bit of a reno-addiction, so more than likely there will be some changes to the cottage over time.

Being our first cottage, I’m sure there will be plenty of things we’ll need to learn along the way. One of the first and most important is learning how to winterize it. I checked the internet for various lists and have come up with the following.

Winterizing Checklist:
- Empty all the cupboards and fridge of food, thoroughly clean it out. Unplug the fridge and leave door open with baking soda inside.
- Shut off the water pump and drain water from pipes.
- Turn off and drain hot water tank.
- Empty the toilet tank and dry it out with a rag. You can either empty the bowl and stuff the hole with a sock full of rags to keep septic odours out or you can pour RV/Plumbing antifreeze in the bowl.
- Pour RV/Plumbing Antifreeze into the drains.
- Pull any boats and water toys out of the water. Winterize and stow them.
- We’re in a quiet bay, so I don’t plan to take the dock out of the water, instead I will release the floating dock from its moorings leaving the anchors in place and tie it to a large tree.
- Clean and put away the BBQ.
- Winterize and store any motorized lawn and yard equipment
- Close all the blinds/curtains.
- Inspect and repair any loose shingles, overhanging branches and clogged eaves.
- Inspect around the base of your cottage, you don’t want debris or leaves accumulating and you don't want low areas around your footings where melting water can accumulate.
- Close and lock all the windows.
- Turn off electricity (see note at bottom)
- Lock up the crawl space.
- Lock up any out buildings.
- Lock and close the door behind you.

Here are some informative links:
CAA Quebec
The Cottage Chronicles

Note: Some people leave the electricity on, and leave the heat set to very low. Do not think that doing this means your pipes will be safe from freezing and bursting. As power often goes out in cottage country.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Love Lost and Found in Parry Sound

The past month has been a real whirlwind. We started the month by celebrating our wedding anniversary and ended the month by welcoming our new born daughter into the world and by picking up the keys to our new cottage. Unfortunately we won’t get to enjoy the cottage this year as it'll be closed down for the winter, but next year we plan on spending a lot of family time on the lake.

For the last couple of years we had been following various cottage markets within a 3 hours drive from our home in Toronto. We tracked listings on the MLS system, familiarized ourselves with lakes, highways, and towns. Gradually we narrowed down what we were looking for. We set out a budget and our “needs” vs “wants”. And then when we finally felt like we knew exactly what we wanted, we talked to an agent only to realize that there was still much about buying a cottage we had no clue about. Fortunately one of the agents we talked to was really good. Al Boucher was knowledgeable, patient and after a few email exchanges and phone calls he was able to tune into exactly what we were looking for. He wasn’t the first agent we contacted, but he was the first one to really take us seriously. The selling season is pretty short for a cottage Real Estate Agent, with limited weekends for them to show prospective buyers around. The first agent we talked to sent us an initial batch of listings to consider, but none of the cottages matched our search criteria, and though we asked to be notified of new listings, we never heard from him again. The second agent we contacted worked in a different region than Al, and he emailed us the occasional listing to peruse, however the few listings he sent us, didn’t match our search criteria, and when we asked if he would show us listings that we had found on MLS, he would tell us that those cottages didn’t suit us for some reason or another or that the cottages where out of his area. I suspect our budget may not have made us prime candidates for either agent #1 or #2 to spend a few hours of their weekend with. Al on the other hand was happy to meet with us and show us around.

Our wish list was long. We wanted lots of privacy, good waterfront for swimming, a rustic cottage on a medium to large lake that we could improve over time. We wanted rock shoreline, instead of huge expanses of grass. We wanted a drive to cottage that wasn’t miles from the highway, and that didn’t have a scary rutted cottage road to have to negotiate.

On our first trip to Parry Sound, Al showed us three different cottages, and for the most part all of them matched the search criteria we had given him. While the first two we saw didn’t quite have as much privacy as we were looking for, the third was a home run. It was a cedar clad cottage with a walkout basement on 147 feet of beautiful rock and pine shoreline. It also had a large garage with sleeping-quarters, a shed for my tools and a log sauna at the water’s edge; all on a large private lot with beautiful granite and pine shoreline. Our only reservation was that the lake was smaller than we would have liked, but since we’re more interested in peace and quiet than water sports, we were ok with that. Ready to make an offer, we found out that there were complicated legal issues with the title on the cottage which the seller needed to resolve before the cottage could be sold. Heart-broken, we resigned ourselves to waiting to see if the legal issues would work themselves out. A few weeks went by and we got a call from Al, he had a new listing that he thought we should have a look at. We went back up to Parry Sound that weekend. This time Al had hit a grand Slam…

The cottage was an incredibly well maintained cottage from the 80’s. It was cedar clad inside and out and had 305 feet of shoreline on Lake Manitouwabing. It had been occupied by the same couple who had bought the cottage as a shell in the 80’s. They finished the inside and added the decks and docks. The cottage itself was immaculate and charming. But the lot was the real draw. It was very private with granite and pine shoreline, a natural beach (where our kid could one day learn to swim), a boat launch, a dock and a naturalized area. There was also a nice shed and a super-cute bunky. This time we didn’t even wait to get back to Toronto to make an offer. After a home inspection and some discussions with mortgage lenders and insurers, a few days later we had ourselves a deal.