Cottage Industry: Muskoka, “The Old Faithful” –

Rising prices, bidding wars, blind bids: the search for seasonal real estate has become a battleground. Tales of 10 of Canada’s most popular vacation towns.

In the july issue Maclean’s, and every week here online, recent buyers divulge what it took to acquire their dream cabins: pool the family money, send relatives to visit, catch the first flight to Atlantic Canada after of the bubble or buy at sight. , sometimes from thousands of miles away.

Muskoka, Ont.

Median Recreational Property Price (2021): $842,000

The market: Known to some as the “Hamptons of the North,” Muskoka has long been a go-to for wealthy vacationers:including the Weston and Rogers families, for decades. (A new twice-weekly flight service from Toronto allows socialites to avoid the rush hour rush on Fridays.) glass and steel models and getaways was in short supply, making the recent demand for country homes even more frenetic. Case in point: Landlocked property prices rose 49 percent from 2020 to 2021, while the average waterfront spot can fetch just over a million dollars.

The buyers: Andrew Ratchford, a 39-year-old technology sales executive, and his wife, Emily, a 37-year-old retail buyer.

Andrew: I grew up in Oshawa, Ontario. The family next door spent their summers at their country house in Lake of Bays, and sometimes they invited me to join them. I remember being so anxious to get there and enjoy the water. As I got older, I continued to visit the Lake of Bays Yacht Club. During college, I got a summer job at the golf course on nearby Bigwin Island. I promised myself that one day I would have my own cabin on that lake.

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By 2019, Emily and I had three children under the age of nine and a house in Mississauga. We were finally in a position to afford a cabin. We envision a two- or three-bedroom waterfront estate for under $1 million—on the Lake of Bays, of course. We looked at 10 properties during the summer of 2020, but the uncertainty of the pandemic prevented us from making offers. We enter 2021 with our down payment ready to go. The market was crazy and it didn’t look like it was going to get any better.

In March 2021, we saw a demolished property on Seabreeze Road, along the eastern side of Lake of Bays, listed for $950,000. We bid $1,050,000, but lost out to an offer of $1,200,000. Our real estate agent, the same next-door neighbor whose cabin I spent the summer in, convinced me to expand our search. A week later we spotted a spot at nearby Lake Dickie, but missed that too. Sellers received 30 offers.

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In a twist of fate, our agent learned of a cabin listed for $975,000, just 10 houses down from the first place we looked. Emily visited me while I was working and said it was “the one”: four bedrooms and one bath, log cabin-style walls, a fire pit, and a screened-in porch overlooking the lake. The listing agent withheld bids for a week, but we registered a $1,255,000 bid as soon as we could, hoping to scare off our competition. It worked, we won.

We took possession in June 2021. On the weekends, we sailed, barbecued and sat by the fire pit at night. was exactly what I had imagined when I dreamed of buying at the lake of bays as a child. We even sporadically rent the property by word of mouth for $4,500 a week to help offset the cost of our mortgage. (Our family stayed in the bunkie). We plan to do the same this year, but first we’ll upgrade the appliances.

Our experience taught me that when the market heats up, you should be ready to buy at a moment’s notice. In Muskoka, there isn’t much room for hesitation when trying to buy “the one.”

This article appears in print in the July 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine hereor buy the number online here.

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