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Purchasing Lakefront Property


Waterfront property in this area is controlled by the Conservation Authority. There are strict regulations in place to ensure that the environment is protected.

If you are buying a vacant waterfront property including property on a ravine with the intent of building, check with the conservation authority to ensure you can obtain a building permit. New setbacks state you cannot build within 100’ of the bank to prevent further erosion. If you are buying a cottage and have plans to renovate or add on, same thing, call the conservation authority and run your plans by them to ensure you can make the changes you want. Once the conservation authority gives approval, then you go the municipality and apply for the necessary permits. 

Check property boundaries along the shoreline. The best way to do this is with an up-to-date survey. Some cottages have been in the family for generations and the boundaries are unclear. A current survey will also show easements, encroachments and right of ways. To get to the cottage, do you need to cross another property to do so? If yes, is this right of way registered on title.

Check zoning bylaws. Some properties are zoned seasonal which means they are not accessible in the winter. If cottages are accessible by a private road rather than the municipality, it means that any upkeep of the road is the responsibility of the individuals using it. Many cottage communities have an Association fee. If so, ask to see what expenses the Association covers.

Confirm type and location of septic system. If it is a holding tank, is there enough space to upgrade to a weeping bed. If property size does not permit a bed, maybe a permit can be obtained for an eco-flo system which takes up less space. Bayfield lakefronts are all on municipal sewers but everything north and south of the village have their own septic system.

Where does your water come from? Is the cottage on a shared well? If yes, is there adequate water for all parties. Is there a written well agreement? How often does the water get tested? All properties on wells must have a satisfactory water test completed prior to closing. All waterfront property from Grand Bend to Bayfield is on municipal water. Some of the village of Bayfield is currently on municipal water with the rest being connected within the next calendar year. All properties between Bayfield and Goderich are on private or shared wells.

How is the cottage heated? Is it with a wood fireplace or stove? If so, insurance companies will require them to be inspected to ensure that they are safe and meet code. If they don't, they will have to be removed or replaced for the cottage to be insurable. Is the cottage insurable? Insurance companies will look at the type of heating, whether or not it is occupied year round, whether or not it is accessible in case of fire, etc. There should always be a condition in the offer stating that the cottage can be insured. This is important as banks will not give a mortgage if the property cannot be insured.

Check with your accountant to find out about property tax laws.  Your home or cottage may be considered tax-exempt when it comes time to sell. According to the Canada Revenue Agency, only your principal residence is eligible for the exemption. Check to see if you would be better off to have the cottage considered your principal residence. There is more to consider when purchasing a recreational property but it is definitely worth the effort when you find that perfect cottage or lakefront you love.

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