I’m at Horseshoe Lake in Parry Sound this week, staying with some friends at their cottage – if I can call it that.
This second home is loaded with upgrades and extras normally seen in high-end downtown condos, not cottages on the lake. The full range of appliances, including a fridge and freezer unit that are cleverly designed to blend into the kitchen cabinetry; a games room (or perhaps “man room” is the better term) complete with billiard table, dart board and 60-inch plasma television; a vast wood burning fireplace and mantel; and a central vacuum system, to name a few. And that’s just the inside.
The four-bedroom property sits on an acre-and-a-half of landscaped garden that rolls down to the lakefront and dock.
When I was young(er), the cottage was something you escaped to for the summer months. “A dwelling used for vacation purposes” as the Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines it. Something that was small and modest.
That’s certainly changed.
This is a year-round, four-season cottage. And similar properties line the waterfront as far as the eye can see complete with heated tile floors and snowmobiles sitting alongside Jet Skis. Any of the smaller bungalows that remain along the lake have been deemed teardowns – ready to be bulldozed for a new high-end estate.
There are certainly no telltale signs of the recession here. That’s great news. And developers in Ontario have been quick to pick up on this. Developments such as Sophie’s Landing along Lake Simcoe and Bay Port Village on Georgian Bay are well underway. But even I, someone who doesn’t like the rugged outdoors, cannot help but feel a slight pang at the loss of a more affordable cottage country – affordable recreational properties in general.
My question to developers: Why do recreational properties need to be so expensive? Why can’t we create something cheaper? There is clearly a market for luxury properties. And in no way do I think that these opportunities should be overlooked. But the desire to get away for a vacation appeals to more than just the elite.
There are some developers creating fractional properties, which suggests that the stigma over timeshares may be coming to an end. But as developers, why not start exercising those creative muscles? Are there new ways to deal with prefab houses to make them suitable and affordable vacation homes? I certainly cannot afford this kind of place, so what kind of property can be built for my generation, Generation Y? How can we build to make sure they can afford it? Not just in Ontario, but across the country.
I’m not saying I have the answers, but it’s definitely something to think about.