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Recreational properties: Cell phone reception and internet speed ranked most important factors often taken for granted by first-time buyers in Canada

TORONTO, June 22, 2021 – Recreational property markets across the country have seen a significant spike in activity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As widespread travel restrictions forced Canadians to reevaluate their vacation plans, many found themselves in the market for a recreational property. This contributed to a 16 per cent year-over-year increase in the aggregate price of a house in Canada’s recreational property regions last year, and demand continues to outpace supply. Royal LePage forecasts that this year’s recreational property price appreciation will keep pace with last year, increasing 15 per cent year-over-year in Canada[1]. Searching for the perfect cottage often requires a different set of criteria than that of a primary residence.

According to a survey of more than 275 Royal LePage recreational real estate experts across the country, the most important factor to consider when purchasing a recreational property, which buyers tend to forget or take for granted, is cell phone reception and internet speed. One third (33%) of respondents say checking the quality of cell phone reception and internet connection, both in the cottage and around the property, is the top consideration first-time recreational property buyers are likely to leave off their checklist.

“There are so many priorities to consider when shopping for a recreational property. Most people buy a cottage because they want a place to escape from their busy lives; somewhere peaceful and serene,” said Pauline Aunger, real estate broker, Royal LePage Advantage Real Estate, in Smiths Falls, Ontario. “While privacy is important, you want to make sure you’re not in an area so remote that you can’t make a phone call in an emergency. Today more than ever, the ability to stay connected online is so important; be it for remote work, connecting with family and friends, or catching up on the latest Netflix series.”

Understanding that owning a property on the water does not always mean that you own the waterfront is ranked the second most important consideration for buyers. Rounding out the top three most important factors is inquiring about the water source used in the region. Knowing whether your water comes from a well or the lake is important. Not only can it make a difference in quality and usability, it can also impact your expenses, as some water systems require seasonal temperature control or complex treatment systems to remove bacteria.

According to Royal LePage recreational property experts, another important factor to consider when purchasing a recreational property is understanding local regulations around renting your place to others. In some areas, short-term rentals may be prohibited, such as those offered on sites like Airbnb.

“In a major city or a suburban neighbourhood, we don’t think about things like how to maintain a property in winter, or whether the water from the tap is drinkable. When searching for a recreational property, these things can make a huge difference,” continued Aunger. “Your agent can help you navigate all the important factors you may not have considered.”

Forty per cent of recreational property experts in Ontario believe the best time of year to purchase a recreational property is in the spring, while 29 per cent say the fall. Similarly, in the province of Quebec, 41 per cent believe the best time to purchase is in the spring, while nearly half of respondents are split between summer (25%) and the fall (23%). Meanwhile, recreational property experts in British Columbia believe every season of the year can be the right time to buy (31% of respondents chose spring, 26% summer, 23% fall, and 21% winter). Elsewhere in Canada, spring is widely considered the best time to buy a recreational property (by 25% of respondents in Alberta, 54% in the Prairies, and 35% in Atlantic Canada), although a buyer’s specific needs and availability of inventory are key considerations.

Whether you are dreaming of a cottage on the water, a condo near the ski slopes or a chalet in the mountains, there are important factors to consider when searching for a recreational property. Some are specific to the region and the property type, while others are universal.

“First-time buyers in the recreational segment, especially when they come from an urban area, are often unaware of the maintenance that comes with a secondary residence, and more particularly, septic installations,” said Anne Léger, real estate broker, Royal LePage Humania in the Laurentians, Quebec. “The system’s age, compliance, and type can influence future expenses. Very few new buyers know that the size of the system dictates the number of bedrooms the property should have to be compliant with municipal rules.”

Léger added that waterfront properties have their own specific challenges.

“The way the access to water is defined, be it shared or private, or by a right of way, is important. Working with a real estate professional that specializes in this property type and who knows the region is essential. We accompany buyers every day and raise awareness about these factors,” continued Léger.

The list below ranks the top ten factors that recreational property buyers often forget about or take for granted:

Rank Consideration Respondents
1 Quality of cell phone reception and internet in and around the property. 33.1%
2 Understanding that owning a cottage on the water does not always mean owning the waterfront. 15.7%
3 Knowing which water source is used in the area (i.e. lake water, well water). 12.9%
4 Knowing the rules about short-term and/or long-term rentals (i.e. renting out your property on airBnB). 8.5%
5 Seasonality of the property and maintenance involved. (If a property is winterized, it needs to be heated even when empty. If it is not usable in winter, it needs to be properly closed for the season.) 8.1%
6 Understanding the difference between a holding tank and a septic system. 7.3%
7 Understanding the municipality’s regulations on additions and renovations. 5.6%
8 Garbage and recycling removal procedures (for example, if garbage has to be taken home or to a dump, or if tags need to be purchased). 4.8%
9 Local regulations surrounding motorized vehicles in the water. 2.4%
10 Snow removal from country roads leading to the property in winter. 1.6%


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About the survey 

The Royal LePage First-time Recreational Purchase Survey polled 277 Royal LePage real estate advisors from across Canada, between June 15, 2021, and June 18, 2021. Each respondent was asked to complete an online survey composed of five questions regarding the recreational property market as it pertains to first-time buyers.

About Royal LePage

Serving Canadians since 1913, Royal LePage is the country’s leading provider of services to real estate brokerages, with a network of over 18,000 real estate professionals in over 600 locations nationwide. Royal LePage is the only Canadian real estate company to have its own charitable foundation, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation, dedicated to supporting women’s and children’s shelters and educational programs aimed at ending domestic violence. Royal LePage is a Bridgemarq Real Estate Services Inc. company, a TSX-listed corporation trading under the symbol TSX:BRE. For more information, please visit www.royallepage.ca.

For further information, please contact:

Meghan Edwards
North Strategic on behalf of Royal LePage
(416) 300-5720

[1] Royal LePage: Canadian recreational house prices forecast to increase 15% in 2021 rlp.ca/2021springrecreationalpropertyreport