At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, cottages in Haldimand-Norfolk were quickly snapped up by urbanites looking for roomier and more secluded quarters.

Price seemed to be no object for locked-down city dwellers desperate for fresh air.

But real estate is cyclical and cottages by Lake Erie are again available at every price point.

“If you wanted to buy a cottage right now, you could absolutely buy something all the way from Lowbanks through Selkirk into Norfolk,” said Melissa Mummery of Mummery and Co. Real Estate Brokerage in Port Dover.

“There’s something that can be found in every single one of those communities, and then it just depends on what somebody’s vacation home budget might look like.”

Prices aren’t dirt cheap, Mummery said, “but we’ve had a price correction in all markets from the peak of COVID, to where it’s more affordable for people to buy a second home. So it’s giving more people the opportunity to make that investment.”

Modest seasonal cottages are still available for around $150,000, “all the way to something in the millions if you want something grand,” Mummery said.

But in Long Point, realtor Ray Ferris of Erie’s Edge Real Estate says he does not see any for-sale signs around town, suggesting inventory is at a low ebb in Norfolk’s west end.

“What we’re experiencing now is a return to more normal market conditions,” said Ferris, whose brokerage specializes in cottage country sales in Norfolk.

During the pandemic, Ferris explained, interest in cottages was so frenzied that “in the middle of winter, we were experiencing bidding wars and (cottages) selling for over asking price.”

That pandemic mindset continued into the first quarter of 2022, when seven cottages sold in Long Point and five in Turkey Point.

But so far this year, said Ferris, not a single cottage has sold in either community, as realtors advise homeowners to wait until spring.

Sellers are also concerned about “economic uncertainty” and rising interest rates that have hampered prices, Ferris said, though recent signals by the Bank of Canada that rate hikes may be at an end have restored some confidence.

“We’re seeing buyers returning to the market now, because they think interest rates have peaked, and we’re also seeing sellers think about getting on the market,” Ferris said.

Mummery and Ferris said many cottagers will rent out their properties for parts of the summer, whether privately or through an agency like Airbnb, and use the rental income to cover their mortgage, insurance, taxes and maintenance costs.

“You keep a few weeks for yourself, and you have some weeks rented out at a considerable amount that are going to help pay the mortgage on that second home,” Mummery said.

But those cottages are not meant to be cash cows, Ferris added.

“Ten-plus years ago, we had a lot of clients who were buying cottages as investments,” he said.

“But as prices escalated very quickly during the pandemic, cottages didn’t seem like the greatest investment any longer.”

The increased inventory coming on the market is not due to pandemic buyers deciding to flip, Mummery said, but rather thanks to changing lifestyles as generational cottages are being sold by descendants of the original owners.

“I’m not necessarily seeing these as resales,” she said. “There are just more available.”

For prospective cottagers, Mummery said this could be the moment to pounce, because this generational turnover may not happen again for decades.

“And as rural internet improves, why can’t you work from the cottage in the summer?” she said.

By J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 12, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   The Spectator   Hamilton, Ontario
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