The strong demand for cottages in Muskoka isn’t going away, but there may be some more inventory coming on the market.
With Covid apparently subsiding, those who were getting ready to sell three years ago are more likely to list their properties now, explains Bob Clarke, owner of Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka Clarke Muskoka Realty.
“Many older cottagers whose families had not been using the cottage held off from selling once the pandemic hit,” says Bob. “They suddenly had their family isolating at the cottage and away from the city.”
But, with relative normalcy returning and city life being appealing to young professionals, those types of properties could soon hit the market. And waiting in the wings is a cohort of baby boomers who have had a great run of financial success over the past couple of years.
Whether via inheritance, selling their businesses, retirement pensions, or getting a significant corporate buyout, they are ready to make their next move.
They face potential headwinds due to inflation, stock market softening and rising interest rates; however, most are able to successfully take those on.
Some will summer in Muskoka and winter somewhere warm in the south; others will live here year-round.
“In all cases, the demand for waterfront property will still outweigh the supply, which means multiple offers on many listings,” says Bob. “However, not every property is getting this treatment. There have been price reductions on some properties in the Gravenhurst area, something we haven’t seen in two years.”
Bob says this indicates that buyers are being more selective and rational with the market. He says they’re looking at comparable properties, and looking to check more boxes than simply, “does this location have good internet?”
In the first half of 2022, the market has been active in a variety of segments: Clarke Muskoka Realty has seen sales in the $8.5 million range, and much more in the under $2 million range. Things are more competitive under $2 million, which is to be expected as there are more buyers in that market.
However, Bob says there could be a negative impact in those entry level cottages due to the increased regulation of short-term rentals.
Already Seguin, which covers part of the Big Three lakes, has taken steps to reduce the number of owner-directed rentals, and it’s expected more municipalities will follow suit. Indeed, the discussion has been brought forth at several Muskoka councils in recent months.
“People have been buying homes and cottages as investment properties and putting them up for short term rentals right away,” says Bob. “Not having that ability has the potential to slow that market segment slightly.”
Our Muskoka, your property
A municipal election is coming in October and it’s vital that taxpayers in the Township of Muskoka Lakes are involved and informed.
With the ongoing Official Plan Review in Muskoka Lakes, and the impact of many proposed changes hanging in the balance, Bob and his fellow Our Muskoka Stakeholders Association members are urging all property owners to have their say.
These proposed changes include a bylaw which would increase lot frontage needed for lot severance from a minimum of 200 feet to a minimum of 300 feet – potentially affecting property owners, realtors, and builders in the area.
Another proposal called Recreational Carrying Capacity, or how much water activity a lake can handle before halting development, would freeze lot creation on over 50 lakes where the limit has been reached. However, its methodology is not science-based and doesn’t take into consideration public access boating.
There are more proposed bylaws which could have adverse effects on property owners’ time and money for simple additions or renovations. Owners would now need to meet the same number of reports and studies typically reserved for new builds. It could also result in the municipality processing over 800 site plans per year – a huge jump from the roughly 100 they see now – requiring increased staff, costs and taxes.
These are only a few of the many proposed changes that, if approved, could greatly impact property owners in the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
“We’re all in agreement that the environment needs to be protected and promoted,” says Bob. “However, we need to come to a logical, data-based way to do it. We need to find balance between the environment and taxpayers’ ability to enjoy their property.”
News about proposed changes in the OP Review – including surveys, links to official documents, petitions and more – is available at www.Our-Muskoka.ca.
“It’s too important to simply rush through without really hearing what the community as a whole wants,” explains Bob. “It will stand to impact a generation of people. A vote provides the best opportunity for individuals to have their say.”
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI