Thinking about buying a vacation home? What you should know first:

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Things to look out for when buying a vacation property

We are lucky to live in a place with a wealth of cottages and vacation homes. Many Nova Scotians are able to make the dream of having a cottage come true. Here are a few things to look out for to avoid your dream becoming a nightmare.

Can you drink the water?: Most cottages and vacation homes are in rural areas, many of them get their water from a well. Have a water test done prior to purchasing, and find out if the well sits on the property you are buying. If it doesn’t, you will want to find out if an agreement with the owner of the property where the will sits exists, or can be done prior to purchase.

Septic system: Properties in rural areas are often not part of municipal sewage systems, and use a septic system. Ensure the septic system is in working order and has been maintained. If you plan to make upgrades, and add bathrooms, consider the capacity of the system prior to buying.

Access: This is important for two reasons:

  • The first is with respect to access to the property. This could be from a public or private road. If the access is from a private road, you need to make sure that that access is allowed and will continue prior to buying. A handshake will not suffice if an issue arises down the road.
  • The second is access to the water. Many cottage properties are appealing because of their proximity to water. Does the property extend to the water, or do you have to cross over someone else's land to get there?  Is the right to do so legally included in the property? Will that access be allowed to continue? If not, it could drastically change the appeal of the property you are thinking about buying.

Internet and phone service: While you may be buying with the intention of "getting away from it all", be aware that many rural communities do not have the same internet and phone service that more populated areas have. If you do want to be able to use your cell phone, or get internet set up at your cottage that is something you should find out prior to making a decision.

Winter: Are the roads plowed? Who pays for that? What steps will you have to take to close up for the winter to ensure plumbing and septic don’t freeze and burst? If you plan to use heating, be aware vacation properties intended for use in the summer may not already have suitable insulation or heating.

This is not a complete list of all of the things you should consider before buying a cottage property, but it’s a start. Using a real estate agent can help you to cover all of your bases.

Thinking about buying? Do you have questions?

Buying a property can be stressful and overwhelming, especially when there are additional considerations to deal with, as is the case with many cottage properties. If you have any questions or would like to speak to a lawyer, contact us. We can give you some advice about what your options are and some next steps. We'd love to hear from you.

By: Briana C. O’Grady, J.D. – Associate Lawyer

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