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Cottage market cools down after 2020 COVID boom

OTTAWA —The cottage market, which experienced a surge in demand and prices during the COVID-19 pandemic, is now cooling down, entering a more balanced phase. The effects of the pandemic, along with factors such as higher interest rates, fuel costs, and food expenses, have contributed to this shift in the market.

In Ontario, particularly in Ottawa and surrounding areas, the cottage market saw a significant increase in sales prices during the pandemic [2]. However, in recent months, there has been a decline in both average cottage sale prices and sales volume. For example, in the Peterborough and Kawarthas region, the average cottage sale price dropped from $1.24 million in Q1 2022 to $856,000 in Q1 2023 [2]. The Rideau Lakes area also experienced a decrease in average cottage sale price, albeit a smaller one, while sales remained steady [2].

The cooling of the cottage market was expected due to the hyper cyclical nature of recreational property markets, which tend to rise and fall sharply depending on economic conditions [2]. Factors such as higher interest rates, currently at 4.75 percent, have played a significant role in cooling the market, making borrowing more expensive for potential buyers [2]. Moreover, increased fuel and food costs have also impacted buyers' decision-making processes [2].

Another contributing factor to the decline in the cottage market is the realization by some buyers that owning a cottage entails significant maintenance demands. As people return to work or reassess their lifestyle choices, some cottage owners are listing their properties for sale [2]. Although there is slightly more supply available, the cottage market in the area remains undersupplied, indicating continued interest in recreational properties [2].

While the cottage market is cooling down, it is important to note that the market's fluctuations are a normal part of the recreational property sector. Economic conditions, interest rates, and other factors influence these cycles [2]. The current shift does not indicate a long-term decline in the desirability of cottages. As economic conditions stabilize and buyer sentiment adjusts, the market is likely to find a new equilibrium.

As potential buyers consider their options in the cottage market, it is crucial to weigh the impact of higher interest rates, fuel costs, and food expenses on their budgets. Buyers should also conduct thorough research and consider their long-term plans and the maintenance demands of owning a cottage. Despite the cooling market, the appeal of cottages as a retreat and investment opportunity remains strong.