WHAT IT IS The newest Muskoka trend: master-planned projects of full or fractional ownership, from condo suites in lodge-style buildings to large cottages with communal amenities.
PRICE POINTS What you’ll pay depends greatly on the site, ranging from about $30,000 for a five-week fractional, to as much as $7 million at a more exclusive full-ownership property.
PROS Put away your hammer and find a seat on the beach. Most master-planned projects offer a maintenance-free lifestyle and more recreational amenities than private cottages can sustain. Also, fractional ownership can prove a price-savvy entrance into the market.
CONS Most pre-planned sites have a communal atmosphere that is less private than a traditional cottage. And some cottagers actually enjoy the upkeep involved with owning. Fractional ownership involves use and date restrictions. With full ownership, you’ll bear all tax, repair and insurance costs.
WHERE TO FIND IT Bigwin Island (1-800-840-4036, bigwinisland.com); Blue Water Acres (1-866-396-2538, bluewateracres.ca); Diamond’s Edge (1-877-643-3343, diamondsedge.ca); The Muskokan (1-866-960-9016, muskokanclub.com); The Rosseau, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa (1-866-764-6388, redleavesmuskoka.com); Touchstone on Lake Muskoka (1-866-492-1888, touchstoneonlakemuskoka.com)
WHAT IT IS The private properties Muskoka has long been known for. Buy the land to build your own (though vacant lots could be hard to find), or purchase an existing cottage.
PRICE POINTS The lake, house and the waterfront quality all affect the asking price. Think anywhere from $140,000 on Muskoka River to $7.5 million on a large lake to $9 million for a whole island.
PROS This old-school style of cottaging offers a secluded environment to retreat to when the whim strikes. Plus, you can overhaul an existing building or only renovate select rooms. Building from scratch lets you choose design style and custom finishings.
CONS Building a cottage from the ground up can be pricey, and material and labour costs can surpass budget projections and construction timelines. Escalating real-estate values mean rising property taxes, which could deter some potential purchasers. Also, the ongoing upkeep isn’t for everyone.
WHERE TO FIND IT Barrie Build and Design Centre (705-722-5356, barriebuildanddesign.com); Commonwealth Adventure Real Estate (705-684-8774, commonwealthrealestate.ca); Richard Wallace Real Estate (1-888-765-6176, rwallacerealestate .com); Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka (1-800-606-2636, realtor-one.ca); Shorline Construction (705-765-7467, shorlineconstruction.com)
WHAT IT IS The rental option, still a favourite with some (even those who come back every summer). Private cottages are rented out by agencies for a taste of the Muskoka lifestyle.
PRICE POINTS During peak season, most agencies limit stays to a minimum of one-week increments, priced between $600 and $8,500 depending on cottage size and waterfront quality.
PROS Test the waters—quite literally. Renters can try out a new lake each year, which is a great way to find the ideal spot to kick back and relax dockside. Renting—without property taxes or maintenance fees to worry about—can be an even better deal than ownership.
CONS Prime properties get booked well in advance, and renters have to adhere to contractual obligations. At the end of your vacation—whether you stay for one week or more—you have to pack your things and go home. There’s no place to store your stuff and no return-on-investment opportunities.
WHERE TO FIND IT Cottages on the Web (1-888-681-4255, cottagesontheweb.com); Cottage Country Travel Services (905-862-0252, cottagerental .com); Paramount Vacations (705-788-7649, paramountvacations.com); Vacation Time Realty Brokerage Ltd. (1-800-387-7640, vacationtimerealty.com); Water’s Edge Vacation Rentals (1-877-218-5370, cottagevacations.com)
—Lisa Van de Ven