The sun is shining, spring is in the air, and 'tis the season for waterfront property sales.

Whether you're a seller or a buyer, there are several unique factors that need to be considered when navigating waterfront listings -- ones that aren't typically taken into account for non-waterfront land.

When you're lakeside, details like access to the water, lay of the land, and in-home water quality are of the utmost importance. Also to be considered are zoning bylaws, septic systems, and home inspections -- and those are just the beginning.

To learn more about the key factors one should consider when buying or selling a waterfront property, read on. First up are land characteristics, because it’s often said that you can change the cottage, but you can’t change the land.


The first thing to consider when thinking about a waterfront property is how you're going to get to it. Is the waterfront property accessible by car, or only by boat? If by car, is the road privately maintained by a cottage road association with summer and winter fees, or is it on a year round municipal road? If access is by boat, where is the nearest boat launch, and is there a landing, docking, and parking area included with property?

Lay of the Land

Ask yourself: is the property located on a flat level lot, or a steep lot requiring multiple steps to access the shoreline? In the case of the latter, are there stairs headed down to the water already, or will a buyer need to build (or upgrade) a set for increased ease?

Views, Sun Exposure, and Privacy

Does this property feature long lake views, island-dotted views, or is it located in a narrow channel or river with other nearby cottages across the way?

If you want to enjoy sunset views from your cottage, you'll need a property with some western exposure (W, NW or SW). If you prefer morning sun, search for a cottage that includes some eastern exposure in the view. South-facing land typically sees all-day sun, while north is typically sunny for just part of the day.

READ: In the World of Cottage Country Realty, Experience is Priceless

In the same realm of focus, does the property feature a longer shoreline to preserve privacy from neighbours, or is it located on a bay with closer quarters? One of these options is not greater than the other, but they will provide different user experiences.


If you're looking to tap into the locale of your cottage, neighbourhood should be taken into account. Many lakes, neighbourhoods and nearby towns are known for their sense of community -- for example, the North Lake Joseph Cottagers Association -- and properties that are part of these communities are often highly desirable.

Zoning Bylaws, Easements, and More

Knowing the local zoning bylaws is another important aspect of due diligence, for both sellers and prospective buyers. For example, knowing if the property has closed its shore road allowance (SRA) is necessary for most shoreline enhancements, such as boathouses and some dockage systems. Local municipal setbacks from back, side, and high water mark shoreline of the property are important if you are planning to change or develop the property.

As well, it's important to understand the impact of how Environmentally Protected Areas (EPA) on a property can constrain what changes can be made. Easements affect who can access or cross over a given property. Surveys, municipal planning offices, planning consultants, and real estate lawyers are often used to clarify zoning bylaws and easements prior to property purchase or alteration.

Grape island min45 Ivy Lane, Halloran & Associates

Final Thoughts

One great thing about these factors is: you don't need to remember them all on your own. Having an expert in your corner when buying a cottage is key, as they can help you consider all the most important elements of -- and help guide your -- cottage-search or cottage-sale journey.

This article is Part 1 in a series on what to consider when buying or selling a waterfront property. For support from our team, visit our website.

Cover image: 11633 Farquhar North Shore, Wilberforce, Halloran & Associates

This article was produced in partnership with STOREYS Custom Studio.

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