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Is it the Right Time to Sell the Cottage?

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Is it the right time to sell the cottage?


At your cabin, lodge, or lakefront cottage, summers have been about good times, family, friends, beer and barbecue. But as life changes, you may need to make the decision to sell the cottage. How will you know the right time to let it go?

It’s about watching for clues.

Does the drive seem a little tougher now? Are you less enthusiastic about upkeep and making improvements?  Are the bills becoming a headache? Does the family still gather there? Glancing through the real estate papers, maybe you’ve quietly noted all the eager buyers in your neck of the woods.

The decision is especially tough following the loss of a spouse with whom holiday memories – and responsibilities –  were shared. You want to keep the past alive, but can you manage the place on your own? Do you even want to?

Whatever the reason, deciding when to sell your cottage is a hard call.  If it’s something you’re considering, these tips can help:


Consider all options to arrive at your decision with confidence. Speak with family about what the cottage gives, or demands of each of you. Your kids may have history there, but happy memories won’t disappear just because  the cottage is on the market.

Family & Taxes

Selling to family can be a great solution, but if your children intend to pool resources and share the cottage, a lawyer can best help them reach an equitable arrangement. Want to offer them a reduced asking price? Beware.  You’ll still be taxed at the fair market value, and it can pose more tax implications down the line.

If you gift the cottage in your Will, you can include the tax liability as part of your estate planning. Note: the kids may not want to maintain it after you’re gone, so discuss the idea with them first.

A cottage can be considered your primary residence if you occupy it for part of the year and you don’t use it for income. Depending on whether your home or your cottage has appreciated more in value, you may exercise your Primary Residence Exception (PRE), sheltering you from the capital gains taxation. Consult your accountant.

This Toronto Star article outlines how cottage owners must plan against capital gains taxes in their Wills and estates to successfully pass on the family cottage

Online or Realtor

Brokers maintain databases of buyers, but choose wisely. Research top-selling, specialized realtors who know the best time to put your property on the market, and can sell your cottage for top dollar.

Selling privately goes beyond nailing up a “Waterfront Cottage for Sale” sign. Spend the money to post on a reputable FSBO (for sale by owner) website. Choose one with a high search engine rating, easy navigation, quality images and lots of traffic. Use social media to get the word out. Selling on your own can be tricky, so get help with the paperwork.


You’ve got a lot of stuff, and the new owners will need furniture, dishes, tools –  not to mention a canoe. No wonder  cottages are commonly sold with contents intact. Remember to specify items you don’t want included in the sale. Nothing worse than discovering you sold Uncle Bob’s favourite fishing pole.

Next steps

What comes after cottage living? Plan a trip. Rent a cabin. Add a hammock to the back yard. Even a table-top water feature can create a feeling of respite.

Parting with your cottage requires plenty of discussion and professional assistance. Completing the sale is a good time to take care of other estate matters like updating your Will, and pre-planning your final arrangements. You could even include a cottage theme in your final celebration. Get organized today,  and then get ready for new adventures tomorrow!

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