Tradition dictates that Canadians buy their primary residence and pay it off before purchasing a vacation property. But increasing numbers of first-time homebuyers are re-imagining homeownership and buying their “second home” first. This is one way to break into the real estate market and build equity if you can’t afford to buy where you live. Since one quarter of millennials plan to buy a vacation home anyway, the cottage-first approach may be another route to the same destination. Should you take the “cottage first, home second” approach? Read on for key benefits and considerations.

Benefit No. 1: You can buy property sooner

The average Canadian home price is $530,300. In Spring 2017 Toronto and Vancouver averages hit a whopping $864,000 and $1.1 million, respectively. Cottage real estate provides first-time homeowners with a relatively affordable alternative.

For example, Muskoka – Ontario’s crown jewel of cottage country – is known for its multi-million-dollar mansions. Yet its non-lakefront vacation homes (“woodland cabins” in real estate speak) average $300,000. In British Columbia’s beautiful Sunshine Coast, lakefront vacation properties average $600,000.

The “cottage first, home second” approach may be right for you if starting your homeownership journey sooner is a priority.


Mortgage requirements can be different for vacation properties, so do your research ahead of time. Genworth Canada’s Vacation/Secondary Homes Program: Vacation Homes (Type B) can help you buy your first home in cottage country.

Benefit No. 2: Your vacation home can double as an investment property*

While it’s fantastic having a breezy cottage (or luxe, cottage-country condo) to escape to, you can also put your property to work when you’re not there. Using a peer-to-peer platform, you can rent it out and use the proceeds to cover a chunk of your mortgage.


Some municipalities require permits or licences for short-term home rentals. Check zoning and tax requirements in the region you’re interested in, beforehand.

Insurance coverage and requirements vary between primary residences and vacation homes. Talk with your insurance broker to find the right coverage for your needs.

So… should you buy a cottage first?

Although not for everyone, this option is increasingly attractive to some first-time buyers. As with any real estate transaction, assemble a team of pros to support you along the way.

Be sure to hire a REALTOR® who specializes in the region you are interested in. They’re likely to have the inside track on upcoming sales, sometimes even before they’re listed. In today’s bustling cottage real estate market, that can give you the advantage you need to purchase the cottage you want.

*Qualifying mortgage criteria is applicable on investment properties.

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