The Chase: How four city-dwelling families found fuss-free condos in cottage country

The Chase: How four city-dwelling families found fuss-free condos in cottage country

Toronto’s building boom is creeping into cottage country, turning prime lakefront properties into condo compounds with distinctly urban amenities, like heated pools, spas and helpful staff to handle the headaches

Tee Time

Newlyweds land a low-maintenance vacation home on a golf course near Georgian Bay
(Portrait by Erin Leydon)

The buyers: Greg Dunn, the 61-year-old CEO of a professional liability protection company, and his 53-year-old wife, Gabriella, a placement co-ordinator at Centennial College. They live in a condo in Mimico.

The backstory: The Dunns tied the knot just a year and a half after their first ­dinner date, at a brewpub in the Distillery District. Soon after, Greg decided to sell his cliffside cottage overlooking Lake Erie so that he and ­Gabriella could buy a vacation home that suited them both—preferably someplace near the water (Gabriella loves to kayak) and roomy enough to host Greg’s two daughters and their families when they visit from ­Manitoba. Last fall, they came across an ad for Cobble Beach, a fancy four-season resort and golf community on Georgian Bay. Though they aren’t big golfers, they were impressed by the elegant clubhouse and gorgeous location. The next morning, Greg hopped on his motorbike and drove up to scout it out. He dragged Gabriella up with him the following weekend to take a closer look.

The buy: After thinking it over for just 10 days, they decided to go for it, placing an offer on a three-bedroom stone cottage backing onto the 10th hole, with sweeping views of the bay. They took possession two months later and have been spending weekends there ever since.

The Specs

Size: 2,200 square feet
Purchase price: $575,000
Monthly maintenance fees: $193
Amenities: Golf course, U.S. Open–style tennis courts, plunge pool, helipad, skating rink, kids’ playgrounds, guest suites, 18 kilometres of groomed hiking, cycling and cross-country ski trails, clubhouse with restaurant, bar, spa and fitness centre.
Seasonal availability: Open year-round.
Rental rules: Owners can rent out their properties without restriction.

(Images: cottage courtesy of The Gettys; Pool and lake courtesy of Sandbanks Summer Village)

Family Camp

Oakvillers join a kid-friendly cottage enclave in Prince Edward County
(Portrait by Erin Leydon)

The buyers: Mark Getty, the 44-year-old regional VP of Home Depot’s eastern Canada division, and his 44-year-old wife, Leanne, a stay-at-home mom. They live in Oakville with their daughters, five-year-old Olivia and three-year-old Jenna.

The backstory: After browsing online for months, the Gettys had nearly given up on finding a great cottage in their price range. They wanted a place with a sandy beach where their kids could learn to swim, but they weren’t prepared to rehabilitate a fixer-upper or schlep more than a few hours to reach their retreat. One day, while Leanne was skimming her Facebook feed, an ad popped up for Sandbanks Summer Village, a new development in Prince Edward County, close to wineries and a provincial park. The place seemed perfect for families, with movie nights, barbecues and swimming lessons for kids.

The buy: The Gettys visited in the fall of 2013 and loved it. By June, they were embroiled in negotiations to buy one of the model homes they’d viewed: a two-bedroom plus loft on Chipmunk Lane, just minutes from the beach. They reached a deal that included the show furniture, making moving day a breeze.

The Specs

Size: 1,100 square feet
Purchase price: $242,500
Monthly maintenance fees: $320 (includes phone, cable and high-speed Internet)
Amenities: Fitness centre, saltwater family pool and splash pad, adults-only infinity pool and hot tub, tennis courts, basketball courts, bocce courts, snack bar, putting green, 6,300-square-foot community pavilion. A team of “fun directors” organize activities for adults (wine tasting, aquafit, kid-free date nights) and kids (crafting, nature hikes, bonfires).
Seasonal availability: Open April through October.
Rental rules: Owners can rent out their own cottages or use Sandbanks’ rental service for a 23 per cent management fee.

(Images: courtesy of Deerhurst Resort)

Luxury Lodge

A young family falls for a lavish Muskoka resort
(Portrait by Erin Leydon)

The buyers: Nick Krawczyk, a 36-year-old real estate agent, and his 35-year-old wife, Kathy Loss Krawczyk, a stay-at-home mom. They live in Oakville with their two kids, seven-year-old Brayden and four-year-old Emalie.

The backstory: Nick was raised on the Baltic coast in northern Poland, and he’d always dreamed of owning a place on the water in Ontario. In January 2014, friends invited the Krawczyks up to Deerhurst Resort for a weekend of snowshoeing, hot-tubbing and other winter activities. They had a blast and returned for round two in the spring. The amenities were a huge sell: Emalie and Brayden loved playing minigolf and learning to rock climb, and the grown-ups appreciated the spa and continental restaurant overlooking the lake. Before the weekend was through, Nick had put his name on a wait-list for the resort’s next phase of condos.

The buy: Last June, when Deerhurst announced the construction of a new 162-unit development called Lakeside Lodge, Nick immediately placed a deposit on a two-bedroom ground floor apartment next to the outdoor pool. “I wanted to exit my unit and step straight onto the grass,” he says. “I know it’s not a cottage, but I don’t want to have to ride an elevator either.” The unit will be move-in ready by spring 2017.

The Specs

Size: 850 square feet
Purchase price: $369,000
Monthly maintenance fees: $442
Amenities: Four restaurants, spa, tennis courts, two golf courses, indoor and outdoor pools, sandy beach with cabanas, kids’ inflatable water park, dock for boating and water sports, ropes course with zip line, paintball course, horseback riding, art gallery, petting zoo, climbing wall, arcade, ice skating rink.
Seasonal availability: Open year-round.
Rental rules: Owners can rent out their own units or sign up for Deerhurst’s revenue-splitting rental program.

(Images: courtesy of Silver Beach Developments)

Peaceful Retreat

A pair of professors plan for retirement in Haliburton

the-chase-condoland-north-peaceful-retreat-pat-erickson-cliff-ottawayThe buyers: Pat Erickson, a 69-year-old lecturer at the University of Toronto, and her 71-year-old husband, Cliff Ottaway, a retired St. Michael’s Hospital gastroenterologist. In 2001, they traded their large home in Dufferin Grove for a condo in Little Italy.

The backstory: Pat and Cliff loved the convenience of condo life, but they missed having a house full of antiques (most of theirs were consigned to storage when they downsized). They also craved green space: Pat wanted a garden, and Cliff, an enthusiastic cyclist, dreamed of zipping down country roads. Two years ago, they came across a pamphlet about condo developments up north. They realized a house on the water could be an idyllic place to retire, provided they didn’t have to maintain it themselves. They’d previously rented homes in Haliburton, so they quickly zeroed in on Silver Beach, an upcoming gated community in the area.

The buy: After two visits to the pre-construction site, they opted to build a three-bedroom bungalow on a quiet plot overlooking a large pond dotted with fountains. Five months later, they moved their treasures out of storage and into their new home.

The Specs

Size: 2,300 square feet
Purchase price: $465,000
Monthly maintenance fees: $285
Amenities: Boat docks, sandy beach, groomed walking and hiking trails. A clubhouse with a fitness facility, games room and media room will be completed in the next two years.
Seasonal availability: Open year-round.
Rental rules: No short-term rentals (three months minimum).