Thinking of buying a second home or cottage in Prince Edward County (PEC)? It’s one of the best decisions we ever made. Here’s what you need to know.
The Big, Basic Decisions
Defining Your Goals
Is your PEC dream home just for you and your family? Will you rent it out when you aren’t using it? Or would you rather just lend your cottage to friends in low season?
How you’ll use your second home or cottage is a big decision and one you want to consider carefully before taking the plunge and buying a home in Prince Edward County. The use will impact your financing, insurance and of course, choice of property.
When examining your goals, you’ll also want to consider:
- How long you plan to keep the property
- Your financial expectations
- Your future use of the property (e.g., your retirement home, passing it down to your kids, etc.)
Location, Location, Location
Picking a Location
Picking which community you want to call your home-away-from-home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make. Prince Edward County stretches over more than 1,000 square kilometres, and the various communities each have a unique vibe and differing levels of services and attractions. What’s important to you?
When choosing your community, you’ll want to consider:
- Proximity to services, shops, and restaurants vs. seclusion and privacy
- Proximity to where you expect to spend your time (beaches, trails, etc.)
- Distance to major highways. It takes 45 minutes to drive from Consecon to Waupoos, so if you’re commuting from Toronto, a Waupoos home can make your trip 30% longer. Conversely, if you’re driving from Kingston or Ottawa, it might make more sense to stick to the communities in the east.
- If you’re planning on renting your cottage out, where you buy will significantly impact how much rent you can get for it.
We’ve prepared detailed community guides for our favourite communities in the County…you can access them here. But nothing beats spending a weekend or two exploring the different communities and looking for the one that feels like the right fit.
Our Story: We chose to buy our second home in Bloomfield, partly because we found the perfect house, and partly because we loved the community. With a population of less than 500, it’s far from a sprawling metropolis, but it’s got an adorable main street with quaint shops and restaurants and is on the Millenium Trail. We’re also equidistant from Picton (for fun shops and culture), Wellington (for Sandbanks Provincial Park and the trend-setting restaurants and bars) and Belleville (for easy grocery shopping and access to all things city). We can reach them all in less than a 12-minute drive!
Needs and Wants
How Big of a Home or Cottage Do You Want?
If you’re moving from a big city, you’ll be surprised at how much home and land you’ll get for your money. Case in point: We bought a fully renovated 3,000 sqft+ house on almost 4 acres of land in 2016, for the price of a one-bedroom condo in Toronto.
But remember….bigger isn’t always better. The bigger the property, the more expensive it is to furnish and maintain and the longer it takes to clean. And while owning an acreage may seem like a great idea, you might not enjoy the weekly 4-hour mower ride to cut the grass (or the bill to pay someone to do it).
Before you decide how big of a home or cottage you want, give some critical thought to how you expect to use it. Will you be entertaining big groups of people? Or do you want to use it as a romantic getaway?
If you’re planning on renting out your home when you aren’t using it, keep in mind that larger properties will command more rent…but you could also end up with rowdier guests who are more likely to throw a party.
Our Story: There were two similarly-priced houses we loved: a 2-bedroom A-frame cottage on the Bay of Quinte, and a 3,000 sqft, five bedroom home with a pool, hot tub and almost 4 acres of land. For us, one of the primary motivations for buying in PEC was a desire to bring our friends and family together, away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto. We’re also more drawn to pools than lakes…so the decision was a no-brainer in the end.
Waterfront vs. Waterview vs. Neither
This is one of the biggest decisions that will impact how much money you spend.
In PEC (as in most places), waterfront homes come at a premium. And of course, there are the canoes, kayaks boats and water toys you’ll want to buy.
Other things to consider if you decide to buy a waterfront:
- Rules about developing the shoreline
- The floodplain
- Waterfront homes may come with more acreage, which means more maintenance
- Black water snakes (nasty!), algae
- Extra maintenance – bringing the dock in, etc.
- How much are you going to use it? You’re paying a premium to be on the water -will you take advantage of a waterfront lifestyle?
- No city water or sewer services on waterfront properties
- Insurance may be different – especially if you’re renting it out (talk to your insurer for details)
- Proximity to amenities – waterfront homes and cottages are usually located further away from amenities and services
Waterview homes can also be a more affordable option if you aren’t likely to miss being able to wade into the water from your yard.
Features and Condition of the Home
What are your must-haves? Nice-to-haves? Absolutely what-nots? In the County, it’s not just about the number of bedrooms, baths and the size of the lot. You’ll have decisions to make about municipal services vs. having a septic tank and water well, whether it’s an all-season property or a seasonal cottage, whether or not you want a pool (or the option to add one – the limestone and gravel in some areas can make putting in an in-ground pool cost-prohibitive), raw land vs buying something already built…
How much can you spend? How much do you want to spend?
Make sure to talk to your banker or mortgage broker before you fall in love with a property. Qualifying for a mortgage for a second home or cottage is slightly different than getting a mortgage on your primary home. For example, if this is a second home, you’ll likely need a minimum 20% downpayment.
Also important to know: if you’re buying a cottage that doesn’t have year-round access, the bank will require you to have a larger downpayment and may have other requirements.
Prices in the County vary greatly and are dependent on the usual things: location, size, finishes, features, condition, and inclusions. To find out more about prices in PEC, check out our Guide to Prices in Prince Edward County.
Of course, it isn’t just about how much you pay for the property! You’ll need to consider a whole slew of other costs that you may never have thought of:
- Home insurance – If you aren’t going to be living in the home full-time, expect to pay more for home insurance. You’ll also pay a premium if your home is located far from fire and emergency services. Keep in mind that most absentee home insurance policies still require someone to check on the home every 30 to 60 days. Pro Tip: If you’re going to be renting out your home when you aren’t using it, be honest about that with the insurance company. If you ever need to make an insurance claim and you lied, your claim will be denied.
- Property Taxes – Property taxes in PEC vary considerably, depending on whether or not city services (e.g. water, sewer) are included.
- Water – Depending on where you buy, you may not have access to municipal water, so you may be looking at maintaining a well and water treatment equipment. Some houses don’t have a well or city services, in which case they usually have cisterns or holding tanks that you will need to arrange to have filled regularly.
- Garbage – Garbage services vary by community, and fall into two categories:
- In most areas, regular service for recycling and organic waste, exists but you’ll need to pay by the bag for garbage (with bag tags);
- If garbage service does not exist in your area, you’ll need to make regular trips to the garbage dump and pay by the bag.
- Maintenance – This can be a significant cost if your goal is to buy a second home and not be burdened with twice the work. In addition to the usual house maintenance items (plumbing, roofing, electrical, eavestroughs, furnace and AC maintenance, etc.), remember to plan for grass cutting, gardening, cleaning (especially if you’re renting it out) and snow shoveling (trust me, that 400 metre driveway is way less fun in the winter). You’ll likely also want to have someone on call that you trust who can check on your home when you’re not there.
Ontario Land Transfer Tax is payable on closing. If you’re from Toronto, you’ll be thrilled to find out that you’ll pay significantly lower land transfer taxes here, as there is no municipal land transfer tax in PEC. Don’t forget to budget for legal costs too.
Let the fun begin! Whether you’re searching for your second home online, hitting up open houses on the weekend or searching with a REALTOR, hunting for a home in Prince Edward County is an exciting experience.
Work With an Expert Real Estate Agent
Buying a rural home is very different than a city home, and it’s important to have an agent who represents your interests. Sure, you could work with the various listing agents, but their job is to get the get the best price and terms for the Seller. Surely you want someone to negotiate the best price and terms for you?
Our Story: We run a very successful real estate team in Toronto and have sold hundreds of homes. Despite our very real and relevant experience, we knew we were out of our league in the County, and turned to a local expert for their insight on communities, prices, septic tanks, wells and all that other scary stuff. We’ve since partnered with the best real estate agents in Prince Edward County, and can connect our clients (and readers of this site) who are looking to make PEC part of their property portfolio. Reach out to us here if you’d like us to make an introduction!
There are two ways of seeing properties available for sale in Prince Edward County:
- Search on www.realtor.ca (where search results may be delayed 1-2 days )
- Get custom listings sent to you by a local real estate agent
If you want to get custom listings sent to you, complete this form and one of our favourite local agents will be in touch.
Tips for looking for a PEC home online:
- If you’re getting listings from a REALTOR, the Quinte Real Estate Board’s property search system sends out new properties that match your criteria as soon as they’re listed, and their client portal is pretty good.
- Keep an open mind. Professional photography and staging aren’t the norms in the County, so don’t judge a house too harshly based on the photos.
- Don’t always believe the description and read between the lines. ‘Ready to put your decorator touch on it’ means it needs a lot of work. ‘Water view’ might only be if you’re standing in the corner bedroom and leaning 2 feet out the window.
- Remember that the asking price won’t necessarily be the sold price. While bidding wars started to surface in PEC in summer 2017, it’s more common for Sellers to negotiate and for homes to sell slightly below the asking price.
Be Prepared: It Might Take a While
There are 12,397 homes in Prince Edward County, and only 500-600 homes sell each year. If your needs or target locations are very specific, you aren’t likely to quickly find a property. But with patience, comes the perfect property.
Pro Tip: Most PEC Sellers list their homes for sale in spring and summer, so that’s an ideal time to house hunt and have a wide selection. With most of the sales activity happening between April and September, the off-peak months might be an ideal time to pick up a bargain.
Expect to Compromise
Almost everyone needs to compromise on something, and it usually comes down to 4 things: size, finishes, location or price. What’s most important to you? Would you rather live in a bigger house or on the lake? Are you OK spending more money for a renovated house or could you buy a cheaper house and do the renovations yourself? Do you want to be part of an established community or would you prefer to watch a transitional area grow around you?
House Hunting in Real Life
This is your opportunity to get a feel for the different PEC communities, refine your wish list, and ask questions. Open houses aren’t that common in PEC, given the large distances between properties and the lack of walk-by traffic, so your best bet will be visit homes for sale with a real estate agent
For more tips on searching for a home in Prince Edward County, visit our blog: Top 10 Tips for Househunting in PEC.
Making an offer to purchase a property in Prince Edward County isn’t unlike the process elsewhere in Ontario. Your real estate agent will draw up the paperwork, and you’ll need to consider the following:
- Deposit – Normal deposits in the County are much smaller than what is expected in the city, and $5,000-$10,000 isn’t unusual. Deposits need to be delivered within 24 hours of your offer being accepted.
- Conditions – It’s normal for financing and home inspection conditions to be included in offers here, as well as septic, well and water testing for rural properties.
- Inclusions – Inclusions vary in PEC, so don’t automatically assume the appliances are included in the price. Make sure you understand what is and is not included before you decide on an offer price.
- Other Clauses – In the offer, your agent will include appropriate protection for you on septic tanks, wells, pools and other rural matters.
Taking possession of your new County home is the same as elsewhere in Ontario. You’ll have some paperwork to sign with your real estate lawyer (they don’t need to be local, though there are some great local lawyers here), you’ll have to provide a big fat cheque, and you’ll need to pick up the keys.