Recreational Property | 7 Tips for Unoccupied Cottages

Spring is here and so is the demand for recreational property inspections. In many cases the sellers have long moved on and the vacation use of their cabin or cottage has diminished over time to minimal visits, if any. Unfortunately the building condition suffers but the location and lot value maintain or increase its assessed value. This posts discusses some basic task and procedures to follow when the vacation cottage is dormant for months at a time.

These properties all suffer from one unifying issue, that is, they have long periods of dormancy where systems have been shut off for the winter, or even longer. As a result a small issue, that would be corrected if the owner was present, is allowed to develop into a bigger concern such as mold, rot, pest infestation and bad odours.

As a result, many cottagers have their opening weekend spoiled by making unanticipated repairs. As we get older and our adult kids get busy with their lives, then the repairs become more of chore because it can no longer be shared with anyone except the owner. So either find a local handyman or be prepared to put in the effort yourself.

As someone who owns recreational property, here are some tips on how to maintain the unoccupied vacation property in peak condition.

  1. Prepare a checklist of what should be inspected and where the items are located. Leave the tools (rodent traps and bait, flashlight, batteries, ladder) readily accessible or already set up at the appropriate locations.
  2. Find a local full-time resident to visit and enter the property bi-weekly to do a quick walk-around. It is amazing what our eyes and nose can find, even on the briefest of walk-throughs. Agree on a payment method. Do not expect this to be done for free!
  3. As part of the walk-around, and after the temperatures are above freezing, include cracking a window or windows open for good ventilation. It’s amazing what fresh air can do to indoor air quality.
  4. Don’t forget to have your neighbour walk the lot and look at the landscaping too. Landslides, leaning or fallen trees, damaged docks and water erosion issues will only get worse with time.
  5. Deal immediately with any discovered issues. There are many trades that are prepared to visit a vacation cottage, as long as you are prepared to pay for their travel time, which is only fair.
  6. Yuk! Be sure to have your faithful neighbour remove and reset any successful rodent traps. This alone requires a special gift to that person when next you see them.
  7. Specialized systems, such as solar, will require additional attention. For example, the generator may have to be run during the darkest days of winter to recharge the battery bank. Be sure to write-out the procedure and demonstrate it to whom you entrust with the keys.

Alternatively, if the owner can take the time to make visits to the property during the closed season, that also works. Just be sure to do it!