I live in a city where the cost of housing is quite high. The rental market is expensive, but the cost of buying a condo is even more unaffordable. However, we really wanted a place to call our own, so we decided to buy a cottage instead.
— actually we bought a driveway on a piece of cleared land, but it will be a cottage someday! —
Here’s why it made sense for us to invest in a cottage before buying a house.
Brad and I both grew up in the countryside. We share memories of incredibly long school bus rides, weeding large vegetable gardens, and having space to run around, climb trees and dig worms.
He grew up in the mountains and spent his childhood hunting for mushrooms (of the non-poisonous variety) and wild asparagus. I grew up out East and we made our own maple syrup.
While we’re not exactly interested in a Back to the Land lifestyle, we would like a large garden with some fruit and nut trees. And a bit more space than we’ll find in the suburbs.
In general, cottages are not a good financial investment. They just don’t increase in value at the same rate as a condo. Then there are the carrying costs of taxes, a mortgage and services, which can really add up to more than you’ll ever earn off of “flipping” the property.
However, in our case, we chose to buy vacant land on an island that doesn’t have much more than a general store, which also happens to be the local post office and cafe. While I can buy a bag of chips, a can of beans and a box of screws, it doesn’t have building supplies.
That means all building supplies have to be brought in from off-island. It also means that vacant land is VERY cheap and properties with a building are more expensive. Simply putting a small 300 sq. ft. cabin on the property will double or even triple the value.
So if we aren’t really digging the cottage lifestyle then we will have the opportunity to at least regain our costs.
Putting Down Roots
My family moved a lot. As a child, I don’t think I lived in the same town for more than 6 years. And I have always envied my friends with deep roots.
Brad’s parents had to sell their property when it got to be more than they were able to manage. So he has also lost his roots and misses that connection to home.
The trick with being long term renters is the lack of stability. If a landlord decides to sell, you could be out of a home.
— We actually live in cooperative housing, so our situation is a little bit different. However, once the kids move out, we will have to move into a smaller unit to allow another family to take our place. So our kids will also be rootless. —
A cottage is a small investment in roots. The kids will get to help us build it. We’ll spend our summers there as well as long weekends and winter vacations. It will be a place where we will build memories of relaxing and hanging out together. Exploring nature. Being creative.
Even if we don’t end up living there full-time, the cottage will be a place that Max and Una can visit with their children and share their memories of growing up.
A cottage will give them roots.
Breath of Fresh Air
Our goal is to build a totally earthy, healthy sort of cottage. Not exactly a cob house or anything like that, but a space that is free from the pollution that usually affects our indoor air quality.
Whether it’s air pollution from cars and cruise ships, which are both problems in our neighbourhood, or off-gassing from our vinyl floors, it would be nice to take a breath of fresh air. There is also something soothing and healing about being in nature and taking a break from the usual pressures of life.
It’s hard to not be drawn in by the appeal of fresh air and a view that extends further than the apartment building across the street.
Retirement (or earlier) home
While we’re still a bit too young to worry about retirement, it is certainly on the horizon for all of us. Following in the footsteps of the Baby boomer generation means that we are less able to rely on pensions to pay for retirement. So planning is pretty important.
A cottage provides us with an affordable home. Not only was the property cheap, but we’re also planning on building everything ourselves.
— I admit that I am daunted by the idea of working with lumber and a rough building plan. But Brad and I are brave and have had lots of practice at throwing ourselves into slightly crazy experiences. —
Thus a cottage will provide us with a secure home and minimal expenses in our retirement. We might even be able to move there before retirement, though after the kids have graduated from school, as I don’t relish having to take them to school by boat.)
The idea of moving to a rural home was one of the reasons I gave up my career as an architectural planner to become a writer. We knew that one of us needed a job that could be done from anywhere. Brad’s work is not quite as flexible, however, he has lots of other skills. Hopefully, cottage building proves to be one of them!