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June 03, 2006

Cottage Guest Rules

There are three kinds of people: cottage people, people who get Invited to Visit cottage people, and people who are utterly unaware of cottage culture. The third group must be considered blameless for their condition; they probably were never exposed to the cottage concept, and may well go through their entire lives unaware of the bucolic bliss of outdoor plumbing.

That third group is not reading this; it is no doubt entertaining itself with any number of purely urban diversions. For groups one and two, however, the following is a carefully-honed list of rules for cottage guests, acquired through years of personal experience as a guest who has sometimes even been Invited Back. Take notes; there will be a pop quiz later on the Ten Most Important Cottage Guest Rules:

1. If bringing food, ascertain in advance what your hosts genuinely require: vegetables? poultry? beverages? Twenty-kilo sacks of flour or sugar are bulky, difficult to store, and may be prone to all sorts of midnight raids by furry creatures or hungry bugs, not to mention the fact that no one can use fifty pounds of sugar in three months, and the stuff will turn to disgusting, gloppy syrup if it gets wet over the winter. Bring wonderments if you must bring surprise foods: jars of olives, special pates, a little bottle of vinaigrette. Stow your stash of Crunch&Munch for midnight snacking in your overnight bag.

2. Just because this is a cottage, it does not mean civilization has been abandoned. Expect to behave at the dinner table as you would in the city and, when dining al fresco (that means outside), do not run about the verdant clearing looking for raccoons to eat your walnut/watercress salad for you. The raccoons, rabbits, and skunks can find their own salads, your hosts very likely do not wish to encourage raccoons to think of their cottage as a fast food takeout outlet, and it's rude not to eat what's placed before you.

3. Regarding sex: cottage walls are thin. If invited out with your romantic partner, and if you absolutely cannot abstain for a day or two, practice silent sex. If attempting woodsy sex, take a wildflower book along. Consult it to ensure you are not flailing in a patch of poison ivy. Check all possible sightlines for other cottages buried in the wilderness before you remove any clothing. Untanned bare bottoms are visible through binoculars for a considerable distance-- especially if they are bobbing rhythmically.

4. Help out in the kitchen, but be sensitive to your hostess/host. Assist in the cooking, do not direct it (as in "you know, you should really cut celery and carrots on the bias to retain more nutrients") unless your hosts ask you to prepare one of your own specialties. If washing dishes, do not announce that cold, hard water can't get the grease off when you know the water tank has run out of hot water. Do not inquire if these are mouse droppings in the corner of the dish cupboard. They are. Now hush up about it.

5. Should the cottage be equipped with indoor plumbing of flush or composting type, inquire for any specifics you should know: flush, not flush, paper disposal, and the like. Stopping up the plumbing with dire consequences is worse than the embarrassment of asking. If the privy is outdoors, check for spiders and paper before sitting. Depending on how long the privy has been there and thus how fresh the ambient air is, you may or may not wish to take a book along to read with the door open. If small children or bears are about, be alert. Both can be disconcerting.

6. When fishing, cast your line in a direction that will not snag your host's ear. Or any part of his/her anatomy, for that matter. Or that of any other fishing companions. If you have any doubts about your ability to do this, just bring a book and read while the others fish. You will still be allowed to dine on the catch with everyone else-- especially if you are considerate enough to bait the others' hooks for them (See Rule 7).

7. Learn to bait fish hooks with worms and without gagging. Don't squeal and rock the boat when someone catches a fish. Don't rock the boat for any reason, for that matter. Someone's clamato juice could spill.

8. Adhere to all safety regulations regarding water sports: boating, sailing, water-skiing, swimming. Drowned guests can ruin a host family's weekend. If you don't know the safety rules, your local St. John Ambulance or Red Cross Water Safety folks will be happy to point you towards them. Above all, don't mix quantities of alcohol with boating of any kind. (Yes, this was a serious rule. If you take any of these rules to heart, let it be this one.)

9. Following dinners or on rainy days, your hosts may force game rituals or cottage projects upon you. Participate with enthusiasm; you might learn something interesting about carpentry or indoor plumbing, jigsaw puzzles can be engrossing, given the right frame of mind, and by ten at night and after a couple of glasses of wine, you will actually enjoy Pass the Pig. If you really, really enjoy it, your chances of being Invited Back may be considerably improved, since you will become an integral part of the evening's entertainment (as in" Boy, you should have seen Freda rolling those pigs and blowing on them! She got right into it!").

10. Never, never, never announce this was the night for the final episode ever of the X-Files, and isn't it a shame the cottage TV only gets CBC-- or worse, the cottage does not have a TV. That, dear guest, is one of the many joys of the cottage, and if you can't appreciate the fact-- well, frankly, you just don't deserve be to Invited Back.

By Judy Waytiuk
Originally published Summer 1997, in Cottager

June 02, 2006

Cottage is the new castle

Cottage is the new castle

It used to be a person's home was their castle. Now that castle appears to be the cottage, especially if it's by the water.

According to a survey released by Royal LePage, which is in the business of buying and selling real estate, the national average price for a Canadian waterfront recreational property, with land access, was $380,507 this spring.

The survey found that a quarter of Canadians are willing to pay more for recreational properties than their homes. The desire for a waterfront paradise is so strong, that the average price for a cottage has topped the national average price for a two-story house by around $40,000, Royal LePage said.

The soaring cottage prices are being driven by limited supply, and a mixture of young professionals and baby boomers eager to buy. Only 15 per cent of current cottage owners said they were likely to sell their property within the next three years, the report said. Furthermore, nearly 60 per cent of cottagers plan to will their recreational property to their family.

Phil Soper, president and chief executive officer of Royal LePage Real Estate Services, said prices show no sign of slowing down.

"The supply and demand economics are so far out of whack in the recreational property market, that it would take a fairly significant drop in demand to bring the market into balance," he said. "Until there is a change in our economic fortunes, we will see a healthy recreational property market in this country."

Surging cottage prices are increasingly excluding lower-income buyers, and forcing people to drive further from the city to their dream holiday spot, Mr. Soper said. The higher prices are also fuelling the construction of condominiums at recreational locations, something that is happening across the country.

Although the national average price for a waterfront cottage was $380,507, the report noted that sales in the most popular get-away spots - Grand Bend, Honey Harbour, Georgian Bay, Wasaga Beach, the Muskokas, West Kawarthas, Cranbrook, Kelowna, Vernon, Okanogan and Fernie - were fetching between $500,000 to above $1-million.

In British Columbia, cottages - also known as cabins - were the costliest in the country, averaging just under $1-million. Alberta was second-priciest at $900,000. Quebec and Ontario came next, at $483,333 and $454,960, respectively.

Mr. Soper said the Western boom is bring driven by the prosperity that part of the country is enjoying, along with a migration of people. "One of the primary reasons that property in Alberta is so expensive, particularly within driving distance of Calgary and Edmonton, relates to its scarcity relative to the wealth of its population."

He pointed to Sylvan Lake in Alberta, one of a handful of locations that is both near the water and driving distance from the city. "There are quite a few places that you can go and sit on the side of a mountain but in the summertime, people want to be near the water," Mr. Soper said.

Indeed, the poll found that the most important features for prospective buyers searching for a cottage were: a waterfront property, a lot with mature trees for privacy, and a large dock on the water.

"The rising prices are not surprising given the fact that there is a convergence of buyers entering the market - with urban professionals, young families and baby boomers all vying for properties with similar features," Mr. Soper said.

The Royal Lepage survey found that 78 per cent of Canadians who are looking or planning to buy a cottage in the next three years are young-to-middle age adults under the age of 49.

In 2005, a cottage cost $235,654, a 15.8 per cent rise from the 2004 national average of $203,441. However, a Royal LePage spokeswoman said this year's poll includes a number of new areas, particularly in British Columbia and Alberta, that have skewed the year-over-year comparisons.

The national average price for a chalet, defined as a being a half-hour away from a mountain base, was $413,694.

The poll of 529 randomly-selected people was conducted by Maritz Research between April 27 and May 8, 2006, and is considered accurate within 5 per cent either way, 19 times out of 20.


Source: Globe and Mail