Stronger demand for recreational property in Manitoba’s cottage country


Pent-up demand — on the heels of last year’s severe flooding — has contributed to an upswing in recreational property sales throughout key areas of the province so far this year, according to a new report. 
The RE/MAX Recreational Property Report 2013 found that stronger demand, coupled with a good selection of product, has provided a major boost to cottage sales, especially in areas such as Lake Winnipeg, the Winnipeg River system, Lac du Bonnet, Whiteshell Provincial Park, and the smaller lakes south of Brandon. 
“In fact, the highest recreational property sale in the region, at a record $1.2 million, was recently reported on Lake Winnipeg’s west side,” according to the report. 
Despite the recent rebound, the cottage market still isn’t as strong as it was at its peak in 2007-08.
It was reported by RE/MAX that solid economic performance and job security have also factored into the mix, fueling home buying activity across the board. It was also indicated that teardowns are well-underway in many communities as cottagers, many of whom are empty-nesters or retirees, convert their properties for year-round use. 
“New developments within a two-hour commute from Winnipeg are now starting to crop-up on Lake Winnipeg,” according to the report. “Starting at $300,000, these properties are exceptionally popular with purchasers looking to retire within five years.” 
Interlake REALTORS® told the Real Estate News that recreational property sales were initially slow due to the delayed spring weather conditions. Sales rose with the arrival of warmer temperatures, they added.
“An off-shoot of the strength of the cottage sector has been the revitalization of small rural towns in close proximity to lake communities,” the report indicated. “Just 10 to 15 minutes from the lake, these areas are drawing a mixed bag of purchasers, many of whom are willing to commute to major centres.”
The report found that technology has also played a role in the success of these communities — Pinawa is a prime example — as purchasers are able to work from home. 
Demand exists for recreational product on Lake Winnipeg, including Winnipeg Beach, Gimli and points north on the west side, as well as Grand Beach and Victoria Beach on the eastern shore of the lake. 
Although the typical three-bedroom recreational property on between 60 and 80 feet of actual shoreline on Lake Winnipeg will start at $250,000-plus, homes and cottages just off the water can be purchased for under $150,000. 
“These days you have to spend somewhere between $100,000 to $150,000 to get something decent,” said REALTOR® Ingrid Bennett, who is an agent in Manitoba’s Interlake region.
But by shopping around, buyers can still find plenty of bargains in Manitoba’s cottage country.
Popular communities on Lake Winnipeg will command a higher price, as will properties in Whiteshell Provincial Park, including Falcon Lake and West Hawk Lake where prices start at $500,000-plus, according to the report.
“More value-conscious consumers may want to look at smaller lakes south of Brandon that have become increasingly sought-after in recent years as a result of the boom in the oilfield sectors in Saskatchewan and South Dakota,” according to the report.
Baby boomers continue to be the most active demographic in the recreational market, with a strong focus on ownership.  Some are buying properties with an eye toward retirement (year-round living), while others are hoping to introduce the simpler lifestyle to younger generations. 
More mature boomers are opting for existing and proposed residential development on the waterfront, offering all the comforts of home, but none of the upkeep.  
“Whether they’re buying for full-time usage or for family enjoyment, the desire to own a piece of paradise remains front and centre among baby boomers,” said Gurinder Sandhu of RE/MAX. “This demographic continues to be the single most influential driver of recreational market trends, and they’re not that keen on compromise. Most are waiting for the right property to present itself — once it does, this savvy segment is prepared to act.”
The next four to five months tend to be busiest for recreational properties and, if the current pattern holds, most markets should post growth by year-end, according to the report.