Folks. Tom and I took the plunge.
We did it! We bought a lakefront cottage. Not just any cottage. Our dream lakefront cottage.
“The One” we’ve had our eyes on since 2014.
Sure, it needs some DIY. Mostly cosmetic issues.
But. It’s. Ours. Pinch me. Bought with our blood, sweat and tears. Strong emphasis on tears.
Because its been dinners of beans and rice….rice and beans saving up for this beauty.
And we can’t wait to share posts with you as we slowly and cheaply fix up the place. After all, all the dough went into buying the place, so there’s not much wiggle room.
Still, inexpensive DIY will be fun. We would LOVE your input along the way. Your ideas. Tips. Advice.
Until then, here’s our story of how our dream became reality……
Are you a risk taker?
Are you the type of person who likes to take risks? Life on the edge.
As for me. Not it. I’d play it safe every time. This is especially true financially. How I cling to safety and refrain from spending a dime.
In fact, I’m pretty sure Tom and I don’t spend any increment over 10 bucks without consulting the other person.
So with this mindset, you can imagine that a purchase of this magnitude is causing stress. Anxiety even. But I confess, the more I see this place, the more I’m letting go of that fear.
The potential is enormous!
How buying a lakefront cottage came to be….
Tom and I got married on a small Christian Campground overlooking Lake Ontario. We love this place.
Even 14 years ago, we had big dreams of owning our own cottage on this unique campus. After all, it’s part of our heritage.
Tom’s parents have a cottage that’s been in the family a few generations. He grew up lakeside. It’s in his blood. Mine, too as I attended high school just 20 minutes away.
My parent’s also bought a cottage on this campground, and now my sister is here. Tom’s aunt and a few other relatives also reside here. It’s a family affair!
There are cottages ranging in size from 500-1500 square feet, but only 21 are actually located right on the lake with frontage.
Truly, Tom and I never aspired to a lakefront cottage. We just wanted are own place and are own space.
Since our wedding in 2006, we put bids on various properties but lost to a higher bidder each time. We even lost out on a lot (no building on site) across the street by 12 grand. Ouch!
The years rolled on and we lost out on a few other properties. We almost gave up since the competition is so fierce here.
In the here and now…
Flash forward to 2018. Tom got an insider tip! He heard that an older couple would be selling their cottage in the near future.
At 85 years old with some health issues, the couple realized their days at the campground were coming to a close.
Their kids had no interest in buying the place. But we had no time to loose. If someone else got in their ear first, we would loose out again big time!
It was hard. How do you knock on the door of people you barely know and ask if they’d consider selling their cottage to you someday?
Real estate out this way is odd. More often than not, sellers don’t simply hang a sign out their front window or lawn advertising their intent to sell.
Real estate agents are not used.
It’s word of mouth. Rumor. Hearsay even. Nothing goes the traditional route.
Sellers find parting with their property a highly personal and emotional decision. For this reason alone, the highest bidder isn’t always the winner.
And the seller has to like you personally or you’re out of luck.
Having a difficult conversation
But knock we did and had that very first difficult conversation. We shook with fear and anxiety as Tom asked to be considered but left feeling good.
We were told it would be about a year or two but were at the top of the list of prospective buyers. Of course we were thrilled, but two years is a long time to wait.
Anything could transpire over two years. Would they honor or even remember a verbal agreement that long down the road? What if anything happened to them?
We knew that if their kids were making the decision, the highest bidder would acquire the property and that would not be us!
And no price was mentioned. That was our biggest hangup. In our estimations, there could be a 50 grand flux either way on price. Comparing property values here is difficult, too.
So we had to be content with the little knowledge we had. Yes, we had a legitimate shot at purchasing a lakefront cottage but there would be lots of obstacles in our way.
Two years is a long time to wait. But wait we did. And we prayed while waiting.
Location. Location. Location.
Our lakefront cottage is located on the shores of beautiful Lake Ontario.
Canadian or American side, I can’t even envision a prettier place in summer than here.
The weather is spot-on ideal ranging from mid 70’s to 90’s. The water temps can fluctuate but many days are wonderful and warm usually in the high 60’s to 70’s range.
And did you know…? The Great Lakes make up the largest body of fresh water on Earth, accounting for one-fifth of the freshwater surface on the planet at 6 quadrillion gallons. So to own a property on one of the Great Lakes feels like such an honor and privilege.
Extra credit for anyone who can name all five Great Lakes!
Perhaps the biggest draw is the uniqueness of this lake. One day the lake will be dead calm. Perfect for a relaxing kayak ride.
The next? Like the ocean, wild waves will crash on the shore. Gigantic warm waves that are incredibly fun to float and flop around in.
But the biggest lure for Tom and I was the frontage. Unlike most properties that have 40-45 lakefront frontage, this one had 80 feet!
A gigantic double lot where our kids and dogs can run and play!
What to expect hereon out…
So you can imagine Tom and I are pretty proud of this place. Perfect no. But perfect for us and our family’s needs right now.
Many posts will highlight improvements we are attempting and we cordially invite you to join us on our little journey.
Both inside and out will be filled will cheap DIY projects as will renovate on a very tight budget.
We actually started with these amazing rustic pine floors hidden underneath an ugly 1960’s circa carpet!
It was fun ripping out the icky carpet to reveal such beautiful floors.
But alas, they had to be sanded and coated with polyurethane.
The end result? Gleaming rustic pine floors that boast charming cottage style!
Although the work was enormous, we are grateful for all the extra hands of family that helped! Without my family and in-laws help it would not have gotten done!
My father-in-law ran the big drum sander with Tom. When the project was complete we noticed that Tom’s putty job looked out of place. My mother-in -law colored on the top of the putty to blend the floor and I couldn’t believe the improvement!
If you look up, you’ll see the ceilings are also pine. Another detail that we are thrilled about!
Not only maintenance-free but the look is universal and so will endure the test of time.
Retirement dreams at our lakefront cottage…
It seems crazy even to me that at 40-years-old Tom and I bought our seasonal retirement home.
But had we passed on purchasing this lakefront cottage….would the opportunity come up again? Yes and no.
No doubt another property would eventually come up on this campus. But not as good as this one. At least not in our estimation.
This place surpassed our wildest dreams. I still can’t believe it’s real…and really ours!
Maybe in a year from now, I’ll finally believe that we are the true owners of this lakefront cottage. It seem so surreal.
But then again, after my millionth peanut butter sandwich, it might start to feel like it.
Frugality will be taken to a whole new level. Sure we buy all our clothes secondhand and I never saw a garage sale I’d pass up, but other cuts and sacrifices will have to be made.
But is it worth it? We think so. Because besides being just “another lakefront cottage” this place has lots of meaning to us.
Not only did Tom and I get married here but the campus has a strong, faith-based heritage.
And our Christian faith is the most important part of our lives.
Faith and fun at this lakefront cottage!
We are so pleased that this campus runs all sorts of camps that revitalize our deep rooted Christian faith keeping our beliefs in focus.
Summer camps are sprinkled throughout summer to feed our minds and souls.
This is important when raising a young family is a crazy world!
A note on square footage in this lakefront cottage
The downstairs is approximately 960 square feet.
The cottage has 2 bedrooms and 1.5 baths, one in the “master bedroom.” For a cottage, both bedrooms are as decent size. The kids will all sleep in the one bedroom. Hello bunk beds!
Yes, the one bathroom is beyond outdated and ugly, but who cares…it’s a cottage!
Buy what we love most is the floor plan. The design in an L-Shaped open-concept plan. So the kitchen leads to the dining area which goes into the living area.
There are lake views anywhere you roam. Nice when washing up dishes!
So each section is clearly separated for cooking, eating and relaxing. It’s clear what you do and where.
The bedrooms are down the hallway and are closed off with a door. I consider this ideal if I want to go to bed a 9 o’clock but the rest of the family wants to stay up for games and a movie.
A attic with unleashed potential…
But the greatest secret is the attic space. It’s another 300 feet of square footage with great bones. A huge amount of space that we hope to someday finish with more bedrooms and maybe even a bathroom addition!
After all, walking down a flight of stairs in the middle of the night to use the restroom is no fun! None.
For now, we are content as we dream big. There’s no insulation upstairs and it isn’t heated or cooled on any level. So in the summer you roast and in the fall and spring freeze.
But for now, it’s a great place to store “stuff.”
Furnished versus unfurnished lakefront cottages
Unlike a house where when you sell, you purge all so that the buyer has a clean slate, cottages are typically sold with the contents.
This is both good and bad. The positive is that you have a lot of what you need to start off with. Yes, the towels and sheets are 30-years-old but you have them.
Ditto for the 40+ years-old kitchen items.
But typically the sellers will also cherry-pick, that is take anything really good and leave you with lots of “stuff” you don’t want!
I was a little sad when a few of the pieces of furniture walked along with some vintage pieces that really added character to the place. But it’s done.
Example of what you want gone pronto….mattresses that are 50-years-old. No thanks!
Smooth lake rock is useful on so many levels from creative crafts to home improvement projects.
We enjoyed making a DIY bird bath/water feature out of lake rock for our garden!
Feeling blessed with our lakefront cottage!
So our family feels blessed on so many levels. While their won’t be luxurious vacations in the near future and maybe never, we can go on “vacay” anytime at the cottage.
Family first. And that’s what this is about. Spending more time with family and enjoying each other’s companionship.
Too often, the temptation is to work work work. No rest. No relaxation. Not enough time invested in the kids.
But the kids are growing up on me fast! As I write this post, I just sent my oldest to 5th grade and my middle child to 3rd.
Shocking how fast they grow up! We want to invest in them, our family and our faith. And we believe this cottage will become the foundation of that heritage.
Our hope is that the cottage will stay in the family (heaven help us in deciding what kid will inherit it someday!)
It’s a generational deal, we hope and pray.
Thank you for reading this post and going with me on this little journey with our lakefront cottage! I hope you don’t mind the updates a we share “The Cottage Life” with you!