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Trend alert: millennials are becoming cottage owners.

SKIP THE HOUSE

Want to buy an island, hahaha?” That’s what Shantel Clark recalls her father-inlaw saying when he texted her and her husband, Ian. Ian had grown up cottaging on an island about 30 minutes from Honey Harbour in Ontario’s Georgian Bay. Now, the family that owned the one-acre island next to them was selling.

The text arrived as they were on the way to a family wedding, only a few months after Shantel and Ian’s own wedding. The couple had been thinking about starting to hunt for a house in Toronto, but weren’t very excited about the task. “I knew that whatever we could afford in the city would be something we’d be settling for” is how Shantel puts it. She and Ian figured the best they would do in Toronto would be to get a small starter home or condo, which they would then aim to buy up from before eventually—at some distant date in the future—ending up with a house that would be their “forever home.” And that made anticipating that first property purchase seem more like a grind than a joy. Still, they weren’t thinking of other options until Ian’s father got the email that flipped their property priorities. “Ian’s dad was joking,” she says, “but we were like, maybe yes.”

Even with a recent market softening, the average price of a detached house in Toronto is still more than $1 million, and in Vancouver, at almost $3 million, owning a house is beyond the reach of many millennials. “Home ownership has become unattainable in the Lower Mainland of B.C. for a number of years, even for people with very good incomes,” says Al Dubé, a financial advisor with Dubé Insurance and Wealth Advisory Services in Victoria. “But vacation properties can be much more affordable.” When you consider that the average price of recreational properties in Southern Ontario is $413,000, with waterfront properties on Saltspring and Vancouver Islands clocking in at around half a million dollars, the logic of entering the real estate market via the cottage market becomes clear.

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