With travel restrictions tightly in place, the cancellation of events, and shuttered patios throughout the city, the return of the sweet smell of spring just didn’t evoke the same collective sense of joy for Torontonians as it has in the past.
As it became apparent that summer 2020 would look drastically different in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it also became clear that having access to any outdoor space was a luxury many city residents did not enjoy (if even just a balcony). The lucky ones this summer are those with backyards, while the really fortunate ones complete these yards with pools.
But those who find themselves on a whole other level of fortune this summer are the ones with access to a cottage in Ontario’s pristine – and very pricy – cottage country.
Nearly three months (and counting) of quarantine mode has rendered most Torontonians stir crazy at best, especially those confined to small spaces typical of the Toronto core. Facilitating cravings for both a change of scenery from the restraints of the sweltering concrete, and to reconnect with nature and its many benefits, the cottage country real estate market is red-hot right now.
And this has realtors north of the city breathing a collective sigh of relief.
“It was looking like we were going to have a catastrophically bad year in March and early April. On the rental side, I was looking at half a million dollars of cancelled reservations from people who lived in places like Europe and Australia,” said Sotheby’s Realty sales representative Maryrose Coleman, who is based in Muskoka’s Port Carling community and is also a co-founder of luxury cottage rental company Muskoka District Rentals. “The cancellations just kept coming in. On the real estate side, the Cottage Life Show had been cancelled in March, and many visitors actually come to that show looking to purchase a cottage. We always put a lot of time and effort into it, getting our listings and materials ready so that we’re there for prospective buyers.”
A second blow to the cottage country rental market came with Ontario’s COVID-19-inspired restrictions on short-term rentals that went into effect on April 4, banning any units in the province from attempting to rent for less than a 28-day time period. “We had to go and proactively change all of our rentals that were booked until the end of June,” says Coleman. Right now, the restriction is in place until June 25, but Coleman suspects it could be extended throughout the summer.
Towards the end of April and in early May, things started to shift, says Coleman, as eyes turned north to cottage country. “People were thinking about their summer plans and realizing that they weren’t going to travel, and we started to get a lot of rental…