Muskoka is a unique, highly sought after and magical place. There are many different kinds of buyers and sellers here. Some merely want a little piece of paradise to escape and camp out in the woods. Others want a mansion on one of the ‘Big Three’, or one of the 2200+ lakes in the district.
And the rest of us are somewhere in between. Waterfront or not, permanent residence or not, we all appreciate being surrounded by water and granite and pine and to do a little swimming, boating, hiking and star gazing.
The privilege can be costly, especially since the pandemic.
Overall prices are up year over year, and have gone up a median value of about $350,000 for waterfront properties since the beginning of 2020.
There were 499 new listings in July and 377 sales. The average DOM (days on market from listing to sale) is 14. Last year the average DOM for July was 23. July 2019 24. July 2018 was 30. We are seeing a trend here.
In terms of dollar volume:
There were 44 sales in Muskoka Lakes. 37 were waterfront and 7 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $95,220,518.
There were 57 sales in Huntsville. 19 were waterfront and 38 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $41,870,436.
There were 31 sales in Bracebridge. 10 were waterfront and 21 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $21,252,027.00.
There were 29 sales in Gravenhurst. 7 were waterfront and 22 non waterfront. The total dollar volume was $19,314,650.00.
There is only a 2.5 month supply of residential properties available currently. The definition of supply refers to the number of months it would take for the current inventory of homes or cottages on the market to sell. Historically, six months of supply is associated with a balanced market between buyers and sellers and a lower level of months’ supply is considered a seller’s market and therefore they can expect to sell faster at a better price. In any market a substantially overpriced property will linger. The key to proper pricing is listing at a reasonable price and encouraging competition. Buyers will only compete when a property is appealing both in terms of features and price.
The trend has been toward less inventory for the last few years – with the exception of a small spike this year due to sellers wanting to cash in on this crazy market.
We do not see the ‘bubble’ bursting. We do not think that there is a bubble. It is a case of supply and demand. And those demanding having a lot of liquidity right now, due to many months of not spending in restaurants, on travel, services like spas, house cleaners, clothing, commuting etc. Interest rates remain low. Cottage buyers for the most part have not been negatively impacted financially by the pandemic.
Inventory has been relatively low for the past several years and we can see why when we look at the relatively low total number of cottages versus the potential buying pool. The Golden Horseshoe has a population of over 7.8 million. Say you considered just one percent of that number – that is 78,000 people in the market for a cottage. And that doesn’t count international buyers or buyers in the rest of Canada.
Some buyers are interested in purchasing to rent their places out. There is a lot of money to be made, but buyers should beware. For those who are perking up their ears, these purchases tighten off an already limited supply. Carefully vet your renters. Property damage is a real risk, as is annoying the neighbours with loud and boisterous behaviour. Enough of that, and the townships may decide to ban rentals.
The shoreline is an extremely valuable and important area – not only for personal enjoyment and property values, but for the health of our Muskoka Lakes, and the critters we share them with.
Did you know a natural shoreline can:
Protect against erosion?
A natural shoreline is perfectly engineered to protect against erosion. Native vegetation along the shoreline strengthens the structural integrity of the land and prevents it from falling apart. The roots of the plants grip the earth and provide structure, and the foliage and leaves of the plant reduce erosion caused by rainfall and winds. Aquatic plants and buffer plants right along the edge of the shoreline also lessen the effects of wake hitting the shore.
Maintain or improve water quality?
Buffer plants and shoreline gardens reduce incidences of soil erosion, which has the added benefit of protecting fish habitats.
“One could think of it this way: waterfront plant buffers are like eyelashes to our lakes: they keep the grit and goo out”
Filter overland pollutants and absorb extra nutrients?
Vegetation along the shoreline not only helps slow the movement of surface runoff, but the roots of this vegetation also help absorb surface water – trapping excess nutrients and pollutants in the soil.
An excess of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen is one of the factors that can cause an algal bloom – much like how fertilizing your lawn causes it to grow faster. Given that the other main factors are weather related, keeping these nutrients at a reasonable level are the best defence cottagers have against algal blooms. There are many types of algae – an excess of any of these can be harmful to the aquatic ecosystem, but some types (like blue-green algae) can have dire consequences when it comes to our health and the health of our pets. Most other common types of algae are at their most harmful once they’ve died – they sink to the bottom of the lake and decompose, reducing the amount of oxygen available to fish and other aquatic organisms.
Consuming toxins from a blue-green algae bloom can include headaches, fever, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and other more serious effects. It can also kill dogs and other animals. According to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, “people not on public water supplies should not drink surface water during an algal bloom, even if it is treated. In-home treatments such as boiling and disinfecting water with chlorine or UV and water filtration units do not protect from blue-green algal toxins.”
Blue-green algae does more than just threaten our health though – it also threatens our property values. Of particular note is the 2005 toxic algal bloom in Three Mile Lake in Muskoka, a lake which has had more than it’s fair share of blue-green algae related woes. This toxic bloom resulted in property values on Three Mile Lake dropping by about 25%. I guess that’s not much of a surprise to anyone after hearing about the health risks… but we should also mention how repulsive it can look and smell. According to former Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Susan Pryke, the worst hit areas of Three Mile Lake “looked like pea soup, with bits of algae floating in the water, sort of like chunks washing up on shore,” and smelled like “garbage that had been left sitting out too long.” Lovely.
Protect wildlife habitats, while ALSO reducing the number of geese that come on your property?
Throughout their lifecycles, the majority of our native Muskoka species depend on a healthy shoreline. The riparian zone (the area that lines the border of the water, with rich moist soils where diverse plant communities can grow) is used for sources of food and shelter, breeding, migration, and for rearing young. This area is also essential when it comes to preventing geese – geese are attracted to open spaces with easy access to the water, and they like to feed on short grass. If you have a goose problem then I’m willing to bet you probably have a grass lawn. A shoreline barrier of native Muskoka shrubs and tall vegetation can help deter them from hanging out on your property.
Moving into the water from the riparian zone, we enter the littoral zone – the submerged area of shoreline where the sunlight still penetrates through to the lake bottom. According to Muskoka Watershed Council, the littoral zone is “the richest natural environment that most of us will ever come into contact with,” with as much of 90% of the species in the lake either living in or passing through this zone. This area (and the aquatic plants and downed trees that it consists of) is responsible for providing oxygen to the lake, spawning areas, shallow protected nursery areas (for fish and amphibians), foraging areas, and hiding spots.
Protect the economic benefits associated with tourism?
Nature is one of the major appeals of Muskoka! Wait to catch a sunset while you watch a Blue Heron fish nearby, a family of ducks float past, or any number of other native Muskoka species encounters. Or just enjoy floating in a lake that isn’t thick with potentially dangerous, smelly, pea-soup like blue-green algae… either way, if the health of our lakes isn’t protected it will result in major tourism-related economic losses down the line.
So, how do you naturalize your shoreline?
Getting started with naturalizing your shoreline doesn’t have to be some gargantuan effort – there are some very low effort ways you can get started on your journey to a healthier shoreline for your Muskoka cottage. Let’s look at a few ways you can help work towards a more natural Muskoka, in order of increasing difficulty…
Creating a no-mow zone near the shoreline to allow vegetation to re-establish
This one could not be easier – simply leave an area along your shoreline unmowed. It is recommended that you leave at least 10 feet, but any amount of shoreline buffer is better than nothing! Ideally you would also minimize the amount of entries you have into the water, leaving 75% of the length of your cottage shoreline to re-naturalize.
Bonus points if you follow this “no-mow” philosophy in the shallow water along your shoreline by using your dock as a bridge to get over the weedy shallow parts of the water rather than clearing the weeds to create a swimming area. That way you can still enjoy a clear area to enjoy the water, without harming this essential habitat.
Placing or allowing woody debris to accumulate along the shoreline
Unless a fallen tree is a hazard to boats or swimmers, consider leaving it be! Not a lot of shoreline trees fall around the lake during a year… and clearing a bunch of them away at once can have disastrous consequences to the habitat they were supporting. By the way, submerged wood not only creates hiding and spawning spots for fish, it’s also a major food source for crayfish, aquatic insects, and small fish.
Active planting of native species
So, you’ve already begun to leave the strip of land nearest to your shoreline alone to re-naturalize… but why not help it along even more by planting some native grasses, plants, shrubs, and/or trees? This is also beneficial in terms of appearance – Muskoka has so many beautiful native plant species, so there’s no need to sacrifice the aesthetics of your cottage. People are often surprised how much they love the look of a naturalized shoreline garden.
Removal or “softening” of existing hard structures like retaining walls
While these hard structures may provide a temporary solution to erosion, they can cause damage to neighbouring properties. They can also eventually fail and damage the shoreline they were originally placed to protect.
Instead of removing these structures entirely, there is also the option of protecting the wall (and your shoreline) with softer measures such as planting buffer vegetation. In the case of rip rap, planting can be done between the rocks – the roots of the plants will help with structural integrity, and the foliage of the plants will help to protect against erosion from waves.
I’ve been loving hobby photography lately, but I’d never thought to capture a lightning storm before. As a child I remember being told that lightning came up through the ground (which is only partially true), so I was surprised to check my pics and see the horizontal lightning bolts.
First: a short explanation of how lightning works, then I’ll explain what I learned about my horizontal lightning strikes!
Lightning is all about the charges – nature always wants to find equilibrium. It’s a natural static discharge where different areas of the atmosphere equalize in charge. Think of it like when you get a static shock from something – it’s the same process taking place.
The most common type of lightning is cloud-to-ground (CG). Generally CG is negatively charged. This channel of negative charge, called a stepped leader, is invisible to the human eye. When it approaches the ground, positively-charged “streamers” reach up to meet it – which explains the “lightning comes from the ground” misconception! These streamers tend to travel up through tall objects like trees, and when they reach the oppositely-charged leader electric current begins flowing – which is why you’re supposed to avoid standing near trees or tall objects during storms.
Occasionally, an exceptional amount of positive charge builds up in the upper levels of the cloud. This too must be balanced out, and since the lightning has a longer way to travel it is much more powerful. Usually these bolts travel vertically to the ground, but because of the high difference in electrical potential they can also travel horizontally before going to the ground. This means that these positive cloud-to-ground lightning bolts can strike from a blue sky many miles away from the storm – a “bolt from the blue.” Since positive lightning has higher peak currents and longer continuing currents, it is capable of heating surfaces to higher levels… which also makes it the type of lightning most likely to start a forest fire.
So anyway, onto our horizontal lightning strikes! The explanation for these bright horizontal strikes is actually pretty simple – differently-charged areas in the atmosphere are simply seeking equilibrium, this time it happens to be two clouds with opposing charges (cloud-to-cloud lightning). As we learned earlier, clouds can be either negatively or positively charged, and nature always seeks equilibrium.
We all know the frustration. You’re trying to open an email attachment with a photo of your grandkids, look at a real estate listing, get some work done, or even just check the weather… and you’d like to not spend all day doing it! While newer internet technologies like fibre are trying to make that a thing of the past, the coverage is majorly lacking. In many areas the fastest high speed internet is just across the street from near-dial-up speeds, and due to the cost and difficulty of rewiring it doesn’t look like that will be changing any time soon.
Should we just give up and disconnect? No way! Enter SpaceX, with their new Starlink Satellite Internet service. This satellite service will operate via a satellite constellation of at least 12,000 satellites, with more pending approval. According to SpaceX, Starlink will offer speeds up to a gigabit per second – a far cry from rural cottages which often max out at a speed of up to 5Mpbs (a 995Mbps difference!). During the beta testing phase, customers are expected to experience speed variations from 50 – 150Mbps. Even places that currently have no internet availability at all will finally be brought into the 21st century.
This is not traditional satellite service – Starlink’s satellites are in low earth orbit, which will not only make the service more reliable, but will also help keep down space debris. Each satellite is fitted with an onboard propulsion system to deorbit at the end of its life, and in the unlikely event that system becomes inoperable the satellite will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere within 1-5 years. At the higher altitudes used by traditional satellite services, this could take hundreds or even thousands of years. Satellite service also means that unlike fibre, you won’t have to have anything wired to your home to receive the fastest speeds available.
Though it is not fully ready for consumers yet, it is operational! Check out this tweet from Elon Musk, sent in October 2019 via Starlink internet!
He followed up with a second Starlink tweet – “Whoa, it worked!!” According to SpaceX, “Starlink is now delivering initial beta service both domestically and internationally, and will continue expansion to near global coverage of the populated world in 2021.”
While we truly do look forward to being able to work online at less molasses-like speeds, I, for one, will be celebrating laser-fast internet with a good ol’ Netflix marathon in my PJs!
These days, it’s more important than ever to support local businesses – so we thought we would share one of our Muskoka favourites with you! Crossroads restaurant, located in Rosseau, has been serving up casual yet upscale meals for more than a decade now. Their dishes (and atmosphere) are sophisticated but still manage to maintain a cottage vibe. We have been there a number of times, in fact it is our “special holidays” spot – birthdays, anniversaries, father’s day… they provide a cozy atmosphere with cheerful, friendly staff and incredible food.
While it may be impossible to experience the atmosphere right now with the pandemic, Crossroads has been a leader in Muskoka in terms of COVID-safe takeout. Not only do they offer online ordering (a rarity around here), they also have contactless pickup brought right out to your car!
They are open for takeout Wednesday – Saturday from 3:00pm – 8:30pm. They also currently offer a curated “chef’s box” for $100 per person that includes hors d’oeuvres, an appetizer, entree & dessert, fresh flowers, and a bottle of red or white wine. Sounds perfect for a date night or Valentine’s Day, doesn’t it? In fact I may just send Steve the link to this blog post…
Give them a chance – you won’t be disappointed. The passion that chefs Julie and Richard Lalonde have for the business is apparent from the very first bite.
We hope to run into you there once it’s safe to gather again!
It’s not that there is anything wrong with Oakville. There isn’t. At least in my opinion there isn’t. I grew up there. I made lots of friends there. I have great memories there. I have family and friends still there.
I am, however, not qualified to sell real estate there. It is legal for me to do so, because I am licenced for all of Ontario. I don’t think it is ethical though.
My message, as the current President of the Lakelands Association of Realtors is to use a local agent. It is definitely in the best interests of the buyers and sellers. A Muskoka agent knows Muskoka. A Muskoka agent will make the process look easy, but be working hard in the background to make sure that all of the details are taken care of. Aspects that an agent from out of the area would not be aware of.
Does the land flood every spring? Water in the basement? Is the shore road allowance owned? Can the owner legally access the property. How about water quality? And weeds. Are there weeds? A few or a lot. Is the bottom firm and sandy, rocky or squishy? Fishing, boating. Can one navigate from this lake to another.
Help us to help you and please, choose a local realtor.
I hope that you are all doing well, and coping with self isolation. These are certainly trying times for all of us. We are are all in the same situation with different circumstances. Some of us are coping well and some of us are finding self isolation very challenging, and most of us are somewhere in the middle, with good days and bad days, good hours and challenging hours.
I am continuing my theme of kindness for April. I say that kindness is the new black, and everyone needs to choose to wear it. Kindness applied to yourself first, will contribute to your strength and resolve. Self care will spill over onto others, and afford you the ability to help those around you.
Start with the outward display of kindness – taking good care of yourself. A routine is recommended by experts and will give you some structure to your day. Some days you will just be in survival mode, some days you will actually feel like you are accomplishing something.
Reach out to your friends and clients. Share your positive energy. And when you need some positive energy, reach out! A phone call checking in on clients and expecting nothing in return will help them and make you feel good. Do all the good deeds you can, from the safety of your own home.
Life is definitely not normal now, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot be grateful for the good things that we do have, and reach out when we need help. Please call me if there is anything I can do for you. We are all in this together.
Catharine Inniss 705 801 2304
Lakelands Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors, President 2020
As mentioned last month in this cottageinmuskoka blog entry and this news story from the Huntsville Forester (Cottage Country Now), the decline of calcium in our lakes can affect our lakes recovery from acid rain as well as zooplankton in our lakes, which are are very sensitive to declining calcium levels.
This is interesting information of value not only for those who own a cottage in Muskoka, but all of us who live in or visit Muskoka. In the presentation Dr. Shaun Watmough of Trent University helps us understand:
Why should we care about calcium in the environment?
How are calcium levels in lakes, vegetation and soils changing?
What is causing these changes?
What will be the impact of timber harvesting on lake calcium levels?
Mentioned in a number of Muskoka Watershed Council lectures over the past few years, calcium decline in Muskoka Lakes and in particular, the consequences of timber harvesting on lake calcium levels have been hinted at as a potential direct cause of declining health of our lakes in Muskoka. Here’s a past primer news story from the Huntsville Forester (Cottage Country News).
This week, we have an opportunity to discover more.
Dr. Shaun Watmough, an Associate Professor in the Environmental Resource Science Program at Trent University in Peterborough will present.
Here is a synopsis of the lecture:
Decades of acid deposition have depleted soil calcium reserves and, when combined with timber harvesting, predicted losses of calcium from soil are considerable and may ultimately threaten long-term forest health and productivity and lead to negative impacts on lakes.
In this talk, Dr. Watmough will provide an overview of our current understanding of calcium biogeochemistry and describe the reasons for the widespread decline in calcium levels in lakes and the implications of calcium losses on soil fertility and forest health in addition to impacts on lake ecosystems.
With an emphasis on south central Ontario, Dr. Watmough will document a nutrient budget for a selection harvesting regime in central Ontario hardwood forests. This work is then extrapolated to regional harvesting activities and management issues are discussed.
The lecture is this Thursday, October 10, 2013 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm at Nipissing University – Muskoka Campus, 125 Wellington Street, Bracebridge, P1L 1E2. As always, admission is by donation
I’ve just finished post-processing and editing this video for the Great Muskoka Paddling Experience. This event, held annually on the Saturday of the Thanksgiving weekend is a great opportunity for anyone – even if you don’t have a canoe or kayak, you can rent one there – to get out on the water for perhaps the last time of the year. It was a fun video to shoot and create and I hope it captures just how much fun the event can be.
The Great Muskoka Paddling Event benefits the Muskoka Watershed Council and helps give them a bit more of a budget to do important work. It’s a really well organized event and fun for all ages, and all levels of paddling experience.