Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Summer cottages commanding top dollar

Real estate prices are soaring in Lake of the Woods

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LAST week I wrote about some of the world's greatest estates. Homes upwards of $20 million abound in places like Aspen, New York, Houston and Miami and seem to be the stuff that dreams are made of.

Well it turns out Winnipeg isn't too far off that kind of luxury. Just last week, Izzy Asper's Wellington Crescent house was listed for $1.65 million and sold in only six days. While that kind of sale tends to be more of the exception rather than the rule, there is one area in our own backyard where real estate prices are soaring across the board.

It's called Lake of the Woods. Summer cottages are commanding top dollar as vacation real estate values soar. While cottages throughout the lake areas in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario have risen in value, nothing compares to the Lake of the Woods area around Kenora.

Wood cottages on the mainland listed at $500,000 or even $1 million are nothing out of the ordinary. It's no wonder that stars and the rich and famous are being drawn to the area. Rumour has it Goldie Hawn has a place on Lake of the Woods but no one can agree on exactly where she's located. Others jet in on private planes from as far south as Texas to spend their downtime in cottage country.

You can get a cottage on a smaller lake for about $100,000, which is still a hefty price to pay for a weekend retreat. But if you want to be on the much sought-after Lake of the Woods, you're going to have to pay a pretty penny for some property.

Let's take a look at some of the current listings on Lake of the Woods. Perhaps the crème de la crème last week was a mainland cottage listed for $1,265,000. Set on just under an acre of land, the year-round lakefront home is about 5,000 square feet and has just about anything you'd need.

There's a fabulous kitchen, dining room with hardwood floors, sunken living room and family room, four bedrooms, indoor hot tub and bar area, games room and even a workout area. The guest cottage alone has a kitchen/dining/living area with a vaulted ceiling, skylights, fireplace, private deck, four-piece bathroom and bedroom loft with an en suite. If that seems out of reach, there's another mainland property on Lake of the Woods listed at half of that -- a mere $505,000. This one is another year-round home with about 1,600 square feet set on just over two acres of land. The two-storey has views of the lake from almost every space and includes three bedrooms as well as a four-piece bathroom complete with jetted tub. It even has its own boat launch.

Straying a bit further away from Kenora doesn't necessarily mean you'll pay less for a place. Clearwater Bay, which is located about 20 minutes west of Kenora, is its own exclusive area. Road access cottages here are regularly listed in the neighborhood of $500,000. That will buy you a nice cottage in good condition but certainly not the Taj Mahal of the lake. That's just what it costs to have your own piece of cottage country.

Island living may bring your price down slightly -- to make up for the inconvenience of having to unload the car, load up the boat and traverse the water to get to your cottage. But that's not always the case. Current island listings on Lake of the Woods feature an "island paradise" for $895,000 and a "private island" property for $465,000.

Of course there are cottages for less than $500,000. But you'll be hard-pressed to find anything on Lake of the Woods for under $200,000. And that can buy you a pretty nice house in the city! If it seems out of sight, it is. But cottage prices are going nowhere but up.

As the Baby Boomers age, people are looking for vacation properties to invest in for the future and spend their retirement years. It's all about supply and demand and so far demand is outweighing the supply that's available on the lake. So if you're cottage shopping this summer -- especially on Lake of the Woods -- just make sure you've got a hefty pocketbook to back it up!

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 13, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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