An Emotional Crisis: The Family Cottage

February 10th, 2018

Baby Boomers are possibly the largest generation of cottage owners and their children may not be able to afford the capital gains taxes of their inheritance or care to put the effort into maintaining the family cottage.

Cottages that have been in the family, in some cases for generations, develop and enjoy a huge amount of emotional value... but they have also become extremely valuable investments that may no longer be passed down because the transfer of ownership will trigger a large tax invoice.

Folks who bought their places in the 40s, 50s and 60s for really modest prices, are now looking at evaluations that have climbed into the million or millions range. As a general rule of thumb, roughly 50% of the increase in value of a cottage (a secondary residence) is considered capital gain and there's a pretty high tax rate attached to that evaluation. There are ways of handling this, ahead of time- such as purchasing estate life insurance or transferring the property during one's life time by way of a gift, or transferring the property to a trust. This is something to be discussed with professionals, like your lawyer and or accountant.

On the other hand, we are also seeing cases where kids think they want the cottage but they have never contributed to its upkeep and their parents have always paid for cottage expenses like repairs, maintenance, taxes, utilities etc. They may think they really want to hang onto the cottage but they really have no idea about how much work is involved or how much it costs to maintain a cottage.

It's never a simple decision to list a long-time family cottage for sale. It's almost always an emotional, gut-wrenching experience for everyone concerned.

Cottage-loving people in the industry are all too aware that there is a complete shift in the whole culture of cottaging as we knew it- back in the day.

My Prediction: The Recent Downward Trend Won't Continue

February 6th, 2018

My friends & colleagues in the Toronto Market have been complaining that business last month was the slowest they've seen in a long time.

It could be that the measures taken by the government and tougher mortgage rules are actually curbing prices that were spiraling out of control. It could also be that there was a rush in December, with Buyers trying to beat the changes in regulations. It seems to be the trend in a lot of markets.

Perhaps sales have tumbled, I'm not convinced that it's a trend that is going to continue. I think volumes are going to stay down, but prices seem to have stayed fairly stable... so I'm betting prices are actually going to rise.

We'll see what happens!

Shore Road Allowances

January 31st, 2018

Back in the day, when the Province was surveyed, every thousand acres of land was surrounded, on all sides, by a 66' road allowance. Most lakes, also, had a 66' road allowance that was measured from the original shoreline. This was land, set aside, for future roads and access. In the mid 1850s, there was still a lot of travel on waterways and the shore allowance

Unless title to the shore road allowance has been purchased by the abutting property owner, it belongs to the municipality. In many cases, lands have been flooded and lakes have been dammed, rendering the shoreline road allowances underwater. The Province allows the municipality to sell any portion of the road allowance that isn't covered by water.

The process requires an application and the applicant is generally responsible for the administrative, legal and surveying fees, along with any other costs associated with the transaction. Often land acquisition costs are based on a per square foot basis plus HST. The Buyer must own the abutting property in order for the township to convey the property. They will only transfer the portion of the original shore road allowance that is above the normal high water mark.

Part of the approval process ensuring that there is no negative impact on neighbouring properties and that the transfer complies with all official plans, by-laws and regulations.

It often takes up to a year to purchase your shore road allowance.

The Extraordinary Esmond Skidmore

January 19th, 2018

Esmond Astley Skidmore was born December 26, 1917 in Guelph, Ontario. He married Ethel Gertrude Gillsepie in West Hill, Ontario, in 1943.

In 1953 he built a small home in the community of Lake St Peter. Moved in his beloved piano and started covering the walls with his own paintings. Five years later, he moved there full time. Without an income, in 1959, he hung a sign on the side of his house and in his 12 X 18 living room, "Esmond's Tea Room" was born. He became famous for his western sandwiches and butter tarts, all prepared on his wood burning cookstove.

In a 1985 column for the Orono Weekly Times, Bill Bramah wrote about Esmond tea room and Esmond, who he described as "even more colourful than the brightly painted tea room". At that time, Bramah said that Esmond ".... appeared to be about fifty. Tall, lithe and built like an Olympic swimmer, her positively bristled with vibrant health." He also said that "He eats and serves good food. He does his own baking. Uses no additives and nothing but stone ground flour. He bathes daily in the nearby lakes. When it's frozen over, he has a snow bath. He did it, when were there late in February."

Locals still remember him, sunbathing outdoors in the winter, wearing his little bikini- or preparing for his snow bath.

Running the tea room single-handedly, Esmond refused to sell junk food. He'd been sickly as a child and had made a point of learning about fitness and nutrition. His morning fitness regime included over a hundred sit-ups. In addition, Esmond rode his bicycle everywhere, including trips to the post office and for supplies. He was a staunch believer in sunbathing and was fond of removing his entire bedroom window, allowing the sun to shower him as he lay on his bed.

Esmond loved to entertain. He would play his piano and tell stories for guests, between taking orders and he frequently held special, private concerts. Over the years, he augmented his income by tuning pianos, supply teaching and selling audio cassettes of his performances. He occasionally parted with his art, primitive oil paintings and driftwood works, very much dedicated to extraterrestrial beings and planets, which Esmond called "forest treasures".

For a time, there was a steady stream of traffic to Esmond's and some folks claim his charm brought him a lot of, ummmm... admirers. There was never much talk about his daughter who who passed away (in Peterborough, Ontario- in her 53rd year) in February of 2007 or his wife who passed away in June of 2007 (in Bowmanville, Ontario).

In his final years, Esmond lived in Belleville and he passed away there, on May 9, 2011. He wrote a poem, to be published upon his death, which read:

I lived on the earth
A good many years,
I had lots of joy
And a great many tears.
Then came the time
No longer to roam,
I moved from the earth,
At last I'm back home.

Deep in the Woods

January 11th, 2018

In the 1940s, a man from Chicago engaged a local fella to build a log home on the side of hill near the hamlet of Quadeville, Ontario. It was pretty much kept a secret but there are still people around who claim to have met the owner.

Those who still talk from personal memory are people who, as children, went to play with the kids who spent holidays at the log house. Those children arrived in big fancy sedans, their dads and uncles dressed in dapper suits and well-shined shoes, and their aunts and mothers were even flashier. It's hard to forget that kind of fashion in the forests of eastern Ontario.

Many remember one of those men, in particular. "Uncle Al", who frequently wrapped himself in a blanket and sad on the porch, watching the children. And yes, he had a scarred face. Although he would later try to pass them off as war wounds, he actually was the doorman at a Coney Island Cabaret and was slashed by a patron, after insulting the man's sister.

Once he got to be an infamous mobster, the press gave him the nickname Scarface and he hated it. It's said that his criminal associates called him "The Big Fellow", and friends referred to him as "Snorky"- which mean well-dressed. Alphonse Gabriel Capone, was born January 17, 1899. He was the son of Italian immigrants. His father was a barber.

Alphonse quit school after the fifth grade and joined a Manhattan gang, working for mobster Frankie Yale. He married Mae Coughlin in 1918 and together they moved to Chicago, where their son, Albert Francis "Sonny" Capone was born. There, he went to work with an associate of Frankie Yale's- a man by the name of Giovanni "Papa Johnny" Torrio.

Torrio was the underling of mob boss "Big Jim" Colosimo who was assassinated in 1921. Both Capone and Yale have been considered as suspects. After the murder, Torrio took over and with Capone's help, built a mutli-million dollar empire from a prostitution racket, and opium trafficking, and turning it into a sophisticated illegal liquor operation that took advantage of 1919's Prohibition. It was known as "The Outfit", and they controlled the largest bootlegging business in the United States.

After a nearly successful attempt on Torrio's life, in January of 1925, Torrio retired to Italy and the Outfit was handed over to Capone. Torrio returned to the U.S. to testify at Capone's tax evasion trial, in 1931 and stayed on to mentor Lucy Luciano, afterward.

During his medical examination, on entrance to a federal penitentiary in Atlanta, in 1932, A Capone was diagnosed with syphilis. The disease had begun to affect his brain. Disoriented and confused, he was treated with malaria injections while at Alcatraz- the injections didn't cure the syphilis and nearly killed him. In January of 1939 he was transferred to Terminal Island near L.A. to serve a one year sentence. He was released that November of that year, to undergo treatments in Baltimore.

It is said that Al Capone spent some time during the summer months at the house in Quadeville and the bulk of his time at the mansion that he'd purchased in 1928, on Florida's Palm Island. His health steadily deteriorated from the disease and, on the 22nd of January 1947, he suffered a stroke. Although it looked like he might recover, he contracted pneumonia and the finally succumbed to a stroke to a heart attack on the 25th. He was 48 years old.