The cottage market is hotter than ever. But if you already own the perfect slice of paradise — secluded, opulent and gorgeous — are you taking the right steps to protect your investment? Davina Boulineau, Associate Vice President, Private Client Advice with TD Insurance, speaks with Kim Parlee about what you can do to protect your high-end home away from home.
Davina Boulineau is Associate Vice President of Private Client Advice with TD Insurance. She joins me now on things that she thinks you need to think about your high end home away from home. Davina, thanks so much for joining us. And I just want to start with-- you're going to talk about a number of things. But the first thing is, insuring a cottage or a second home is not like insuring your home. And why is that?
- So, there are so many things that we need to think about. For example, the first thing to think about is, how much time are you going to spend at the cottage? Some people may be there every weekend. Others might be there for the summer and not there at all for the winter. So it all boils down to how you protect your cottage when you are not there, and how far away you are if something were to happen. So for example, if your primary location is in Toronto and your cottage is in Muskoka, you may want to consider hiring a property manager to check on your home regularly. And a good one will take charge of things like housekeeping, landscaping, and general maintenance overall. And some will even offer supervision and inspections to give you peace of mind.
- Let's dig into some of the specifics. So, as you mentioned, being away from where you are most of the time is part of the issue. But one of these, of course, is a lot of places that people have are up North. And up North means usually a different kind of weather than we have when we're here. Which can mean extreme weather. So what are some other things you need to think about?
- They are so many things that you could do to prepare for the harsh winter weather we have in Canada. I mean, we deal with thunderstorms, heavy snow, and ice storm, and-- what else? Strong winds and hail. And all of that could take a toll on your house, and in turn, your wallet, if you don't have the proper coverage. So it's always good to be prepared for the worst case scenario. And one thing to watch for in the winter at the cottage are frozen pipes. They are the number one casualty of cold weather. And as those pipes burst, it could lead to thousands of in dollars in damages.
But the good news here is that it's preventable with a little bit of planning. And there are a few things that you could do to prevent them. For example, keeping your home heated year round. I would also recommend that you consider essentially monitored alarm system [AUDIO OUT] with a temperature system so that the system could alert you if there was a drop in temperature. So small little things like that, but they go a long way to protect your cottage.
- Yeah, they do. And they're costly when they happen. I know another one that I think we've talked about before is fire. And we probably-- I mean, fire is a horrible thing no matter where you are. But if you live in the city, there's a fire department really close by. That's not the case in some of these more remote areas.
- And you're absolutely right. I mean, when you consider fire, it's one of the leading causes of property damage. For an insurance company to offer reasonable premiums-- to your point, Kim-- you need to have the presence of a fire hydrant within 300 meters of your cottage, responding fire hall within eight kilometers of your property. But in remote areas, that might not be the case. And even if your cottage is directly on the water, there is absolutely no guarantee that the fire services will be able to get to that water and use it as a source of water in an emergency situation, especially if the lake is frozen during the winter. They won't get to that water without the proper equipment. So these are the things to think about.
The other thing that is worth mentioning is, depending on the size and value of your cottage, you may want to consider the installation of a nonpressurized pipe system. These are called dry hydrants. And they give you the proper protection in the event of a fire. And they reduce your annual premiums significantly. And there are so many little things that you could also do, depending on where you cottage is located. Because it could take a while before the emergency vehicles get to your property.
So fire control and prevention should be a top priority. So I would always recommend having smoke detectors throughout the entire home. Fire extinguishers are another one. And if you have entry gates to access your property, be sure to let your local fire hall-- sorry, fire hall know about the code so that they can have quicker access to your property without compromising security.
- These are all excellent points. And I'm sure people are frantically writing them down as you're talking. I want to stick with the water theme. Because you mentioned if you're a fire, the irony of being on a lake and not be able to use that water to help you with your cottage. But also the reason we often want to be cottages is to be by water in many cases. But that water itself, if it moves too much, i.e. It rises or if something else happens, that in itself could be a huge issue.
- Absolutely. And I mean, I think the water should be our number one priority. Especially at the cottage. And I think a water security system with an automatic shutoff could detect leaks and shut down the water to the home before it turns into a major emergency and notify you of what's happened. More advanced systems with local sensors may even tell you whether a leak started. So it's a great tool to invest in to avoid major water damage. And by the way, it gives you a great discount on your insurance premium.
The other thing that I wanted to mention is flood. Flooding is really important to think about, especially in cottage country. I mean, when you think about the lakes and the rivers, it's important to consider having the proper coverage. So overland flooding for your cottage insurance is really important. So please ask your insurance provider to help you determine the risk of flooding to your home so that you can decide if additional measures should be put in place.
- Davina, you mentioned-- again, we've talked about water, we've talked about fires, we talked about extreme weather. Anything else in terms of people should be thinking about?
- There are so many things to think about. I mean, when I think about cottages, there are things to remember. For example, watercrafts, Sea-Doos, canoes, Ski-Doos, tractors, all those toys that you keep at your cottage are typically protected under separate policies. They're are not automatically covered under your cottage package. So be sure to talk to your insurance provider about those options to make sure that you're not exposed from an insurance perspective.
The other thing that I would like to mention, which is very important, are the trees around your cottage. So if you have big trees close to power lines or structures like your main house, guest house, boat house, please consider consulting a local arborist. They will be able to understand the local conditions, as well as the bylaws when it comes to maintenance or removal if necessary.
So a lot of different things to think about. So getting the right insurance in place, Kim, requires a lot of new consideration and a lot of research. But we want to remember that all plans are not created equal. So we want to make sure that we are asking the right questions. Ask a lot of questions. And make sure that your insurance provider is able to tailor your coverages according to your specific needs.
- Davina, one last thing. What about if you want to rent out your cottage? What do you need to think about that?
- That's a great question. So if you do decide to rent your property, make sure to talk to your insurance advisor about it. Because there are separate coverages that you need to take into consideration to make sure that you have the proper coverage. Totally doable. A lot of people do that. Again, make sure that you bring it up to your insurance company so that you are not exposed from an insurance perspective.
- Davina, thanks so much.
- Thank you.