Family life

Are two houses better than one?

In moments of summer sweatiness, air-conditioningless Sandra longs for a cottage of her own. Until she considers the numbers.

By Sandra E. Martin
Are two houses better than one?

Photo courtesy of Lynda Campbell.

It's after 10 p.m. as I write this, and my nine-year-old, Bronwyn, has already come downstairs twice. "Mom, it's hot in my room."

Can't argue with that: Her room, with its high, vaulted ceiling and loft bed, does get hot, and stays hot. "Why don't you try opening your door, to let some fresh air in?"

This suggestion seems to have helped. But I'm not looking forward to tomorrow — or any part of the rest of the week, which is supposed to be even hotter and more humid than today.

Many people gasp in disbelief when I say this for the first time, but we don't have air conditioning. The guy who spent five years renovating this house before we bought it from him didn't "believe" in air conditioning, and I'm kind of with him. As an air-conditioning sales guy once told us when quoting us on ductless A/C for our old house (which was heated with radiators), "You're looking at a big expense for what — a 10, maybe a dozen, days a year."

Now, that guy probably didn't win any sales awards at work, but I appreciated his candour. And now I'm an A/C-free convert. We have floor fans that take the edge off, particularly when we put them in front of open windows when we get home from school and work.

But when the night doesn't cool down at all …that's when I get envious — not so much of those who have A/C, but those who have cottages with a cool breeze coming off the lake to retreat to. Here is the escape from the dog days of summer that Mother Nature intended!

Alas, there are no cottages in my husband Matt's, or my family. We are cottageless. Sure, we've rented cottages, but most owners insist you rent for at least a week, and neither of us has tons of vacation to spare. Besides, you usually have to book well in advance, and couldn't possibly anticipate when that one really bad week of the year is going to hit. We know friends with cottages, and have scammed the occasional invitation, but it isn't the same as having the solitude and quiet of a cottage of your own.

I read a statistic today that confirms the widespread quality of cottage longing: According to the real estate organization Re/Max, despite the high cost of living and the tightness of our economy, sales of recreational properties (call them cabins, vacation homes or cottages if you will) are up in 70 percent of the regions they track. The reasons for this uptick, they figure, are the fact that there are more cottages on the market right now, which has brought prices down somewhat; and that mortgage interest rates are still incredibly low by historical standards.

The thing is, carrying the mortgage on a cottage is only the beginning of the expenses involved. You have property tax, which is sometimes higher than you pay on your primary home. You have repairs. You might have septic tank service bills, road maintenance fees, water fees and cottage owners' association fees along with your usual utilities.

If, after hearing that, you still want — and can afford — a cottage, then congratulations!

Me, I think I'll pass. And just turn up the fan setting to "5".

What's your take: Would you ever consider buying a cottage? Is it even possible for a working family with young kids to afford one?

This article was originally published on Jun 20, 2012

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.