“We were wary of bidding without seeing the place in person, but we decided to go for it”
Rimsha: As a kid I was always jealous of my friends who spent their vacations going to the cottage or to Disneyland. My parents and I came here from Pakistan when I was six years old, and any time they had off work we would go back home. Now of course I understand, but at the time I just felt like, Why can’t we do what everyone else is doing?
Javaid (Rimsha’s dad): My wife, Ambreen, and I came here to give our children a better life. Our dreams were big, but for the first few years, we were in survival mode. All five of us were in a one-bedroom rental in Brampton. I’m not sure exactly when I heard about cottages, but when I did, I really couldn’t believe it. Two homes!
Rimsha: I was in middle school the first time we went up north. My dad had rented a place from a co-worker on Manitoulin Island. He was so excited and then we got there and it was boiling hot and there were so many bugs. The lake was a bit muddy and my little brother came out of the water with a leech attached to him. My mom is a nature lover, but even she was like, No thank you. This is not for us.
Javaid: That was maybe not the perfect introduction to the Canadian wilderness, but it was always very important to us to have our children appreciate their adopted country outside of the city. We did road trips in our van—to Quebec, to Ottawa. And we had some more successful cottage rentals.
Rimsha: Last summer, we rented a three-bedroom cottage on Lake Erie. Like everyone else, we wanted to get away from the pandemic and spend time outdoors with loved ones. We were planning to do the same this year, but when I looked online at the end of 2020, all the rentals were already booked up. That’s when my husband and I started talking about buying something instead. We had some savings, but not quite enough,
so I approached my parents about doing something together.
Javaid: I’m getting closer to retirement age and have been considering an investment property. Rimsha brought up a cottage, which made sense because we could spend time there together, and I assumed the market would be less crazy outside the city. Ha! I soon realized how wrong I was.
Rimsha: We started our hunt in January. We ruled out Muskoka pretty quickly. Our extended family is 16 people, so we were looking for four or five bedrooms, which would mean $2-million plus. We saw some nice lakefront properties in Parry Sound, but they didn’t feel cottagey enough.
Javaid: We put in an offer on a place in Burk’s Falls and lost out by $50,000, which was very disappointing at the time, but all part of the journey.
Rimsha: Then my husband found a cottage near North Bay, listed at $995,000, with five bedrooms, a sunroom and a big deck sitting on two acres of waterfront. It was definitely farther than we had envisioned but also just what we were looking for. We weren’t able to get up there in person, so we did a video tour.
Javaid: I was wary about bidding on a place that I hadn’t seen in person—I must have read a dozen articles about blue-green algae infestations and invasive crabs. But time ran out and we decided to go for it.
Rimsha: There were four other offers. The seller came back to us and we upped our bid by $23,000, and we got it. At least that’s what we’re hoping. The deal hasn’t closed yet, so we’re doing our best not to get ahead of ourselves. It’s hard not to be excited though. If it falls apart before closing, we will keep just looking. We are definitely committed to finding a place. My husband has already bought a ride-on lawn mower.
Javaid: When it is meant to be, it will happen. I can’t wait to barbecue and go fishing. And to have so much space—a far cry from the days when we were all crammed into that one-bedroom apartment. I am so proud to be able to give this to my family and to take part in this wonderful Canadian tradition.
Rimsha: I’m grateful to share this experience with my family and to see my dad enjoy himself after all he has done for us. This is a guy who not that long ago couldn’t even think of affording a car—now we’re looking at boats!