Real Estate

Cottage Industry: A fisherman’s paradise in Manitoba’s Interlake

Surging prices, bidding wars, blind offers—the search for seasonal real estate has become a battlefield. Tales from 10 of Canada’s hottest vacation towns.

In the July issue of Maclean’s, and each week here online, recent buyers divulge what they had to do to acquire the cottages of their dreams: pool family money, send relatives for viewings, hop on the first flight to Atlantic Canada post-bubble, or buy sight unseen, sometimes from thousands of kilometres away.​​

Interlake, Manitoba

Average recreational property price (2021): $274,000

The Market: A straight shot north of Winnipeg, Interlake is the region between two of Manitoba’s largest bodies of water: Lake Winnipeg to the east and Lake Manitoba to the west. Vacation properties here are some of the most affordable in the country. Recently, an increase in ice-fishing tourism, driven by younger and returning international anglers, created a huge demand for all-season rentals. Buyers are keen to winterize local cabins for Airbnb, and they’re not above starting bidding wars. Even the non-waterfront properties crossed the $200,000 mark last year.

The Buyer: Karen Machut, a 52-year-old real estate agent

"I wanted to own multiple properties, but I never thought I would."

“I wanted to own multiple properties, but I never thought I would.”

Karen: I bought my first seasonal cottage in 2012. At the time, I was looking at properties for a client in the village of Dunnottar, on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. The place I bought was a mid-century build, and everything was original, right down to the double-hung windows—the kind you have to prop open. The kitchen had orange Formica countertops, and it was heated by a wood stove. I paid top dollar for it, which at the time was in the low $100,000s.  

RELATED: Cottage Industry: Kawartha Lakes, “the new Muskoka”

In late 2019, I learned about Airbnb and wanted to try hosting. I found a three-bedroom place in neighbouring Matlock with a lake view and bought it for around $150,000. It was the off-season, so I was able to negotiate. Many of the vacation properties are on wells, including mine, so if renters arrive any earlier than mid-May, the water’s still frozen. But Interlake is also a destination for ice fishing, so tourism is a year-round thing. That’s why I wanted my second cottage to be winterized.

I listed the Matlock property on Airbnb for a couple of months before the pandemic started, and the fishermen loved it. It’s about 1,400 square feet with a long driveway, so there’s room for trailers, Bombardier B12 ice buses and all the gear they travel with from the U.S. When the borders closed, I rented the cottage out to a family. The market really started heating up in 2021, though. Cottages were in short supply, and demand in Interlake was only growing. Places that were once considered undesirable were all of a sudden gems. People wanted an escape. 

Last year, my best friend told me she and her husband were looking for a seasonal property. I showed her around Siglavik, which is an 85-property subdivision built on man-made canals. Just as she closed her own sale following a bidding war, a property I’d dreamt of buying years earlier came onto the market. I snapped it up after winning my own bidding war. Our places are a five-minute walk from each other, and the stars of Ice Vikings—a show about commercial ice fishing—live up the street. I always wanted to own multiple properties, but I never really thought I would.


This article appears in print in the July 2022 issue of Maclean’s magazine. Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here, or buy the issue online here

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