Cobourg, Ontario


'We found a place with a beautiful beach, two walk-out piers, a marina with a harbour full of power and sailboats, a yacht club and a heritage downtown supplying many services just one block away from a waterfront condo.'

- Susan and Doug Murray, shown on the lawn of their condo in early winter in Cobourg

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'We were wowed by the beauty of the waterfront'
- next thing you know, we owned a condo with a view


The year was 2004, the kids had left the nest and we were on our own (more or less).  

We were about to retire. So why were just the two of us rambling around in a two-storey, 4,000-square-foot home with an acre of grass to cut, multiple flower beds to keep, snow to be removed, house repairs to be done, etc.?  

If we sold and downsized, retirement would allow us the freedom to locate anywhere that took our fancy. Being within a reasonable distance of our children would be an important consideration. One son in Vancouver and another in Phoenix, Arizona, would put us too far away from our roots, although very nice places to visit.  

So that would leave us with son No. 3, in Newmarket, Ontario.  

Since we had 28 years of living in a lovely home, overlooking the St. Lawrence River in Ingleside (west of Cornwall), it felt right to look for a condo with a water view, in a small, friendly town, within walking distance of stores and services and pet-friendly. Seemed like a tall order, but it would be fun to investigate the market in south-central to Eastern Ontario.  

Old English sheepdog and 'Grandpa' in tow

Our faithful, Old English sheepdog would have to adjust from free-range countryside, to more confinement and leash walks. Not a problem, as he was aging and starting to slow down.  

Our one surviving parent was a big consideration and fortunately, "Grandpa" — 88 years old — was very willing to come with us and take up residence in an assisted living home.  

So with all these criteria in mind, we searched the waterways of southern Ontario for one year, before finding it all — and more. We found a place with a beautiful beach, two walk-out piers, a marina with a harbour full of power and sailboats, a yacht club and a heritage downtown supplying many services just one block away from a waterfront condo.  

Where is this amazing place that was selected recently by Money Sense Magazine as one of the most desirable small towns in Canada to live in? Try driving one hour east of Toronto on the 401, then heading south to Lake Ontario. There you will find the “Feel Good” town called Cobourg.  

A good friend of ours, who is a Toronto developer and knows residential development, told us Cobourg was a must-see fitting our criteria, and to check out the Harbour Walk condo development.  

We were wowed by the beauty of the waterfront. We found two seascape-style condos with breathtaking views of Lake Ontario and the harbour.  

We were off to the developer’s sales office, where we learned of a building that was to be constructed in the near future.  

We returned home, equipped with mounds of literature, pictures, floor plans, selling prices and excitement. In looking for our childrens’ support, we presented our case to the family and all three sons vigorously promoted our move to Cobourg.  

Buying off-plan is not for the impatient

It would bring us within a 90-minute drive of our son in Newmarket and an hour to Pearson International Airport.   After three or four weeks of much thought and discussion with family, we made a choice of condo and purchased in June 2005, with completion to be September 2007. That date came and went, and no condo.  

A series of delays totalling eight or nine months gave us time to prepare and sell our home. We stored our furniture and became nomads, living in two different rental dwellings until move-in day on May 11, 2008.  

During our wait time, we worked with the developer to choose our colours, decor and upgrades.  

Inconveniences of the wait were soon forgotten with the thrill of a brand new home and meeting wonderful new neighbours. We bonded quickly as we shared the experience of being a new building's first residents, who then get to iron out all the start-up kinks and small deficiencies. We even sold excess furniture to each other before resorting to our kids’ basements.  

We rejoiced, celebrated and at times commiserated with our new friends, over a good bottle of wine, in our newly landscaped courtyard.  

Moving into a new-build condo has its advantages and its headaches. Advantages include the special friendships you make and showing off your new home to your old friends who love to visit, the clean freshness of new and the opportunity to decorate from scratch.  

Expect some adjusting to apartment condo life

Be prepared to break the budget as you purchase window coverings and smaller furniture. But say goodbye to outdoor maintenance, snow removal, grass cutting and garbage management.  

Disadvantages include delays due to the many variables affecting construction progress.  

That makes it difficult to know when to sell your home, which usually leads to a short-term rental situation. Be prepared to give up space, especially storage, which leads to continuous discarding of unnecessary possessions.  

As a condo owner, you share your building with X-number of owners and rules and policies must be made to protect and maintain common elements. Be prepared to be tolerant of policies and rules you may not agree with. And since these are established democratically, you may wish to be part of the process by running for a position on the condo board of directors or serving on a committee.  

In a new building, be prepared for first-year budget uncertainty. For example, property taxes unknown for a year-plus. The building’s utilities take time to stabilize into a pattern, so condo fees may change after the first year.  

Now, we have been in our condo almost two years and are enjoying it very much. We take many walks with Higgins along the attractive, well-groomed brick harbour and beachfront walkways.  

If you love dogs, Cobourg is the place to be

It is like experiencing the Westminster dog show. Cobourg seems to have an abundance of good-looking dogs of all breeds and mixes, who are paraded up and down our walkways. Dog owners love to talk to other dog owners. So Higgins has introduced us to many fine Cobourgians, all with interesting stories.  

We also enjoy a winter outdoor skating rink next to our building, and summer beach volleyball tournaments, live theater, music concerts, good restaurants, trendy cafés and shopping in our downtown heritage shopping district.  

As an added convenience, we also have a small grocery market in our building. Big box stores are available near the 401, along with a new hospital.  

We have become social members of a small, active yacht club, located next to our harbour. It provides us with good fun and fellowship and excellent meals on a deck overlooking the lake.  

Summertime leads to many fun-filled, spontaneous happy hours with our neighbours in the courtyard.   What is not to like? We have no regrets. We would do it again in a heartbeat.  

Cobourg is a small, relaxed, yet vibrant town with eclectic lifestyles that lend favourably to retirement. Enhancing all this is our condo development, which we highly recommend.