Location is important, but – if you want your vacation home to reach its full potential – it’s not always everything. In order to keep their vacation house in the family, a mother and daughter were struggling to find a way to make their dated cottage as appealing as its prime Muskoka setting. To help the property compete with high-end summer rentals, real estate expert and contractor Scott McGillivray came to the rescue – using his vacation house rules to completely modernize the space and turn it into a must-rent vacation listing.
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When Alison’s parents wanted to sell their cottage, she made the emotional decision to buy it from them so she could keep the property (and the decades of memories) in the family. Because she had to take on a mortgage to purchase the vacation home Alison was feeling the stress of the financial burden. With the help of her daughter, Kelsey, Alison turned to Scott to help them use their $75,000 renovation budget to overhaul the place – so they could rent it out, and cash in on the prime Muskoka location.
Not up to Snuff
Muskoka is one of Canada’s hottest (and most prestigious) vacation destinations – which means that an up-to-standard vacation home rental can be a real money-maker. This dated cottage (and kitchen!) didn’t measure up. Using his first rule, “Do Your Research,” Scott found that the average rental rate for a three-bedroom property in the region is $500 per night – which could go a long way towards paying the mortgage and maintenance costs.
To elevate the cottage to the level that Muskoka renters expect, it was all about the design. People who can pay for a high-end vacation rental are more likely to have high standards, which makes great design paramount to success. Enter Scott’s next rule, “Plan Your Design,” and his designer, Debra Salmoni. The cottage was cozy, but the layout was cramped and the design was outdated with a lot of busy wallpaper and retro details. Now it’s an open space framed by high-end appliances.
The kitchen makes a big impression on renters, but the cottage’s layout made the cooking space tiny and unappealing. To address the serious space issues, Scott removed the wall between the sunroom and dining space and flipped the rooms – creating a larger, more open kitchen. Custom-built, energy-efficient windows make the most of the incredible lake views, while luxe stone counters (hand-selected by Alison, Kelsey and Debra) enhance the high-end, bespoke feel.
To Dine For
The old kitchen was super small, but Scott’s layout changes repurposed the former kitchen area into a cozy dining area – perfectly inviting for potential vacation home renters that want to relax and share a meal together.
Inspired by the iconic Muskoka scenery, Debra used a palette of soft earthy colours (like greys, greens and yellows) and rich engineered hardwood floors throughout the space. In the living room, faux-wood beams and bright-white shiplap add high-end, cabin-inspired character to the ceiling.
Call of the Wild
By playing up the property’s unique strengths, you make your vacation home rental more likely to be seen in the sea of other listings. For Alison and Kelsey’s cottage, the surrounding wilderness, lake and the beauty of Muskoka are the big draws, so Scott and Debra emphasized nature in the indoor and outdoor design.
If you really want your rental property to get noticed, find fun, distinctive features. To highlight the natural theme of the cottage (and to give renters a cool backdrop for their vacation selfies and photos), Scott added a unique sculpture to the exterior. Instead of going store-bought, Scott found an award-winning sculptor – and even pitched in himself – to carve a friendly bear sculpture out of wood.
The transition from family cottage to vacation house rental was a big one – so Scott involved the mother-daughter duo in the process by having them help create a shiplap feature wall for the bedroom. Doing a little sweat equity where you can (which is Scott’s next rule, “Roll Up Your Sleeves,”) helps people feel a sense of confidence and accomplishment in their reno – while also helping them keep overall costs down.
A top-dollar, executive-level vacation rental needs to feel luxe and high quality, so it’s important to think about your renters every step of the way. By using Scott’s final rule, “Be Your Guest,” Scott and Debra put plenty of attention to the details throughout (like using premium cookware and amenities) to make the Muskoka rental home a truly high-end experience. To ensure the once-tiny bathroom fit the bill (and to add the convenience of on-site laundry), Scott expanded the space – removing the wall to the walk-in closet so he could add a huge step-in shower and laundry closet.