An inherited property has sentimental value, but, as one couple learned with their dated lakefront cottage, its rental potential can also provide a brighter future for their family – if they follow the rules. Guided by his five vacation house rules, real estate expert and renovator Scott McGillivray transformed an out-of-date cabin in the woods into a spectacular German-themed vacation rental that holiday makers will race to book.
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Hidden Gem in Haliburton
After inheriting a lakefront cottage in Haliburton, Crystal and Bernd knew that they wanted to eventually retire there, but they weren’t sure if it could draw real rental income in the meantime. To show the full potential of the property, Scott used his first rule, “Do Your Research.” Short-term vacation rentals in the Haliburton highlands are booming, with an average rental rate for a four-bedroom at $395 per night. With a 50% occupancy rate, the rental could earn $72,000 a year in rental revenue – which would help them recoup their $95,000 renovation budget in no time.
Shop the Look: Find out where you can buy items from this unique renovation.
The cottage was well-loved and full of unique German-inspired details, but a dizzying array of busy wallpaper patterns, under-used areas and a dysfunctional, closed-off layout made the four-bedroom, two-bathroom property feel smaller that it was. Its potential was masked – making it hard to imagine it drawing the Haliburton vacation rental crowd.
Related: 18 Ways to Make Your City Home Feel Like a Cottage Retreat
Stay On Theme
Themed properties deliver a distinctive, can’t-get-this-at-home factor for renters than can garner higher rental rates. With the help of designer Debra Salmoni, Scott used his second rule, “Design It” to plan a property that would get noticed. Leaning into the cottage’s character, Scott and Debra designed a true Bavarian-themed oasis with touches like Black Forest-inspired artwork (including an incredible floor-to-ceiling powder room wall), hand-painted exterior shutters and an incredible backyard beer garden.
Related: 10 Things You Should Know Before Buying Your First Cottage, According to Scott McGillivray
While an inviting theme will get potential renters’ attention, maximizing the available space will seal the deal. The cottage had partially finished addition that wasn’t living up to its potential. By finishing the sunroom, Scott and Debra created an incredible year-round dining space that allowed them to expand the kitchen, give guests space to feed a crowd and add an incredible 150 square feet of functional space to the rental listing.
Related: 10 Warm and Inviting Sunrooms You’ll Never Want to Leave
Raise a Glass
Out back, the cottage had a huge garden space that wasn’t getting used, which was the perfect location for Scott to follow through on his third rule, “Get Noticed”. Scott and his team added to the property’s guest-attracting draw with a Bavarian-inspired beer garden complete with a new composite deck, seating area with gas fire pit, dining area, unique LED-lighted glass railings, overhead lights, garden-shed-turned-bar and hot tub.
Related: 5 Backyard Upgrades That Will Provide the Best Return on Your Investment
Do the Dirty Work
In order for the backyard to become a spectacular beer garden, Scott encouraged Crystal and Bernd to take advantage of his fourth vacation house rule, “Roll Up Your Sleeves.” While construction work inside the cottage was outside of the couple’s area of expertise, they were able to take on the work of clearing out the outdoor space themselves. By working on tasks that they could safely tackle on their own (with help from their daughter), they saved money on their total renovation cost – helping their rental stay more profitable right from the start.
Create an Experience
Once complete, the cottage’s outdoor area (framed by Opa’s beautiful perennial garden as a backdrop and an homage to the family legacy) epitomized the luxe-themed feel – creating a destination that will make renters eager to book. The highlight of the beer garden, however, is the hot tub (a low-maintenance, high-quality model that guests can use without upkeep). The tub bumps up the premium feel – and rate – of the rental, as vacation properties with hot tubs can charge about $50 more per night.
Related: 10 Things to Consider Before Building Your Own Deck
Cook Up More Rentals
The cottage’s original kitchen was tiny and compartmentalized – not appealing for families and groups looking to share meals and experiences while on vacation. Using his fifth rule, “Be Your Guest,” Scott looked at the rental from the guests’ point of view, and decided to open up the space into what was previously the dining room. Removing a wall to create an open-concept gourmet kitchen, Scott created a hassle-free space – where everything was easy for guests to find.
A Better Bathroom
Seeing the space from the guests’ point of view meant that big changes were needed in the upstairs bathroom, as well. While there’s a certain charm to old-school details in some rooms of the home, the bathroom isn’t one of them. With that in mind, the team eschewed the classic feel of the upstairs bathroom – opting for a complete, modern transformation (thanks, in part, to a plumbing issue that forced a total renovation in the room).
Related: Scott McGillivray’s Bathroom Remodel Ideas That Don’t Cost a Fortune
The space to sleep more guests is a big deal for vacation renters, so Scott and the team opened up a wall to add a flex space that could be used as a den or sleeping space for renters. A custom-made barn door added major charm and privacy when needed.
Watch the full premiere episode of Scott’s Vacation House Rules online at HGTV.ca.
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