Part 2 - How to Decorate & Outfit your Cottage Investment Property
Welcome to the 3-part Series on How to Buy a Cottage Investment Property in Ontario. With so many buyers priced out of the Toronto housing market, many are looking to have a real estate investment elsewhere in Ontario and a cottage can be the perfect alternative. Not only can it produce great rental income, it also provides tremendous lifestyle benefits.
In Part 1, you learned about how to find a property to ensure you’ll appeal to renters who will keep the income flowing.
In this series, we’ll cover how to decorate and outfit your investment cottage to appeal to a broad range of renters and ensure they pick your property to rent over the competition. Lastly in Part 3, we’ll cover how to go about marketing your property and common pitfalls to avoid.
So you’ve purchased a cottage and you want to start renting it? Think you can just snap a few pictures on your iphone, post it and the phone will start ringing? Think again. There are thousands of cottages for rent in Ontario and you’re competing against all of them. You need to approach this from the same perspective, as if you were selling a home. In order to get top dollar and attract the type of renters that are going to take care of your cottage, you need to invest some money to get it rent-ready.
Develop a Budget & Stick to it!
The first thing you’ll want to do, is prepare a budget for both required renovations and all the furniture you’ll need to outfit your new cottage. Start by creating a spreadsheet and mapping out each room of the cottage, itemizing absolutely everything you need to complete and items that you’ll need. When outfitting a cottage from scratch, there is a lot to buy and you’ll quickly overspend if you’re not careful.
Plan for any Renovations / Improvements
You don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune renovating your newly purchased cottage to get it looking fantastic. A coat of white paint can do wonders, especially in cottages that have a lot of exposed wood paneling. Thanks to Chip & Joanna Gaines on the hit HGTV show “Fixer Upper”, painted shiplap walls are a huge trend right now. Same goes for painting brick, kitchen cabinets, etc. The trick is to leave some of the rustic elements to give it that cozy cottagey feel, but to modernize the rest making it look clean and new.
Where else should you invest some money? Floors! If there is any carpeting, anywhere, get it out. People generally don’t like carpet, but they really don’t like other people’s carpet. Especially if it’s in a cottage that has constant travel of wet, dirty feet and pets. I highly recommend a high quality vinyl throughout. Not only will it be super easy to clean, they are virtually indestructible and will not scratch, stain, dent, etc. with high traffic and pets. Bonus is they come on all sorts of rustic wood-looking styles.
As with all real estate, the kitchen would be your next priority. Hopefully you can get away with just a coat of paint and some new inexpensive stainless steel appliances. However if it’s not salvageable, Ikea is your friend. Although the number of washrooms your cottage has matters, how they look is less important as they won’t factor in the decision to rent your place.
Furnishing your Cottage
Do not underestimate the impact your furniture will have on your ability to rent your cottage for top-dollar. If you think you can just use all of your parent’s old mismatched furniture hand me downs, you’re wrong. However you also don’t have to spend a fortune, you just have to be savvy and search for the cheapest options available. The cottage we purchased lacked charm and character, but we added it back with our furnishings. Below are some room-by-room tips on where to splurge and where to save.
- Save money and use Ikea Ektorp sofas. Not only are they inexpensive, but they look great, they’re comfortable and they have slipcovers that can be washed or replaced if needed. I even got some in white for our cottage, which my husband thought was crazy. But they look so great and miraculously made it through a full rental season with no issues.
- Splurge on one accent chair in a cool fabric to bring it all together. I got mine from Urban Barn on sale.
- Save on Kijiji – search for used rustic coffee and end tables or paint your own. I also found some great finds at Walmart of all places.
- Save at HomeSense – a mix of stylish throw pillows brings the whole look together.
- Rugs – we used natural fiber jute rugs (cheapest at Ikea and Lowes) however we have since learned they do ‘shed’ a lot which is annoying.
- You’ll want the biggest table your space can accommodate. Even better if it can expand when needed. We got this one from Ikea which easily seats 12 people for under $500!
- Buy chairs that are stylish and can be cleaned easily. We got these trendy ones from Wayfair.ca, but I’ve seen them cheaper at Structube since.
- Splurge on good quality beds and buy the biggest ones that will fit in the space. Nothing ruins a vacation more than lack of sleep. Next, wrap those new mattresses in zippered, water-proof covers!
- For linens, get two sets for each bed in white. That way they can easily be bleached if they get stained. Same goes for blankets. HomeSense always has white quilt sets, which look great and are actually practical.
- Save on end tables and dressers by painting your old furniture or searching on Kijiji for used items. Painted furniture adds a pop of colour and loads of character & charm.
- I had some very cool rustic headboards made by The Pine Shack. They weren’t too expensive, but they really added a charm-factor in bedrooms that would otherwise look boring.
- We turned a basement rec room into a Kid’s Cabin instead and put 6 beds in there. The kids love having a slumber party and it frees up the other bedrooms for the adults when families are looking to share a rental. In here, we went all Ikea.
Once you’re done furnishing your cottage, you need to pull it all together with the right accessories for the walls, coffee tables, end tables, shelves, etc. Get inspiration from magazines, Pinterest and blogs and always keep your eye out at garage sales and antique stores for cool stuff.
- Go to a used book store and buy old, worn books for decorating in the colour scheme of your cottage.
- Use antique window frames, ladders, shelves, large clocks and candle holders to decorate walls instead of art.
- Don’t be afraid of using fake greenery and florals. They add warmth and won’t die on you!
- Throw pillows and throw blankets add so much affordable style to a space.
- Use white hand and bath towels in bathrooms. Not only can they be bleached, but they also give that hotel feeling renters are looking for.
Outfitting your Cottage Rental
Now that you have your new investment cottage furnished, what else do you need to rent it? You can find a good list here to get started.
- Kitchen – stock white Ikea dishes and buy at least 12 of each, ideally 20
- BBQ & Accessories
- Outdoor furniture – you’ll ideally want a conversation set, dining area, storage box and some colourful plastic Muskoka chairs for around the firepit
- Indoor Games & Puzzles
- Water toys – although not completely necessary, most renters would like to see a stand up paddle board or kayak available
- Sports – if you’ve got the space, adding a badminton/volleyball net or basketball net is great. If not, there are tons of other outdoor affordable games such as bocce ball, can jam, etc. for guests to enjoy
- Second fridge – this will come in very handy when you have to transition your cottage over from using it yourself
- Cleaning tools – vacuum, broom, mop & bucket
Hopefully you’ve learned something about how best to decorate and outfit your cottage investment property to attract renters willing to pay top dollar. In our next article, we’ll cover how to market your property and all the contracts you need in place to protect yourself.
Contact me to learn more.