HGTV host on the best reno tips to turn your home into a vacation house

It’s the season of cottages, staycations and vacations — which means it’s also the season of renovations. And while the real estate market is in flux, you may be looking for a way to squeeze some extra value out of your cottage or give it an upgrade to make it vacation rental ready. Debra Salmoni, interior design expert on Scott’s Vacation House Rules with Scott McGillivray has all the advice you need for your vacation home renovations.

For Torontonians looking to buy their first cottage, what will get them the best value?

You can’t go wrong with having a lakefront property; location is important. There are some areas in cottage country that are more expensive than the others, so I would say as long as you’re on the water you’ve already created a vacation property. Make sure the bones of the property are good, and if they’re not, understand why that is; otherwise you’ll put a new kitchen on a house that has leaks and will have to replace everything in a few years.

For those looking to rent out their vacation homes, what renovations should they consider?

If you have the budget, I would say renovate the property to create the amenities that everyone’s used to. So having a beautiful kitchen, right — cottages are typically in rural areas, so you don’t have the option to Uber food. You also want to make sure that you’re not putting your old mattresses at the cottage. Nobody wants to have a bad sleep at home or on vacation. If you have a smaller budget, I always say paint everything white. It freshens things up, and you can add some pops of colour through pillows and accessories.

What renovations will add value to outdoor spaces at the cottage?

I think everyone enjoys a good firepit and that is a super cost-effective way to have a big impact. Get the stones from your surroundings, and you can make a nice firepit.  If the budget allows, adding a sauna and a hot tub is fabulous. 

How can homeowners figure out how much to invest in renovations?

See what the highest rental is going for and see what the lowest rental is going for in your area. That will help you figure out your budget, what you can afford, and what you should be aiming for in terms of a nightly rate.

How do you give your home a vacation feel if you don’t have a cottage?

I would say make sure that you have an outdoor space you love — put a little bit of money into that to create an oasis in your backyard. If you’re in a condo, use your balcony — put a little bistro set, add some greenery. You don’t have to break the bank. If you want to invest a little bit more money, I suggest renovating a bathroom so it has a little bit of a luxurious spa feel to it. And investing in good bedding is really nice because it makes you feel like you’re at a hotel. 

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