HGTV Canada star and Income Property host Scott McGillivray is now sharing all his tips on buying and renovating beautiful vacation rental properties in Ontario. Season two of his new show, Scott’s Vacation House Rules, kicks off this Sunday, May 16 at 10 p.m. on HGTV Canada where he turns tired, dated and rundown cottages into attractive vacation rentals alongside his design partner Debra Salmoni.
Here we caught up with McGillivray to get the inside scoop on where to buy a vacation property in this hot real estate market, and where to allocate your renovation budget to get the most bang for your buck.
What are some of the up-and-coming cottage areas in Ontario where vacation home buyers can still find value in a property?
We’re lucky in Ontario because there are so many options. While Muskoka, Prince Edward County, and some of the other areas close to Toronto are getting pretty pricey, if you’re willing to drive just a little bit further you can find some deals. Bancroft is a great option, as are Haliburton and North Kawartha. But with the way the vacation markets are going, any deals you can find now won’t last long!
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What are the major things to avoid when buying a vacation home as an income property?
In order to appeal to renters, your vacation rental needs to be convenient and accessible. Island properties can be great for privacy, but it means arranging for boat access, which can be a pain and add additional costs. If you’re buying with the intent to rent it out, I would recommend that it have year-round road access (meaning it gets plowed in the winter). Your renters are paying for a vacation, so any added difficulty is going to be a strike against you. Also, I wouldn’t opt for anything too remote. There should be a town nearby with all the amenities renters (and you!) might need (grocery store, pharmacy, trades and maintenance people, etc.).
Which renovations should be prioritized for a vacation home rental?
It totally depends. Cottages and cabins have a tendency to get stuck in time warps, so it’s important to upgrade the interior. People are paying for a vacation so they want a nice kitchen with all the amenities, and updated bathrooms with showers and/or tubs, laundry facilities, etc. However, the outdoors is clearly important. An old dilapidated dock won’t do. For summer rentals you need outdoor spaces where people can congregate and relax. You don’t need to spend a fortune, but guests should be able to enjoy the outdoors as much as the indoors.
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If you have the budget to add a luxury feature, what will give you the most bang for your buck?
The things that add value in a city property may not be quite the same for a vacation property. I don’t think a chef’s kitchen is necessary, but certainly an upgraded kitchen with nice appliances is important. If it’s a winter property, heated floors can be a great addition. Imagine taking off your wet, winter gear in the mudroom and stepping onto a warm floor. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t appreciate that!
How is approaching a vacation rental reno different than a personal home reno project?
When it comes to vacation rentals you need to think about your guests. They are paying for a vacation and you need to provide them with a great experience. You may love the old ’60s vibe in the cottage that’s been passed down to you, but your renters may not appreciate it quite so much. You have to make upgrades with paying customers in mind. Also, you need to think about who you’re trying to appeal to, and then approach the home with them in mind. If you want families to rent from you then be sure to add bunk beds and a crib, make sure there’s a tub, consider additional water toys and outdoor recreation areas for example. One of my vacation house rules is “be your guest.” So imagine what you would want for your vacation and then give your guests just that.