August 2016


Selling your cottage? Top 12 “don’t do” tips to get you renovation-ready.

A lot of preparations go into selling a home or cottage. In order to get the best value before it’s listed on an MLS real estate site, you’ll probably apply some makeovers. Before contacting your agent, you’ll want to be prepared to stand out amongst all of the real estate listings. Here are 12 do nots to help you on your renovation journey.


1. Don’t hide your head in the sand


You have a lot of paperwork to read, before strapping on that tool-belt, research:
• How to prepare your home, so it will sell for top dollar
• How to find the right agent to sell your home
• What to expect when listing your property
• What to expect when you receive an offer
• What to expect during the negotiation process and closing costs

2. Don’t rush the process

Unless you’re wanting out of the market quickly and are willing to sell your home “as-is” and, consequently, for less money (the route my fix-it husband and I chose as buyers), take your time.

• Observe what needs to be done in and outside the home
• Make a list of renovations
• If you’re a DIY, organize each spate of work in realistic time-frames
• If you’re not a DIY, be flexible and patient—contractor’s schedule and your own will not always jive

3. Don’t neglect larger resale investments

Keep up with larger investments while you’re living in your home. If you haven’t taken care of much-needed door repairs/replacements, or your roof has seen better days, you could have trouble selling your home. If you’ve waited until the last minute to tend to these items, just know that you don’t have to choose state-of-the-art replacements to reap the rewards of those energy savings that will appeal to potential buyers. Get it done.

4. Don’t exceed your budget

When selling your home, keeping up with the Joneses just makes sense, especially if the home up the street it competing with yours. Nevertheless, avoid renovations that don’t suit your house, your budget or the neighbourhood.

Done put huge amount of money into any renovation that exceeds a quarter of what the home is worth.

A contractor’s estimate is exactly that – an estimate. But don’t place yourself at the mercy of exorbitant fixes, if you can’t afford it. Ensure the written estimate contains every detail of work to be done, so you can make informed choices along the way.

The idea is to recoup the most of your remodelling expenses at the time of resale. So, keep the renovation projects simple, pay to have it done correctly and don’t tackle too much if your budget or time is a restraint.

5. Don’t pay in cash

Work done without a paper trail is like a boat without a paddle. You won’t be able to call on contractors again if something goes wrong. Seek expertise from those with an established reputation. Lack of research could cost you.

6. Dodge wild remodelling choices

A fresh paint job throughout the home is a definite plus, but choosing olive greens and neon yellows could be a real turn-off. Better to go with neutral paint tones. Bright-coloured countertops and cabinetry aren’t your best options either. Use the vivid hues sparingly as paint accents or for small objects to set off your room.

7. Sidestep elite-line treatments

Mid- to lower-line priced materials and finishes is the way to go. The new homeowners will probably make changes of their own anyway, so focus on presenting a home that is tasteful, simple and clean.

8. Don’t invest in the dream kitchen

Dream kitchens are expensive, so opt for an updated kitchen that is attractive, functional, clean and modern. Beyond that, you’re throwing your money away, and you’ll never recoup the money you put into it.

9. Don’t throw money down the bathroom drain

A small amount of luxury or spotlessness in a bathroom, such as sparkling, mildew-free tiles or a shiny new tub will definitely add value to your listing price.

10. Don’t forget the great outdoors

Your potential buyer won’t look twice if it’s uninviting on the outside. You can add curb appeal and substantial value to your home and attract potential buyers simply by trimming the bushes, fixing the broken step, or applying a fresh exterior coat of paint. (Remember to keep colours neutral!)

11. Don’t be pressured by outdoor living trends

For resale value, you don’t have to create an outdoor Shangri La, but do ensure your porch is in good shape. Attractive, low-cost throw cushions and clean patio furniture can be the right touch to make a welcoming impression.

12. Don’t lack foresight

A foreseeable move, even many years down the road is foresight you can use to your advantage now. Always consider the added value of every renovation you do. It will save you time, money and needless stress at resale time.
Zoocasa is a real estate brokerage based in Toronto. Visit for more info.

Sheila O’Hearn is a freelance and creative writer, and has worn many hats throughout her career, from general staff reporter to magazine editor. She has a keen interest in business entrepreneurship and currently writes for several outlets. Check out her LinkedIn for more info.

Why Is Winter Cottaging Not More Popular In Canada?

A winter cottager shares her fun times in snowy Haliburton, Ontario

I’m not sure why more people don’t use their cottages in the winter. For me it’s the best way to enjoy the winter – and not simply to get through it. I mean, who wants to slush around in the city all winter, when you can enjoy an expansive frozen lake? When you can go outside and actually want to breathe, rather than holding your breath and tensing up in the biting, fast-paced atmosphere of winter in the city.

At the cottage – even if we’re going for a day – all that stress and mundanity of the urban winter vanishes. We often arrive late in the evening and gaze in awe at the dome of bright stars surrounding us, the tall snowy trees sparkling in the moonlight, and the glowing, welcoming windows of our cottage. The rest of the extended family is already there. Sitting warm by the woodstove.

It’s a gift to get away on our almost weekly cottage vacations. Family time is more intense and cherished because there are no errands to run, no obligations to honour. Just time to ourselves. And going back to work on Monday (though admittedly a little harder to do after a cottage weekend), I feel refreshed and like I had a true holiday.

At the cottage we make the most of the time together and, of course, the snow. Whereas in the city, a snowy day is often greeted with ‘ugh, let’s take the car to store,’ at the cottage it’s greeted by ‘Yes! Get the snowshoes!’

This year we went all out. We bought skates for the whole family, and the kids are skating for the first time in their lives. We also bought snowshoes. A three-year old in snowshoes is quite the adorable sight!

When we take a break from our activities for some soup or hot chocolate, we watch our neighbour zipping his ATV across the lake – pulling the kids in a sled – or a couple enjoying what looks like a romantic cross-country ski….

We’ve also been known to build a snowman or two when the snow is that perfect cottage-country consistency. Snowball fights inevitably ensue…. Later, when we go to dinner, we look both ways for snowmobilers enjoying a dusk drive. We usually return to a rented movie by the woodstove. The kids eventually fall asleep after a warm bath, and the exhausted dog curls up next to me – exhilarated by her many runs on the lake.

Winter in Haliburton is, indeed, hopping. We’ve been surprised to find the inns and restaurants busy, and friendly and inviting as always.

As a whole, winter cottaging is a gift for our young family. The kids look forward to it – counting down the ‘sleeps’ until cottage time – and I feel like a kid again, enjoying nature, the lake I love, all year round.