Buying a Muskoka Fixer-Upper Home Yes or No?

Have you been thinking about buying a Muskoka home to fix up and live in? There is a certain romance to the thought of taking on a home that needs a lot of work and making it yours with your own blood, sweat and tears.  Maybe you’re on the other side and thoughts of Tom Hanks and Shelly Long throwing their money into a “money pit” have you saying “No way, not for me!”.

A traditional fixer-upper is a property that will require significant renovations, reconstruction or redesign to be habitable or saleable at market value. They typically list and sell below the market value of homes of equal size and vintage in similar neighbourhoods.

So, you need to ask yourself if a fixer-upper is a bargain brimming with potential OR should it be avoided like the plague? The answer to this perplexing question will depend on several factors, including you!

One of the best reasons to buy a fixer-up home or cottage is for the location &/or lot. If you are determined to live in a particular part of Muskoka it may mean you have to “snap up” what is available and then fix up the home or cottage to suit your needs.  If the size and structure of the property are right for you, it likely makes more sense to renovate as opposed to a complete demolition and rebuild which can be more time-consuming and in most cases more expensive.

Renovating a fixer-upper is expensive, and you can’t often finance a renovation.  Typically it is not a project for a first-time buyer as usually all available funds are directed to the actual purchase.  Remember that a fixer-upper is a large project, not the usual renovation projects most of us plan to do over time after we move into new home.  So, to tackle a fixer-upper you need to have some capital tucked away to fund the project. Typically, it is a second or third-time home buyer who has a little DIY experience who takes on a fixer-upper home.

A buyer for a fixer-upper is sometimes someone looking for their “forever home” or they may be an investor seeking poorly-maintained properties to fix and flip. In both cases they have usually had several home purchase experiences under their belts and can rely on this to help them through tackling a large project like this.

As a buyer you need to consider your time, money and knowledge when taking on a fixer-upper. Will the time and money involved in fixing up a home or cottage be worth it in the end? If your full-time job is contracting, will the time spent on your own project be as valuable in the end as working on paid contracts?

Be prepared for surprises.  Buyers for this type of property often don’t spend money on a Home Inspection. Without a thorough inspection of the property you could miss costly remediation issues like mold, asbestos, or faulty foundations.

Also be sure to include time for due diligence to explore municipal regulations, zoning and permitting.  And, allow adequate time to carefully cost out the renovation – small things add up. Doing so could save a lot of heart ache or even financial loss.

A final consideration is whether you will need to hire a project manager or do it alone.  Will you hire a contractor for the entire project, or manage contractors and trades for the different jobs yourself? Hiring trades for everything can be a challenge to coordinate if you’ve never done it before especially if you don’t know the local trades people.  And remember, the good ones are often booked several months out.

As a local Realtor with many years of experience I am happy to help you find a perfect project home or cottage.  And, if you have your heart set on a “fixer- upper” with my contacts in the region I may be able to suggest trades people you will need to be successful in your venture.

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Renovation Do’s and Don’ts for Your Muskoka Home Resale

Karen Acton - Renovating your Muskoka HomeWhen you decide it’s time to sell your home, you may consider making some changes before listing.  A wise investment of time and money can drastically improve your potential resale value; however, a good plan is vital.

You may believe you are the master of your own renovation, but that may not be the case. Reno’s can develop their own inertia. Things often grind to a halt as each decision can lead to new a dilemma, an unintended consequence or an unexpected outcome. This can result in delays getting listed and missing out on a great market.

Here are a few renovations that I believe make good financial sense, providing a nice return on your investment at the time of resale — and a few that don’t.

Good Resale Value Projects for Muskoka Homes

Kitchens.Updating a tired old kitchen is one of the wisest methods of increasing the value of your home. Keep in mind when planning a kitchen reno, making design decisions, or selecting plumbing fixtures, appliances, cabinets and countertop materials that your choices should appeal to the largest segment of the market and not personal preferences.

Remember, using the existing kitchen layout and affordable cosmetic materials is a sure way to keep the cost of your kitchen reno manageable. When you start tearing out walls, bumping out the exterior home footprint to gain a few feet, and moving plumbing fixtures and appliances, the cost of the job will jump and your return on investment dollars will diminished.

Bathrooms.Home buyers notice bathrooms, and although all the bathrooms are important, a priority should be placed on the master bath, followed by the guest bathroom/powder room and any other secondary bathrooms.

The same rules apply to a bathroom remodel as to the kitchen. Cosmetic changes are safer from an investment standpoint than modifications involving changing layouts. Again keep the permanent pieces neutral so they appeal to a wider audience.

Master suites.As home buying decisions are in the hands of adults, and adults care about the environment where they sleep, updating a master bedroom or remodeling and adding a new master ensuite can be money well spent. Buyers will picture themselves living in their private space especially if they have children living at home or plan to have a family.

Curb appeal.Very often this is the best project for a return on investment. You have heard not to judge a book by its cover, but smart money recognizes the cover’s value. Your front elevation (unless you are on the water) is more than just a first impression. It’s the only impression available to just about all your home’s potential buyers.

The good news is that there are numerous affordable projects that can improve curb appeal. One of the first things buyers look at is the roof.  If it’s in poor condition, it can be perceived as an indication of the overall maintenance of the home. It may cost less to have it done before listing than what you might lose in the negotiating process of an offer.

Repainting is another low-cost, high-impact improvement.  Even a professional cleaning of the exterior siding can make a considerable difference.

Cleaning out overgrown brush and making a few new planting additions to your landscape can go a long way toward improving curb appeal at a very low cost.

Costlier changes such as replacing old windows or an aged entry door are things that potential buyers will notice and value too.

Poor Resale Value

Garages. Adding a garage or insulating an existing one are great ideas, but only if you plan to stay put. Unless you are a great handyman and have access to inexpensive materials and labour, these changes won’t generally pay for themselves if you plan to sell soon.

Pools. Backyard pools are loved by many, and while this appreciation is well founded, they should be constructed for their many virtues that are NOT investment related. Here in Muskoka, it is unlikely to pay for itself in resale value. Many buyers perceive a pool as a negative maintenance expense.

Home theaters/kids’ spaces. No, I am not trying to be the Grinch but there is no assurance your home buyer will be ‘into’ movies or have children living at home. Adding that rock-climbing wall or screens, projectors & speakers might represent unwanted expense to buyers who see this space better used for something more suited to their family.

Removing features.Do not remove features for investment reasons unless they are truly an eyesore or a safety hazard. If you never use the fireplace in your basement, removing it might make perfect sense to you, but the next homeowner might wish it were still there, and the money you spent demolishing and reworking the space will not be reclaimed.

Wine rooms.These are definitely trendy and will almost be expected in large high-end homes however; in a typical Muskoka home they will not add value to the resale.

I am always happy to answer questions and help with recommendations. If you are thinking of reselling your Muakok home and would like some advice on the best ways to improve your resale value, just give me a call!

Legal Cannabis and your Muskoka Home

October 17, 2018 is a big day for many Canadians who have wanted to see the use of recreational marijuana made legal. But what will the impact be on your Muskoka home and its future resale value? Will you choose to legally grow cannabis plants in your home? Will a home you wish to purchase in the future have been used as a “home grow” that may have caused hidden issues? Will being close to a legal commercial “grow op” impact value? Is being close to a retail outlet a pro or a con? These are important questions to think about.

What the New Law Says

  • 4 Cannabis plants may be grown in each residence-includes apartment/condominium units
  • No growth height restrictions
  • Could include outside garden, but may be determined by province but Ontario has made no specification at this time
  • No regulation on safe growing.

Risks to Consider

  • Mould and moisture damage
  • High-voltage lights pose a potential fire hazard

In a CBC interview the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) said the government’s plan to allow so-called “home grow” could lead to the spread of mould and other fungi in residences across the country — which could result in some costly surprises for home buyers.

“There’s absolutely no question it impacts the value of the home,” Michael Bourque, chief executive officer of CREA, told senators, adding the physical effects of a grow op can often go undetected during a home inspection.

The new law will limit home marijuana growers to four plants per household. The government initially intended to limit plants to 100 centimeters in height, but the House of Commons approved an amendment that removed such a restriction.

“On the surface [four plants] sounds moderate, but the legislation doesn’t limit the number of crops or the size of each plant. Four plants could yield over five kilograms a year, which has the potential to cause structural damage to dwellings and comes with associated health consequences,” Bourque said, noting the use of fertilizers and pesticides in the growing process could exacerbate environmental health risks in a home or a multi-unit dwelling that shares air circulation.

The question of buying a home that has been used to grow cannabis or trying to sell one that has, may be of less significance that the proximity of home to retail and commercial grow facilities. In a recent Zoocasa story this was the data they discovered.

In the journal “Real Estate Economics,” James Conklin and co-authors studied the conversion of medical marijuana stores to recreational marijuana, and the subsequent effect on housing prices in Denver, Colorado after legalization in 2014.

Their research showed that homes located near converted stores experienced appreciation at 8% higher than homes further away.

Realtor.com also reported on American cities having undergone a year of experience with recreational marijuana sales. Their data showed a significant increase in home prices — well above the national median price.

The same data shows that while proximity to a pot shop tends to increase home value, Colorado homes close to grow-ops have lost value. Evidently, the pungent odor of pot is a sticking point for many American buyers.

There is no Canadian data available yet, but it is something for us to watch.

Will it be a “big deal” in the “big picture”?  In a CBC interview Jonathan Page, a botanist who has studied cannabis extensively and serves as the CEO of Anandia Labs, said he doesn’t expect a new flood of grow ops to result from the bill and predicts most Canadians will simply opt to buy the product from a licensed provider.

“I think this is an exaggeration. Canadians can produce their own beer and wine at home, grow tobacco for personal use, and yet the vast majority buy these products from stores,” he said.

No matter what the future holds as a Muskoka home owner you need to be informed. Your choice to grow cannabis while legal may have more ramifications than you think. As a Muskoka Realtor you can rest assured I will be talking to my Sellers about stigmas, defects and disclosure; and ensuring my Buyers conduct independent research into properties they wish to purchase.

For more information about marijuana legalization in Ontario, please refer to the Ontario Governments web site.

 

 

 

Getting Your Home Winter Ready in Muskoka

Eavestrough-Cleaning-Karen ActonOK, so the snow fell, the thermostat dropped, and you still have not done any winter prep around your Muskoka home or cottage. All is not lost; the weather man says that it will be gone in a day or two, so you still have time to get things done. Let this little dive into winter be a great reminder that you still have a few unfinished home maintenance tasks left to check off the list.

Here are some helpful lists I have put together for you from the many great resources on-line. Hope you find them helpful.

Windows and Doors

  1. Check the weather stripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss. Replace weather stripping, if necessary.
  2. Replace all screen doors with storm doors if you have them.
  3. Replace all window screenswith storm windows if you have this type of window system.
  4. Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay and repair if required.
  5. Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.

Lawn, Garden, and Deck

  1. Trim overgrown branches back from the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing property damage or a power problem.
  2. Aerate the lawn, reseed, and apply a winterizing fertilizer to promote deep-root growth come spring.
  3. Ensure rain or snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems. Make sure the ground slopes away from the house. Add extra soil to low areas, as necessary.
  4. Clean and dry patio furniture. Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.
  5. Clean soil from planters. Bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials indoors.
  6. Dig up flower bulbs, brush off soil, and label. Store bulbs in a bag or box with peat moss in a cool, dry place for spring replanting.
  7. Remove any attached hoses and store them away for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life.
  8. Shut off exterior faucets. Drain water from outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads to protect against pipe bursts.
  9. Inspect decks for splintering, decay, or insect damageand treat, if needed, to prevent further deterioration over the winter. Clean leaves, dirt, and pine needles between the boards of wooden decks to thwart mold and mildew growth.
  10. Inspect outdoor lighting around the property. Good illumination will help minimize the chance of accidents on icy walkways at night.
  11. Check handrails on exterior stairs to make sure they’re well secured.

Tools and Machinery

  1. Bring all seasonal tools inside and spray them with a coating of lightweight oil to prevent rust.
  2. Weatherize your lawn mower by cleaning off mud, leaves, grass, and debris.
  3. Move your snow blower and shovels to the front of the garageor shed for easy access.
  4. Prepare the snow blower for the first snowfall by changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.
  5. Sharpen ice chopper and inspect snow shovels to make sure they’re ready for another season of work.
  6. Make sure you have an ample supply of ice melt or sand on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway.

Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning

  1. Inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure that they’re clean of any soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard.
  2. Check fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly.
  3. Clean or replace the air filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
  4. Clean your whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.
  5. Bleed valves on any hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
  6. Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  7. Remove air conditioners from windows or cover them with insulated liners, to prevent drafts.
  8. If you have an older thermostat, consider replacing it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs.
  9. Install foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls to reduce outside airflow.
  10. Make sure fans are switched to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort.
  11. Flush hot water heater tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order.
  12. Examine exposed ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces, and use a sealant to plug up any leaks.

Gutters, Roof, and Drains

  1. Check for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak.
  2. Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Seal joints where water could penetrate using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
  3. Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and icecan pull gutters off the house.
  4. Clean gutters of any debris. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.
  5. Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.

It is always a challenge to get started with a long list of chores but by taking care of your property you prolong the life of it and you will enjoy a safe and warm winter in this beautiful winter wonderland we call home.

Curb Appeal 101 for your Muskoka Property

Front Door EntranceSpring seems to have arrived at last and maybe you’re thinking about selling your home or cottage so here are some of my tips to enhance that ever important “Curb Appeal”.

  1. Have a front door that pops!Your front door should be an exterior focal point so ramp up the appeal by giving it a fresh look. Try painting it a rich colour and consider updating the hardware or adding a new knocker. Depending on the style of your home or cottage you may want to add a seasonal touch. Hang a spring wreath or craft item that shows your visitors a little of your creativeness but do not be tempted to make it too cluttered. Pots of bright and fragrant flowers are always a great addition if your entrance way has room but don’t make it difficult to enter and exit.
  1. Add some bright flowers or plants to the entrance side. Remember, in Muskoka curb appeal does not always mean there is a curb, but the exterior is the very first impression a potential buyer will have of your property—I suggest planting perennials and spring bulbs around your home especially on the entrance side. The extra layer of foliage and colour will create a sense of depth, making your front yard appear larger.
  1. Road numbers should be easy to see. If you live in a rural area make sure you can clearly see the 911 number as you approach from both directions. If you are in town, walk across the street from your home to get a better idea of how easy it is to find your house numbers. Pick large numbers in a clear font that are the easy to read from a distance. Try to install them where they are not blocked by trees, foliage or verandas and position the numbers horizontally rather than vertically as they are easier to read that way. If possible consider lighting your street number to make it easy to find when it is dark.
  1. Consider a front garden sitting area. If you have a large front yard and find you rarely use it, consider whether it would be a suitable location to put a sitting area that can work as a fun and functional hangout zone. A bench curved around an outdoor water feature or fireplace is sure to become a favorite gathering place for friends and family!
  1. Keep it neat and tidy. If you’re planning to sell, remember that an untended garden screams “work” to a potential buyer. If you have a lawn, early spring is a good time to reseed or add sod where it’s coming back patchy. Cover flower beds with a natural mulch to help retain moisture and give the beds a finished look.
  1. Look up! Make sure the roof is in good repair.If the shingles are curling at the edges or have crumbling bits, it is time to investigate further. Have a professional roofer take a look. If you need a new roof covering, check references and get at least three competing estimates before hiring someone for the job.
  1. Clean windows and siding. Give your siding a fresh start this spring by washing off the dirt, road salt and cobwebs using a power washer or a regular hose with washing attachment.  The latter can get windows shiny and clean but remember to clean inside windows as well for the most sparkle. 
  1. Remember the garage and driveway. If you can see it, it should look as good as the home. The garage and driveway often take up a lot of visual real estate, so if they don’t look good they can seriously detract from curb appeal. Have any driveway cracks repaired or the gravel graded and topped up. Freshen up the garage with a coat of paint and consider matching the door to the front door of the home. Don’t forget the finishing touches and add some sconce lighting and flower boxes.
  1. Make the garden path a feature. If your home’s walkway is a straight line from the sidewalk to the front door, you may be missing out on an easy curb appeal enhancement; the curving path. Even a slight curve in a front walk helps move the eye through the landscape, making the front yard seem more spacious and welcoming.
  1. Keep it in the spotlight.A well-lit porch is a welcoming sight to come home to and more fun to hang out on. It can also make the space look bigger. If your porch has a single light, consider installing one or two additional lights. If you have a long pathway leading to your door, consider adding landscape lighting as well — your guests will thank you.

In this current, highly competitive market, details matter.  The first time most prospective buyers see your property is when it is listed on www.realtor.ca Ensure that the exterior photo your Muskoka property makes a great first impression!

 

 

The Upside to Downsizing Your Muskoka Home

DownsizeYour children are grown and finally gone and settled into their own adult lives. You have gone through the woes of “empty nest” syndrome and you are now in the position to think about what is next for you!

Do you keep the big home and hope that you get to host the family holidays? Do you even want to do that?  Most of us eventually decide that a smaller home with less maintenance and overhead is the wiser thing to do, so here are some pros and cons to help you decide if there is an upside to downsizing for you.

Most often when I see clients downsize, they tend to move into into a smaller home or condo. Smaller homes very often are on smaller lots and both of these options can mean being closer to neighbours.

On the downside you can see and hear your neighbours.  This may be a negative but you can help moderate the effect by upgrading the window treatments in your home for privacy and strategically place screening plants in your garden or on your patio or balcony to make you new location more private.

The upside is you can get to know your neighbours. In most cases when you downsize you will find you have more time on your hands.  Less work to do around the home so having new friends in the neighbourhood is a great way to spend some of that time. Be social, old friends are great, but making friends next door will enhance the everyday enjoyment you have in your new home.

One of the things a larger home often has is storage space that smaller homes and condos usually lack.

On the downside storage becomes a premium. The double vanity in the old bathroom, the large hall closet, the full basement with a large utility room: these places may be gone in the new home. To counter-act this you may want to consider closet organizers and perhaps a bathroom makeover.

The upside is you can purge and then indulge: You may need to be a little brutal with yourself at first but pare down your “stuff” to only the things you need and love. Then give yourself permission to acquire only products you love as time goes on.  They may cost a little more but your new and efficient life style means you can afford to spend a little more on your favourite perfume and toiletries and use them every day rather than having 2 or 3 kinds and keeping the favorite one only for special occasions!

Most large family homes have formal sitting areas and family rooms. Often there is a craft room and a work shop. Lots of “hidey holes” for family members to have “me time” that may not exist in a smaller home.

The downside is that it is harder to have your own space. As a retired empty nester, you may have developed separate interests and activities from your partner so you will need to be intentional about giving each other the time and space needed to continue to do these activities.
The upside is that by being more exposed to your partner’s hobbies you may find you both enjoy them.  In addition, you will have a smaller home and fewer rooms that need cleaning so more time to spend together.

One of the biggest factors to consider when downsizing is what to keep and what to let go of.

The downside is your furniture may no longer work. Even if you’ve made careful decisions about what items you will keep and take to the new home there could be issues. A light-filled room can highlight stains you hadn’t noticed, the color or style may be all wrong for the space, and the way you find yourself using a room may mean that your furniture feels like a mismatch.

The upside is you are liquidating capital in the process and so can afford some new items: You have the perfect excuse to go shopping for new furniture and that is always fun!

The garden is usually a big adjustment whether you love to garden or not. Moving from a large home that likely has a larger garden to a smaller one with just a little one or even a condo with none can mean a big change.

The downside is your backyard shrinks, and your lifestyle changes along with it. For many this is a relief not a problem but if gardening is a passion for you, the solution is not as hard as you may think. There are often neighbours who can no longer manage their gardens who would love to allow you to help. Put a message on the community Facebook page and see how many replies you get. If you’re used to lazing by a back-yard pool and know you’ll miss it, consider a hot tub or a swim spa instead.

The upside is you have more time for you. Mowing the lawn will no longer be a time-consuming chore and the cost of the spring and fall turn around will be cut down considerably.  Remember, with some creative furnishings and plantings, a compact backyard can still meet your needs for a restful outdoor escape and a place to entertain family and friends.

By the time, you are ready to down size you have very likely been used to a large kitchen and cooking for a family. A smaller home or condo will usually mean a much smaller kitchen.

The downside is a compact kitchen changes the way you cook. When you have had oodles of counter tops and lots of storage perhaps even a pantry, cooking a family meal is relatively easy. A smaller kitchen will require you to clean as you go, plan your meals and shop for ingredients more often. It also means you need to reduce the quantities of serving dishes, glassware and kitchen gadgets that you keep.

The upside is that you can have fun learning new recipes. Embrace your downsized lifestyle and eat out more often. Meet friends out for dinner instead of having them over and when it comes to family events go to their home or make it pot luck and paper plates!

Another adjustment you will likely have to face is that your rooms need to serve more than one purpose. If you had a sewing room in your old home, you will most likely have to set up in a spare bedroom and pack things up for company.

The downside is rooms must serve more than one purpose. As an empty nester, you will have had the luxury of turning rooms the children once occupied into craft rooms, man caves, home offices and the like. When you downsize you will need to adjust to multipurpose rooms and make do, particularly when hosting guests.

The upside is less space less junk. You will be less tempted to accumulate stuff and buy only what you need or genuinely love.

Laundry rooms are often sacrificed in a downsizing move. Laundry rooms become laundry areas and in a condo may even be a community facility.

The downside is you need to plan your laundry day. If your kitchen and laundry become one or you need to leave your home to do laundry, figuring out what to do with baskets of washing can be a challenge. The typical laundry room is a prime dumping ground for all manner of items, such as shoes that need cleaning and stained items that are soaking in the sink, ironing board and so much more. You must find a way to eliminate this or “hide” it until laundry day.
The upside is small loads of laundry done frequently: Piles of laundry will become a thing of the past. Staying on top of washing, folding and ironing will become the norm.

Perhaps the biggest change and even the most difficult one to adjust to is how to handle house guests.

The downside is you have to plan well for company. Larger homes often come with guest rooms for visiting family but downsizing means you need to get creative to squeeze in more than one guest at a time. Bunk beds, wall beds, sofa beds and air mattresses are all options. It’s up to you how many guests you want to accommodate at once —and sometimes it will take a visit or two to see what will work.

The upside is smaller groups of visitors means more one-on-one time with them: If only a couple of family members can visit comfortably at once, quality time together is assured.

The decision to go from a large family home to a smaller one is not easy to make, but in my experience it is usually a good move with no regrets. I would be happy to help you with any questions you may have about the process and, of course, with the search for that new smaller abode.

8 Tips for a Successful Muskoka Home Renovation

Karen Acton - Renovating your Muskoka HomeIn my role as a Muskoka REALTOR® I am frequently invited into homes and cottages to give an opinion of value. These properties are in various states of maintenance and repair and often have been renovated by the home owner. These renovations span the whole gamut, from elegant and value-enhancing to lamentable and wasteful. So here are some tips that I believe will be helpful if you plan to renovate your Muskoka Home.

Set a Realistic Budget

If you plan to do a home renovation you really should have a clear idea of what you can afford before you start looking in magazines and picking fixtures and countertops etc. Talk to a contractor about realistic costs. Even if you plan to do the work yourself be sure to have a contingency fund built into the budget to allow for the unexpected. In my experience, there is nearly always a “surprise” element to every project.

Things to make sure you budget for include:

  • cost of preparing the space before you start the actual work (disposal of old materials)
  • relocating plumbing and electrical
  • light fixtures
  • paint and PRIMER – often skipped but will save time and money if done right!
  • flooring – will the existing floor be damaged in the process and need replacing or refinishing?
  • Permits – most renos WILL need permits and skipping them means that you could have issues when reselling and in some cases, void your insurance.
  • HELP – can you do it all yourself or will you hire out some parts?

Will Your Reno Suit Your Neighbourhood?

While most renos are interior and you may think immaterial to the neighbourhood you do need to consider the investment you are about to make. If your dream is to install an ensuite bath with a steam room that is wonderful but none of the homes in your area have this kind of luxury feature, you should understand that it is purely for your enjoyment while you own your home. You will not likely get any return on the investment. In fact, in some cases over improvements can devalue a home.

Remember not to ignore your home’s style when renovating especially if the renovation includes an addition. If you have a traditional Muskoka waterfront property, then a modern addition with walls of glass may not look esthetically appealing and will not generally improve value. While it may be your dream to own, it may not be the dream of many protentional future buyers. Work with your builder and architect to come up with a design that gives you the features you want but still fits the rest of the home or cottage.

Avoid Going Too Trendy

People sometimes make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things. I would encourage you to consider that trendy often means short term. While some of the hottest and latest trends will turn out to be timeless many will burn out fast and not only will you stop loving them quickly but the next buyer of your home or cottage will see them as “dated”.

To keep any room “trendy” pick accent items you can add rather than physical and structural ones. That way when the trend is over you can replace them with something new.  A good example of this is shag carpeting.  Rather than doing wall to wall, do a more standard floor finish and add a shag area carpet  and perhaps some shag accent pillows.  When shag goes out of style, and it will, replace these accents with whatever is the next trend.

Buy the Right Materials

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when it comes to home renovation is to try to be frugal when choosing materials. The bottom line is, you’re going to get what you pay for.  Inexpensive and cheap are definitely not the same thing. Price check and be wise but being cheap will often lead to having to spend more in the long run. Cheap fixtures and products end up looking that way and invariably you will be disappointed and probably choose to replace then with the product you wanted in the first place.

Remember that if you’re going to do it, do it right. If you can’t afford to do it right, wait and do it later!

Do the Prep Work

Do it the right way the first time. Whatever the job get yourself ready before you start. Gather the right tools and prepare the space before you dip a brush in the paint or hammer in the first nail. You will be so glad you did.  I know it is the tedious part of any project big or small but if you fail to be prepared you will end up taking longer than needed and perhaps compromising on the quality of the finished job simply because you were too eager to get started.

One of the most important prep steps is the measuring. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is the mantra of the great contractor and you should make it yours.  You can burn through a budget quickly by making cutting mistakes in your lumber or trim work and if ordering flooring, buying too much or too little will lead to total frustration. If you are not sure how to measure properly ask someone who knows. A quick lesson will save you time money and frustration.

Paint and Light

People often make the mistake of picking the wrong paint for whatever particular project they may be working on. It is important to use the correct type of paint for the surface. The best advice will come from the professional at the paint store but choose better quality paints with the right finish for the job.

Remember that your lighting needs to complement the colour palate you use and that typically most people gravitate to light and warm colours rather than dark and bold.

Get the Right Tools

If you are planning on doing the renovation yourself make sure you have all the tools you need to do it properly. This means that you may have to borrow or rent what you don’t have. Do not try to make the wrong tool do the job. This can lead to expensive mistakes and sadly even to injury to yourself or damage to the tool you are trying to make do the job. Knives are not screw drivers and chop saws are not miter saws so please be careful and make sure you have the right equipment to do the job safely.

You may even need to rent stand lights so you can properly see what you are working on and space heaters to keep you warm in the addition until the new heating is connected.

Embrace the Chaos

Once you have done the budget, designed and purchased the materials, sit down in and enjoy your last moment of calm for a while. Then take a big breath and embrace the chaos. While it is always best to try working in a clean and tidy space you need to accept that a clean and tidy work space is not a clean and tidy home. You will have disrupted meal times, dusty surfaces and hard to find possessions for the duration of the project. So embrace it, find humor in it and don’t get mad at each other or the kids over things that cannot change until the job is done.

 

I hope these tips will be useful and not too negative. Renovating your Muskoka home or cottage can be an exciting and worthwhile endeavor and if done well, will bring you many years of enjoyment and a good return on your investment when the time is right to sell.