Time To Invest In A Cottage? Ask Colin And Justin Of ‘Cabin Pressure’

Above: You can watch Colin & Justin's 'Cabin Pressure' on Cottage Life

Canadian housing prices in most of the major urban centres continue to climb higher and higher with no signs of slowing down; everyone tells you property is a wise investment but you just can’t seem to enter the market. Have you considered alternatives? What about investing in a cottage?

The market for cottages is hotter than ever but you can still find affordable places in need of a little elbow grease. And if you can’t make it up every weekend to enjoy it yourself, consider renting it out. Cottages rent for a premium in the summer months and could cover your mortgage. But what do you need to know before you even start your search? We turn to our local cottage experts, Colin and Justin, hosts of Cottage Life’s ‘Cabin Pressure’. Their top tips: stick to a budget then scour thrift stores, ReStores, and the big box stores.

AmongMen: What is the first thing people should look for in a cottage to buy?
Colin + Justin: The VERY first thing to consider is choosing a good realtor. He or she will better understand your chosen area and will better appreciate market trends. In terms of buying, we always say (if you like the prospect of a fixer upper) ‘look for the worst cottage on the best lake’. You can, after all, change anything about the cottage… but its position is a fixed feast.

AM: What factors should we consider when looking for a cottage we want to renovate?
C+J: First things first – know your budget and stick to it.  Don’t let your heart rule your head otherwise you’ll end up biting off more than you can chew.  Consider area, amenities, access (this point is crucial so that trades can actually make it to your dream holiday home to work) and ceiling price.

AM: Biggest pieces of advice before you start to renovate?
C+J: Be fully aware that most renovations cost WAY more than original budgets. So always have a 15% – 25% contingency fund. We’ve been running our property business in the UK (and more recently in Canada) for 22 years, and everything, even with the depth of experience we have, tends to goes over budget. There are always surprises. It’s the nature of the beast. So be prepared!

AM: In homes, they say bathrooms and kitchens are the place to invest your money. Is this the same in cottages?
C+J: As most Canadians are also looking to financially capitalize upon their cottage investment, understand ‘ceiling price’. It might be your dream place – and you may have no intention of selling in the short term – but it’s reassuring to know that your lakeside real estate hasn’t been TOO lavished as far as cash is concerned. So (generally speaking) that means NO fifty grand kitchens in $200K cottages. And no $30K bathrooms… In most cases its best to keep apportioned spend relative to the property cost otherwise you could price yourself out of the market come sales time…

AM: Any tricks to keep the budget down when it comes to finishes or hardware?
C+J: Top tip – be sure to visit ReStore by Habitat for Humanity (they have locations all over the country). These places intake lots of hardware, kitchen appliances, and baths (often brand new overstock from friendly retail partners)- so they make great hunting ground for anyone on a budget. As far as faucets are concerned – we always scan Amazon and Ebay.  Seriously, some of the deals are outstanding. And we always buy handles and kitchen knobs from Ikea. Save a bit here, clip a bit there, shave a few dollars elsewhere.

AM: So we have spent a fortune on renovating our perfect cottage, now how can we decorate it without breaking the bank?
C+J: Whilst dressing our most recent cottage endeavor (the subject of Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure Season 2) it was rare for a day to go by where we didn’t visit The Haliburton Thrift Store. We harvested coffee tables, vintage crockery and cute retro artwork from the heavily laden aisles.  Our favourite cash conscious retail destinations are Homesense and Ikea. Homesense have THE most amazing inventory that changes on an almost daily basis. They’re awesome for linens, towels, accessories, ceramics and more. And obviously our own home line (‘C&J Home’) is carried there – and in store like Marshalls and Winners – and, being Scottish (and therefore canny with our cash!) we designed our collection to be affordable. In fact we always refer to our range as ‘affordable everyday luxuries’.

We buy so many client beds from Ikea and virtually all our white crockery and towels.  Their buyers are solid and the quality is sound.  We even bought the kitchen for our current cottage from Ikea. It’s white and sturdy and accessorised the way we have, it looks a million dollars. In fact it’s one of the first things people comment on when they visit!

You can follow along their mis-adventures on the new season of ‘Colin and Justin’s Cabin Pressure’ on Cottage Life, Sundays at 9:00pm. Also check out their instagram for great design inspiration: @colinandjustin.

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