10 Ideas for Evaluating Projects

Every year brings expense in a vacation home, whether it’s routine maintenance or repairs, renovation, or upgrades to increase rental rates. Deciding what to do can be a tough process – most of us have a finite budget and it’s important to choose the right project to keep the property safe and well-maintained as well as updated.  Having a five or even a ten-year plan for projects can help keep the balance right and prevent money being spent on the nice-to-have items at the expense of the must-have and must-do improvements. 

Renovate kitchen or bathroom
These are really big ticket projects and need to be well planned and financed.  Think about why you are planning this.  Is it to update an older kitchen to create a better looking space for guests, or to add value to the property for re-sale?  Your reasons could impact both the amount you spend and the design process.  Designers suggest avoiding trendy upgrades if you are not planning on selling, and keeping with a fresh look that will stand the test of time, and a lot of rental use.

Upgrade entertainment systems
Given the fast pace of change in technology, there’s always something new and this is one area where guests have higher expectations. If you still have a big box TV it’s time to change it out – it may not impact your guests’ choice of your place over another but outdated entertainment systems are often mentioned in reviews so it’s well worth the investment. 

Replace furniture
Keeping couches, chairs and loveseats looking new and fresh can be tough with the hard use they get.  Buying a model that has interchangeable slip-covers can work but keep in mind that unless the covers are extremely well made, they will rip and tear over time and continuous changes.  Keep in mind that the weight of the average North American has increased significantly over the last decade so durability is key when selecting new furniture.

Install new amenities i.e. hot tub or sauna
We are in a competitive business and it’s often the amenities that can swing a decision between two similar properties.  A hot tub may not boost rental rates but can increase occupancy in the low and shoulder seasons.  As with many upgrades, avoid economizing and buying cheap – it really does not pay in the long run.  For example, paying extra for a hot tub with a good filtration system will pay back in less maintenance and problems.

Improve the curb appeal – replace roof, siding
First impressions count!  Moss covered roofing, stained siding, paint peeling off porches – all of these carry weight towards a poor first impression and the last thing you want is for your guests’ excited anticipation at arrival to be replaced with disappointment.  A dilapidated exterior can do this so this may be one of the areas to give attention to first.  These projects can be costly but very necessary for the continued maintenance of the property as well as the curb appeal.

Landscape the exterior
Maybe not as high priority as replacing old roofing or siding, if your property is let down by the landscaping, you may want to budget for some professional help.  Your guests may be spending a lot of time outside so think about what they see when they are lounging around on the patio or deck.  Are there weedy areas or cracked-concrete pathways?  Could you increase your rental rate by providing a better outdoor space that will show spectacularly on photos on your listing?

Repair decks and docks
This is more of a maintenance issue (as well as safety) so should not be left languishing at the bottom of a project list.  What you can do to make it more of an exciting project to do is to look a little beyond the immediate needs of maintaining the area.  For a deck – a repainting or re-varnishing job could include budgeting for new outdoor furniture or BBQ; when repairing a dock, think about adding a new set of dock steps and placing brightly colored Adirondack chairs and an occasional table facing out over the water.  This could be an image that scores you the next booking.

Build an addition
BIG project here, but if it could increase your occupancy then the rental rate could be raised accordingly.  Building a new bathroom could be just the addition you need to beat the competition in your area, and raise the value of the property.  Perhaps building a guest cabin in the garden could provide additional accommodation, or just make the place more desirable because it increases the flexibility of the current space.  Be careful on this one and evaluate what the return would be on the investment as it could be that spending the budget on another project would bring in greater return.

Repurpose living space
Is your basement offering just more living space, additional entertainment and extra seating, or it is a complete alternative to your main living room?  Are you just piling in more beds for flexible accommodation when you could be repurposing space for other activities – a craft room, fitness suite, games room etc?   A relatively inexpensive fall project is to evaluate the spaces you have and consider if they would be better suited to other purposes to give more flexibility to meet needs of different guests.

HVAC & Alternate Power
Last but by no means least of all, plan your heating, ventilation, cooling and alternative power budget and projects.  Installing a better furnace, air conditioning and/or a generator can all bring more bookings, less stress, decreased running costs – you just need to evaluate which is more important to your individual set-up.  If you are in an area where power outages cause regular disruption, then an automatic generator is a great investment so think about what might work for you.

Happy project planning!