How to Sell Your Cottage

How is selling a cottage different from selling a house?

It’s a little strange to think that selling a cottage could be any different from selling a house, and I’m sure that the tips below could apply to both. You can read my post that goes into more depth about the differences between a cottage and a house. It would only make sense that there are subtle differences in the purchase and sale process as well. Here are a few:

  • Cottages tend to be a little quirky compared to a city home. You’ll want to minimize these quirks for buyers who see trouble rather than charm.
  • Cottage life tends to be more outdoor/nature focused. This means that you’ll be working on staging the outdoor spaces just as much as interior ones. This reaches beyond your property lines too; you’re bringing all the benefits of your area into focus for the buyer.
  • Cottages are often sold furnished. You wouldn’t dream of selling your house with everything in it would you?! At least that’s the way it often works here in Ontario.

Getting The Greatest Return on Investment When It’s Time to Sell

As I mentioned in this post, we decided that the time was right for us to sell the cottage so we could begin our transition to living on the Bruce Peninsula full time and retiring in the near future. We probably could have purchased the land and started the build before selling the cottage. So why on earth would we sell our beloved cottage so early?

Why we decided to sell the cottage instead of financing to start our new build:

  1. The market was ramping up, prices were rising quickly and we didn’t want to end up priced out of the area altogether.
  2. We didn’t want to pay interest on a loan if we didn’t have to.
  3. The objective of this entire project is to simplify our lives, so why complicate it by owning three properties and potentially having ongoing projects to manage at each one.

I’m sure this decision would have been a lot harder to make if we still lived in a city 3 hours from where we want to be. Fortunately we were able to move to Owen Sound, only an hour away from the cottage, a couple of years ago. This means that we still have easy access to all the things we love about the area: hiking, fishing, biking and so much more.

Getting Ready to Sell

Sure, we could have called our agent the moment we made our decision to sell but we wanted to do our best to ensure we would sell quickly and for as much as we could. The money would have a job to do after all! Instead, we took a few days to make some small repairs, and remove a few things we wanted to keep. We also did a thorough cleaning.

Then we called a Realtor we trust! In our cottage/home search as well as in helping friends find a cottage of their own, we’d had the opportunity to work with a few agents in the area and they didn’t seem a good fit for our sale. We first met Terri Cardinal of Sutton-Sound Realty Brokerage Inc. when we bought our house in Owen Sound and we knew she would be the one to do the best job for us on the cottage deal. There was no question that we would call her again!

When Terri came to see the cottage, she gave as a few more small tasks and scheduled the photo shoot. The wheels were turning for a quick listing process and Terri immediately started building a buzz around the property before she even left that day.

We’ve bought and sold a few properties in our time and we’ve always managed to make a decent profit from the investment. With that, and one AHA tip from Terri, here are our …

Top Tips for Selling Your Cottage Quickly and For The Best Price

1. Declutter

Cottages have a way of collecting random stuff that really has no purpose or value. You can either give it to someone who can use or appreciate it, trash it if it’s beyond its useful condition, or sell it if it’s too good to let go of for free. We have a $100 value limit; if it’s worth $100 or more, we’ll take the time to list it.

Remove anything from tables or shelves that is smaller than your fist. Small items will read as clutter in pictures.

Terri Cardinal

2. Stage rooms for their original intended purpose.

For example, when we bought the cottage, the upper level was staged as two bedrooms. We used it as a bedroom and an office/workout area for me. To sell, we turned it back into two sleeping areas and put the desk out into the bunkie which we staged as a flex space. Don’t let your prospective buyer try to figure out what to do with a room – they won’t!

3. Give everything a good cleaning.

Let’s face it, no one wants to spend cottage time cleaning when there’s so much relaxing or fishing to do. I’d clean almost every weekend but rarely was it to the detail level the house was. Take some time and give the place a good spring-like cleaning.

If you’re selling the cottage furnished (like most people do here) make sure even the furniture is clean and in good repair. We learned this lesson well when we bought the cottage. Don’t forget to clean the oven, fridge and any other appliances.

4. Tidy up the gardens & outdoor spaces.

A big part of cottage living is done outside so define the areas and make them look as low maintenance as possible. Give the gardens a good trim and weeding, power wash decks and place a planter or two to brighten things up.

Keep your outdoor areas staged for use, even if you’re selling outside of prime cottage season. For example, it’s difficult for a potential buyer to tell just how big the deck is when there’s no furniture on it. And if there are two trees spaced perfectly for a hammock, hang a hammock so your buyers can see themselves “living the dream.”

5. Be sure your Realtor gets familiar with the perks of your area.

Even if your realtor says they’re familiar with the area, be sure to let them know about all the hidden gems in your neighbourhood. I remember a few years ago, when we almost bought a house nearby, we had a local realtor come in to evaluate our cottage in case we’d need to sell it to buy the other place. We took her to the beach that’s within walking distance to the cottage and she had no idea such a great spot was so close. And we took Terri to see the beach as well on the day she came to see the cottage we wanted her to list. Without our agent knowing about that beach, she couldn’t have made our location so attractive.

If you really want to see the value of staging and a good photographer, take a little look through our before and after gallery below. All of the ‘after’ pictures were taken by James Masters and were used in the listing. Granted we’ve done a lot of work to the place (such as new windows and doors, a TON of landscaping, new kitchen and bath, but from a staging standpoint, which would you be more excited to view?


A huge shout out to Terri’s Photographer, James Masters. His photos, video and 3D walkthrough were of outstanding quality. James is a real pro!

To find James Masters Photography please contact me.

While I wasn’t able to find definitive statistics from a financial source (most of what I found was on Real Estate Staging Services sites) about the return on investment for staging your property, it just makes sense to me. Really, all it cost us was some time and a little bit of sweat to have our cottage set to put it’s best foot forward to find its’ new owners. A little staging, a Realtor who really works for you and an awesome photographer netted us a quick sale with more money in our pocket than we would have imagined 12 years ago when we bought the place.

Now we’re enjoying our downsized life while planning for the construction of our dream home in the woods.

Have I missed any tips that helped you buy or sell your cottage? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

The Cottage Wife

In addition to hiking, biking, reading and writing, I like to focus on making as light an impact on the land possible, while still living a modern life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts