Should We Renovate the Cottage or Build New For Retirement?

I guess I owe you a bit of a catch-up here. Things had been ticking along so nicely, I barely had anything to write about! Well, time ticks on and we’re inching closer and closer and closer to retirement. The conversations about where we’re going to live and how we’re going to fund any projects to do that became more frequent. Not only were they more frequent, they became more realistic than hypothetical.

We never really stopped watching the real estate market on The Bruce Peninsula since we purchased the cottage and suddenly things started moving in 2021. Perhaps people are fleeing the cities in search of some space. Maybe they’re looking for cottages now that travel has become a bit more restrictive. Either way,  prices started climbing and inventory was flying. We had to face it, we needed to come up with a plan sooner than later to avoid getting priced out of the market altogether up here.

We took a serious look at the properties in our cottage neighbourhood and realized that nothing much would be moving anytime soon. And anything that did come available would most likely need an extensive renovation – just like our own cottage would. There’s almost no vacant land here and after a couple conversations with one of the owners, we knew that option was slipping away.

Considerations for Renovating

We tossed around a few ideas for additions and renovations to the cottage. With both of us knowing what we can do on our own and what we can’t, we did a little cost analysis for the project. Yikes! The cost of renovating the cottage – just to make it livable as we age – was comparable to knocking it down and building new on the lot. That was a tough pill to swallow considering the lot would still be a little smaller than our ideal space. Here are just a few things we had to consider in the renovation with an addition:

  • Resizing/Replacing the septic system (AGAIN!)
  • The exterior walls were made with 2×4 construction, so they would have to be beefed up somehow to make the house more heat efficient in winter.
  • We’d need a detached garage – so more building costs and more outdoor space would be lost.
  • We didn’t know if the existing foundation/structure would be able to bear what we’d be doing.
  • If we renovated, would we feel like we’d compromised our dream retirement home for the sake of staying in the neighbourhood?

Considerations for Building New

Then we did a high level comparison of the cost of building a home nearby.  We took into account things like:

  • Currently inflated costs of purchasing land – and predicting that they won’t go down by much again.
  • Current – and rapidly rising – costs of construction materials.
  • Cost of getting services on the lot – hydro hook-up, well, etc.
  • If we build new, would we be disappointed in not being in our beloved neighbourhood?

And the Winner Is …..

We determined that we’d be spending almost the same money in both scenarios. In the end, being in an efficient home, built to current code (or better) on a larger lot, in which we can choose every detail won out. We’ve worked long and hard after all, why not get exactly what we want so we can enjoy our “golden years” without compromise.

I must say, when we decide something wheels start turning quickly! A quick call to our amazing Realtor, Terri Cardinal, and a marathon weekend of packing, decluttering and shifting furniture around and voila! our cottage was listed.

Listing day at the cottage!
photo credit James Masters

No sooner had the cottage hit the market than the calls started coming in for viewings. But WAIT! An offer within hours! Sight unseen! – Well not really unseen, the pictures and video walk-through I’m sure are what sealed the deal. And then another offer! Within 24 hours our beloved cottage was SOLD.

Sold sign on our cottage property
And the Cottage is SOLD!

A few weeks later we’d officially downsized our lives into one home. Even though we sold the cottage furnished, we still needed to consolidate ore dispose of a massive amount of stuff. In addition, by then we’d also purchased our new lot and had things underway to build our forever home in the woods.

The strangest thing about all of this is that as big a part of our lives as the cottage was, we don’t really miss it.  Sure we miss our friends and neighbours up there immensely but we’re loving our simplified life and the excitement of building from scratch – together.

I’m grateful to the cottage for the years of memories, the space and reprieve from city hustle and now for the financial ability to move into our new build and future with peace of mind.


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.

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