8 tips for staging your cottage and getting it sold fast

Staged-cottage-bedroom Jan Mika/Shutterstock

Over the years, cottages become a treasure trove of memories — from well-loved sofas, to kitschy knick-knacks, to photos of bygone summers.

If you’re about to put your cottage on the market, though, you’ll need to rethink your decorating strategy.

“People like turn-key places,” says Paula Troutman, owner of Refresh Home Staging. “Our Canadian summers are very short and buyers want to maximize time spent relaxing — rather than working on fixing up a cottage.”

An interior designer for 35 years, Troutman started staging after a realtor approached her for help with a difficult cottage sale. It was messy, with an aesthetic that’s common to cottage properties: mismatched and hand-me-down furniture.

Her makeover resulted in a bidding war and a business was born. Since then, Troutman has helped countless realtors and cottage owners stage their properties.

Here are her top eight tips for getting your cottage ready for showing:

See your property through the eyes of an outsider

“If your cottage is looking tired you can be sure that buyers will ask for a discount,” says Troutman. “Every little detail is not to be overlooked.”

Make sure your property looks maintained, clean, and organized from the bottom of the driveway all the way down to the waterfront. As you complete a walk-through, make your initial to-do list.

It may also help to call in a professional such as Troutman. “They have the eye to work with all the things you already have and put it in a new perspective,” she says.

Be prepared to de-clutter and depersonalize your cottage

“You have to make it like buyers are coming to an Airbnb or hotel,” says Troutman. Personal items should be the first things to go—and yes, this includes your fishing trophies and pictures of grandkids.

Set the mood

Soft lighting, music, and fresh flowers go a long way in creating the atmosphere that people are looking for.

“We have a total of eight seconds to make that great first impression,” says Troutman. “They already have a feeling as soon as they step in the door.”

Turn your kitchen from a functional space for cooking into a beautiful space for entertaining

“Make it look like you’re wanting them to stay for dinner as your guests,” advises Troutman. You can stage the kitchen and dining area by propping up a clean cookbook and setting the table for two, complete with flowers and serviettes.

Counters should be cleared of all appliances, including your water dispenser, if you have one. (It may give the impression that the cottage has bad drinking water.)

The bathrooms and bedrooms should look like they’re checking into a hotel

Make it look like the maid has just come. In the bathroom, hang clean towels — you can even roll one or two facecloths for effect — and place a fresh bar of soap by the sink. Like the rest of your cottage, you’ll need to remove personal effects, including shampoos, razors, and loofahs. (It should go without saying that plungers, toilet bowl brushes, and garbage should also be out of sight.)

In the bedroom, Troutman advises minimizing furniture. Make up the bed with fresh bedding folded back and accent pillows to match. Clear off the top of dressers, save for a few perfume bottles or a book to read.

Don’t overlook the outdoor and waterfront areas

“Buyers want to envision their family enjoying all the features that the cottage has to offer,” says Troutman. “People imagine better when they see it and how it could suit their lives and family.”

Decks and docks should be freshly painted and in good repair. To spruce up the scene, set up a couple of chairs with cushions and a side table with flowers. The bonfire can be arranged as though it’s ready for a family to gather around, complete with wood, blankets and s’mores supplies.

Garages and sheds should also be well organized

If you were planning to tuck away your extra furniture in your storage areas just for staging, think again. This will be another area prospective buyers will want to inspect.

Extra sheds can also be staged as a Bunkie, which allows buyers to envision the space as extra square footage — rather than as just another storage area.

For a decorative touch, establish a colour theme indoors and out

For example, if you have red flowers, look for red pillows, a red tray, red towels, or jugs and mugs. Change up the sofa or cushion covers on mismatched old furniture. Hit up your local dollar or thrift store for those extra pieces that you might need.

A coat of red paint on tired accessories or wooden furniture also does wonders. “Paint is the cheapest way to dramatically change the look of anything,” says Troutman.

Staging may take time and an upfront investment, but Troutman promises it will pay back in dividends. “Staging works,” she says. “Selling at the top price in the least amount of time possible equals less stress.”

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