- If you don't own a cottage and are keen to rent one to experience a taste of northern living this summer, expect to pay more than in previous years.
- Property owners should store the personal belongings they covet and be sure anything you do have at your cottage you could live without.
- Every province has a popular cottage country region. Rental costs in those areas will be pricey. Renters should think about looking for a cottage in a less hip region.
The second summer cottage season in the COVID-19 era is here, but it hasn’t diminished Canadians’ enthusiasm for escaping the city to quieter digs in cottage country.
Although some provinces are cautiously reopening and lifting their pandemic lockdown restrictions, everyone needs to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the virus. According to a recent Leger poll, 59% of Canadians are concerned about contracting the Delta variant, but 76% of us are confident that vaccination effectively protects against the COVID-19 variants, including the Delta variant.
Regardless, if you don't own a cottage and are keen to rent one to experience a taste of northern living this summer, expect to pay more than in previous years. That’s because the demand for rentals has been booming since last February. Moreover, prices spiked because of higher cleaning fees at properties due to the pandemic.
If you're a cottage owner, renting out your cottage to others when you're not there can help rake in a few extra bucks. However, renting can be a tricky business; both sides want to get great value without too much fuss. Here are a few suggestions for both property owners and renters to bear in mind:
What to know about renting out your cottage
Owning a second property is expensive and renting out your cottage when you’re not using it makes good financial sense. But there’s much to do to get things ready for rental, including:
- Check rental listings for your area to set a competitive price. Peruse local rental listings to get a sense of what other property owners ask for when renting their digs. Is your cottage on the waterfront with a beach? How many bedrooms does it have? Is your cottage outfitted with modern appliances and internet access? All these factors should be considered when setting a price.
- Clean up. You need to store your personal belongings and be sure anything you do have at your cottage you could live without. That means taking home items you value such as a fancy stereo system. The more basic the amenities in your cottage, the less you have to lose in case something gets stolen or broken.
- Set guidelines. Establish clear and concise rules for renters to follow that are easy to understand. You may want to ask guests for a damage deposit to protect your property, and it’s worthwhile to screen potential renters by asking a few questions before you accept a booking.
- Be safe. Many renters are families, so they will be looking for a childproof cottage free of hidden hazards. Be sure you have gates for the docks and railings on the deck. Even little things like placing a rubber mat in the shower can prevent someone from falling and getting injured, and in turn, suing you for damages.
- Get insured. Call your home insurance company to be sure your property is adequately covered to rent. If not, it might be time to switch providers.
- Get help. A property management company can help supervise your property if you plan on renting your cottage multiple times in a year. It may be worthwhile to hire a professional cleaning service to scrub the dwelling clean after each renter.
- Smart marketing. Take quality photos of the property and post an online summary of your second home with detailed descriptions of what makes it unique. If you're running things off your own website, use online tools such as a booking calendar to make bookings easier.
- Use a secure payment system. You need to safeguard yourself from fraud when conducting financial transactions. Consider using an online platform that provides booking services and protection against fraudulent credit card transactions such as Vrbo (formerly CanadaStays).
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What to know as a renter
It can be difficult to find a great cottage to rent. You must look beyond what’s on a cottage’s webpage and imagine what you need and want from a rental. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your rental dollar:
- Book early. The best spots are long gone by mid-winter, and this year could prove tougher. When you book last minute, you get the spots few people want.
- Ask around. Before you shop online for a cottage, ask friends and relatives where they have rented before. You might find a gem that’s been tested. If that fails, visit cottage rental sites for the area you want so you can compare properties and rental rates.
- Read between the lines. If water is “nearby” that means it's not a waterfront property. “Deep water access” means the kids will have to jump off the dock if they want to swim. “Cozy” or “rustic” might mean it is somewhat broken down.
- Know your deal breakers. If you need a nice kitchen to be able to enjoy yourself, call and ask detailed questions about the countertops and stove. If you want beach access, don’t be satisfied with “well, there’s a little sandy area.”
- Consider amenities. Having things like a powerboat or paddle boat for use, a hot tub, beach, playground — all these things add to your enjoyment of a property. Since it may rain while you are away, look at what’s on the property and nearby in town for those drizzly days.
- You get what you pay for. It’s smart to look for an affordable cottage to rent. But by preparing to spend a little more, you can often get a nicer property with more comfy beds and a decent bathroom.
- Go off the beaten path. Every province has a popular cottage country region. Rental costs in those areas will be pricey. Look for a property in a less hip region but still promises warm temperatures, clear lakes, and great views. As a bonus, getting a meal from a restaurant or shopping in that region is probably cheaper too.
- Protect your home while away. Home invasions and burglaries tend to increase in the summertime. You need to protect your digs while on vacation by taking a few precautions. That includes refraining from advertising on social media that you’re away from home and having a family member or trusted friend visit your house occasionally to check on it until you return.
If a cottage getaway is on your list this summer, be picky and do your research to be sure what you spend is worth it. And if you travel outside of your home province to a cottage as pandemic restrictions loosen, don’t forget to buy a travel insurance policy to protect yourself and your family.