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Photo by Colleen Allison

Tips for renting a cottage on Airbnb

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Just because you don’t own a cottage doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take full advantage of cottaging season. Summer’s short, after all—and there’s no better way to make it feel longer than to spend some quality time lounging dockside. One great way to find cottages to rent is through Airbnb—the room/house rental website that has more than 15,000 hosts in Ontario alone (including these ridiculously fantastic cottage rentals). But before you start packing your snorkel and charcoal briquettes, here are some tips to make your Airbnb renting experience a positive one.

Narrow down your options

Airbnb listings can be a little overwhelming, so take some time before you start searching to figure out what you want. Do you want to rent an entire cottage, or would staying on the third floor of someone’s home suffice? Do you need somewhere that’s pet friendly? Is water access important to you? Will you be travelling with kids? How many bedrooms do you need? Is your travel window flexible? Deciding these things in advance will help you narrow down your search and pinpoint those rentals that will really fit your needs.

Do your research

While Airbnb doesn’t do background checks on their hosts, there are ways to do your due diligence before renting. Read the reviews for your potential host, check their references, and see whether they have verified phone numbers. If you’re renting for the first time, stay with an experienced host: one with some good reviews already under their belts. And read everything the host has posted about their rental—this helps avoid awkward surprises later on.

Set up your profile as a guest

Remember, Airbnb, at its best, is a community, so be community-minded. Share some biographical info in your Airbnb profile, and get a verified ID. This gives hosts some reassurance that they know who’s going to be staying in their house, and your requests may have a better chance of being accepted.

Pay and communicate only through Airbnb

Airbnb only processes payments through their site, and offers a messaging service as well. If you don’t go through them, you open yourself up to fraud and other potential safety concerns. If there’s an issue, having Airbnb connected through each step of the booking process means things will be easier to sort out.

Contact the host, build some rapport, and ask questions

You can send an instant booking request for some places, but many Airbnb hosts prefer to get a message instead, and process the booking after an initial (online) conversation. Be clear and up-front about your expectations and any special needs you may have, but keep in mind that this isn’t a hotel. While you may be dealing with a professional booking agent, you’re probably going to be renting from a real person whose full time job isn’t to be your concierge. That being said, ask your host about hints and tips about the cottage, the area, and see if they have recommendations for fun stuff to do. Questions aren’t a bad thing, and most Airbnb hosts are eager to share their knowledge. (Just make sure you’re not asking them questions they’ve already answered in their listing!)

Complete the booking quickly

Don’t leave your host hanging—once you find somewhere you like, have made contact, and have determined that the rental will serve your needs, take the plunge. Lots of hosts—especially experienced ones—have multiple booking requests in a day. Dither too long, and you’ll lose out.

Play by the house rules

Once you’re at the cottage, make sure you follow the house rules. While you’ll be asked to review your host, your host will also be asked to review you—so be considerate. Keep the neighbours in mind, and ask your host before you have guests over (unless that’s something you worked out in advance). Arrive at the agreed time, or let your host know that you’re running late. And don’t show up with extra guests and assume they can stay free of charge. Think of your rental as your best friend’s house, rather than a hotel, and that gives you an idea of the level of respect you should keep in mind during your stay.

Communicate while you’re there

If there’s a problem, let your host know. Give them the opportunity to fix things before complaining about the booking publicly. A little discussion goes a long way—and besides, why ruin your trip with something that could be fixed?

Have you had experience renting a cottage through Airbnb? Share it in the comments.