5 ways your cottage can make you money

A box with a key that says bed and breakfast Photo by Cora Mueller/Shutterstock

For many of us, owning a cottage isn’t a money-making proposition. We own one because we cherish being able to get away from the city, or because we want to build or maintain a treasured family tradition. A cottage tends to be an investment with returns that aren’t immediately quantifiable. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little legwork, you can turn your cottage into something that makes your wallet richer as well as your heart.

Rent it out

This is the obvious route to turning your cottage into a money-maker. Demand for cottages continues to increase as more people, especially families, choose vacation rentals over traditional hotels. Couple that with the potential to make between $1,000 and $2,000 per week (more or less, depending on your cottage’s amenities and location), and it’s understandable why many cottagers choose to rent out their spaces for at least part of the summer.

There’s a lot to consider before you start renting, though: you’ll have to determine whether your insurance covers renters, figure out the going rental rate for your area and style of cottage, decide how often you’re going to rent your place, and arrange to give the space a thorough cleaning before and after your guests leave, along with a host of other details. You’ll also have to choose whether you want to be informal, renting only to friends and family, or make an arrangement with an outside vendor, like Airbnb or a rental agency. And, of course, don’t get so enamoured with renting that you forget to enjoy the cottage yourself. Interested, but not sure? Check out this video for tips.  

Start a bed ‘n’ breakfast

If you have the space and you love having company, and don’t mind filling your days with laundry and cooking, consider starting a bed and breakfast at your cottage. This can be especially lucrative if you’re in an area that regularly gets summer weddings but has limited accommodations, or a spot that has a university or college and regularly visiting parents. You’ll definitely have high and low times, with most of your guests staying during the times when you’d most like to be enjoying your cottage yourself.

Beware: running a bed and breakfast sounds romantic, but is really a full-time job (and then some). If you’re more interested in occasional short-term guests, look into Airbnb instead. If you think running a B and B is for you, look into your local B and B association for how to get started.

Offer your land for campers

If you’d rather not have people staying in your house, but still want a little extra money and have some land around you, you can list your land on a site like Gamping or CampInMyGarden. As long as you’re absolutely clear about what you do and don’t offer (are bathroom facilities available in the house or will you provide a camp toilet and sun shower?) offering your land up for campers can be a great way to connect with folks and make a little money without having people right underfoot.

If you have a cottage in the U.S., check out Tentrr. For a membership fee, they’ll actually set up a full campsite on your property, including a canvas tent on a platform, a camp toilet, a picnic table, fire pit and other amenities. Plus, they take care of maintenance and provide a platform for you to manage your bookings.

Use it as a film location

If you can handle being kicked out of your cottage for a period of time (anywhere from a day to several weeks), then listing it as a possible film set can be a good way to supplement your income. While there are many online databases for potential locations to list their facilities, it’s a good idea to start with your provincial media development office, who can point you in the right direction for film shoots in your area.

While cottage country isn’t always a high-traffic filming location, you may get lucky, especially if you have an old-fashioned cottage with lots of retro details that could work for a shoot set in the past. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out these tips.

Use it as a base for a side hustle

If you don’t mind spending your weekends hustling, you can turn a hobby into a cottage industry. Literally. If you love to bake and your area has a regular farmers’ market, consider setting up a table and selling your famous butter tarts each weekend. Crafty? See if a local shop will sell your wares on consignment. You may be working, but at least working at the cottage is better than working just about anywhere else.

Sell off your old stuff

This isn’t a sustainable source of income, but if you’ve got a shed or barn full of old stuff you never use, you can declutter and make money at the same time. Believe it or not, lots of what you might think of as junk — think old tools, retro coffee mugs, or even 20-year-old computers — can be highly collectible, so do some research into the best way to sell it.

(Inexperienced at the selling-on-the-Interwebs thing? Check out our tips for selling your stuff online.) Want to go a little more old-school? Have an old-fashioned garage sale. Advertise it at the local grocery store, put out signs, perk some coffee, and wait for your neighbours to pop  by. Even better? Organize a cottager’s yard sale for your entire neighbourhood.

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