If your cottage is like most, it’s a place for relaxation, traditions, and family memories. Which means “income property” might not be the first phrase that comes to mind when you think about summers at the lake. But there might be no better time than now to change that.
The best part of renting out your cottage is that you can do it on your own terms. You can choose when to rent, whom to rent to, and which spaces and amenities you’ll make available. More importantly, you can set your own price, and you can stop renting it any time you want. And all of this control makes renting your cottage a viable financial opportunity in today’s sharing economy.
That said, it’s normal to be wary of sharing your space. To help alleviate those concerns, we spoke to the short-term vacation rental experts at CanadaStays, who offered the following tips to help you rent out your cottage with confidence.
Overcome your fear of strangers
One of the biggest hurdles for first-time renters is the idea of someone sharing your space—after all, they could be sleeping in your bed, using your dishes, and sitting in your favourite chair. And while that acceptance gets easier with time, there are a few things you can do to mitigate your fear of strangers. Ask the renters to provide more details about their group—are they a family with young children or a group of young professionals? Have a different set of linens for your renters, and consider mattress toppers for rentals to add an extra layer of separation. Make it clear that certain parts of your cottage are off limits; a locked door goes a long way, but a simple note in the rental agreement does too.
Schedule your personal use
You can, and should, be renting on your own terms. Sure, owning a cottage opens up rental-income opportunities, but you still want to enjoy your time at the lake. When using a rental calendar, you can set certain dates as unavailable, and you can adjust the availability as-needed. Just keep in mind that most people book cottages three to six months in advance, so be sure to plan ahead to maximize your bookings.
Protect your cottage from damage
A major source of concern when renting out your property is knowing whether the renter will treat it with the same respect you do. So how do you protect your cottage from damage? For starters, you should put personal items behind closed doors and make sure that large-ticket items like boats are excluded or charged for use. Always set clear and concise guidelines—most renters won’t read long paragraphs of legalese—and have them readily available. CanadaStays makes this easy by including “house rules” that guests must agree to before booking. You can also ask for a damage deposit to protect your property, and you can screen your renters with a simple set of standard questions before accepting a booking. Lastly, make sure you have short-term rental coverage, which select Canadian insurers now offer by day.
Decide on a check-in system
Platforms like CanadaStays let you regulate your check-ins and check-outs much like a hotel would. You can state upfront that guests can check in only on certain days or after a certain hour, and that they need to be out by a specific time. Some cottage owners go traditional with a hidden key, while others have opted for more modern check-in systems, from coded keypads to remote smart-home entry systems. For a smoother process, you can try platforms like Hostfully, which lets you create standardized digital guidebooks for guests.
Be as “hands on” as you want
You can decide early on the kind of rental owner you’d like to be. If you’re a hands-on cottage owner, you might opt to greet your guests, or otherwise make yourself available on call should any issues arise. Other owners prefer the opposite approach, outsourcing fully to a property manager to handle everything from screening and booking to emergencies, check-ins, and cleaning. Still others prefer to simply pay someone local to come by and change the linens. No matter which you choose, there are a number of ways to outsource managing your property.
Go with a secure payment system
If the transaction isn’t safe, then renting your cottage can be risky. Fraud is a very real concern for both property owners and travellers, so we asked CanadaStays about how they tackle security issues. With a focus on transaction safety, they created a secure payment system that protects both the owner and renter from fraud by holding the traveller’s payment and paying out the owner only after the traveller checks in safely. The online platform also protects against fraudulent credit card activity, keeping the owner safe from scams and schemes. Booking platforms like CanadaStays therefore have a safety advantage over customer-to-customer marketplaces or classified transactions, which often rely on offline payment solutions with no tracking mechanisms and in-person meetups.
Understand your province’s tax laws
There’s no way around it: using your beloved cottage property as an income opportunity means having to claim any rental fees as income on your taxes. So to avoid surprises come tax time, do your research early. Each province has its own tax laws concerning short- and long-term rentals, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you get into it. A quick call to your accountant can end up saving you both money and frustration in the future. Track and claim everything to avoid the dreaded audit come spring.
The internet is a big and sometimes scary place. There are countless sites offering the same services, and it can be tricky to know where to turn. But make no bones about it: your cottage is a deeply personal place, and you shouldn’t cut corners when renting it out. Do your due diligence and make sure the platform you list on can provide you the support you need, offers secure online payment, and will bring you the types of travellers you’re looking for.
CanadaStays is the largest local player in the Canadian vacation rental space, with a marketplace model that lets you securely manage your rentals, while reaching a greater number of travellers through their wider distribution network, which includes HomeAway, VRBO, HomeToGo and Cottage Life. With its secure payment system and an in-house support team that’s available on the phones to help you get set up and get the most out of your listing, CanadaStays will help take the worry out of sharing your space. Visit canadastays.com to learn more.
Ready to rent your cottage? Sign up here and enter coupon code CLBPFB19 to receive a $100 credit when you list your cottage with CanadaStays before March 31, 2019.