Real Estate

Renting out your cottage? Here’s how to get a five-star review

Two happy kids jumping and playing on a inflatable water bounce house on a lake. Jumping on a inflatable trampoline on a summer day is super fun! How to get a five-star review Photo by Brocreative/Shutterstock

Want to make money renting out your cottage? You’re going to need impeccable reviews. Because higher ranked listings are more visible on rental platforms, hosts need to create a near-flawless experience for every guest. “The reviews are the most important thing,” says Jenna Toms, whose family has been renting out their cottage in the Kawarthas since 2018. Toms has picked up her own tricks since becoming a host. As a result, their listing has a flawless five-star rating. She shared a few secrets to her success:

1. Make it spotless

Keeping your cottage clean and presentable between guests can feel like a full-time job. But, there’s no quicker path to a poor review than a messy space. First, Toms removed many of the family’s personal items to make cleaning the space easier. And, while many hosts use a cleaning service, Toms was determined to do the work herself. 

“I go in and make sure it’s done to my liking,” she says. “Putting that trust in someone else allows for some things to fall through the cracks.” To help make her cottage squeaky clean, Toms follows Instagram accounts—like Go Clean Co—to learn tips and tricks for cleaning properly and quickly. 

2. Set clear expectations

It’s difficult to land five-star ratings if your guests are expecting something different. 

“I put myself in their shoes and consider what I’d want to know and be prepared for,” says Toms. For example, summer in the Kawarthas means mosquitoes, so she tells guests to come prepared, or they’ll be eaten alive. And in the spring, people driving up from Toronto may be surprised that there’s still snow on the ground. “Just little things like that so people know what to expect when they arrive. I tell everyone we don’t have air conditioning, but there’s a fan in every room.”

3. Add amenities

For prospective renters, a visit to your cottage is more than a place to sleep — they want the full vacation experience. On rental platforms, travellers often filter their searches by their desired amenities. Some luxury amenities—a hot tub, for example—aren’t so easy to add. But guests will appreciate extras like games, beach supplies, fire pits, and barbecues. 

“Over the last few years, we’ve been able to add some things to help accommodate families with young children,” says Toms. “We’ve also added some water toys and fun floaties that are great for the lake. We’d love to get to the point where we can add kayaks and canoes.”

4. Stay in communication

All the DVDs and welcome baskets in the world won’t make up for poor communication. If you want that five-star review, rental platforms typically recommend that hosts respond quickly, check in during the stay, and maintain professional communication throughout. Toms says she responds to all inquiries as soon as she can, even if just to say she’ll get back to them in full detail in a few hours. She’ll also check in once during their stay and again the morning they depart to remind them how to check out. “On most of the platforms, you can set up that information automatically. But I like to keep it casual and get to know my guests on a more personal level.”

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