Owner Blog

Stay up to date on recent cottage rental management topics with OCR’s Owner Blog.

October 22, 2018

Reinvesting in your cottage

We have all heard the phrase “You need to spend money to make money”, but the key to maximizing your return on investment truly lies in where you spend that money.

Your vacation rental is a great asset most of the time, and a thorn in your side for the rest – right? There always seems to be something lurking around the corner; maybe an area of your cottage that needs some extra TLC, or an unexpected problem that needs to be addressed swiftly. As a vacation cottage owner, or host, you know how important it is to keep your cottage in great shape to delight your paying guests. So, as the busy season has been and gone, it is a great time to be thinking about where you should reinvest some of your 2018 profits back into your property, as it will benefit you in the future.

The best way to evaluate what needs to be changed, improved or removed is to think about some of your best vacation experiences. What impressed you the most? Was it the spacious and bright kitchen? The comfortable bedrooms? Or maybe the stunning outdoor entertaining space? Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and try to see your cottage through their eyes.

There have been a lot of changes in the vacation rental sector recently, and what we have discovered from our conversations with guests might surprise you… they are expecting a hotel-like experience in a private cottage. We suggest that you think carefully about the following areas of your cottage and consider reinvesting in these locations. Your guests will thank you, and your rate may be increased to reflect the added value to your property.

  1. Freshen up your kitchen.

The kitchen is the heart of the home and likely a place that groups’ will be spending time cooking together, playing games and organizing themselves for the days’ adventures.  Maybe your counter has seen better days, or your cupboards could do with another coat of paint. Ensure that you have place settings, cutlery and crockery to accommodate your maximum occupancy. These relatively simple and affordable updates can make your kitchen a more inviting space and even appear cleaner, brighter and bigger! Consider light tones to open up the space and create a feeling of warmth.

  1. Rethink your bathrooms

It may seem like an area where you wouldn’t spend a lot of time, but an organised, clean and updated bathroom can make a huge difference to guests during their cottage selection process. Look around your bathroom and consider replacing old shower curtains and bath mats, providing more storage for the toiletries of your guests, or re-grouting your tiles if they’re looking shabby. It doesn’t have to be a rehaul – but a touch up is a great way to keep your cottage in top shape.

  1. Create some luxury in your bedrooms

We often receive feedback regarding tired and uncomfortable mattresses or pillows and mattress protectors with stains and marks. This is not luxurious. Replacing your mattresses every 5 years is important to your guests and could be the difference between them deciding to return the following year or not. Comfortable beds with fresh pillows, new mattress protectors and comforters can make your cottage bedrooms feel like an expensive hotel room. Consider white comforters as they can be bleached and remember that matching bed sets can really create a luxury feeling. Limit the odds and ends that are left in your cottage so that it doesn’t feel cluttered.

  1. Your waterfront is your money maker

It is important to remember that your guests have booked your waterfront cottage with the intention of spending time outside on your dock, sandy beach or boathouse. Invest some money here as often as necessary. Keeping on top of your landscaping is important. Don’t neglect the grass, or let weeds infiltrate your beautiful water view. Your outdoor space is your money maker, so make sure it ticks all of the boxes. Docks, decks and boathouses need to be safe and well maintained. An ugly dock with tired wood and nails hanging out needs a lot of attention, remember you may be hosting kids and pets who are easily injured. Easy touches of luxury include sun lounges, well manicured firepits, outdoor dining areas for maximum occupancy, or hot tubs for the perfect evening of stargazing.

Enhancing these key areas can take your cottage to the next level, and in most cases a higher rental rate. Don’t forget that your property is a small business!

Recently, Netflix produced an interesting series focusing on the short-term rental market in the US. The series is called Stay Here and has many valuable insights into the guest experience and how to heighten this for increased rates of occupation and increased rental rates. If this interests you, I recommend that you take a look at one of the episodes. Most notably Season 1 episode 3 which looks at a professionally managed rental in Austin, Texas.

July 27, 2018

Cottage Staging

We often get asked by our cottage owners what they can do to ensure they can generate guests and get the most of their property. Below is a compilation of suggestions which can ensure your cottage is photo ready and your guests will have a great experience. Maintaining the exterior and interior of the cottage for stating does not have to be a very expensive or time consuming process. The ideas presented in this article are intended to be practical, cost effective, and easy to ensure anyone interested in improving their cottage’s appeal can have the best advice possible.

Curb Appeal

Ensuring your cottage looks welcoming and well kept on the outside is a good way to get more people interested in your rental. Cottages which appear clean and well maintained at a first glance will look great in photos and appealing to passers by.  Mowing the grassing, weeding the gardens,  and clearing pathways is a great way to make your cottage inviting on the outside.

Mowing the grass and keeping the grass short give the impression that your cottage is well cared for and picture perfect. Weeding gardens and watering plants will ensure your plants will ensure they are bright and healthy looking. We recommend keeping the gardens as they look beautiful when they are blooming and healthy. Lastly keeping all driveways, pathways, and sidewalks clear of debris is very important. Sweeping and power washing these areas around the cottage makes the area appear neat and spacious for photographs. If you have a cottage which is great for winter we also recommend shoveling the driveway to make you cottage look inviting when guests arrive.

Make Room for the View

If you own a cottage with waterfront or you have a beautiful natural view you need to make this a selling feature. Guests typically rent cottages with the best views, so you want to make sure you can get the most of it.  Keeping the views of the surrounding areas clearly visible is a great way to get more people interested in your property. It is important to allow your guests to maintain the view from the interior and exterior of your cottage.

Cleaning the windows ensures natural light can come through and makes rooms in photographs look spacious and bright. Dirty windows make it difficult to see the landscape and allowing the view to shine in through the windows in photographs gives guests great expectations of the view before they arrive.

Items around window frames should also be removed as nick knacks, lamps, plants, and other items around windows clutters the space. Having cleared windows allows guests to feel they are in  a wider space and gives them a clear look at the view without feeling cluttered.

Interior

Keeping the interior of you home up to date and inviting is a great way to ensure you get repeat guests. Guests who have a comfortable and enjoyable stay will likely want to rent your cottage again and tell other people they know about how great their stay was. Although fixing the interior seems like a big expense, there are simple things you can do which do not cost too much and you will be sure to get the most out of it.

Cleaning, updating, and rearranging furniture is a great way to give your cottage a new look. Updating all of your furniture can be a large expense, but you give your cottage a new look by following this simple advice.  Steam cleaning and vacuuming furniture can make a cottage look inviting and brighten fabrics for a fresh look. Rearranging couches, dining room sets, and bedroom furniture can be practical and welcoming to ensure guests feel comfortable in your cottage. If you feel your furniture is tired and old regardless of how much your scrub or arrange it, you may need to replace these pieces.  

Clearing away items such as nick knacks, family photographs, and other unnecessary clutter is also vital as this will depersonalize your cottage. By removing your personal interests and taste from the cottage you are allowing guests to see envision themselves in their vacation home. Some nick knacks which are clean and reflect the theme of your cottage will be inviting and interesting, however try not to overdo it as it may begin to look messy.

Consider selecting bright colours where appropriate is also important. Bright  colours are typically auspicated with spring, warm weather, and happy memories. If you are providing bedding and towels for your guests consider using bright colors as they can make any room appear cheerful and bright. However be careful when selecting colours as you do not want colours to clash or for rooms to appear overwhelming with colour. Floral patterns can also be acceptable if they do not clash with existing patterns. Floral patterns on throw pillow and cushions thorough your cottage can provide a homely atmosphere.

Fresh coats of paint can also easily give you’re a cottage a new look which can last many years if they right colours and paint brand is selected. If the paint in your cottage is faded or you still have 1990s vegetable wallpaper in your kitchen, consider a new look. When selected paint try to stick to neutral tones such as greys, whites, and light browns as they will not go out of style and they make rooms appear bigger.

June 20, 2018

Make your property work for you

Owning a cottage can be both a blessing and a curse. While your loved ones get to enjoy all the luxury that comes with the property, you may be concerned about the growing expenses which are ever-present when it comes to ownership.

Renting your cottage for the weeks which you do not plan to be there may provide enough income to cover costs associated with your cottage. Wear and tear is expected for any property; wouldn’t it be nice to have your cottage earn you some money? Maybe the paint could do with a touch up, or that old dishwasher is on its last legs? With weekly rentals ranging from $500-$6,000+ depending on the size, location and condition of the cottage, your cottage can become a profitable business. Your cottage will also be occupied which makes it less vulnerable to criminal activity, and ensures that any damage does not go unnoticed for large periods of time. This ensures that when your family chooses to use the property, you won’t be confronted with unexpected surprises, like water damage, structural damage or extended power outages, which are not only costly but also ruin your getaway completely.

Turning your cottage into a rental property can come with a lot of hard work and responsibilities. Guests expect a certain standard when it comes to renting a property, and in order to secure annual rentals or return guests, you must endeavor to keep your property to that standard. You will need to advertise efficiently, on a variety of platforms, and set aside time to check requests, accept bookings and prepare your cottage for visitors. In addition to this, the property will need to be thoroughly inspected and cleaned between each rental. This allows you to assess if any damage has occurred, and organize repairs or compensation if need be. Most importantly, you will be expected to be contactable 24-hours a day for emergencies, because life is unpredictable and mishaps do happen, although with a little luck not often. All of this can be incredibly time consuming, especially if your property is quite a distance from your residential address, or you have a demanding career and busy family life. It may seem like too much effort, ‘what is the point in doing this? Is it even worth my time?’

The answer to that is yes, it can be worth it. You can cut your responsibilities in half with the help of a Rental Management company. This option is incredibly popular with owners. It may seem like the era of AirBNB, however the security of having a team of experts handle your property with care is hard to beat. Rental Management companies such as Ontario Cottage Rentals in Huntsville, Ontario have years of experience and a knowledgeable staff to guide guests through the booking process, assist them with any concerns while they are at the cottage and ensure that their time at the cottage was memorable, and that your cottage was well cared for during their stay.

But what if my family wants to use our rental property? This should not be a concern, you do not need to give up every week at your cottage in order to benefit from your rental agreement. It is common for owners to submit requests for which dates they need the cottage reserved for themselves. If your property is available during the Summer, you can expect higher rental rates, however 4 season cottages could receive bookings year round.

Sheila Givens, owner of Ontario Cottage Rentals, says ‘owners are faced with rising expenses associated with cottage ownership, which may result in an unwanted sale of their treasured property. At Ontario Cottage Rentals, we provide a service which allows owners to keep up with these costs, while sharing all that the area has to offer with prospective guests.

Full Service Rental Managers simplify that process for owners, providing strategic advertising and a unique webpage for each property. Key aspects of your property will be highlighted, with images as well as a detailed summary of the property, and everything that a guest should expect when they arrive for their vacation. They understand that charm of these properties lies in their individuality, which is captured and then matched to certain groups of renters which are suitable.

Your cottage is more than just an asset; it is a potential business that could start earning you income immediately. There are numerous benefits to renting your property, which is why more and more owners are choosing this option. Keep the cottage in the family, and explore you rental options.