Dust off your toolbox, buy a hot tub -- it's cottage season
Investing in a cottage for rental purposes is a massive undertaking -- some might argue that finding the right property,
as big a chore as that can be, is the easy part. But preparing the property and maintaining it between renters can be a full-time job.
Think about it: If you rent your cottage out in week-long
increments for the entire summer, that means driving to the cottage
every weekend to inspect, clean, change linens, garden, mow lawns,
chop wood, conduct minor repairs and facilitate the changeover between
renters. For winterized properties, add shovelling, salting and
ploughing the drive, not to mention ensuring that guests arrive
at a warm building, stocked with plenty of dry firewood.
"There's always something to do," says Paula Lambert
Vacation Property Management in Dwight, Ont. Her company specializes
in luxury cottages -- places that sleep 10 to 20 people and fetch
up to $7,000 a week -- and takes the onus off the property owner
by doing everything from booking and orientating news guests to
cleaning, restocking supplies, overseeing maintenance and inspecting
for damages between renters.
Are you up for the task, or
should you get help?
"We're on call 24/7," says Lambert. "Hiring a full-service company
is effortless ... The owner basically gets a cheque every quarter."
For the complete package, she charges 30 to 35 percent
of the rental income, which is about the going rate.
"You either hire a property manager, or you come up and do it yourself," she says.
Some relish in puttering and maintaining their property,
but unless you live within a reasonable distance, you're handy and
attuned to cottage maintenance needs (wells, septic tanks, generators),
it's going to be a burden. Another option is hiring a local handyman
or neighbour who is willing to upkeep the place for less than a
"A lot people just use locals," Ted
Wiggins of Century 21 United Realty in Peterborough, Ont., says
of those who just rent occasionally, rather than every week from
June to September. "There's always someone willing to cut grass,
Keep in mind that if you're embarking on a less formal
arrangement, it's still important to outline your expectations clearly.
Another option is hiring help as a one-off to get a cottage in shape for renting or on an annual basis to oversee all the
closing or opening chores associated with cottage life.
"If you don't keep on top of things, they can really
start falling apart," says Will Morton of Muskoka
Cottage Maintenance in Gravenhurst, Ont. His services, which
cost $475 for two staff per day on a one-off basis, include power
washing, painting, landscaping, minor construction, spring clean-up,
junk removal, window washing, eaves trough cleaning, chainsaw work,
brush removal, gardening and lawn cutting, as well as weekly or
bi-weekly grounds maintenance services. When it comes to property
management, he has a roster of seasonal staff that perform outdoor
work and he liaises with a cleaning company for inside jobs.