Turn Your Cottage Into a Source of Income

Is your vacation home sitting empty a few too many weeks this year? Consider renting it out.

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You love your second home but, to be honest, you’re not there as often as you’d like. Maybe you’ve got a big trip planned for this summer. Or, the kids now have jobs and you don’t feel like going to the beach house as much without them.

It’s a shame for it to sit empty. Especially since Canadian cottage prices are on a tear, with the average price hitting $439,000 as of spring 2017. Upkeep costs keep rising too, and that dock won’t fix itself. Maybe it’s time that your second home brought in an income of its own.

How can you rent out your cottage with few hassles? We explain.

Prep your digs

The first place to start is to fix the little things, like the ripped screen door or the exposed pipe.

Then, call your insurance company to make sure you’re covered for any damage during the rental period. Heather Bayer, CEO of CottageLINK Rental Management, a rental listing service, says that liability coverage of at least $2 million is essential and can cost $200 or more on the policy.

Gather your valuables and either remove them from the property, or set up a locked shed or safe. “While most rentals go without incident, there is always the risk of breakage.” says Bayer.

Market your property

These days, most people use full service rental websites such as Airbnb, Canada Stays, VRBO or Cottages in Canada. These sites either ask for a subscription, take a percentage of your rental income or pass on their fees to your renter, making the stay more expensive for them. However, they ensure your cottage gets seen, and can help you take deposits, final payments and communicate with customers.

You can also bypass these by setting up your own website – consider Instragram for showcasing your place, too – and facilitate the entire transaction yourself, says Bayer. You may not get as many eyeballs on your listing as you would on Airbnb, but you’ll be able to keep all the money you make.

Price your rental based on amenities, such as number of bedrooms and proximity to water or tourist attractions, and also on the going rates in your region.

On the ground

Unless you plan on driving to your cabin every time you have a new rental, consider hiring a management rental company. “They’ll do everything from visiting the property and taking photos to advertising and paperwork, even to including concierge and on-site private chefs for upscale properties,” says William Wallace of full-service listings site Cottage Vacations. A management agency could take care of things like cleaning and emergency repairs.

Name your price

Price your rental based on amenities, such as number of bedrooms and proximity to water or tourist attractions, and also on the going rates in your region. “Research the competition and price competitively,” says Bayer. Most owners do dynamic pricing, charging more on weekends and for peak demand times, such as summer or ski season.

Pay attention to taxes

“If you intend to rent out a cottage for many weeks of the year, there may be potential tax issues and this will likely mean more time spent tracking all of the income and expenses related to the property,” says Aurele Courcelles, Investors Group Assistant Vice-President, Tax and Estate Planning. Your advisor or accountant can help you understand the issues and explain the bookkeeping requirements.

Revenues earned from your cottage are taxable, but you can claim expenses, such as a portion of what it costs to run the cottage, plus rental-related costs such as cleaning and property management fees, he adds.

Don’t forget to book a weekend off for yourself, too. You may still get the urge to get to the cottage, even if it’s only once a year.

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