Renting your cottage is a sensible solution used by an increasing number of owners. But to stand out from the pack, one needs to know their basics. Here are a few pointers for new cottage renters.
The very first thing to do is to make sure short term rental is allowed in your municipality. Short term cottage rental is generally defined as "rental periods shorter than 31 consecutive days". Long term cottage rental is generally allowed everywhere.
If your cottage is in Québec, the next step is obtaining a classification certificate from the Corporation de l'industrie touristique du Québec (CITQ). This certification is mandatory in order to rent your cottage in Québec according to the Act Respecting Tourist Accommodation Establishments. The logo and its stars will appear on your cottage's photograph. You can also visit CITQ's website.
Insurance policies for rental cottages are another crucial thing to look at before you go ahead and rent your cottage; you'll more than likely need to change your coverage. You might even need to change insurers to get the best coverage.
Take time to carefully establish your price schedule. If you've never considered this issue, now is the time! You're not alone on the market and you want to make sure that "the price is right"! Your rate has to be attractive, which means interesting to your future guests while allowing you to make a profit. Your price schedule should account for seasonal lows. You can make up for these lower rates during the summer, Christmas and other statutory holidays. Look at your competition and compare yourself with similar offers.
One thing's for sure; you want to find your cottage in the same shape you left it. In this regard, you should establish clear rental terms (rates, deposit, payment, applicable taxes, penalties for damages, etc.) and usage regulations (arrival and departure times, smoking, pets, etc.). This is why you need to make sure you use a solid rental contract that will avoid as many misunderstandings with your guests as possible. But when it comes to a delinquent payer, your only recourse is the Small Claims Court. The best thing to do is to be concise, exhaustive and to avoid writing rules that are as complicated as a parking sign downtown. And remember your rental contract needs to be understood by local as well as foreign tourists. If you have your contract translated, be sure to use a professional translator, preferably a certified one (http://ottiaq.org/en/). Rule number 1 is simple: be clear.
What we're talking about here is advertising, visibility. As strange as it may seem, we often underestimate the importance of photos to get good visibility on the web. These pictures are the face of your property and they say a lot. Here again, calling on a professional might be a better idea if you want optimal quality. But obviously, nothing stops you from taking them yourself with the help of an amateur photographer or even yourself if you're confident enough. But whatever the case may be, take your time to achieve the best possible result.
Haphazard text in your listing is not an option either. Again, using a professional copywriter can make a world of difference. If you are confident you can write yourself, asking someone else to proof your writing can never be a bad idea. By writing quality text, you also ensure you can reuse them in all of your communications: ads, touristic associations, websites, etc. And don't forget: straight to the point is the most efficient way to go.
At this stage, you have everything you need to advertise your cottage on the Internet to find guests. RSVPchalets is your best bet, but it's still recommended that you advertise on more than one website. Most sites have reasonable rates and will give you great visibility.
Internet is essential, but social media is also a most interesting way to go. If you are not familiar with Facebook and Twitter, it might be a good idea to ask a younger friend to help; they were born with the Internet. Social media are a great way to reach out and stay in touch with future and past guests, but they may not be for everyone.
Whatever the case may be, don't forget to update your ads! As soon as you start renting your cottage, you're likely to make changes because of small oversights, rate adjustments, check in and out times, etc. Even the most seasoned renters make changes every now and then. So make sure to update your various ads in order to avoid disappointing or upsetting your guests.
One last thing: is a website absolutely necessary? Let's just say it is one more tool in your renting box, but it certainly isn't vital. Cottage rental websites will be of much greater help in reaching out to potential short-term tenants because they are aggregators of similar offers; think of it as a virtual shopping mall. On the other hand, having your own website does give you a more professional image. Here again, you can use a professional or go the DIY way, but it takes quite a bit of time.
Renting your cottage is a source of revenue. In Canada, you must have a sales tax number if your revenue exceeds $30,000 per year. You must charge the GST (Federal tax) and QST (Québec sales tax) or HST (in other provinces), as well as any other applicable taxes in other countries, to your rental invoices.
It is worth mentioning that are must declare your rental revenues on your income tax form. Omitting to do so could get you in serious trouble. The upside of it all is that you can also declare your expenses. A registered accountant or tax professional will help you establishing basic book keeping rules to ensure conformity and help you benefit from all the applicable deductions.
Attracting guests is good, but getting a good recommendation from them is even better. Welcome your guests like royalty and leave them with a written document. You'll soon learn that a welcome letter, some instructions, and reviews can make a very big difference.
A written document that you leave with your guests can be a few sheets of paper with a greeting message as well as instructions for the cottage's locks, heating system, and other equipment. You can also attach the contract and rules. A few tourist attractions and restaurants recommendations are always appreciated. If you greet your guests in person, a lot more verbal information can be communicated at the same time as you give your guests their keys.
A follow-up email after your guests have left will allow you to collect precious information on how much your rental was appreciated, but not all guests will send you an answer back. Use the comments of the people that do respond to improve your rental. Ask the ones who have commented positively if you can quote them in your ads and Facebook page. A good review goes a long way!
Good luck with your cottage rentals!