My husband and I signed the papers for our cottage (The Blue Huron) in December 2017 and got the keys exactly two years ago today on January 19th, 2018. We now have officially 2 rental seasons under our belt and feel some what experienced with our vacation rental. Over the two years we have received a lot of questions about short term vacation rentals... like is it worth all the work? Did anything really bad happen? Who was your worst renter? How much are you actually making? Do you cover all your costs for the year? I will try to answer all these questions here in this short but sweet blog post. This topic of buying a cottage before a house is a trending topic right now because it is much cheaper to get into the rural cottage market...but is it really worth it!?
Renting? Is it worth it?
Short answer is YES, we rent from May to October. In July and August we only do week rentals from Saturday to Saturday that is where we get the most profit and the most amount of nights booked. Right now and it is worth it for us to rent it most of the summer and only keep one of the weeks in the summer to us ourselves. I don't think renting is really worth it if you plan on using your cottage most of the summer because you will need to clear out all your belongings and clean it from top to bottom every time you leave it for the next set of renters... it just is a lot of work. For us it is worth it because we only use it for the one week in the summer and the money we are making from the rentals is what we are using to pay down the mortgage and pay for the utilities and also cover any renovations. I will touch on what we are making and if it is covering all our costs below.
Is it a lot of work, and who cleans?
It is more stress than it is work for us, because I am always a little nervous that something bad might happen or renters are not going to have nice weather during their stay or the water will be too wavy and ruin the use of the water front. All of these things could lead to getting a bad Airbnb review.... which equals me stressing some of the summer!
It is a lot of work in the sense that you always need to be able to respond to your renters any time of the day. Which can be a little bit of head ache because most of the conversations happen on a Saturday when either a renter is leaving or a renter is coming.
For cleaning we have cleaners who live close to the cottage to check on it for us and do all the turn overs in between rentals. We live 2.5hrs away and it would be a lot to drive there every time we have a turn over.
The worst thing that happen?
Surprisingly we haven't had broken dishes but we do have 12 missing tea spoons that magically disappeared, which is that bad - just a little frustrating! Some of the worst things that have happened are people leaving cigarette buds all over the deck, a melted BBQ brush inside the BBQ, dog scratches on the hardwood, dog poo all over the yard, a broken screen on the patio doors and flies everywhere inside when the cleaners came to clean!
But the worst thing that happen which wasn't even caused by the guests - we had a huge storm with high winds and heavy rains and it blew off shingles on the roof and rain water started to leak onto a guests forehead when they were sleeping in the master bedroom in the middle of the night.... :( (the roof has since been fixed).
Then one other bad thing that happened is that one guest who had never used Airbnb before had a great vacation but then left us a 3 star review :( I felt terrible and reached out and all they had to say is that there family had a great time at the cottage (I don't think they understood the rating system) and then they sent us a photo of 10 people and 2 dogs (when the max amount of people is 8 and no dogs were allowed)... so yes some bad things happen... but I think that always going to happen it is the risking if renting.
How do we rent it? Do we have trouble getting renters?
We started rented it just on kijiji because that is how the previous owner was renting it, however we found the quality of the renters we were getting from kijiji weren't the best. We started renting on Airbnb and found the renters much better because they were looking for a good review as well. We also like that airbnb was handling the money and liked how the money just shows up in our bank account without having to deal with getting e-transfers or getting a cheque in the mail. I find you get really good exposure on Airbnb and if your pictures show well and your vacation rental is in a popular destination you won't have a problem renting. We've been lucky enough to book the majority of the summer usually by April each year.
How much are we actually making?
Year 1 (2018) - We made $23,000 in rental income which was enough to cover all the cost of running the cottage plus the $8,000 in upgrades we did to it in the winter when we got the cottage. But after all expenses we were out $5,000 in the first year because we had to put on a new roof at the end of summer which wasn't expected because of the big storm listed above.
Year 2 (2019) - The second year of rentals we have made $36,000 in rental income and we didn't do any big improvements yet this year so the rental profit did covered all our expenses for the year :) This leaves us with a little for improvements as we want to put a bathroom, wood stove and laundry room in the basement and new decks in the spring 2020.
Year 3 (2020) - Our estimated goal is $45,000 - we think with the additional bathroom and the exterior improvement we plan of making we think it can just charge that little bit more.
Long Term Goal
We want to rent for the next 5 years at least to cover most of our costs of fixing it up because the cost of the improvements we can write off against our rental income. So hopefully by the time we are done renting we will have very nice cottage that will be our family cottage.
Having a vacational rental is A LOT of stress because you are always worrying about your guests having a good stay, or if your vacation rental is being trashed, or if something horrible is happening that will cost you a lot of money out of your own pocket. It is almost like having a part time job because of the commitment you need to have. But in the end it is good money because your property value is going up, and renting it is good way to be able to afford a secondary property. Or even a excellent way to just get yourself into the real estate market like my husband and I.
My Top Vacational Rental Tips:
1. screen you guests, ask good questions before renting to strangers
2. declutter, get rid of all the clutter as it makes it harder to clean and more stuff that could get broken or stolen.
3. buy a property where you know the area and you know people near by so they can help you clean or check on the property when your not there
4. try to live close to the rental property (I find living 2.5hr is a set back because I would love to do the turn over and make sure everything perfect but most of the time is not worth it drive 5 hours in one day to be there 3-4 hours to clean)
Hopefully this gives some clarity on having vacation rental property and what our experience has been like after two years of rental season.