Ontario’s cottage rental market evolving

Property managers say many renters are demanding a resort-like atmosphere
Monday, July 21, 2014
By Ilan Mester

Property managers say demands are shifting in Ontario’s cottage rental market. Whereas 10 years ago clients were grateful for indoor plumbing, today many renters expect a resort-like atmosphere.

“In the past, people were more accepting of what traditional cottage country was, and that acceptance is not out there anymore,” says Heather Bayer of CottageLINK Rental Management, whose portfolio includes approximately 200 Ontario properties.

Travellers, particularly families, are increasingly choosing vacation rentals over traditional hotels. A Trip Advisor survey found 52 per cent of respondents are planning a vacation rental stay in 2014 – up eight per cent from last year. Among the top reasons are: more living space (67 per cent); better amenities (50 per cent); and cost (53 per cent).

Wi-Fi ranked as the most attractive amenity in the Trip Advisor survey. Renters need an internet connection if they are bringing their work with them. This mirrors a Canadian trend for cottage owners and new purchasers to telecommute to their offices throughout the summer, which RE/MAX  recently reported.

Entertainment is another crucial draw regardless of the season.

“Everybody wants a flat screen TV and mostly they want satellite as well,” Bayer says. “It’s the unpredictability of the weather that has given rise to this.”

Most Ontario cottage renters are city dwellers, and predominantly from the Greater Toronto Area. “We don’t see a huge international influx,” Bayer adds. “There’s some but not a huge amount.”

Perks can make the difference. Among Bayer’s properties, a cottage with satellite TV, high-speed internet and a pet-friendly policy quickly rented for the entire summer, while more rustic accommodations languished empty.

“When you get around $1,000 a week people are much less demanding,” she says. “But if you’re charging over $1,500 a week you really need to be delivering the goods or people will complain or not book at all.”

Fewer players are now jostling in the fractional ownership market, which relies on the maintenance services of property managers. About 10 to 20 companies now compete for renters, compared to about 30 during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“It’s turned into more of a four season model,” says John Puffer of Chandler Point Shared Cottage Ownership.

Property managers face an increased workload as time-share owners increasingly opt for single weekends over weeklong visits. Each cottage must be fully prepared before the next owner arrives.

Bayer reports that fewer guests are willing to clean their cottages at the end of their stay.

“I quite understand this. I don’t want to go to a rental and then have to clean the place on the last day of my vacation,” Bayer muses. “So we’re finding that our properties that offer a cleaning service, that accept pets, that have high-speed internet – they rent the best.”

Likewise, renters and owners want to arrive to spotless vacation accommodations. Notably, the first evidence of mouse droppings is enough to send many guests packing.

“The primary criteria for guests now is cleanliness. It must be 100 per cent spotlessly clean,” Bayer says.

Yet, it’s not all about the cottage itself. Renters, particularly those who bring multi-generational families, often look for a unique experience. That might include visits to local museums, walking trails and cultural events.

“I play up the experiences that are available within the more local communities that the cottages are in,” explains Don Critchley of Cottage Care Rentals & Property Management. “That helps the economy in these areas as well.”

Ilan Mester is the online editor of Canadian Property Management.

Photo credit: Greg Gladman on Flickr, via Creative Commons

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