Renting out the family cottage wasn’t a decision I came by easily. In fact, the ‘what ifs’ were overwhelming and the pro and con lists were wrestling daily on the page.

In the end though, I took the plunge and looking back over my first rental season, I’m glad I did.

Sure there were ups and downs and sometimes things went a bit sideways. It was, in no uncertain terms, a journey of live and learn. Next season, there’s definitely going to be a few new house rules which at the end of the day will make me, my renters and probably the neighbouring cottagers very happy.

Learning to read prospective renters is a great start and something I feel I have honed to a fine edge. It’s important to have dialogue and lots of it before finalizing the booking. While math is not my strong point, I do know that eight registered guests at booking time and 16 actually staying in the cottage does not add up and wasn’t part of the original agreement.

Next season there will be an additional charge for extra bodies.

Pets are another issue.

Wanting to play perfect hostess and welcome my renters’ four-legged friends into my cottage, I neglected to once again communicate. This time the result was a tad more than a few extra bodies lying around.

If you are going to allow pets at the cottage it’s a good idea to leave a supply of doggie doo pick up bags on site along with a polite request for their use. I also now ask that they crate their dog at night if it has a tendency to chew on things.

Next season there will be a reasonable security deposit pet specific.

While wanting to present the cottage in its best light, I had to keep grounded when it came to decorating and furnishing. Let’s face it, there’s going to be dripping swim suits and damp towels as part of the decor so plan for it. Ditto for cutlery and kitchen basics. Leave the Limoges at home and stock with sturdy, preferably non- breakables. There will be a few minor disasters but its stuff we can all live with.

I chose to supply linens (not towels) and while it was a hassle doing the washing up between renters, my solution was to hire a cleaning service for next season. A local company will be coming in to clean and launder and it will be worth every penny. My renters were a pretty tidy lot who appreciated and respected the cleanliness when they first arrived. It played a huge role in why they rebooked for next season.

Asking for a deposit is a smart move I learned the hard way. Cancellations happen for a variety of reasons so it’s important to protect yourself. As it was such a last minute cancellation I didn’t have a chance to rebook and the cottage sat empty for a week.

Renting your cottage doesn’t have to be stressful. Basic common sense goes a long way to ensuring a successful season.

From giving proper directions (my first renters ended up at a neighour’s cottage by mistake and when I found them to lead them back to their rental, the party was in full swing), to specific instructions on appliance use, breaker box etc., you are showing you really do care about their vacation.

It also helps to find a cottage rental website to advertise on that is in tune with your needs. A listing site with a demographic geared to what you are looking for in a renter is a great start. Make sure you are clear that you are looking for families or couples and not partiers on your listing page. Your inquiries will be much more focused.

I’ve also installed a lock box with a code so my renters aren’t waiting for me or I for them.

As I sit and reflect on the pros and cons, I realize my taxes are paid for the year, I can now afford to build a new deck and just maybe I’ll put in a hot tub. After all, I’ve made some very good friends who will feel like family when they return next season.

The cons? What cons.

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