Cottage rental used to be considered the poor relation of vacation accommodation.

It was a step up from camping with a hard roof instead of canvas, and the luxury of an inside washroom. It was much cheaper than most other options and it offered the privacy of having your own space rather than sharing with others in a housekeeping resort environment.

There are still families who remember those times and hanker after the more rustic experience offered by the traditional cottage vacation.

However, many more people want the type of facilities and features found in the all-inclusives they have been to in Mexico and the Caribbean.

In addition, there’s been an influx of properties into the vacation rental pool as more owners see this as being a significant source of additional income.

The business has become competitive, and to compete on the same level as those making the good income, you need to invest in making it happen.

Not all investments are going to give the greatest return and it’s worth knowing what is going to give the biggest bang for the buck before spending the money.

The location is not the primary driver to buy in many cases; the look and standard of the property, together with the amenities offered has taken over as the main influence.

If you are just starting out and wondering where to invest, here’s some ideas to help keep to budget on target and get the best return on your investment.

Redecoration & Interior Décor

When potential guests come to your listing, they want to imagine themselves in every room. They think what it will be like to sleep in those beds, cook in the kitchen and relax in the living space. If anything looks uncomfortable, old or poorly maintained, they will move onto the next option.

Being in an amazing location is unlikely to swing a booking choice in your favour if the place looks dark and uninviting. Lightening and brightening dark rooms can make a big difference in the amount of interest you get in your listing. Then take a critical look at the décor and furniture.

These are three big difference makers that don’t hit your budget too heavily:

  1. De-clutter – remove old knick-knacks, ancient artwork on the walls and bulky old furniture. Ditch the yard sale side-tables and the ugly lamps.
  2. Paint – it’s a popular effect in the makeover shows to paint all wood white or cream and the reason is, it makes a dramatic difference. It can transform a gloomy bedroom into a desirable space.
  3. Refinish furniture – It’s not necessary to replace all the furniture when recovering or restoration can do the trick; there are plenty of ways to make an older piece look more contemporary.

Furniture, furnishings and appliances

Unfortunately, just because a piece of furniture or an appliance is perfectly functional for your own use, does not mean it will be appropriate in a rental property. Stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers that are showing signs of rust; outdated sofas and chairs that may be comfortable but are clearly aged, and flooring that has seen better days would be better consigned to a recycling depot.

Don’t underestimate the value of having great looking bedrooms – they can sell a vacation as much as the mountain view or the waterfront. Buy good quality beds and mattresses, get rid of old comforters and replace them with fluffy duvets and crisp white sheets made to look like the best boutique hotel, and watch your income rise.

Money spent on creating an attractive space will be returned in great reviews, referrals and repeat bookings.

Amenities and Facilities

What you should invest in here may be dependent on your location. Take a look at your competitors and what they are offering and what their guests are mentioning in their reviews. In a ‘foodie’ area like Prince Edward

County in Ontario it might be a gourmet kitchen that is attractive to guests but those visiting a ski chalet might be more impressed with an open fireplace and a hot tub.

</>Try and get inside the mindset of your target guests (the persona of traveller you want to attract) and think about means the most to them.

  • Satellite TV and WiFi are the most wanted amenities and these become more attractive in the low season when the weather may keep guests indoors.
  • In a waterfront property, canoes and kayaks are always popular, but if you attract families with younger children, then a paddleboat is the best investment. Stand-up paddleboards are appealing too.
  • Having a pool table or table tennis in a games room is a bonus for guests looking for indoor entertainment.
  • Laundry facilities are a must-have criteria for families with children
  • In areas where there’s a higher risk of power outages and having to refund guests who have to curtail their stay due to power interruptions, an automatic generator is a great investment.
  • Hot tubs are expensive but can make the difference between the property staying empty in the low season, or a stream of winter visitors.
  • Good quality patio furniture and lounging chairs – not cheap plastic.
  • A screened gazebo in areas where bugs are an issue.

Professional staging and photography

Having a home full of great amenities and facilities as well as great décor
won’t do much to attract guests unless you can show off your investments
in the best way.

In fact, investment in professional staging and photography can give some
of the best returns. If this is not in your budget, then invest time in
learning some of the techniques that can be easily found online.

When you are starting out and money is an issue, all you may be able to do is deep clean and paint. That’s fine as long as you price wisely. However, make a plan to re-invest the income as it comes, in in a way that can raise the rental rate as you increase the value.


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