6 steps to turn your cottage into a homestay and make money on the side this winter

8 min read
Anastasia Dvorak

There are various ways to make money on the side, but one of the best is by using the assets you already have. Why not turn your cottage into a source of extra income by renting it out as a homestay?

According to the Globe and Mail Canada, Airbnb had a daily average of 128,000 active listings in Canada in 2018, ranging from a basement suite to a lakefront cottage.

Canada’s Airbnb hosts brought in .8 billion in revenue in 2018.

It is obvious that this side hustle is helping many make money. Who wouldn’t want that extra income during our turbulent times? So let’s find out what you need to do to make money on your vacation property.

1. Prepare your cottage

The first step to making money on the side through property rental is to prepare it for guest use.

With so many vacation rentals for people to choose from, it’s essential to make sure that your cottage stands out from the others. You need to prepare it so that it creates the most favourable impression on your guests.

Use this checklist to get your property ready to rent:

Embrace simplicity

Remove any personal or valuable items, remove any clutter and clean your closets. You can keep your art, books, décor elements and photos on the walls. If your budget allows, consult with a professional interior designer or staging specialist.

Keep it clean

Your guests expect the same level of cleanliness as full-service hotels have. Airbnb hosts must meet rigorous cleanliness standards. Nobody wants to stay in a dirty place, so deep-clean your cottage or hire a professional cleaning company to do it for you. Take out the trash and sanitize high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, countertops, computer keyboard, TV remotes, light switches and tables.

Change the locks

Remove your old-school front door lock and replace it with keyless entry. You can create a personalized door code for each guest, ensuring that your place is always secure. No need to worry about lost keys; the time you save is priceless!

Get a comfy bed

A tired guest wants nothing more than to relax in a cozy bed at the end of a long busy day. Choose a comfortable mattress with a mattress cover. Invest in nice linens and towels. Your goal is to create a relaxing bedroom for your guests. Make sure you have extra supplies of clean linens, sheets, pillows and duvet covers. Don’t forget about bathroom linens such as fresh bath towels and hand towels.

Go the extra mile

If you want to impress your guests, include toiletries in your bathroom. Extra toilet paper, hand soap, shampoo, new toothbrushes, toothpaste and body wash would be appreciated by your guests.

Window seat with dog on top of red cushionOutfit your kitchen

If your place has a kitchen, make sure it has the basic necessities for cooking and serving food. You can also leave some fruit, a vase with fresh flowers or a bottle of wine as one of the perks of staying in your cottage. Your guests will remember those small gestures of kindness and may give you a better review.

Think about maintenance

Make sure all the lights and appliances are working. It is also important to ensure every room has a working fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector. Place shovels to clear the snow and a fire extinguisher in visible spots.

Create a guide

It’s also a good idea to create a welcome binder with all relevant information about your cottage. For example, include house rules, check-in and check-out times, your contact information, W-Fi password, information about nearby attractions and amenities, as well as anything else that is important during their stay.

2. Take professional real estate photos

It is important that your listing stands out from the rest, so professional photography is an investment you should seriously consider. The majority of listings have photos taken by the owners themselves.

Listings with professional photographs earn on average 40% higher returns than other listings in their area.

Airbnb data also show that listings featuring pro photos have, on average, 24% more bookings and tend to charge nightly rates 26% higher, meaning that those hosts make more money in the long run.

3. Choose your preferred booking system

There are various ways to find guests for your cottage. To begin, you could list your rental on websites such as Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner).

In addition to listing your property on one or both of those sites, you can create your own website with GoDaddy's Websites + Marketing to promote your cottage online. This will increase the number of prospective guests who come across your listing. (Read this post for six tips on bringing likely renters to your website.)

Airbnb offers a variety of short-term rentals that include private rooms, shared rooms and entire properties.

Airbnb and VRBO platforms charge both guests and hosts fees. Airbnb hosts are charged a 3% fee for each booking completed, while guests are charged 5% to 15% of the reservation subtotal. There is also a 20% service fee charged to Airbnb renters.

Overhead view of snow-covered cabin

VRBO usually rents entire places to guests. They don’t do room rentals, which is why there are fewer listings on VRBO than Airbnb, but you can be sure that you will have the place to yourself.

VRBO guests are charged a six to 12% service fee. Hosts have to choose from two subscription payment plans: pay-per-booking (8% for each booking) or an annual subscription payment of $499 for the year — a good option for year-round hosts.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing, paired with Microsoft Bookings, can help you get your property in front of more potential renters.

4. Set your rates

How much you charge for your cottage should account for the fact that demand for your property will probably fluctuate throughout the year. You can use online market intelligence subscription software such as Airdna to get a report on your area that will include:

  • Data from top-performing properties
  • Daily rental demand
  • Suggestions for optimizing your Airbnb listing

You can also estimate the demand yourself by analyzing your closest competition on Airbnb, calculating the average price and reviewing the calendar for each property.

You can even create a comparison price table, analyzing the price during the peak and low seasons, during the week and on weekends, or during special events and average days.

If you are just starting out on online vacation platforms, you can initially discount your nightly rate, then slowly increase your rates as your number of positive reviews grows.

Room prices tend to surge during area events and some hosts are able to charge a lot more than their daily rate.

Don’t miss this opportunity to gain more guests for your listing and increase the amount of money you can make on the side.

5. Find a reliable cleaning team

Woman making a bed with white linens

If you are serious about renting your cottage, you should consider hiring a professional cleaning team that will keep it clean and tidy for you. Hiring a team can save you time and money in the long run. Besides doing typical cleaning tasks, the team can stock your rental unit with toiletries and other supplies.

Some cleaning companies also look out for and notify you of any damages. You can ask them to take pictures between every guest to make sure there is no damage. And if there is damage, you will have enough evidence for proper reimbursement by the vacation rental marketplace.

6. Provide COVID-19 information to put your guests at ease

It’s important to provide COVID-19 information for your guests to show them that you are following the COVID-19 protocol very carefully in order to ease their concerns and make their stay more comfortable.

Airbnb implemented a 5-step cleaning process required of all hosts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

These are the cleaning practices that all hosts must follow between guest stays.

As a host, you are required to ventilate the space before and during cleaning and use proper disinfections and cleaning supplies, including masks and gloves. It is important to sanitize high-touch surfaces in each room and allow the surface to air-dry. Hosts who do not comply with this cleaning policy can lose money by having their calendar blocked by Airbnb, being reported by guests for low cleanliness standards and result in getting suspended.

Be sure to pass this information must on to your cleaning team if you have one.

Use your own property to make money on the side

Now that we’ve covered the six steps, you are ready to make money on the side by renting out your cottage or other property. Considering the fact that many vacation properties just sit empty throughout the year, imagine how much extra income owners are potentially losing year after year!

Vacation properties could be a good source of financial stability during this rough year.

With all the challenges that we’ve faced, it’s important to consider your own mental health. So when was the last time you’ve enjoyed your cottage? Maybe it’s time to take a break and see what you’ve been missing. You can start mapping out your rental plan while you’re there.

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