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Scott McGillivray Talks Year Round Cottage Rental

Who doesn’t dream of getting away to the cottage? I spent a big chunk of my childhood at our family cottage and I still take every chance I get to escape the city and hang out by the lake. The water, the sun, the trees, the beach; what’s not to love? But there’s another reason I love cottages: cash flow.

Vacation rentals are one of the top four most profitable types of rental properties, so a smart cottage investment can bring in big returns if you pick the right property. There are plenty of things to consider when buying a vacation property, but one of the most important is its seasonal appeal. A cottage that is rentable all year-round (and in a location that’s desirable) can be your key to serious cottage profits.

Four seasons of fun

We were lucky that our family cottage was purpose-built to be used year-round, but many cottage properties are built for summer use only. If you’re in the market for a cottage, buying one that’s already winterized is a huge bonus. If you already own a cottage and want to winterize it, you need to really consider if it’s worth the cost. If the cottage is for your own use only and you want to use it all year-round, I say go for it. Much like with any home improvement that is “just for you,” it’s worth the investment if you’ll enjoy it for years to come.

Be sure it’s a winter wonderland

On the other hand, if it’s a vacation rental we’re talking about, there are things to take into account. Most importantly: location. Before you start dropping serious cash on winterizing your cottage, take a look around. Would you (or other people) actually use it or rent it in the winter? Is it close to a ski resort, or trails for cross-country skiing or snowmobiling? Is it on a lake where people go ice-fishing in the winter? How accessible is it? Will snow clearing be a problem? If your cottage isn’t in a winter destination, it might be too costly an undertaking for minimal ROI.

Getting winter ready

If you do decide to take the plunge and winterize your cottage in hopes of taking cheques to the (snow) bank all year-round, where do you start? There are a few major things you have to investigate before the first snowfall.

Insulation: One of the most common upgrades to get a cottage ready for winter, it’s also one of the most important. Most cottages, especially older ones, have little or no insulation because it’s not needed in the summer. Well-insulated walls with proper vapour barrier are key to keeping your cottage warm and preventing any moisture issues.

Heat: It might sound obvious, but if you’re going to use your cottage in the winter, you need to have a heat source. Cottages that have electric baseboard heating will cost you a fortune in the winter, so adding a secondary heat source, such as a wood-burning stove will save you loads of money.

Plumbing: Many cottages use wells as their water supply, so ensuring the well is adequate for year-round use is key. The same goes with your septic system. If the system was installed on the premise that property would only be used six to eight months of the year, you may need to have it serviced more regularly.

Maintenance: Not all winterizing projects are huge and expensive. There are lots of small items that need to be taken care of to prep your cottage for winter use. Sealing drafty windows, installing weather-stripping around doors, shutting off exterior faucets, and cleaning gutters are all things that we do to prep our homes for winter, so it goes without saying that they’re necessary cottage tasks as well.

Winter supplies: There are so many things that we all have around the house for winter that you might not think to stock your cottage with - until you’re snowed in and really need it! Be sure you have things like shovels, emergency candles, extra blankets, bottles of water, salt or sand, and a battery-powered radio on hand, especially in case of a storm or heavy snowfall.