Articles in: Cabin Contemplations

5 Tips for Staining the Cottage Siding

Staining The CottageStaining the cottage is one of those maintenance projects that cabin owners love to avoid. Read the full article

How Much Can You Charge Cottage Renters?

Old Cabin

The surge in demand for cottage rentals this year has many owners wondering if they should rent out the cottage for a few weeks to help cover the annual costs.

How much should you charge?

Cottage owners want to get as much as possible for the rental of the property. In the end, the market effectively determines the maximum amount you can charge, but there are a number of items to consider when deciding on a rental rate.

It makes sense to go through the following process, as it might turn out that renting the cottage to guests for a few weeks isn’t even worth the effort.

Cottage cleaning expenses
The cottage must be cleaned before your guests arrive, and after they leave. Depending on how far you live from the cottage and whether you have the time to do the work, it might be best to pay someone to clean the property. That’s assuming you can find a reliable person or company to actually do the housekeeping.

Professional cleaning services can be expensive, so it is important to budget for the cost.

Marketing the cottage
People who are serious about renting out their cottage will set up a website to show off all the features, availability, costs, and rules.

Putting a website together is much easier now than it was in the past, but it still requires a lot of time to get all the information uploaded. Responding to interested renters also takes up time.

Ideally the cottage will be booked quickly. If not, the newspaper and internet advertising costs can add up.

Wear, tear, and repairs
We know that a cottage requires significant maintenance, even when it is used sporadically on our weekend visits and holidays.

Increasing the traffic is going to bump up the wear and tear. It’s also reasonable to assume that some renters won’t follow the rules on the use of the septic system, boats, appliances, etc.

The end result will be extra costs. Sometimes big ones.

Hydro, internet, propane
Most renters will want an all-inclusive deal. This means you have to account for your electricity, wifi, and water at the very least. Firewood and propane costs might also be included.

Rental insurance coverage
The company that provides your cottage insurance coverage needs to know that you intend to rent out the property. Extra fees might be added to your policy premium to cover increased risks for liability, theft, and damage.

Rental agency fees
It might be easiest to hand over the entire responsibility to a real estate person to book and manage the property, especially if you intend to make it available for most of the season.

A third party can be hired to do certain parts of the work, as well. This adds to your expenses, but the convenience is appealing.

How do you value your time?
The entire process might require significant time and energy. It is possible you will face unexpected surprises and have to make unplanned trips, so the value of your time must be considered.

Advertising, responding to questions, getting deposits, giving directions, meet and greet, cleaning, etc. will be time consuming. Figure out what value that time has for you.

Is it really worth the trouble to rent out the cabin if the effort is equivalent to a part-time minimum-wage gig?

Your Neighbourhood
There is a limit to how much you will be able to charge, regardless of the costs you need to cover.  This depends on the location of your cottage, its size, and the comforts it offers.  

The bottom line on renting the cottage
Cottage owners want to make sure they cover added costs and generate enough extra cash to justify all the headaches associated with renting out the property.

Some people will certainly do very well. Other cabin owners might find that renting out the cottage simply isn’t worth the bother.

Still interested in making your cottage available for rent?

Check out the our comprehensive cottage rental tips for owners page.

By: Andrew Walker

10 Cottage Finance Tips for Buyers

Cottage Finances

Buying a cottage is a wonderful and emotional experience. It is also becoming very competitive for top properties.

As such, it helps to have all the numbers nailed down ahead of time so you and your family can make a swift decision when you find the perfect cottage.

Mortgage pre-approval
Get a mortgage approval done before you begin searching for your ideal lakeside retreat. Knowing how much you can afford makes the process more efficient. The pre-approval also gives you the flexibility to pounce when you find your dream property.

Cottage Insurance
Cottage insurance can be expensive depending on the type of building and its location. Reach out to your current insurance company to see what they charge to add a cottage to the existing policy.

You might have to use a separate company to get the best deal.

Cottage Property Taxes
Property taxes for cottages located in unorganized territories can be very cheap. Cottages that fall within a city’s school district, however, often incur very high taxes. The seller will have the details, but it is important to include the taxes in your budget calculation when beginning your search.

Cottage Utilities
In the old days, people wanted off-grid island retreats with no amenities.

Today, most cottage buyers prefer to have all the comforts of home. That means wifi and electricity, at the very least. In addition, new buyers should anticipate costs for propane. Some properties also have municipal water services.

If you plan to buy a four-season cabin, the heating expenses in the winter can be substantial if the cottage uses electric baseboards.

Boat expenses
Every cottage owner has a boat. Most have several.

If you don’t already own a boat, it is important to do some research ahead of time. The boat you need is often determined by the location of the cottage.

Big lakes with high waves in rough conditions might require a larger boat. Cabins located on small lakes or river systems can get by with a more modest vessel. Choosing between aluminum or fibreglass also comes into play depending on the prevalence of submerged rocks and islands in the surrounding area.

Be sure to budget appropriately for fuel and maintenance, as well.

Parking And Docking
Road-acces properties cost more money, but you don’t have to pay for parking or for a slip at a marina.

Water-access properties tend to be less expensive, but require renting a place on the mainland to park the car and dock the boat. Check for availability at a marina that is close to the property. Ask the real estate agent to find out up front if you can assume the spot used by the current owners.  Don’t forget to set cash aside for winter storage costs.

Driving to the cottage
Properties located within a two-hour drive of the city tend to be very expensive. The farther you have to drive, the cheaper the price. However, a four-hour commute each way every weekend takes a greater toll on the vehicle and drives up fuel costs.

Party budget
People like to entertain friends and family at the cottage. This can get expensive. Even if you simply use the cabin as your personal getaway, the bottles of wine, cases of beer, and succulent steaks bite into the budget.

It’s all part of the pleasure of lakeside living, but the costs should be anticipated.

Cottage Maintenance And Repairs
A new cottage requires very little maintenance and repair for the first several years. It might be worthwhile to pay up to get a newer place and avoid all these headaches.

DIY types can save a lot on the purchase price by picking up an older cottage. However, these can quickly become money pits. It isn’t unrealistic for cottage owners with older properties to spend several thousand dollars a year.

Remember that all the fun toys at the cottage also require maintenance. ATVs, lawn tractors, trimmers and chainsaws are just the start.

Cottage Rental Income
Cottages are in hot demand by renters. In fact, people will pay big bucks to book a week or two on the lake.

Rental income can help cover a good chunk of the annual costs. Be sure to budget the time and expenses needed to find and manage renters.

Chainsaw Won’t Start

Chainsaw Fuel LineThe chainsaw is a useful, if not critical, tool to have at the cottage. Read the full article

Cottage Association Saves Its Members Thousands

WCA

The Whiteshell Cottagers Association (WCA) is a member-driven, non-profit organization that is run by volunteers from within its membership. Directors are elected from each of the 22 populated lakes in Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba to represent their lake on the Board of Directors.

The WCA was formed to “represent the interests of cottagers to the government and provide leadership and information to its members” with a mandate “to advocate for fair and reasonable service and lease fees for cottagers, and encourage good environmental stewardship on the part of cottagers and all other park users.

The total membership has risen significantly over the last several years by focusing efforts on those issues the association saw as being most important for its members.

Service & Lease Fees
The WCA has already won two successive rate freezes from the government on a program of lease rate escalation dictated by the previous administration, which was scheduled to have more than doubled lease rates from what they were three years ago. This success has already saved some members thousands of dollars each.

The WCA has also spearheaded the development of a new, province-wide Association of Cottagers Associations (known as the MPPCOA) to develop through discussion with the Province, a new basis for the annual fees for servicing and occupying crown (and private) land in Manitoba’s Provincial Parks for recreational purposes.

Environment and Infrastructure
As a result of the many letters of concern the WCA received about the lack of maintenance on infrastructure, water levels, and on environmental issues, the association instigated a committee comprised of retired engineers and environmentalists to provide insight and leadership in these areas.

Several years ago, major changes in the staffing of government departments resulted in little corporate memory or operations ability for the regulation of water levels in the park. The WCA committee now liaises effectively with the current staff of Manitoba Infrastructure to better manage the higher levels of precipitation.

Benefits for Falcon Lake
The WCA was successful in convincing Parks to carry out maintenance on boathouse access channels that had not been dredged since their original construction in the early 1960s. Once the work is completed, boathouse cottagers will no longer be pitted against the rest of the cottagers on Falcon Lake, who are constantly at risk of flooding.

An issue that is still unresolved at Falcon will unfold at an Open House being sponsored by Parks and Manitoba Infrastructure on August 26. Government will be advocating for a new “gravity drain style” level control structure which (as proven by history, and the hydrological model developed for the lake), is predictably unable to prevent flooding. The WCA prefers the slightly more expensive “pumped” control structure, which is the only option which can demonstrably prevent flooding. Government believes the additional cost of a “pumped” facility is not justified. However, the cost of repairs as well as loss of access to docks (or even the use of cottages), that the cottagers endure following a summer of above normal rainfall, do not fall to the government – and they more than outweigh the up-front savings of the lower-cost option.

The need to replace the decrepit level control structure at Falcon Lake made it much easier for the WCA to convince Parks of the need for concurrent maintenance of the drainage channels. This is now scheduled to happen, and will pay off for all Falcon Lake cottagers. The WCA will continue to work to see all of these issues addressed, in the shortest possible time.

Ongoing Efforts
The committee of eight cottagers from all over the Whiteshell has worked continuously on these and other issues affecting cottagers. For example, special effort is being made to convince both levels of government and CN Rail to fix the bottleneck that the rail crossing over the Whiteshell River creates – causing frequent severe flooding on Caddy Lake and occasional flooding on West Hawk Lake. These efforts have been underway for a couple of years, and resolution will take persistence and patience.

The WCA has done a great deal over the last four years to improve the scope and quality of the services the association provides for the cottagers in the Whiteshell, and the WCA intends to sustain this level of effort going forward. WCA members have received extraordinarily good value for their annual fee.

The WCA website can be found at www.whiteshellcottagers.com and membership application can be completed on line, or printed out and sent in by mail.

Have a great summer, and may it include the relaxation and enjoyment of a family cottage.

By: Alan Roberts
President: Whiteshell Cottagers Association (WCA)

Time to Smell the Roses

wild roses

Wild roses appear every June at our cottage, and they have always been a great reminder at the beginning of the season to slow down and reflect on what’s really important in life. Read the full article

Cottage Opening Guide

cottage opening weekendCottage season has arrived and many people are preparing to head to the lake for the first time since they closed up the cabin last fall. Read the full article

Cottage Roof: Should You DIY?

cottage roof Repairing or changing the cottage roof can be an expensive project, and deciding between a DIY job and using professional roofers requires some careful consideration. Read the full article

Hummingbird Therapy

Cottage Hummingbird Photography
Hummingbirds arrive at the cabin every summer and provide hours of entertainment for cottagers, family, and guests throughout the season. Read the full article

Are Private Buoys Legal?

private buoy

Cottage owners often mark hazards near their properties to help boaters avoid accidents, but placing a private buoy in the lake can put you at risk. Read the full article