Colin and Justin: Guest services – Toronto Sun

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Colin and Justin

Layer up, and stack 'em high to achieve top dollar in the seasonal rental market. SUPPLIED
Layer up, and stack ’em high to achieve top dollar in the seasonal rental market. SUPPLIED

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No matter the season, it’s time to make your cottage a money maker…

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Flying south this season? Hmmm: the jury’s out.  Consumers, perhaps more than ever before, are looking closer to home to satisfy their fall/winter vacation ambition.

And with attitudes to travel remaining somewhat shaky, the trend looks set to continue.  Accordingly, the cottage rental market (even as colder climes loom) is enjoying its most buoyant period in years.

But to yield big, effort is required. Transforming an everyday respite into a stand out winter retreat can make a huge difference to marketability and potential profits, so we suggest a lil’ sweat equity to ‘tune’ your prospect prior to dipping a toe in the rental economy.  Here’s what you need to know…

Safety first. Your vacation home should have functioning smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and a first aid kit.  In the current climate, guests will more than likely enquire about your COVID protocols – so ramp up about your hygiene regimes, and offer contactless transactions (keys in lockboxes, etc) so nobody is required to hand anything over.

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First impressions. As important during colder climes as they are in spring and summer.  This in mind, keep paths clean and defined, and ensure your approach is tidy and easily navigable.

An autumnal or winter themed wreath on a front door will make a welcome impression.  Bear in mind, too, that good photography is essential, especially if planning to feature your cottage on an internet rental site.

Spell it out. Create a ‘bible’ that outlines your property.  Describe how to operate heating, water and septic, and include TV/satellite guides, where to buy firewood, municipal dump info and anything else with which you think guests could struggle.

Suggest where to go for a lovely fall stroll or winter walk, list areas of scenic beauty and explain cottage rules: if you’re seen to care, renters are more like to care… for your space.

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Beds equal dollars. During the project room featured today, we installed four ‘berths’ in a small bunkie to increase the cottage’s overall capacity.  Providing dedicated and neatly attired beds (rather than have people crashing on air mattresses or sofas) looks better and means everyone can enjoy personal space when sleep beckons.

Create a sharing kitchen. Equip yours with all manner of pots, pans and gadgets.  Establish an environment that encourages sharing and get-togethers: something as simple as adding an oversized kitchen table will create an enhanced ‘community’ feel.

Fan the flames. Add a barbecue to your outdoor roster so guests can indulge their carnal leanings and explore a side that city life often stifles.  Better still, a dedicated fire pit – or an outdoor fireplace – will enhance the experience whilst allowing PG’s to enjoy winter evenings around the flames telling stories, singing songs and guzzling S’mores.

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Make more of views. If alterations don’t figure on your agenda, at least ensure renters can see the frozen lake or forest: auspicious ‘vista pruning’ of trees and bushy plants will open up views.

Give your cottage a clear design identity. Position furniture to make the most of your room’s shape, and use art and accessories to add style and colour.  Use lighting to adjust mood and make more of everything.

From dimmer switches and overhead fittings, to table lamps and floor lighting, creativity amplifies the luxury factor.

Comfort equals luxury. It’s worth spending on comfort, so (if budgets permit) upscale mattresses, chairs and sofas.  Layer in textural throws to beds and sofas, and use feather filled cushions (instead of foam) for extra thickness and ‘chop-ability’.

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Keep guests connected. Wi-fi strength is everything, so ensure your service is up to the task.  If this simply isn’t possible, make up for failings with an extensive movie library and box upon box of board games.

Hey, you could even suggest that being ‘disconnected’ is a good thing.  Slow life at the lake, huh?  Now doesn’t that sound inviting?

To help create the perfect winter getaway, search out a reputable agent for advice on pricing, deposits and timetabling.  Visit the Ontario Cottage Rental Managers Association (OCRMA) for a list of members: in your area.

Watch for Colin and Justin on Cabin Pressure and Great Canadian Cottages (Cottage Life TV) and on Cityline (CityTV). Find the Colin and Justin Collection in stores across Canada. Visit

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