Why Is My Cottage Not Renting?

You’ve spent time and money creating a wonderful space for your rental guests to enjoy on their cottage country vacation, and now the bookings should be flooding in.  But so far, there’s been a silence.  Maybe a reservation or two, but not the immediate take-up you expected.  

The cottage rental market in Ontario is quite predictable – and has been even through the pandemic – so analysing why your cottage still has wide open availability when other similar properties are fully booked, is fairly easy, and based on data.

We’ve probably had enough of being told to listen to the science, but data is a pretty good indicator of patterns and trends, and in the cottage rental business it’s no different.

Don’t panic yet

Talking about predictability, after 20 years in the business of cottage rentals in Ontario, we’ve got a good handle on when people book their summer vacations.

Large cottages i.e. those with 4 or more bedrooms, will usually book the earliest and are often full by January. However, if you have just listed with a cottage in that category, there will still be plenty of interested guests provided you meet their criteria in terms of value, amenities and features …..more on that below.

For more modest cottages, the booking season starts in January and stretches through to late April when we start to see glimpses of a summer to come.

Then there are the last-minute rental guests. These are the ones who may have been bitten by lockdowns and restrictions on cottage rental during the pandemic and don’t want to be disappointed by cancellations yet again.

So, if you are worrying in February or March about open gaps in your calendar, fear not. There is plenty of time to fill those dates up.

Repeat guests make up a large part of the rental population. These are guests who go back to the same place year after year and typically book as soon as availability opens up. These guests are the holy grail of rental business so attracting them is important, as once you have a loyal following of returnees, getting a fully booked summer will never be an issue again.

However, to start with you have to attract the guests to book your place in the first place. Here’s some reasons why you are not seeing as much action as you’d like.

Your rate is too high

The last two years have seen a dramatic increase in rental rates with guests willing to pay a premium to get anything on the water for a summer week. We had over 1000 families on our waitlist in July 2021, and every week that opened due to a cancellation was snapped up.

So what has changed?

There is optimism on horizon.

Some countries are opening up to travel with no in-bound requirements for testing making international travel an easy option again. People have been locked up in Ontario for a long time and are ready to stretch their wings and go further on vacation.

We’ve also seen a huge increase in cottages available to rent on the larger online platforms. This rise in inventory is naturally increasing competition, and while we don’t see a ‘race to the bottom’ on rates at the moment, the super-high rates of 2021 may need to be adjusted.

Pets are restricted or not allowed

In our experience, 75% of reservations include at least one dog. This has increased from pre-Covid times due to the ‘pandemic puppy’ boom, and these families are not prepared to leave their four-footed friend in a kennel.

Not allowing pets or restricting to hypo-allergenic breeds or small-sized dogs, will reduce your chances of early bookings. That is simply a fact and not an argument towards accepting all-comers in the pet world.

However, the majority of owners that do accept pets will tell you they have more damage issues created by children than dogs.

Pet owners on the whole tend to be respectful, will follow guidelines and clean up after their pets.

If you’re on the fence about this, check this post about Welcoming Pets

Limiting Wifi Access

Having restricted access to the internet is often a complete deal-breaker and guests will easily move onto the next place regardless of how lovely your cottage and waterfront might be. You could stage it to look straight out of HGTVs Sarah Richardson playbook, but if they can’t get Netflix, stream Youtube and have Zoom meetings, all that work is for nothing.

A recent comment from a guest who rejected a cottage after she found there was a 50GB per week limit, summed it up perfectly:

“Don’t you know unlimited wifi is as important as running water these days”

Regardless of our personal feelings about that feedback, we are hearing this more and more.

Historically, supplying unlimited wifi in cottage country has been prohibitively expensive and often technically challenging, but this is changing.

Do a thorough research of the options and you might be surprised at what is avaialble now in your area.

For an in-depth look at the state of cottage country wifi, read our Cottage Country Wifi Update

Your Beds Look Uncomfortable

If a guest looks through the photos on your listing and sees beds with only one flat pillow per person or unattractive bedding, they will likely go elsewhere.

Getting a good night’s sleep is super-important to your guests and if they see a bed that doesn’t tick the boxes for comfort and style, you’ve lost them.

It doesn’t break the bank to buy new pillows ( and ensure there are two for each person), and make up the bed so it looks appealing. Spending a couple of hundred dollars to make thousands on a rental booking is definitely worthwhile.

Outdated Furniture and Appliances

The days of outfitting a cottage with yard-sale furniture and hanging onto the old appliances that came with the purchase, are long gone. Unless of course, your cottage is at a bargain basement rate, but even then expectations can be high.

Look carefully at your photos and evaluate every aspect of them, because your potential guests will do this.

They will imagine what it will be like to sleep in the beds, cook in the kitchen and take a shower in the bathroom. They’ll look at the lighting and think about the ambiance at night, and will check out the furniture and wonder how long it’s been around.

It could certainly be enough to have them searching elsewhere.


The cottage rental market has become very competitive. Every owner and agency is trying to capture the interest of people looking for the best place to stay, and being complacent in any way is not going to attract them.

Take some time to look objectively at your property, from a guest perspective rather than how you like to spend your vacation.

Research other cottages online – particularly the ones that are fully booked. Are you missing anything? Could you do some updating? Should you lower your price?

If the rental market continues on its current trajectory, you’ll probably get all your weeks rented, but getting in front of the rest with proactive tactics will ease your concern and make the experience much better for your guests.

CottageLINK Rental Management
Email: info@clrm.ca
Toll Free: 1-866 323 6698

Our Hours:
Mon-Fri 9-5
Sat-Sun 9-5

Business Address:
PO Box 39036
Columbia PO, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2T 0A7

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