The following article was printed on June 17 in Nova Scotia’s Chronical Herald, features Jayne McCaw, owner of Jayne’s Cottages in Ontario, and provides an excellent example of how property managers are using media outlets to educate homeowners and push back against the rise in booking activity on Airbnb, HomeAway and other OTAs.
Rental vacation accommodations challenge Airbnb, HomeAway
Home rental websites like Airbnb and HomeAway have a strong hold on the vacation market in Nova Scotia.
But what if there was an alternative that put an emphasis on the safety and security of the homeowner? Oceanfront cottages in Cape Breton and Hubbards are for rent this summer by owners looking to make some easy cash.
Airbnb, currently being used in more than 191 countries, took off in popularity in 2008 by marketing themselves as a cheap and easy alternative for travellers seeking accommodations.
The homeowner then needs to hand over the keys to their castle to strangers, trusting that an insurance policy of up to $1 million will be enough to cover potential damages.
Jayne McCaw, owner of Jayne’s Cottages in Ontario, didn’t think that was enough. So she started her hotel-like rental business in Muskoka in 2014.
She’d noticed there was a great inventory of available rentals in the cottage-laden municipality, but many owners didn’t feel comfortable putting their own properties on the market.
They wanted someone to look after it for them, making the process safe, simple and easy.
She calls her business a “soup to nuts” service that includes getting to know the owners and coming up with a rental price that suits their needs and meets the requirements of the current market.
“I’m not catering to my rental parties; I’m catering to my owners,” she said.
She has a staff of up to 40 people during the busy months who run the 125 properties in Muskoka.
For each property there’s also a team that cleans it, before and after it is rented, while making sure it meets the owner’s specifications.
“We are doing a security check for the owners, but it’s really disguised as a cleaning for the renters,” she said in a phone interview May 26.
She has recently expanded to Toronto and has up to 15 properties that she is renting out this season. The big city is different because there’s more competition from outlets like Airbnb.
“But there is still a very large market that are looking for their hand to be held during this process,” she said.
People looking to rent a property contact Jayne through the website, after which she will run through a list of questions with them, including the reason they want to rent.
She says her contracts are biased towards the owner, with a security deposit that can sometimes be equal to the total cost of the rental.
For example, a higher-end rental in Muskoka could go for $40,000 a week, which means the security deposit could be close to or equal to that cost.
She does this to give herself and the owners a piece of mind, always insuring them with $5 million in personal liability.
For lower end cottages — like a three-bedroom boathouse on Lake Muskoka that starts at $2,750 a week — she will ask renters for a security deposit of roughly half the weekly cost. A top tier Edwardian, five-bedroom home in Toronto goes for about $30,000 a week.
McCaw also runs concierge services for her Muskoka rentals that include a private chef, boat rentals, fishing tours and massage therapy. All of this comes at an additional cost to renters, with prices available at jaynescottages.com.
She has recently started to expand her business even further, into Florida and Switzerland, and is now starting to look at other major cities across Canada.
Nova Scotia is on her radar, particularly Halifax, as a suitable place to set up shop. Before she expands anywhere, she would likely advertise on her website that she is looking for properties to rent out in the area.
“It’s all about to getting to know the owners of a few properties and then you go from there,” she said.
McCaw said she has cottages that are available for rental all year round, with prices being lower in the off season.
For Nova Scotians looking for a lavish getaway this summer, you’d better act quickly. Muskoka cottages are nearly sold out for July and August this year.