Reading between the lines
By Heather Bayer

You’ve decided to rent a cottage for a summer vacation. Where do you look for one that is going to give you the idyllic time you and your family need? How do you know that the description you read on a web site or in an advertisement is accurate or indeed really gives the information you need to part with your money? I have covered the questions to ask in another article; here are just a few tips to help you read between the lines and understand what the owner or agency is really telling you about the cottage.

Cottages come in all shapes and sizes. Some are downright rustic, perhaps no more than a cabin to change in and sleep in at night, whilst others have more facilities and comforts of home. Never forget though, that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, and the cottage the owner has loved since childhood that holds a wealth of memories for him, might not match your dream of a lakefront vacation. And, bear in mind that although you would like to spend the majority of your vacation on the dock and in the water, sometimes the weather can be very unkind and you may need to move indoors to escape the elements.

The following was sent to us from Clearwater Holidays – a UK based tour operator that offers cottage accommodation in Ontario for its British clients:

‘In our quest for new properties to bring to our clients, we recently visited a cottage on a large lake in the Kawartha area. The waterfront was OK, set into a small bay so there would be little watercraft disturbance during the day, and the decking area was lovely with a south-westerly aspect. So far, so good, until we walked inside. Damp smelling, dark and dismal are some of the more complimentary adjectives used by our inspection team. The furniture would not have made it to a last remnant yard sale, and would have been destined for the tip pretty smartly had we taken it on. However, the minus points were just too many to describe and we breathed a sigh of relief as we walked away. What did worry us was that it rented for just under $900 per week in the summer with a cottage rental agency and it was described as ‘rustic, with a true cottagey feel.’

So what should you look out for in an advertisement, or on a cottage rentals website:

  • Descriptions that seem unnecessarily vague – this lets the owner or agency off any accusation of misrepresentation
  • Smoking permitted – means the owners smoke and the place will probably have the all-pervading odor of stale tobacco, particularly the beds.
  • Pets welcome – the owners probably have dogs, so will every renter in the summer, so to feel at home, you’ll at least need a Shitzu, if not a brace of Golden Retrievers
  • Use of expressions such as:

    Traditional cottage furnishings’ – usually means green and yellow furniture previously enjoyed by a decade of domestic pets and the occasional rodent, orange threadbare carpet sporting a range of unidentifiable stains, and beds that would not have been out of place in a Victorian workhouse.

    Rustic’ – as above but with little or no inside plumbing

    Short walk to the beach’ – probably indicates you will need to take your hiking boots, and a bell to ward off bears along the way

    The waterfront is a ‘bit’ weedy – there is no waterfront, at least there may be some in the far distance after you navigate the marsh in your canoe

    This is probably a bit unfair – I too would tell my guests if there was a little weed at the waterfront, or if the beach was not right off the deck. However, be aware that cottages may not be all they seem from a web advert, or from a description given to you over the phone.

    If you can, ask to visit the cottage before you make a decision. Bear in mind though, that the owner may only hold the cottage for a short while, so you will have to make a quick trip up. Or find an agency that holds Open House weekends so you can visit several at one go, as well as exploring the local. CottageLINK Rental Management is one that holds such weekends:

    Have a great time at the Cottage!