Three years ago, Kate and Rob Harcourt found themselves rethinking their careers and browsing real estate listings, like so many of us at the height of the pandemic. When they stumbled on a cottage resort near Sault Ste. Marie for under $300,000, they jumped in the car the next day to have a look, put an offer in that morning, and raced home to sell their house in Collingwood. A month later, they were living in a tiny cottage and preparing for a mountain of renovations.
In Episode 2 of the Destination: Northern Ontario podcast, the couple breaks down their journey from that fateful car ride to becoming owner-operators with incredible guest reviews and plans to expand their lakeside empire.
Listen now, or read on for a few highlights.
How to Spend Smart on Renovations
Kate and Rob got their cottage resort for a bargain because it needed a lot of work. They knew it was going to take a lot of extra investment and elbow grease, but they were up for the challenge.
In his lifetime, Rob has worked in the construction and hospitality industries, so he had a good idea of where to spend their renovation budget: “We’ve been updating kitchens and bathrooms. I’ve focused on making the bathrooms, the kitchens, and the bedding the cleanest out of everything, because that’s what grosses most people out.”
How to Become a Superhost
Newly renovated kitchens and bathrooms are a lot easier to keep clean. So are fresh, high quality linens and fabrics. Kate and Rob bought all new bedding, mattress covers, area rugs, and futons. Kate attributes many of their five-star ratings and AirBnb Superhost status to their commitment to cleanliness, which goes a long way to making people feel comfortable.
They make their guests feel comfortable in other ways too. Kate and Rob don’t just provide firewood—they’ll help a guest start a fire if they’ve never done it before. Or show them how to use a kayak so they can get out on the water. Whatever it takes to make sure they have a good time.
Do Some Local Research Before Setting Your Rates
Kate and Rob are from Southern Ontario and had had a learning curve with the Northern Ontario lingo. For their first season in 2021, they considered their property a “fishing camp”, given its location on Gordon Lake and the rustic cottages. They priced accordingly and were swamped with bookings, which they attributed to the post-pandemic travel boom.
By 2022, they realized that in Northern Ontario, a “camp” is an off-grid property without hydro or plumbing. A far cry from their two-bedroom cottages with full, and very clean, kitchens and bathrooms. They increased their pricing and even at a lower occupancy rate, they made significantly more money.
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In the next episode, we talk to Aniela and Brian, another couple who bought a cottage resort. They weren’t really in the market for a property, but when the owners of their favorite hunting lodge retired, they took a leap of faith.
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