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A cut above

In Calgary’s competitive rental market, homeowners looking to make a few extra bucks must set themselves apart

Short-term home renting has been going on for decades, but has now become an entrenched part of the economy, and a popular way to generate a bit of extra income, thanks to rental services and facilitators, such as Airbnb, VRBO, Kijiji and property management companies.

When Angela Casale lost a long-term tenant in the Ramsay property where she runs a wellness clinic on the lower floor and has a rental unit upstairs, it meant adjusting to Calgary’s competitive rental market.

“There are no renters to be had. Apartment buildings are giving people three free months and TVs and all kinds of things,” said Casale.

“We couldn’t rent it, Stampede was coming, so we decided to try a bed and breakfast. It’s worked for other people, why can’t it work for us?”

After listing the suite on several websites, she secured bookings for all but a couple days during Stampede, and hopes to continue that success throughout the rest of the year.

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she said. “If I want to keep my investment I’m going to do what I have to do.”

Here’s some advice from the experts on how to successfully use your property for short-term rentals:

Can you be a landlord?
Not everyone has what it takes, says Casale, and people need to consider carefully if they should do it themselves.

“Honestly, if you cannot keep your home clean, do not do this. If you cannot clean up after somebody – if you do not have a strong stomach – do not do this. If you’re not able to deal with people on a regular basis, and do it with a smile on your face as you listen to them complain, then this is not for you,” she said.

“I’ve been renting for so many years I’ve kind of heard and seen it all. You can be fast asleep and a tenant is painting the walls and toilet black.”

“It becomes almost worry free. When they hire the management company, they are saying ‘I’m, your boss, now find me the best tenant. Help me manage my real estate.’ ” – Darren Potter, Asset West Property Management Ltd

Consider a rental management company
Darren Potter, managing director with Asset West Property Management Ltd, says for a management fee of about $75 to $120 a month, which is tax deductible, they provide clients with strict screening of renters, including reference and credit checks, and look after all the relevant paperwork, from customized rental agreements and monthly operating statements, to tax forms for property owners residing outside Canada.

He adds they also provide 24-hour emergency maintenance services, regular inspections of the property, and deal with renters on a non-emotional basis, so property owners don’t have to deal with tenants’ sad stories about why they can’t pay their rent.

“It becomes almost worry free,” said Potter. “When they hire the management company, they are saying ‘I’m, your boss, now find me the best tenant. Help me manage my real estate.’ ”

Make your property listing stand out
Websites like Airbnb and others use forms that property owners fill out with various details about their rental, and online tools to help an owner set prices.

But this structured approach doesn’t mean property owners can’t set their property apart.

Casale says she researched prices, and decided against going for the low end of the market.

“I don’t really want the $80 a night people, I want the ones who are willing to pay at least $100 and would like a little more personalized service, but don’t want to spend $200 at a hotel,” she said.

She called her rental unit a boutique hotel suite on Airbnb to set it apart, redecorated the space, and offers guests services that go above and beyond the standard rental, such as treatments in her wellness spa.

“Anybody can give you a room,” she said. “Anybody can give you a clean room. You want to stand out.”

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