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Real Estate

Renting a Cottage: What Questions to ask

michiganlakefrontcottage11You’ve made the decision. You are going to rent a cottage for you upcoming vacation. Now it is time to start looking. But, in order to have a relaxing vacation with no unpleasant surprises, you must do your homework and ask a few questions before signing a contract.

The Basic questions:
How many bedrooms?
How many bathrooms? Tub and shower?
Age of Cottage

Waterfront Questions:
Is it directly on the water? If not, how far is the access to the waterfront?
Do you share the waterfront with some one else?
What is the waterfront like, is it sandy? Suitable for swimming?How fast does it drop off? (good to know for small children)
How deep does it get?
Is there a dock?
How busy is the waterfront?
Are there restrictions as to use and times of usage?
Is the cottage level with the waterfront? Are there stairs involved to access the waterfront?

Miscellaneous Questions:

Are pets permitted?
Is there a limit to the number of people staying at the property? Are guests allowed?
Is this a no smoking cottage? You may want to know if former guests were smokers.
How close are the neighbors?
How much parking is available?
Who cleans the cottage between the guests? What is included in this cleaning?
Do you charge a cleaning fee?
Who handles emergency repairs on the property and how far are they from the property?
Is there a phone in the cottage?
What is included? Linens, pillows, towels, blankets
Is there a washer and dryer on the premises?
Deck Chairs?
Water toys?

What else you need to know:
How far is the closest place for supplies? Food?
Is there medical care nearby for emergencies?
Where is the boat launch?

When is the deposit due and how much?
What is the cancellation policy?
Ask to have a rental agreement/ lease sent to you in advance to review.
Ask for the names and phone number of a couple of former guests for references.

Ask questions, be prepared, and enjoy your Michigan waterfront vacation.

Written by Dave.

Renting Your Cottage

michigancottageforrentPerhaps you are thinking about buying a Michigan cottage and renting it out for a portion of the season or renting it out during the off season to offset some of the expenses.

Before you make any decisions, you should determine the true cost of operation. There are the obvious costs; real estate taxes, utilities, insurance. But there are also less obvious costs when you decide to rent out the cottage; wear and tear or replacement of furniture, cleaning costs, cost of advertising, property management costs or added travel costs if you are the property manager.

Take the total cost of all the expenses and divide it by the number of weeks in the rental season and that number will be you true cost of owning the cottage. That is cost of owning before any profit.

You will also need to do a market study of what others are renting their cottage for. Look for cottages with “For Rent” signs in front of them and then call them asking about their rates and amenities. Take note of those you see advertised in the local papers as well as any in your hometown paper. Calling on the ads asking a few questions is an excellent way to start as well as doing an internet search for lakefront cottages for rent. Keep notes as to locations prices and amenities as it may be confusing after you talk to a number of different people.

Renting your waterfront cottage to a friend or family member at a reduced rate is quite different than renting it to a stranger . You know your friend or family member and expect them to care for your property. Renting to a stranger can be a different story. In that case do your homework and charge the market rate to offset damages that may occur.

Written by Dave.

Renting Your Cottage: A Few Thoughts

michigancottagerentalPeople looking for a good vacation lakefront cottage to rent would look for the same things you would find appealing.

A lumpy or well worn mattress that is no longer providing you a good nights sleep at your home will not improve by being at the rental cottage. A shower that quickly runs out of hot water will be as disappointing to others as it is to you. A cottage that is not clean or has an “old” odor to it probably will not encourage guests to return.

Make the cottage feel like home. Attractive pictures on the wall, plenty of blankets for chilly evenings and comfortable furniture to relax on make for a very pleasant stay. Make sure you have a TV that works and has a clear picture for those evenings indoors and rainy days.

Guests tend to remember the worst of their vacations. You and your cottage do not want to be part of those memories. People will often return year after year if they had a good experience the first time.

A few basic tips:

If you know of any problems or things not working properly- fix or repair them before hand. Emergency repairs are often very expensive and guest’s vacations are interrupted.

Make sure the cottage is squeaky clean. You do not want guests feeling they have to spend the first half day cleaning the unit prior to using it.

Make sure your cleaning cabinet is well stocked with cleaning supplies and equipment. A guest that cleans up well during the course of their stay makes your job easier.

Use your parental eye on the property. Look around the property and determine if there is anything you should do to “child proof” the property for any children.

Written by Dave.

You are here: Home / About Real Estate / Renting Your Cottage, A Few More Thoughts Renting Your Cottage, A Few More Thoughts

cottagemichiganlakeYou have decided you are going to rent your cottage out, or your are going to buy a second cottage nearby as an investment. A few suggestions to attract and retain a return clientele of guests. Some simple things go a long way.

Be friendly. Guests are customers and they like to be welcomed and pampered.

Any small thing that you can do or provide will set you apart form your competitors. Some of the better coffee companies sell small bags of coffee, enough for one pot . Having a selection of these around is a nice touch and a great way for your guests to start their day. Always make sure your coffee maker is working and there are plenty of filters available.

Make your guests feel if they need anything all they have to do is ask. Many times we can overlook the most simple necessitates. If one person asks for something, it means others have or will have noticed the same missing ingredients.

Provide your guests a list of local phone numbers: your number, emergency maintance, and even the local pizza place with delivery. Having a few menus from local restaurants in the cottage is a nice touch.

Keep some cards in the drawer as well a some games, books and magazines in case the weather turns bad.

Some comfortable deck or beach furniture is a must. If it is not comfortable for you, it will not be for them. Keep you eye open for sales, estate sales and moving sales for anything that you can provide for a better vacation experience.

Be available to your guests and their needs, make them feel wanted but never invade their space. Many guests are looking for privacy and don’t want to be bothered.

Word of mouth is on of the best ways to attract new guests. Have business cards or brochures with pictures printed up and have them available in the cottage so guests can remember how to contact you and have enough available for them to pass out to friends and family.

Written by Dave.

Rehabing the Cottage on a Budget

michigancottagedockSo you found it, a one in a million view, a place to retire, the weekend getaway. The land is what you were after, but the waterfront cottage is, shall we say not exactly ‘home sweet home’. You have dreams and plans for the site. You may be planning on tearing it down and building something new. You may be considering doing a major remodel or adding a room or two. But, for now, you have to wait.

The good news is, you may not have to wait for the budget to catch up to your dreams. You may have purchased it as a retirement home and living there is 5, 10 or 15 years away, but you would also like to use it now. You do not have to spend a lot of money to get a whole different feel for you new lakefront home.

The first thing add a fresh coat of paint inside and out. You can change the color entirely or just paint the trim.

Add some shutters to the cottage, paint them a complementary color.

Power wash the cottage and the decks and put a new coat of stain on the deck.

Add some flower boxes to the front for curb appeal.

Plant some easy to care for perennials around the property.

Update the house numbers with some bold numbers or letters.

Install a flagpole and a flag.

Install new light fixtures will modernize the appearance of the cottage.

Replace the doorknobs throughout the cottage.

Refinish the floors, install some new carpet or consider an area rug.

Install new switch plate covers and outlet covers.

Change the hardware on the kitchen cupboard and drawers. Or, consider new cupboard doors and countertops.

If necessary, consider new or gently used appliances.

Change the fixtures in the bathroom, install new towel bars and other hardware. Don’t forget new towels to compliment the paint color. Pick up a new shower curtain.

Consider going to the local art festival. Invest in some local art. It will make more of a difference than you think. Sometimes reframing the art or mirrors you already have or just repainting the frames will give them an entirely new look.

But, most important thing is to relax and enjoy your weekends at the lake!

Written by Dave.

Private Property

michiganprivatepropertyPrivate property can be a very complex subject. I like the simple definition that Wikipedia offers:

Public Property is any property that is controlled by a state or by a whole community.

Private Property is any property that is not public property. Private property may be under the control of a single individual or by a group of individuals collectively.

Please respect the rights of other people and their property rights.

Written by Dave.

As Is

michiganbuyerbewareMany times sellers, as well as realtors, will use the term “as is”. It is a term that can mean many things. It is often understood that the property will be sold without any promises as to the condition of the property and the buildings on the property.

The phrase is used routinely during this time of the mortgage crisis. In the case of a bank or a finance company being the owner of an unwanted property, they may have little or even no idea of the condition of the property. The seller simply states they are selling as is. Sometimes the repairs are merely cosmetic. Other times they may be major; such as structural deficiencies, furnace or roof in need of replacement or even inadequate septic systems.

It should mean buyer beware. It is a term that you should take notice of, but not be afraid of.

Over the years we have been involved in the purchase of properties listed “as is”. Receiving the keys we expected only the worst; leaking roofs, defective furnaces, and plumbing hassles, etc., only to be pleasantly surprised that everything works properly.

So, in the situation of an “as is” property, as you would any property, do your homework and be prepared to put a little money into making it exactly what you want it to be.

Written by Dave.


michiganwatershedRecently my wife asked me what a watershed was. While I knew what a watershed is, I had a hard time explaining it, so I decided to do a little investigation into exactly how to simply explain what a watershed is.

A watershed is the overall area of land where water drains or seeps into a pond, stream or lake. Water comes into the watershed from rain and snow, as well as water from storm drains or water runoff. Remember, water always flows downhill and downstream.

The watershed boundaries are determined to be the ridges of land that drains.The size and shape of a watershed varies. It can be as small as an acre or as large as several thousand acres, as in the case of the Muskegon River. Watersheds cross national, state and county lines.

Watersheds are part of larger watersheds. A watershed of a Michigan stream is part of a larger watershed of the Michigan river that the stream flows into. In the strictest sense- where ever you are, you are in a watershed.

Written by Dave.

Know your Lakefront Neighbors

This past week, I stopped to check on a building job. As I walked around the property, out of nowhere, a neighbor came and asked “Can I help you?” He was sincere, and wanted to be of assistance.

This happens frequently, but there are two types of those who ask. At times I am annoyed by nosey neighbors. I am on the site to get the job done and I do not appreciate neighbors following me around with millions of questions and solutions to the world’s problems.

On the other hand, concerned neighbors are a good front line of defense against mischievous people who do not have your best interest, or the best interest of your property, at heart.

michigankeyWhen you close up you cottage for the winter, it is good that the year round residents know who you are and are able to keep an eye on your property. It may be a good idea to leave your phone number with that neighbor, just in case. If a tree limb falls on your summer cottage, or a neighbor notices a broken window, it would be better to be notified at the time, rather than finding it when you open up in the spring.

If you are far from the summer home, you may want to consider leaving a key with this neighbor. It may prove useful in case of an emergency.

Written by Dave.

Short Sales

michiganshortsaleRecently I wrote a post about foreclosures . Making an offer on a property that is lender owned can be a frustrating experience. You would think with all that you hear in the news, banks would quickly respond to an offer. I recently made on offer on a foreclosed property and it took six weeks to receive an answer. Yes, six weeks.

Some listings will state that the sale is subject to the approval of the lender. In other words, it is a short sale. A short sale is when prior to a house being forclosured, a lender agrees to accept less than the outstanding balance owing on the mortgage or note. The seller then in turn sells the property and the lender receives all the proceeds of the sale.

The benefit to the lender is that they do not have to reprocess the property through lengthy and costly court proceedings and then have to remarket the property.The benefit to the home owner is that they avoid having the foreclosure on their credit report. A balance may remain after the property is sold that the borrower is still owed. Sometimes, this deficiency can be forgiven.

Negotiating a short sale is even more difficult to do than simply offering on an existing repossessed home. I take my short sale questions to Joel Zieve from Great Lakes Home Solutions, a firm successfully specializing in short sale work. He lists seven misconceptions or mistakes people often make.

One mistake I see people make over and over again in real estate is that they do not do research their decision. In short, they do not do their homework. Whether you are buying, selling, refinancing, or worse yet, finding yourself facing a tough decision on a property you can no longer afford, always be sure to get all the facts, consult the experts; your attorney, your realtor, your lender and the short sale specialists.

Written by Dave.

Rules of Real Estate

michigansherlockYou have probably heard what is sometimes called the “#1 Real Estate Rule” : “Location, Location, Location”. That may be important, but I would like to toss out a couple of mine. A wise old real estate broker find of mine would always suggest, “You have to go and look for yourself.”

That would seem simple enough, what’s the big deal? I cannot begin to tell you how many times over the last thirty years that the description of the property given to me has been incorrect.

I would not suggest that people are trying to deceive. That would be foolish. You may as well do your best to describe the property the best you can, because people will find out on their own. I would suggest to you that many people just don’t have the facts. They haven’t taken the time to investigate for themselves.

I have had two instances recently that it was very evident that the listing salesperson really had no idea what they were listing. I was told about a property and after asking a few questions, I thought this may have some merit. I received the directions and off I went and drove for a hour and half drive to view the property. After locating the property, I determined that 99.5% was underwater. The property was literally all wetlands and no building site whatsoever. I will leave to your imagination what my response was.

Another instance of this happened a few years ago, before the real estate meltdown, I received a call from the executor of an estate looking to dispose of an older home in the city. She was calling several builders looking to move the property to finalize the estate. Her comments about the property included comments like, “trashed”, “nothing done to it in several years”, “needing lots of work”, “poor condition”, and “major work needed”. She did not want to drive into the city from the burbs and told me where the key was hidden.

I arrived at the home. I found the home to have a newer roof, updated siding, aluminum storms and screens. I wondered if I was at the right place. The key was hidden in the place she said. The inside was clean and neat, like a grandmother’s house. Yes, it needed a fresh coat of paint and someone to carry out the single bag of trash in the corner of the kitchen, but the home was nothing like she described.

Waterland Living’s real estate rule: You have to go and look for yourself.

Written by Dave.

Real Estate Rules, Part Two

timetoputoffTime is of the essence. Do it now! Let me say it again. Do it now!. A wise old real estate broker find of mine would always want to “do it now”. Whether it was to look at a property, get paperwork completed or signed or whatever the piece of business was, he never was one to wait until tomorrow.

It can be human nature to put things off till tomorrow what can be done today. Violation of this rule of real estate can prove to be hazardous.

The best example I can share is a real estate broker friend of mine that had a sale pending on a vacant home. The seller, a builder, (no it was not me) delayed the closing on the property due to the busyness of his schedule. It was just plain procrastination. The day of the closing arrived and the hour approached. While on the way to the closing, the broker became very frustrated when traffic was delayed by emergency vehicles. Suddenly, he noticed it the smoke was in the area of the house he was selling. Yes, it was the house he was about to sell that was on fire. Needless to say, this was a closing that did not happen. The seller also discovered he had procrastinated on the issue of getting insurance on the property, so it was not covered.

Having been in the business many years, I have come to recognize the value of getting it done now. I have experienced similar events. The buyer loses their job and no longer qualifies for the mortgage, or sometimes they even get cold feet. I have also had it that the seller passes away prior to the sale and the heirs discovered he left no will. These are all examples of what can and does happen.

Do it now, do it today. We do not know what the future holds.

Written by Dave.


michiganpufferyPuffery is a legal real estate term that refers to making exaggerated claims for promotional purposes. The claims are often more subjective than objective.

Examples of puffery would include statements like: “Best view of the lake.” or “Greatest lot in the subdivision.”

Most people would not take statements with puffery seriously. Statements like this should just be considered a matter of personal opinion.

Written by Dave.