The Austen name has been synonymous with the Highlands’ real estate industry for decades. Now, brother-sister duo, Troy and Skye, are branching out into a growing market – offering property management services under their new business, Haliburton Cottage Rentals.

Positioning themselves as an alternative to online giants such as Vrbo and Airbnb, the Austens said there are many benefits to going local when it comes to managing your cottage rental.

Since soft launching last April, the Austens have built a portfolio of around 30 clients and aim to double that number by the end of this year.

“We’re very excited to do this… our uncle ran a cottage rental operation a couple of years ago and it kind of tweaked us. This is a massive industry in our County and there aren’t a lot of local options to help people navigate it. That’s where, and why, we’re stepping in,” Troy said.

While the real estate industry is showing signs of cooling heading into 2023, cottage rentals are booming, according to Troy.

“There are two reasons for that – first, a lot of people visited Haliburton County during the pandemic. They fell in love with the area and just keep coming back,” he said.

“We also saw a huge influx of buyers and investors pouring money into properties up here, and now, whether they need to or just want to, they’re renting their places out when they aren’t here.

“It can be very lucrative,” Troy added. “People can make $30,000, $50,000 even up to $100,000 a year if they’ve got a nice spot. If you have a rental in 2023, it’s almost becoming your own little business.”

That’s where the Austens can step in. Unlike Airbnbs, which require owners to be available should an issue arise, Haliburton Cottage Rentals provide an all-inclusive service.

“We handle all aspects of a rental. We’ll advertise and find bookings, we’re available at all times if there’s a problem, we take care of all cleaning services, linens, and staging. We’re going to get into maintenance” Skye said. “We’ve also started offering ‘Haliburton experience’ packages where we’ll organize outings and activities, and then things like having a private chef come in to cook a meal, a local brewer to serve up beer tastings.”

Summer is the busiest time, but the Austens said there’s a growing demand for winter getaways.

A three-person operation right now, Skye said she’s already looking to grow the team. Renovations are ongoing at the Halco Plaza in Haliburton, which will serve as Haliburton Cottage Rental’s new home.

“We’re doing this because we enjoy it. We know Haliburton County, and we know we can be a big help to those looking to rent their property, and to those looking to escape the city and come up here for an experience,” Troy said.

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