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Candace Wagman said she feels lucky to have found a place she can afford on Gabriola Island, B.C.Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail

Candace Wagman is renting a house on British Columbia’s picturesque Gabriola Island this summer and she says she feels lucky to have found a place she can afford.

“I’m renting in June and into July while my own house there is being completed, so I see the rental situation from both sides and I’m quite surprised,” says Ms. Wagman, a professional artist.

There appears to be pent-up demand for vacation rentals within Canada this year. “My own house isn’t even finished and there are already a significant number of people reaching out on the community web page to rent TO me,” she says.

As a result, renters should be prepared for sticker shock. “I managed to get a reasonable price, but as I was looking, I was surprised to hear many of the numbers being thrown at me – they’re all unaffordable to me,” Ms. Wagman says.

Welcome to the world of summer rentals in Canada, 2022 edition. While it’s not impossible to find a cozy cottage, camp, or cabin, it’s a challenge in some parts of the country again this year, and depending on where you’re looking, you’d better hurry – and expect to pay.

“I have heard of a family that rented their cottage out for six weeks at $40,000 a week,” says Jack Janssen, a realtor with Chestnut Park Realty Ltd. in Port Carling, Ont., who focuses on cottage properties in the province’s popular Muskoka area.

That may be an extreme, but it’s not the only ultra-high price in the area. On Lake Rosseau, also in Muskoka, neighbours are talking about a cottage that has been booked for $18,000 a week in July. Jayne’s Luxury Rentals, a Muskoka-based agency that specializes in renting out Ontario and Florida properties, offers getaways asking as much as $60,000 a week.

Renters who have secured more down-to-earth deals in the area are reluctant to share their good fortune, worried that the owners might have second thoughts and boost the rates.

“I don’t want to talk about it, it’s too personal,” says one individual who secured a cottage near Huntsville, Ont., for $3,000 a week.

Prices aren’t as severe outside Ontario. “It’s more like $2,000 a week down here,” says John Duckworth, a real estate agent on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, who lists about 20 summer rentals on his website.

But you probably still need to make a quick decision. “You can find a place here, but if you’re looking for something in the peak time in July, you may have trouble,” Mr. Duckworth says.

Mr. Janssen and Mr. Duckworth both say the rental market has come roaring back after a deep dip in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, when lockdowns prevented people from travelling. It hasn’t really stopped roaring since then, they say.

“Here in Muskoka, if you’re looking now, you’re looking for 2023, not this year,” Mr. Janssen says. He handles only a few rental deals for long-standing clients, referring others to specialist agencies such as Jayne’s.

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Top: B.C. ferries dock at Gabriola Island. Above: Renters who have secured more down-to-earth deals are reluctant to share their good fortune. But Ms. Wagman has seen the rental world from both sides and said she sees an increased demand, even in her unfinished home.Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail

Despite the realtors’ warnings, the big nationwide and international rental services such as VRBO and Airbnb show cottage listings available in various parts of the country at a wide range of prices.

“It’s definitely not too late for this year,” says Matt McNama, communications spokesperson for Airbnb Canada. He agrees that demand is sky-high for leisure stays within Canada, a trend that increased dramatically since the pandemic was declared in early 2020.

“Domestic and non-urban travel have grown throughout the pandemic, with non-urban nightly bookings up nearly 45 per cent by the end of last year compared with the fourth quarter 2019,” Mr. McNama says.

People are staying longer than they used to, which also makes it harder to find available bookings.

“Over the last two years, we have seen the average trip length increase by approximately 15 per cent with stays of more than seven days now representing nearly half of all nights booked. Long-term stays of 28 nights accounted for 22 per cent of gross nights booked in last year’s fourth quarter, up 16 per cent in that quarter in 2019,” Mr. McNama says.

It has been easier during the pandemic for Canadians to vacation within the country rather than contend with international air travel and border crossing rules, he adds. In Ontario, there’s also a small incentive to stay nearby because of the government’s “staycation” tax credit.

The Ontario program offers travellers who stay within the province this year a 20-per-cent tax credit on their vacation expenses up to $1,000 per person or $2,000 per family. The credits apply to Airbnb, VRBO and other agency bookings as long as the property owner is registered for GST/HST.

The incentive for owners to rent out is obvious, Mr. Janssen says. “They can recoup their costs and taxes for a year in a single rental.”

The incentive for renters, even with high costs and scarcity, is obvious too, says Anne Larcade, president and CEO at Sequel Hotels and Resorts, which advises leisure property owners and managers. “People want space, nature, clean air and a lake, hiking, boating and swimming.”

Renters can get all this, but they should be realistic too, Mr. Janssen says.

“You’re not getting a butler, a chef or a personal boat driver for these prices – but you can get a beautiful vacation.”

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Ms. Wagman is renting a place on the picturesque Gabriola Island, B.C., while her house is being built near by.Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail

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