Property Pitfalls to Avoid When Owning a Vacation Home

Owning a vacation rental can be a very rewarding and profitable venture. It can also be a very difficult, frustrating, and expensive experience if you don’t avoid some very basic pitfalls. Some pitfalls to avoid may seem obvious, but are worth repeating. Others may be things you probably have not even considered.

I own five historic Key West vacation rentals, and I market and manage over 50 for other people. I have been in the vacation rental business since 1994, when I turned a property I owned in Key Largo, Florida into my first vacation home. Based on decades of experience, I offer below 8 of the most basic and common property pitfalls to avoid when owning a vacation home. In all the years I’ve been in this business, I continue to see people make the same mistakes over and over again that could be easily avoided with forethought, better planning, and some professional guidance.

While it’s not pleasant to talk about the negative realities of owning vacation rentals, it is my hope that you can learn from the mishaps of others and be able to maximize the benefits of owning your vacation home. Think these through carefully before you ‘take the plunge’ into ownership of a vacation home.

Don’t Buy the Wrong House:

Seem like an obvious statement? Well, the adage ‘Hindsight is 20/20’ is a good one to ponder ahead of time in this critical first step. I’ve seen many people ‘fall in love’ with a house or cottage they find while on vacation themselves, and decide it will make an ideal 2nd home and perfect rental. Be sure you ‘knock the romance out of your head’ and carefully consider how desirable a property will actually be perceived by potential guests and if you can afford it. First, find out what size and configuration of properties that are most in demand in the area you want to buy. For example, how many bedrooms and bathrooms do most renters seek? Do guests want historic homes, condos, cottages, studios or does it matter? Is a pool important, or a garden? Are you willing and able to make any needed renovations?

Don’t forget to Make a Business Plan:

Make a basic business plan and determine if you can make enough money through your rentals to justify the purchase. Get the help of a rental professional and an accountant or financial advisor to create a preliminary plan. Learn how much you can expect to pay to operate your vacation property, and how much you can expect earn in income. Get actual or projected occupancy rates from an established local rental agency. Find out what time of year you can expect to rent your home. Is there a short tourist season, or is there a year around season? Some communities have a high demand for private vacation homes and they command excellent rental rates. But other areas have a glut of unsold homes now being offered as vacation properties, driving rental rates down too low to cover the cost of owning a 2nd home.

Don’t Buy a Property in the Wrong Location or Neighborhood:

Carefully research the location, e.g., just because an extra 15 blocks from the center of town or the beach is no big deal to you, this could be too far away and a deal breaker for potential guests. In other words, make sure that the property you buy will be appealing to potential vacationers. And, what do the neighbors think about vacation rentals being operated next to where they live? This has been, and still is, a huge ongoing issue for many communities across the country. Many cities and towns are grappling about whether to allow or restrict short-term rentals. Some neighbors are vehemently opposed to the idea of a ‘revolving door of tourists’ coming in and out of their neighborhood. Other areas are thrilled to have tourists bringing money into their communities.

Don’t Ignore Community Rules and Regulatory Agencies:

As vacation homes have become increasingly popular, many communities have created rules and regulations that restrict and govern property rentals. Contact the community licensing department where you are planning to purchase a vacation property. Find out if there are restrictions on the time and frequency you can rent your home. Find out if you need to purchase a business license or a special transient rental license. Ask if you need to have a health and safety inspection by the city, county, or state. Find out if you need to collect and pay a tourist bed tax and state sales tax. Don’t ignore the rules and regulations. In some communities, code enforcement officers scan vacation rental websites in search of properties that are offered as illegal rentals. Getting caught breaking the law unknowingly can be expensive and embarrassing!

Don’t Pretend You Can Avoid Renovation and Major Repairs:

Be prepared to accept the fact that owning a successful vacation home means that ongoing quality control becomes a way of life. Unless your property is located in an area where luxury and comfort are disregarded as superfluous, expect to renovate and keep your property to a high quality standard. If you want your rental to be competitive in the vacation market, expect to upgrade you kitchen, bathrooms, replace carpets, floors, decks, porches, windows, repaint, landscape, and put on a new roof when the time comes. In some locations you will need to add a swimming pool or at least a Jacuzzi. Make sure the local building department will allow you to make upgrades. Figure out a time to make needed repairs, and mark off time in your rental calendar to do the work.

Don’t Under Estimate the Importance of Housekeeping and Property Maintenance:

Even after your vacation home is upgraded and operating, you must commit to ongoing housekeeping and on-call maintenance services. If you don’t provide good housekeeping services and regular property maintenance to keep the property to a quality standard, you will most likely live with constant complaints. And you can expect unhappy guests who may be compelled to write bad reviews about your property on internet vacation travel logs and rental websites. A maintenance person must be on-call to fix the myriad of little things that happen in a house such as clogged toilets, mal-functioning a/c or heaters, swimming pool problems, mal-functioning internet connections, and TV remotes to name a few. The more your property is rented, the more maintenance and housekeeping you need o provide.

Don’t Think Your House Can be Successful without Proper Furnishing and Staging:

A common scenario is for new owners of a 2nd home to think they can furnish their property with a hodge-podge of inexpensive garage sale items or discarded personal items. When people do this, they end up with a house that looks like a second-hand store or their own garage sale. If you have a knack for decorating, then go for it. Pick a d├ęcor style have fun. It is perfectly acceptable to have a mixture of old and new items, but in the end they all have to work together in a unified style. Buy comfortable furniture – a nice sofa and easy chairs. Choose an attractive micro-fiber fabric, its ideal for vacation homes. Make sure you provide good bed mattresses and the right bed sizes. Most travelers today want king or at least queen size beds. Buy a larger flat screen TV for the living room or den. Unless you have the know-how and the time to do these tasks, hire someone to do them for you. Many furniture stores have staff decorators who offer this service for free.

Don’t Believe it is Simple to Successfully Market and Manage Your Vacation Rental:

If you’ve read this far, you know there is a lot more to owning and operating vacation properties than first meets the eye. With the proliferation of mega vacation rental websites, that make it easy for home owners to advertise their own property, it can seem simpler than it is. There is a lot more to this business than putting up a web page and answering email inquiries and phone calls and keeping an availability calendar. The task of writing rental contracts, collecting money, collecting and paying taxes, staying current with community licensing and rules and regulations, checking guests in and out, providing housekeeping and ongoing maintenance, dealing with complaints, dealing with property damage done by guests, and addressing unhappy neighbors can be daunting. And, I haven’t even addressed the demands or creating a successful marketing campaign. In today’s market it goes beyond writing good ad copy and providing quality property photos on a website. Be prepared to engage in social media such as Facebook and twitter to reach your potential rental guests.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Property Pitfalls to Avoid When Owning a Vacation Home

Why Choose Vacation Home Rentals Over Hotels?

When you take a vacation, you probably want to get away with every day stressors both from work and at your house. Would it be nice to be somewhere you can freely lounge around without anyone bothering you? Being away can easily do that especially when you choose to take a break far away. However, with hotels being too pricey for your budget and the chaotic environment brought about by other vacationers do you think you can relax?

This is why vacation house rentals come in handy. Vacation rentals are furnished homes that can be rented out for a short period of time. Unlike hotels and motels that have a lot of limitations on their set of amenities, vacation rentals gives you a homey atmosphere with everything inside the house available for you to use as if you own the place.

Other benefits of staying in a vacation home are the following:

They are unique in a way that no two vacation houses are alike. Each home boasts of its own personality without the standard decors that a hotel has. You can conveniently search for vacation rentals by owner so that you can match the house with the personality of the one who lives on it.

You have more privacy during your dream vacations. You never have to listen to other guests walking up and down the corridors, or have snotty hotel staff looking at you from afar. You also have more space to move around compared with that of a hotel room.

It’s easier to stay together when you are having a group vacation. Unlike hotels where you have to rely on the availability of rooms, vacation homes let you stay together as a group which multiplies the fun during dream vacations.

You do not have to worry for pricey room service and expensive menus. With a vacation home, you can order take out and have it delivered right into your doorstep. Kinda the same with having room service yet more economical.

Vacation homes are pretty much cheaper than a hotel room. It may seem to cost much at the start but considering the amenities and other perks that goes with it, you can definitely tell the big difference in price.
Today, there are more vacation homes that are being rented out for vacationers. You only have to look them up from vacation rental sites that offers match up services for you to have a vacation house that will make you feel at ease. You can even do a search on your own and have searched for vacation rentals by owner, by location, price, and other parameters to your liking.

You do not have to worry about being unhappy with a vacation home. All you need to do is to look for a vacation home that follows the standards of the Vacation Room Managers Association so that you can be rest assured that your chosen vacation home is safe, secure, well- maintained, clean, and most of all, very accommodating.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Why Choose Vacation Home Rentals Over Hotels?