Investing in a vacation rental, or deciding to rent out your beach home is pretty hot right now, considering 81 percent of Americans plan to take more vacation this year according to Expedia.
Depending on the market and what kind of property you have, this can be a profitable endeavor if you have a game plan going in.
In today’s post, I’ll break down fifteen things to know about when renting your beach house to tourists to help you decide if it’s right for you.
Choosing a business model for renting out your beach house
In the sections below, I’ll cover a few ideas that can help you successfully rent out your beach house. However, before you start putting a strategy together, it’s important to decide on a business model. Here are a few common questions to ask yourself:
- Do I want to operate a premium, low-volume rental?
- Do I want to simply rent my beach home out sporadically for a few extra bucks each year?
- Do I want to treat my beach house rental like a business, focusing on maximizing bookings and revenue?
Your answer to this question will dictate the advertising strategy, the amenities you offer, your fill rate, and most importantly how much you charge tourists.
For some, the extra $2,000 – $3,000 per season by renting to a family or two for a week is a worthwhile endeavor for a bit of extra spending money in the offseason, while others prefer to turn their vacation home into a money-making summertime business.
Some obviously decide later on to purchase a second beach home solely for rental income, so that can be an end goal as well later on.
Have an advertising strategy
When it comes to getting the word out about your beach home, it really helps to have an advertising strategy.
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide whether or not to stick to local advertising or go national by listing your home on popular sites like VRBO or Airbnb.
1. Decide if VRBO or Airbnb is right for your beach home
As you know by now, VRBO and Airbnb are both great places to advertise, but each has slightly different features. Airbnb reaches over 6 million people, charges a 3% per booking fee, and caters a little more to those looking to rent a room instead of a whole property (although plenty of those types are listed too).
VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) reaches about 2 million people, has an annual membership fee or a per booking rate of 8%, and deals more commonly with whole vacation rental properties.
Like Airbnb, they also list single rooms to rent.
Pros and cons of online rental sites
One thing to consider is that with many sites like Vrbo is that you will likely attract an out-of-state audience, including spring breakers!
While these sites definitely can keep your bookings maximized which is a huge pro, the downside is that there will really always be some built-in risk (including scams) when dealing with online exposure.
While many of these sites have rating systems and ways to protect you, there are risks involved and many factors are out of your control.
When renting locally may be the best option
On the other hand, if you decide to simply advertise locally by placing vacation rental signage with contact information on your balcony, you definitely will be missing out on exposure.
However, you are far more likely to be dealing with either locals or individuals who are at least relatively familiar with the area, as opposed to spring breakers or large groups from out of state looking to split costs.
While you likely won’t have as much exposure as online, some beach house renters would rather build relationships with 3-4 families looking to stay at the same place every season, rather than constantly be dealing with new tourists.
Again, it really comes down to your personal preferences.
2. Take better pictures
It takes five pictures to show up in a search on Airbnb, and you will need twenty-four images to get a high rating on VRBO.
No matter what service you use, you will need great pictures to sell your property to potential renters who have never been there before.
Consider staging your rental in much the same way you would if you were selling a home. Below is a video to give you a few pointers on how to do this:
3. Update your description with all current amenities
If something has changed, be sure to update your property description. If you have made changes or added amenities, you should let people know.
Even changes in the neighborhood or new local attractions can be a great reason for a refresh. Searching by keyword phrases, like ‘Daytona beach rental with hot tub’, is something you should also consider whenever writing your descriptions.
4. Add a floor plan
It can really help potential renters to envision your beach house property if you add a floor plan. Another option is to order your photos to show the flow of the property.
Tips to improve your beach house rental property
When it comes to updating the property, amenities are really the bread and butter for making your property stand out among the rest.
So many renters include the same standard amenities, but if your rental is the one with the golf simulator…more people will want it.
5. Update the interior
Some visitors will consider your interior design before booking, especially honeymooners. Not only should the interior be well maintained, but you need to make sure that it is attractive as well if this is your market.
For example, adding some small pieces of art or a chandelier can make a huge difference in the overall appearance of the interior.
6. Improve the kitchen
One key reason many people decide to opt for a rental property over a room at a resort is access to a full kitchen.
This article on bnbNomad covers a few good ideas for what you should be keeping in your kitchen if you list it on a site like Airbnb or VRBO.
One idea is to consider installing commercial-grade appliances like stoves or refrigerators. While the upfront cost will be higher, it’s definitely a good idea to avoid constant maintenance costs associated with consumer-grade options.
7. Keep the bathroom tidy and clean
A bathroom can be either nondescript or a primary selling point. To make yours a selling point, consider removating it to be more spacious. Simple things like upgraded fixtures, nice towels, and clean floors really goes a long way.
Keep it clean and free of sand
Bathrooms at beach house rentals can get pretty nasty, so it’s worth having outdoor showers installed, and even having your bathroom cleaned in-between guests since sand will likely become an issue.
Due to humidity, beach house bathrooms have a tendency to stink and grow mold pretty easily. It’s not a bad idea to consider making your bathroom a little bigger if you can, adding proper ventilation, or even installing a vaporizer that uses essential oils to keep it smelling nice.
8. Optimize your outdoor living area
Outdoor living goes far beyond landscaping these days. You can add other great amenities to your outdoor areas and create dedicated spaces as well.
One option to consider is a swimming pool, a water feature, a fire feature, or even an outdoor kitchen.
9. Upgrade your beach house amenities or add new ones
Amenities can go a long way in selling your property. It is also important to know the demographic you want to rent to, because investing in the right extras will bring in guests, while adding the wrong ones can be a waste of money.
Check out my post 10 Best Amenities for Beach House Guests for a few ideas.
Some of the top amenities to consider are wifi, kitchen amenities, and commercial-grade laundry machines.
Best practices for using your beach house as a rental
10. Know the tax rules
Tax rules can be complicated and will vary depending on your state. Therefore, you want to make sure that you are aware of all of the laws that apply to you to avoid any problems from popping up down the road.
If you need more information about tax rules and vacation rentals, check out this article on Kiplinger for more information. You will also want to make sure that you know about all of the deductions you can take for tax purposes.
11. Protect your beach home from damage. Security deposit or insurance?
What should you choose? It depends. Security deposits are about 10% of the price of the rental. They are quick and upfront but can be time-consuming to process. They also do not cover the full amount of some damages.
Insurance is easier and covers a bit more, but can be much harder to implement. The decision will come down to which will work out best for you.
12. Respond to reviews as the owner
Although you can not completely control online reviews, they will play a big part in the reputation of your rental property. Therefore, you must try to respond to all reviews promptly, whether they are good or bad.
Your response will show that you care about your guests, and their experiences.
A few ideas to improve the guest experience
13. Create a manual or simple website
It is going to be very helpful to guests to have a home manual. It should include information like how to program the HVAC system, directions for appliances in the home, directions to nearby key destinations, codes for gates and locks, and more. You will not only make your guests’ stay easier, but it can also save you money on costly accidents if your guests don’t know how to use appliances or systems correctly.
14. Create a visitor’s guide and menu book
Remember that your guests will likely be from out of town. Therefore, it will be helpful to have a small guide of local options for things like food and groceries, transportation, and local sights and events.
I like the concept of a menu book, where you can place a bunch of menus you collect in a laminated book for guests to thumb through. The concept of a guest log is also a really cool idea and can be fun to read through from time to time.
15. Include a few luxury items
Remember, your guests are likely on vacation. Luxurious surroundings will make the whole trip (and your property) seem elevated.
Try additions like stainless kitchen appliances, climate control, or marble countertops.
One last note
When guests stay at your beach house, it is likely to be the small details that will make or break their opinion of the place. It doesn’t cost that much to add a coffee cart, fresh flowers, or other small upgrades to keep your guests happy.
Before you rush to put your beach home on the market, check out my post 7 Beach House Essentials Every Homeowner Needs. Good luck!