14 Easy Upgrades to Attract Guests to Your Vacation Home for Under $500

by | BiggerPockets.com

Short-term vacation home rentals have a lot of competition. There are hotels and motels in the city, and there may also be other people in the same neighborhood offering their property as well.

As a result, it’s important for your home to be in the best shape possible.

All appliances, such as dishwasher and refrigerator, should operate properly. You may be used to giving your fridge a kick whenever it starts to hum noisily, for example, but someone staying in your house will not expect to have to do this. They will not expect to have to be careful about having too many things plugged in at once, which could result blowing a fuse. So if that’s a frequent occurrence, rewiring by a professional electrician would be necessary.

When you are preparing your home for rental, thoroughly inspect each room from the bathroom to the bedrooms to the living room to the garage, and make a list of any items that need to be fixed.

But just making sure everything works may not be enough. Think about any upgrades that your home might need as well.

Upgrades do not necessarily need to be expensive, either. There are many things you can do for under $500 that may make all the difference in the success or failure of your vacation home rental project.

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Interior Fixes

Painting or Wallpapering

A fresh coat of paint or wallpaper in each room can help to make a “lived-in” home look new again.

Choose a washable paint that is light in color. A light color makes a room look larger and more inviting. Examine the walls carefully and spackle any holes before you apply the paint.

You have the option of hiring a professional to do this paint or wallpaper job for you. If you are used to painting, you can do it yourself, but make sure you put down protective dust sheets and tape wooden surfaces to protect against any unwanted paint spatter.

You’ll want to get all the painting done a couple of months before you start renting out your home in order to make sure that that “new paint smell” has dissipated.


Related: The 9 Tips You Need to Make a Smart Vacation Home Purchase

New Carpet

It’s not necessary to carpet the entire home, just the rooms that will get the most use, such as the bedrooms. Always put down the carpet after the rooms have been painted, and make sure it is of good quality and with a padding beneath it. The carpet may be of a slightly darker hue or color than the walls. Make sure it is easily washable!

New Kitchen Appliances & Equipment


These days, having both a microwave and an oven in a kitchen are considered de rigeur.

Even top-of-the-line microwaves do not cost that much these days, and they will get a lot of use. So if your current microwave is more than five years old, consider getting a brand new one. You’ll want a model that has an automatic turntable and sensors that help food cook efficiently.

Overhead Light Sensor

Putting in sensors that will turn on overhead lights as soon as someone enters the kitchen will please your guests. This way, they won’t have to hunt to find where the light switches are hidden!

Expanded Lighting

The more light cast on a subject, the better, and that includes in the kitchen. Lighting can be placed underneath cabinets, for example, to illuminate the entire counter space. People who like to cook will appreciate this.

Faucet Sensors

Sensors that turn faucets on or off are extremely popular these days, and your guests will love them. Faucets fitted with such sensors cost as little as $80, although they can go up to $500 or more. There is a wide variety to choose from.

Upgrading Lighting

Just as automatic lighting is helpful in kitchens, so it is also of use in bedrooms and bathrooms. Simply put a motion-activated light sensor by the door in each room. Not only is it convenient, but it also adds a bit of sophistication to the home.


Upgrading Bathrooms


There are certain items that everyone expects to see in a bathroom. A vanity beneath the sink, for example, in which one can store toilet paper and other items is important. Newer homes come with a vanity standard, but if you have an older home, you may need to purchase one.

Towels, Rugs & Bathmats

Purchase high-quality towels, rugs and bathmats for the exclusive use of your guests. They should be of a matching color to give the bathroom a “finished” look.

Upgrading Bedrooms

Matching Sheets & Blankets

Purchase matching sheets and blankets for the exclusive use of your guests as well. Not only will they provide a sophisticated look to the room, but it will be easier to keep track of the bedding if you can tell which is “yours” and which is for your guests.


Most people like to read before they go to bed. In addition to overhead lighting, consider purchasing a couple of standing lamps for either side of the bed.

Exterior Upgrades

A Green Lawn

While your guests will be most interested in the appearance and “livability” of the interior of your home, the exterior is of course very important as well.

A lush green lawn contributes to the appearance of any home. If your lawn has dead spots, upgrade by re-sodding the affected area. Make sure you know how to care for the new sod so that it survives and thrives!


Related: 5 Steps to Renting Out Your Vacation Property As Quickly As Possible

Flowers Beds

Planting flower beds adjacent to your house and in certain selected spots in the lawn itself can contribute greatly to the attractive appearance of the home. Choose flowers that are bright, colorful and hardy.

Garbage Cans

If your local garbage collector does not provide you with collection bins, consider purchasing large, wheeled bins on your own. These enhance the look of these needed items and make them easier for people to use.

There are many simple and inexpensive upgrades you can carry out to ensure that your guests feel comfortable in your home. Make sure you keep track of all purchases so you can claim them on your taxes!

Investors: What would you add to this list?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Trey Duling

Trey Duling has been managing and marketing vacation homes in the Orlando and Disney World area since 2001. His passion is helping investors make their vacation homes more profitable. Please visit his website at http://www.orlandovacation.com/home-rentals/.


  1. Mindy Jensen

    Hi Trey.

    I prefer a vacation rental to a hotel when I am staying for more than just a couple of days. I like having a kitchen where I can cook meals for my family rather than going to restaurants all the time.

    What I encounter time and again, is a mish-mash of utensils in the kitchen, seemingly thrown together by someone who has never cooked a meal in their lives. Almost as though they went to the thrift store kitchen section, and just grabbed a few handfuls of whatever.

    I don’t need a meat tenderizer or a turkey baster. I DO need a wine opener, a bottle opener, spoons to stir the pots with, and a large bowl to mix things would also be nice. 9 wisks doesn’t really make my cooking experience easier, but 9 mixing spoons would. Tongs, pancake turners, rubber scrapers to clean out jars, etc.

    Another thing I encounter frequently is oddly-stocked cabinets. I’ll find 7,000 coffee filters, 6 bottles of oil, and usually a half used box of pancake mix. In that same kitchen, there won’t be any salt or pepper. Hot sauce is a frequent find as well. A list of basic cooking supplies would be so helpful. It doesn’t have to be extensive – people know you aren’t going to be supplying them everything, but it’s nice to know what is there so you don’t buy it again.

    I would also suggest a few extra blankets that are soft, easy to wash, and easy to find. Some people like to curl up under a blanket on the couch.

  2. Kevin Harrison

    There are some very good insights in your blog Trey, but as someone who works on a lot of these things for a living I do have a couple of comments on the automated equipment.

    First always make sure that if you are putting automated lighting sensors in the bedroom they are the kind that you can turn the automated function off. Otherwise they typically have a 15 lag period after you turn the light off and then the sensor kicks back on automatically, otherwise someone rolling over in bed will turn the lights back on and irritate the hell out of your guests. I’m sure you already know this but for people who are thinking about making these changes to their rentals its and important point. The other thing is about the automated sinks, they may seem like a really cool idea but you need to make sure you buy a high quality one and replace the batteries regularly otherwise they won’t work for a guest and that makes the sink useless.

    Other wise I think this is a great article, especially the part about curb appeal. You may not think its important to a guest, but no one wants to come “home” every day to a place that looks like a dump even if the inside is spectacular.

    • Thanks for the timely warnings! I might have gone out and been tempted to cut corners while buying these automating trappings, not realising the headaches i’d be faced with after. Whew!

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