4 Tips From a Design Expert on How to Upgrade Your Vacation Rental for Better Returns

by | BiggerPockets.com

More people than ever before are opting for vacation rentals over hotel accommodations, but a recent Phocuswright report finds that travelers who do prefer hotels cite superior amenities as the primary reason for their preference. This means that vacation rental owners who want to maximize ROI and appeal to new demographics should be investing in hotel-quality luxuries. To identify the best profit-maximizing amenities to invest in, I sat down with Vacasa’s resident design and operations expert, Kimberly White, to discuss.

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4 Ways to Upgrade Your Vacation Rental for Better Returns

1. Don’t treat your vacation rental like a secondhand store.

Sleeker designs that don’t take up massive amounts of space are popular right now, especially when it comes to seating. Instead of a shabby sectional, choose an apartment-size sofa accessorized with throw pillows (you can rotate the covers seasonally to keep the look fresh).

On that note, resist the temptation to turn your vacation rental into a repository for furniture, linens, and rugs that have seen better days. Many people use worn-out mattresses, tattered furniture, and stained or frayed linens in their vacation rentals because they want to keep the best pieces in their own homes. But think about the last time you stayed in a good hotel. The linens were crisp and free of stains, the furniture was pristine, and everything looked new. Giving your guests the same experience makes them feel taken care of—and justifies higher nightly rates. It’s particularly important that your most-used items, like beds, couches, and dining room tables, are in excellent shape.

Apart from furniture and linens, you want your home to look crisp and intentional, like a beautifully designed hotel room. Jewel tones, whether on the walls or in accent pieces like vases and throw pillows, make a space look rich and elegant. Gray pairs perfectly with everything from jewel and earth tones to white and ivory, and it makes a room feel peaceful and unhurried—just right for a vacation rental.

Related: 4 Tips to Balance Out the Highly Seasonal Nature of Vacation Rentals

Another way to pull a room together is to add plants. I recommend low-maintenance choices like cacti and air plants for vacation rentals. You won’t have to worry about watering them frequently, and they look modern and interesting.

2. Invest in the bedroom.

Vacation rental guests are looking to unwind, so a luxurious bedroom is key to attracting more bookings and earning better reviews.

Don’t forget nightstands and lamps. Hotels always offer guests a place to set their glasses, books, and other bedside necessities, and your home should be no different. Wall-mounted lighting looks fresh and modern and saves space.

Fresh bedding goes a long way toward ensuring guest satisfaction. Plan on replacing bedding, including pillows, annually. Spend a little more on firm, high-quality pillows, and pile them on! An inviting bed piled with pillows in irresistible textures like faux fur, velvet, and chenille will catch the attention of guests scrolling through your listing. Touchable textures instantly make your home seem welcoming and upscale.

Resist the urge to buy a bed in a bag. They look contrived and dated. A duvet/sham set in an understated pattern is a better choice. And mixing patterns, like stripes with florals or polka dots with plaid, is on-trend for 2017.

Finally, don’t leave your walls bare! Add some color and character to your bedroom by hanging artwork. Fiber wall art, especially if it incorporates metallic accents, looks warm and of-the-moment, and it works in any room.

Related: 6 Way to Impress Your Vacation Home Renters With Top-Notch Service

3. Choose amenities that add value for guests.

It’s smart to invest in amenities that allow friends and families to relax together, like hot tubs, fire pits, and ping pong tables. If you’re on a tight budget, even little things like books, board games, bicycles, and frisbees can make a big difference.

Many people choose vacation rentals over hotels because they want to bring their furry friends along, and making your rental pet-friendly will help you attract more business. It’s smart to stock kid and pet-friendly dishes—like plastic plates, cups, and bowls—alongside your fancier flatware.

When it comes to furniture, I recommend pedestal-style accent tables in bright colors or metallic finishes like bronze or rose gold, which add both character and utility to any room. Use them to bring color into a mostly-neutral space, and to give guests a convenient place to set their wine glass or coffee mug.

Hanging a few mirrors is cheap and virtually effortless. In addition to their usefulness (guests can check their looks on their way out the door), mirrors also open up small spaces by reflecting light and making your home appear more spacious.

4. Invest intelligently.

I recommend reserving 10 percent of your rental income to invest back into your rental at the end of each year. You don’t need to overhaul the kitchen or the bathroom every time a trend changes slightly. Affordable, intentional tweaks like the ones Kimberly suggests are easy to implement and will almost certainly boost your profitability. Travelers looking for the high-end feel of a hotel will be more likely to stay in your home if you offer them some of the glam and the pampering they’ve come to expect during their travels.

Any tips you’d add to this list?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Shaun Greer

Shaun Greer currently serves as the senior director of real estate at Vacasa and is responsible for the in-house real estate activity and broker/agent partnerships for the company. He brings more than 12 years of experience in mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and public and private partnerships to this role. A licensed real estate agent, Shaun leads Vacasa Real Estate, a program launched within the parent company in 2018. Vacasa Real Estate is a network connecting leading real estate agents with buyers and sellers of vacation properties. Vacasa Real Estate currently partners with agents from over 80 leading real estate companies such as Berkshire Hathaway, Century21, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, RE/MAX and Sotheby’s. Shaun has been with Vacasa since 2015 and has held several positions including director of corporate development and mergers and acquisitions manager. When not cultivating relationships within the vacation rental industry or using data to support decisions, he is enjoying time with his family and outdoor sports.


  1. Be careful of pillows that raise the head too high or your guests will have neck pain and headaches the next day. Board games sounds like a great idea, but it seems pieces disappear with every other guest. Also be careful about having nice knickknacks. They tend to sprout legs for some reason.

  2. Cliff, thank you for the article. All advise worth taking into consideration.

    What are your thoughts on multiple bedrooms with shared common spaces such as kitchen/ bathroom/ living room? In your experience, are travelers willing to accept an accommodation such as this?

    • I assume you want to rent the bedrooms separately to unrelated guests. In my experience, travelers will not accept this sort of accommodation unless you list it as a hostel.

  3. Fernon Meeks

    Thank you, Nice article! I would like to add….When in doubt keep it simple and go with all white cotton bedding. Easy to bleach and keep fresh and crisp. Plus your cleaning crew can not get by without keeping it nice and clean. No short cuts there. I like leather furniture because it is easy to wipe down and keep looking clean and new. I also use outdoor rugs and pillows indoors… they hold up better and are easier to wipe off and keep clean. Go with durable stainless steel pots and pans instead of coated non stick pans which always end up scratched and looking nasty within a few months. I agree with Katie’s experience with the board games and knickknacks. They are nice to have but will need to be replaced often as pieces always go missing.

  4. I agree that the bedroom is really important to consider when you are considering a vacation rental. It would seem that you would want to find somewhere with a really nice bedroom as this could be a good selling point. I’m looking for a vacation rental to invest in so I’ll have to consider how nice the bedrooms are.

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