Costs for Furnishing a Vacation Rental Property

35 Replies

Experienced VR owners - I'd love to hear your tips/tricks for furnishing a property in a manner that is cost effective while still appealing to your target guests.

We spent way too much (IMO) on furnishing our first VR - a 1340sf 3/1 that ended up costing almost $15K to equip. 

What are your secrets for supplying everything from king size beds to pizza cutters and everything in between, without breaking the bank? 

What do you think is the "typical" cost for furnishing a 2/1, 3/2, or 4- or more bedroom property, based on your market/experience?

@Gary Ennis , I'm going by memory here, but I think we furnished our 3/2 ranch with finished basement for about 10k. I think it partly depends on your price point and style of rental, as in, is this a fishing cabin or a luxury retreat? Ours was a house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that appealed mainly to families and outdoors enthusiasts, so we were somewhere in between.

I think the approach is similar to a flip in that you decide where to spend the dough and where to save. You should have comfortable mattresses but the frames/headboards don't have to be expensive; sheets should be of good quality, as guests will likely compare this to a stay at a hotel. You want couches that will withstand the rigors of a rental while understanding that, yes, it's a rental. We also bought a pool table, ping-pong table, grill and patio furniture, and washer/dryer for our rental along with a couple of TVs, a DVD player, etc.

One area not to skimp: chairs. As was pointed out in Christine Hrib Karpinski's excellent how-to book, you don't want your guests falling on their backsides (and keep in mind that some of them may have substantial backsides, so plan accordingly!). So make sure your dining room chairs and patio furniture are decent. Like, can they hold up a 300-pound person, just in case?

Otherwise, we found a really large and sturdy kitchen table for $100 at an auction; same with end tables, lamps, etc., which we bought for something like $10 each. We found some other furnishings on Craigslist. We found plates and glasses, etc also at an auction, and would flesh them out from Christmas Tree Shops (that's where we'd replenish wine glasses, silverware, coffee mugs - can't beat a buck apiece).

Bottom line is that there's a lot to purchase when you're starting from scratch. I'm interested to hear what others have to say.

@Gary Ennis

I stepped backwards into my first VR and therefore it was extremely piece meal (read CRAIGSLIST). Starting over, I think I would budget $1800 per bedroom. That's enough for a decent furniture set, mattress, pillows, 1-2 sheet sets, and decorations. Bathroom decorations, towels, shower curtains - $200. Living room - $1500 including decorations. The kitchen table, plus silverware, blender, toaster, etc. should be in the $1000 range. 

So, for a 3/2 I would expect to spend $8500 for mid-range items. 

Try Big Lots. They have certain weekends where you can buy everything 20% off. Their furniture is already "cheap" so throw in 20% and you're buying new couches for $250. 

[email protected] | 215‑490‑4851 | http://www.atanosmanagement.com | PA Agent # RS314542, NJ Agent # 1221341

@Karin DiMauro and @Mark Gallagher thanks for your input. 

We purchased our furnishings from a variety of sources - Amazon, Overstock, Goodwill, Craigslist, Bed Bath & Beyond and other local retailers. Looking back, we were in quite a time crunch, to get the property listed by our deadline of SXSW (which we did). So we didn't have as much time to bargain shop as we would have liked. 

This time around we have more lead time, and will be more bargain-conscious.

All that said, we were shooting for higher-end retreat, and that approach has paid off in our guests really digging the house's furnishings and vibe. 

@Gary Ennis as others have mentioned, there are several outlets to use to furnish and save $$$ on your VR.  Just make sure you get the best bed and linens you can within your budget.  If you have nice furniture, huge big screen TV, high end cookware, etc... but your bed is uncomfortable or your sheets feel cheap, your guests will come away with a bad view of your place. 

We use Ross to get just about all of our linens.  Each yr we get 2-3 new bed sheet sets and we usually spend about $40 for each set of 500+ thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, so not a bad price for high quality sheets.   Ross has great deals on pillows, towels and other linens also.  

We also shop Costco and get much of our items there.  Having our VR in Maui, everything is more expensive there, but all non-grocery items at Costco in Maui costs the exact same as they do at our local Denver Costco.  

Jeremy Baker | [email protected]

@Gary Ennis , sounds like you did it the right way and that it's paying off. You can't really cut corners on a higher-end retreat, though it's always good to evaluate.

I should add that tag sales and second-hand shops can be another source, either if you have some time or just by way of keeping an eye out if you know you'll be buying another one (and have somewhere to store items). But go for the nice item at a good price, not anything flimsy. Or if you are or know someone creative and handy who can take that tag sale item and turn it into something great, go for it.

@Mark Gallagher "It's cheap to 'furnish' a space, not so cheap to 'decorate' a space." - love that quote; it's great food for thought going forward. 

@Karin DiMauro "Upcycling" is a great recommendation. My wife and I do have an eye for taking old things and making them better/useful, but it's tough finding time these days for more than a small project here and there. 

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@Karin DiMauro Now that you mentioned sturdy chairs, I remembered we also needed those "anti-skid" pads under all the smaller throw rugs. and tightened all the railings...

I'd also recommend for kitchen items to go to restaurant supply stores. Oftentimes you can get all the plates, glasses, bowls, etc, at a sort of "bulk rate." They have sets of 24 plates for around $25; the same bowls as a set for around $25; the glasses may be slightly less, at say, 24 regular juice glasses for $18. If you only need 6 or 8 place settings per property, you can use the residuals at another property, or keep the extras to replenish the lost/stolen/broken ones that will definitely come with a rental property.

At restaurant supply stores, the little knick knack types of items are usually about the same price you'd pay at Target, but less than you'd pay at say, Williams Sonoma.

I'd definitely say the best linens and duvet/bedspreads/pillows and mattresses you can afford, the better. As someone else mentioned, if people have a horrible nights sleep, it doesn't matter if you had a 60" HDTV, pool and BBQ pit; they will have slept horribly and will NOT enjoy their experience. 

I second Bed, Bath & Beyond for linens and things; also, if you have a store in your area called, Tuesday Morning, they usually have some GREAT prices on some of the mid-range to higher end linens like Peacock Alley, etc. 

Good luck & happy shopping!

@Chanté Owens thanks for the suggestions! We have restaurant supply companies and a Tuesday Morning nearby. Will definitely check these out. 

Great conversation and I'd like to contribute to Gary's original question. 

First of all, know your target market and the demographics you're attempting to appeal to. $15,000 may be reasonable for a higher end retreat for wealthy travelers but obviously if you are targeting young professionals that would be way more than necessary.

After you determine your target market,  put yourself in their shoes and understand what they need not necessarily what they want. The goal of a vacation rental is to provide great customer service while maximizing your return. I disagree with some of the advice given in that buying the nicest beds, headboards,  etc increases your costs without necessary increasing the rates you can offer.

I recommend going to estate sales, moving sales, consignment stores, and Craigslist. For supplies such as laundry detergent, shampoo, soap I use dollar tree. All kitchen supplies I use target. Buy reasonable beds and then use Groupon to buy memory foam toppers. This serves the purpose of providing guests a quality night of sleep while minimizing costs.

Leave feedback cards asking guests what they liked and didn't. Offer them a percent discount in exchange for valuable feedback. These discounts will pay themselves off multiple times by learning what your guests truly care about.

Sukhbir

Good suggestions, @Sukhbir Grewal . One clarification: the previous posts did not recommend spending a bunch on beds, headboards, etc. The recommendations were to spend as much as you can afford on the mattresses but that you can save $$ on the headboards and bed frames. You added the idea of mattress toppers, and I think we're all coming from the same school of thought on that: ensure a good night's sleep and some comfort for your guests.

This was a fun thread to read. Who doesn't love decorating a new place. Here is my question for the group. When you collect a refundable security deposit, is it 100% refundable? At the end of the stay, let's say the coffee maker was broken/stolen, what do you do. Let's say something bigger was broken/stolen like a dining room chair or living room chair. What do you do? Does it come out of the security deposit? How do you notify the vacationer that you are not refunding the entire security deposit?

Great post here! just ease dropping here lol

Great topic. I will be furnishing a place I have in 4 months when the long term tenant moves out. What is a good mattress to use in a vacation rental? I was looking at Tuft and Needle site. I like that they come in a smaller box so easier to move . Does anyone have any experience with these mattresses.

Originally posted by @Crystal H. :

This was a fun thread to read. Who doesn't love decorating a new place. Here is my question for the group. When you collect a refundable security deposit, is it 100% refundable? At the end of the stay, let's say the coffee maker was broken/stolen, what do you do. Let's say something bigger was broken/stolen like a dining room chair or living room chair. What do you do? Does it come out of the security deposit? How do you notify the vacationer that you are not refunding the entire security deposit?

 If you are using a booking site like Trip Advisor or Airbnb, they have their own procedures to requested part of the security deposit back. If you are using your own credit card processor, then you would go through them. They best way is to ask the guest what happens. Then try to work it out. 

Lyndsey Stewart

I'm quite impressed with the budgets here I have to say. I have never properly done a rental for $15k but maybe I am thinking of more than just furniture.

Originally posted by @Scott Mclaren :

Great topic. I will be furnishing a place I have in 4 months when the long term tenant moves out. What is a good mattress to use in a vacation rental? I was looking at Tuft and Needle site. I like that they come in a smaller box so easier to move . Does anyone have any experience with these mattresses.

 Hi Scott.

I just finished furnishing a Vacation Home for one of my clients January 31st  in Sun City. I did this all in  less than 3 weeks for under $5000, soups to nuts. To answer your question, a good mattress for a queen sized bed should be 700 coils or more, king size bed,  900 coils or more. My friend who has sold mattresses over 30 years advised me of this. It cost more but is well worth it. The clients moved in and want to come back so I guess I did something right :) If I can be of service, please let me know. Theres alot more to this than meets the eye . Gail WUSA Realty

Have a beach rental, it's B+ property I guess.

Major stuff
Patio dining set was a clearance place
Large sectional was. 4K couch got for $600 in same town on Craigslist
All kitchen nick nacks, toaster, cutlery, plates etc...was amazon. Looked for highly rated stuff and compared prices.
Got all ceiling fans online also.
Got 5 flat panels TV's on eBay, they were dirt cheap returned and have been fine for 5 years.

Essentially anything that had a decent ticket to it I shopped around and looked for bargains.

Just got a terrific sofa / pull out bed virtually brand new off Craigslist.

If you have a little time I would get all furniture off Craigslist. You literally pay a quarter the price or less. There are moving guys that advertise on there also.

High end is different and you may have to suck it up but I bet you could Craigslist all the big ticket items.

High end customers come with another level of requirements.

Good luck!

Really good matresses and some key pieces you need to buy new.

From consignment, renew store,  and second hand places you can get a lot furniture, all the kitchen extras you find. People often get rid of artsy pieces you can use for decorating inexpensively.  Extra bowls, serving sets,  (tons of pictures at cheap prices), sometimes whole dish sets. If people will cook in your place don't skimp on what you have in the kitchen, get kitchen extras in consignment stores. a couple of cutting boards, trays etc, they are cheap and will be appreciated.  Curtains- Ann and Hope. Sheets , etc  Ocean state job lot.  Books - salvation army.

Know the room sizes so you can pick up deals, the difference between a 72, 80, 94 inch couch can make the place comfortable and looking good or overfurnished.

 Decide if your target audience is going to notice the price difference.  Do you need a $15 dollar coffee maker or a $100 coffee maker.

I furnished my clients 2 bedroom 2000 sf home under $5000 . It was my first one too. I did most of my shopping online and at about 5-6 different stores. I am also a Realtor who does home staging and I believe that helped, knowing what  Buyers/Tenants want/need and looking at what other VR in the neighborhood were offering.  I was surprised I did that well to be honest with you! The end result, the people that rented, rented it prior to seeing the finished product and loved it. I guess I did well. 

I ended up for my first vacation rental buying pretty much everything new and furnishing the entire 4 bedroom 2 bath 2200sqft house, it ended up costing me a pretty penny, around 25k-30k, but it was all put on a lease program so I didn't have to have it all paid off for 3 years and wouldn't be charged any interest, so the bonus was I furnished the majority of my place without any immediate money down, the reality is for my market at the time there wern't any real luxury rentals, so I knew it would be worth it in the end.

I think a lot of what people suggested on here ring true, ross, costco are great spots. You can also find some good deals on sites like wayfair.