What should I know about vacation rentals?

3 Replies

My wife and I are considering purchasing some land to develop a rental up near the Yosemite area (Oakhurst, CA, Bass Lake, etc) and we often encounter other friends / clients who are interested in doing the same. 

What we'd like to do is either buy a vacation rental that is ready to go and use it a few times a year OR we'd like to buy some land and then in a few years, develop it and rent it out as a vacation rental. The idea being that the rental income pays for the property during the time we're not using it. And then perhaps we would retire to the home in 20 years. 

Aside from the wealth of info here on BP, what other resources are available to help us get educated on this topic? 

Here are a few questions I have just off the top of my head:

  • How do you find and vet a vacation rental property manager?
  • How do I estimate demand, occupancy rates, and rental rates for a property/area?
  • How does seasonality impact our strategy?

Any thoughts would be appreciated!

@Joshua McGinnis  Maybe one of these guys, or someone else can add to the conversation. I know I have had the same questions. 

@Matt Landau, @Trey Dulling and @Dan Oliver

 (will someone please @mention the first two for me, for some reason my @mention isn't pulling them up) Thanks! 

Hey man,

I don't know that specific market, but seasonality has affected every rental I've ever seen. Typically, it goes with the school schedule, and major holidays.. You can charge more. An experienced management company will know how to price this out right off the bat, but it's something a new owner can figure out quickly.

Honestly, finding a PM is something you can do with google.. Also, find a local realtor to help you, I know that I can name about 10 locally right off the bat. 

Estimating demand is tricky.. demand is HEAVILY influenced by the type of house, and type of furnishings (and thus, pictures)... so... I would say don't shy away from investing in good stuff. However, look at all the major sites and study the calendars for occupancy. Homeaway.com makes it easy. But study Airbnb, VRBO, etc.. all the big ones. Get a feel for similar homes and how they perform and how you can edge them out and do a little better. See what they're doing that you hadn't thought of. A game room? A movie theatre room? A jacuzzi? Themed rooms? Track lighting? Anything you can do to separate yourself from other places. There are plenty of ways to do this inexpensively.

Yeah.. anyway, hope this helps. The main thing is.. dive in and build it up. Not only can you break even, you will probably make a profit as you learn. 

seasonality depends where you are at- ie Va Bch weekly rentals do good in June-August.  For PM, same as you would normally, word of mouth, ask around, meet/interview, and pray.  The PMs should be able to give a warm and fuzzy estimate and the landlords owning the properties can likely give you the doom and gloom estimates- the truth is normally in the middle.

As far as the thing you should know, I guess w/ a PM it shouldn't be too bad, but I find booking weekly rentals is almost a job and I wouldn't be a fan unless the return was great or as you mentioned you would like to own for yourself anyway.

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