Floorplans for STRs vs LTRs

17 Replies

Hi all, 

I'm starting to look at designs for a new build in a small college town, but with a reasonably large student body that drives a lot of traffic in/out of town throughout the year. My family has been in student rentals for a long time, but there are very few short-term rentals in town, and I'm confident that there would be a great market given the continuing growth of the university. I've started researching floorplans, but thought to ask if anyone would have thoughts on designing floorplans specifically for STRs versus standard LTR units. Any experience or insight into this?



Great question @Brian Ross !  I will be interested in seeing what other's perspectives are on this topic as well based on all the diverse experience across BP.  

For me, I would just say if I could have 'whatever I wanted' and keeping in mind you are focusing on college students and SFHs, I would want the following: 

1. Focus the common spaces to the center of the home, college students are loud and frequently gather in groups.  Keeping the common areas centralized with garage and bedrooms on exterior limits exposure of noise to neighbors and dealing with noise complaints. 

2. Two-stories are probably ideal, since you can cram more bedrooms in a smaller plot footprint. College kids don't mind 'bunking up' with plenty of roommates.  

3. Technology friendly, not really floor plan related but ideally you want to create a technology friendly house where WiFi, ethernet and desk/workspace areas are considered during the build.  

Those are just off the top of my head! Thanks for posting and best of luck on your STR ventures!


With the types of people that rent my 22 STRs, dining rooms are a waste of space.  I (or the tenants) convert them into sleeping areas. 

Also, the number of people that can stay in a STR is not determined by the number of bedrooms. It is determined by the number of bathrooms.

Originally posted by @Paul Sandhu :

the number of people that can stay in a STR is not determined by the number of bedrooms. It is determined by the number of bathrooms.

 Please explain. Don't your guests share bathrooms?

@Kevin Lefeuvre My tenants are refinery contractors. A large minority of them will bring an inflatable bed with them.  They just need some floor space to inflate it.  I have seen inflatable beds in large closets, living rooms, dining rooms & behind sofas.  I've seen people sleep on sofas.  I've seen people sleep on the floor.  I've seen two guys sleep in the same bed.   People can adapt and sleep most anywhere in a house.  Only 2 people can comfortably (and that is pushing it) use a bathroom at once.  If it takes 20 minutes to S. Shower and Shave, it would take one hour for 6 people to use the bathroom 2 at a time.  If only one person uses the bathroom at a time, it will take 2 hours for all 6 people to use the bathroom.  Add another bathroom and that time is cut in half.  That time saved can be used for drinking beer or sleeping, which is what most of my tenants want to do in my STRs.  They don't want to wait to use the bathroom.  Using the bathroom is the first thing most of them do when they get home after work.  

Some even make an ordered list of who uses the bathroom 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on.  The person that had it first will have it last the next day, and everyone moves up a space.  Also, the person that had the first shower has to buy and cook dinner for everyone in the house.

I agree with @Jon Crosby that the emphasis should be on common spaces (and designed in such a way to shield neighbors from noise), and also about creating technology-friendly spaces!  @Paul Sandhu 's point is well taken re: dining rooms being unnecessary, but an open floorplan or large living rooms would allow for big sofas and good gathering spaces.

I also want to add that closets are essential in a LTR, but arguably unnecessary in a STR. You'll want to have some anyway, to preserve the possibility of using it as an LTR and to store household goods, linens, etc. but things such as walk-in closets would be wasted in a STR.

In-unit laundry facilities are another thing that aren't necessary.  If you're building a multi-unit building, I'd suggest a common laundry facility, as your renters won't need to use it frequently.

The kitchens can also be kept somewhat minimal - you'll want them big enough to provide all the appliances (including dishwashers!), but you don't need much in the way of food prep space or a lot of cabinet storage... or even full-size appliances.

If you want to get as many bodies in there as you can, plan the bedrooms big enough to comfortably hold two queen beds, or bunks - and like Paul noted, make sure the guest/bathroom ratio is a reasonable one!  

It sounds like a fun project, good luck!

@Brian Ross Well, some of it boils down to who you think your intended tenant base will be. If I was looking for an STR because parents come to visit it would be a lot different than saying "I want to maximize rents when Northwest Tech comes to play Northwest State!" For the latter you end up with funky ideal floorplans with 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. Maybe 5.5 bathrooms. You can't have too many bathrooms! Either way you don't need to have giant closets. You might need one to define it as a "bedroom" but a lot of STRs just throw two dressers in per room because it's easier for people to dump clothes into. I can't imagine you'll need a separate, walled off, dining room. Just put a big ol' kitchen island next to a dining room table and you're set. And if you think you're really going to pile people in, larger vacation rentals often have two refrigerators, two dishwashers, etc. Basically, room for food for the 10+ people that will be staying there. Now, again, if it's just mom and dad coming to visit you can probably just go the electric stove route and be just fine. They'll be taking Jane out for dinner and not eating in much.

Net result, think through your ideal tenant base first, then go down the floorplan route...

Originally posted by @Julie McCoy :

things such as walk-in closets would be wasted in a STR.

Not if you can fit a twin size bed in the closet and put a small television in there, along with a fan, space heater and a pin up girl calendar.

If you have a flat rental rate, that is one more person to split the total cost which makes the house more appealing.

Personally, I don't charge extra for closet bedrooms.  But the people staying in the house like it because it lowers the average cost everyone pays.  Everyone in the house likes the closet bedroom, except the one guy staying in the closet.  He is usually low down on the totem pole anyway and used to these things.

@Brian Ross I think I wrote you before I had my coffee this morning...I think my thoughts were definitely more focused around LTRs...I was so enamored by your floor plan question I totally missed the point about STR. LOL

Since you are probably targeting parents, would-be students and possibly guest lecturers/instructions I'm probably less focused on the noise issues, but I think value in the technology and work space areas is still relevant.  I would actually not focus on packing a bunch of people in because you are only going to need room for one family at most, so a 4-5 bedroom with a loft is a waste of money most likely. I would shoot for 2bed/2bath (maybe 3bed/2bath) and most importantly, proximity to the campus of course. 

Sorry about that!  


@Paul Sandhu That's great for your market where everyone's trying to cram in and save a buck for a few weeks. But for someone who is designing a STR from the ground up, for families or friends traveling into town to visit college students or attend an event... they don't want to sleep in closets. :p

One thing I would design in - and have implemented at MY STR - is a "flash" hot water heater capable of serving all the bathrooms at once. Not only do your guests never run out of hot water, you never pay to store a tank of hot water during the week, when your winter guests are weekend skiers. (That's my case, except this week which has a midweek booking). Storing a 50 gallon tank of hot water in an Alpine winter garage, is a lot more expensive than you may realize.

@Brian Ross Hey Brian, I think something to consider is common areas. Students appreciate spaces where they can connect, share spaces, and collaborate for fun and/or play. 

Hope this helps. Goodluck. Thanks! - Ola 

@Brian Ross

I'm with @Andrew Johnson on this one - decide who you want your clients to be, and design a house that fits their needs.  I have STRs in a college town, and I want to be renting to alumni, parents, business travelers, academics, and people in town for medical procedures at the hospital.  This means I'm looking to make my properties "homes", as opposed to hangout spaces for students.  This means well-equipped kitchen, comfortable living space, and cozy, well-appointed bedrooms.  Depending on your market, this may or may not be your target demographic.  One tip - large houses attract large groups, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but more people does mean more wear and tear on the house.  I like smaller 2-3 bedroom places.  They are easier to rent more frequently if you can price them competitively with hotels (e.g. well-appointed 3 bedroom priced around the price of 2 hotel rooms in the area).  

So many great thoughts and advice - thanks everyone! (Even those who hadn't yet had their coffee - @Jon Crosby !)

I must say that my question was far more narrowly described than the scope of the actual project, which in reality is a new-build "anchor" house for an agrihood development. My parents live on a small farm just outside this university town and have transformed it from a run-down place into a beautiful, organic veg-growing hub for community/regional events (weddings, reunions, etc.). The longer term vision is to develop the farm into a well-designed agrihood but this new-build would be the "main house" while agrihood plans get drawn up.

We're totally missing out on great income (and the added marketing opportunities for the farm itself) by not currently having on-farm STRs for all the visitors to the farm, much less those coming to university events during the year. So this is where my original question comes from. The concept at this stage - now that my parents are ready to downsize - is to build what would essentially be a 4-plex, with three of the units being STRs and one - my parent's - as more normal sized main floor and upstairs.

Likely clients will indeed be parents/families in town for university events, visiting academics and artists, tourists, etc.

@Julie McCoy - your comments about closets and kitchen storage space are spot on. Hadn't yet even got to that level of detail yet - but I absolutely have done so now!

@Paul Kessenich - absolutely, this place definitely needs to be more "homey" than "hotel-y." It sounds like we very much have the same target clients. I think long weekend-ers will be my bread and butter, but I'd like to attract weekly or monthly tenants as well, so the more comfortable, the better.

@Andrew Johnson - excellent advice for me. I've always had a pretty good idea of who likely clients would be, but I think it would be valuable to really give it some more thought and put together a written profile of the most likely tenants and think about plans from their vantage point.  

@Bill Cereske - very helpful input. The vision of my parent's farm is very much organic, eco-concious, natural materials, etc. We're already planning for this place to be passive, if at all possible.

@Brian Ross

This sounds amazing.  In another life (well, really only 5 years ago), I owned a food cart where we sourced the vast majority of ingredients from local farms.  So your concept is close to my heart, and I'd love to visit sometime if I can.  I'd also love any updates on the project as you move along.  

Do you already have financing?

@Paul Kessenich - not yet, but it's still early days. We're in the research and planning phase - talking with potential developers and real estate people to see what might be possible. As things progress, I do hope to keep BP community informed. There is very little on agrihoods in the forums, so hopefully I'll be able to contribute as things continue to develop.

@Brian Ross did this get of the ground, I would love to chat more on the topic.  We have a little 10 unit subdivision that hasn’t sold any lots since creation a few years ago.  Large lots with great potential to build generational housing convertible to duplexes.