Does anyone own a cabin in Northern Arizona?

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Hello! My husband and I own a few long term rental properties in the Phoenix area, so we’re familiar with that. But we’ve been looking at a cabin for ourselves (and to rent out) in the Pinetop area and we’re a little nervous about venturing into vacation rentals. Does anyone own a cabin in Arizona? Is it profitable or break even at the very least? Also, regarding vacation rentals in general, do you keep expensive things in it for guests? Like a video game system and a bunch of games? Or nice kids toys like Legos or magnatiles? (We have a preschooler, so we’d like to keep entertainment there for him.) I would market the cabin as a cabin for families since we are gearing it towards entertaining our 4 year old with a swing set, toys, video games, etc. We also want to get a hot tub and a pool table. Any advice for us?

I own 5 cabins in the Pigeon Forge Gatlinburg market. They make big money but local PMs charge 40% so if you’re not willing self manage (which takes a couple minutes per day) the returns aren’t as big. We get 13 million tourists per year in the number one visited national park in America so we’re always booked. As a matter of fact I just looked at our calendars and laughed. Totally jammed until November.
Also very easy to manage from a distance.

I have no clue what goes on in Arizona.

I have a house up in Pinetop that we used personally for 3 years.  After 3 years the drive became tedious and we just didn't use the house as much.  I tried to sell it last summer but with no success so I converted it to a long term rental.  It got rented in the winter time after about 3-5 weeks on market.  The PM charges me 13% flat rate (so not lease fee no renewal fee no upcharge on services etc etc) which works out for us.  

I couple of thoughts.  1 is, if you plan on using it in the summer time which is the peak season, how many days are left to be rented out?  2 the market is fairly saturated for furnished rentals up there so competition will be high.  We use to own and manage 4 short term rentals in Phoenix and know the amount of effort it takes to operate it successfully.  You can hire PM to do it for you, but I would assume they charge anywhere from 25-40% of gross.  3. We have a 5 and 2 year old kids so in the same boat as you, they didn't enjoy the outdoors as much as you would think.  The pinetop country club is mostly full of retirees so there is a limited number of kids around.  We were lucky, the neighbor had 4 kids that lived there full time and they were close in age with my kids so they played together often.   4. Last thought, the house we bought was built in early 2000's however I didn't realize when I bought it that it only had head and no AC.  During the day it can still get pretty hot.  

The lesson that I learned from my experience is that it is way better to rent a vacation home than to own a vacation home.  

Good luck,


@Lucas Carl is pretty much right.  We self manage 24 STRs in our town.  My official job is part time.  My unofficial job is 24/7 managing the STRs.  My wife is officially unemployed when she quit her job managing a law office.  Her unofficial job is keeping the STRs cleaned, stocked and ready to rent.

@Jessica Gilman They are profitable.  You should be able to pay for the property with 6 straight months of rent.  It may take 7-9 months to get 6 months of rent.  I would not mess with things like Legos or hot tubs.  That's one more thing to pick up or maintain.  Stick to the basic luxuries, an HDTV with a Roku and a BluRay player with some adult movies.  A washer/dryer, kitchen with all utensils and appliances, and some appropriate artwork on the wall.  Instead of a pool table, I would put a horse shoe pit outside along with a grill.  Electronic darts are an alternative to the pool table, $30.

Be prepared for things to break on a Sunday, and you'll need to fix it pronto.  Be prepared for someone to break into your place when it's unoccupied, it'll probably be a meth head if that's a problem in that part of the state.  You might also have uninvited guests like mice, startlings and insects.  Don't be afraid to pick up a used condom.  Houseflies can lay eggs on food sitting out or even in the drain of a sink, when the maggots hatch you'll have a swarm of flies on your window.  But don't let any of this discourage you.