Legal Vacation Rental Friendly City in Costal Florida? AirBnb?STR

17 Replies

My family is from Alaska & we're looking for a city in Florida that we can purchase a "legal" vacation rental that we can list on AirBnb and the other sites. Our goal is to get out of AK and warm up a few times per year and rent it out the rest of the time. Many cities in Florida forbid nightly rental under 30 days and it appears that there are lots of illegal rentals getting complaints. I'm looking for a city where I can get the STR license, make a small cash flow and enjoy the property a few times per year. Any advice is much appreciated.

Hey Traverse, i can recommend you to Richard Ibeh manages short term vacation rentals, he is a fellow BP member, that's specialize in short -term rental markets throughout Florida. Good luck.


Thanks Anand.  I'll look into Fort Lauderdale more.  I'm finding that most cities allow Vacation Rentals, but sometimes only in multi family zoning areas. It seems every city is a bit different but the state might overrule city restrictions in the future.  I've been using airDna and Mashvisor to assess cities across Florida, but unfortunately they don't give you zoning info.   I just don't want to get stuck with a nice property that I can't use as a vacation rental and end up with another long term rental. 

My plan is to use Vacasa and a local manager to keep things running since I'll be out of state most o the time.  

@Traverse Zink I would recommend you consider the Emerald Coast on the Panhandle. Vacation rentals are a huge business here and definitely legal. I would suggest look into Navarre Beach, Ft Walton Beach/Okaloosa Island, Destin, Miramar Beach and all along 30A. I'm not a super big fan of Panama City Beach, but would discourage anyone from looking there as well. Occupancy levels are high on the Panhandle  year round, especially since many tourist from the mid-land and southern states can drive here for their family vacation rather than having to fly like they would have to for some of the parts of FL further south. I'm very partial, lol, I live and work here, but definitely check it out. Go on VRBO or Airbnb and look up various vacation rentals in the area and see what people are saying. And yes, with the exception of strictly residential areas, STRs are legal here :-).

Hi @Traverse Zink , l agree with @Villy Ellinger  's suggested locations. Destin is well-established vacation rental destination as is the whole area. I own and manage several properties on Okaloosa Island and we love visiting our condos and also sharing them with other guests when we are not there.

I get the majority of my bookings from VRBO/Homeaway and about 24% of our bookings from Airbnb. One website you might consider advertising on is Emerald Coast by Owner. It specializes in the Panhandle area and so far this year we have received 15% of our bookings from that site. I think it is gaining in popularity for travelers because it is like the "old" VRBO before they started charging travelers a service fee. 

Don't limit your research for a booking manager to Evolve, there are other options out there. It just depends on what you are looking for and what is important to you.

Best of luck in your property search! Let us know where you end up choosing to invest.

Thank you!  This is very helpful and I've been able to verify with some nice tools I've discovered online.  So far I've been using:  Mashvisor, Airdna, Vacasa,, Everbooked, but have found Mashvisor to be the most useful for checking out areas.   Unfortunately none of the online tools checks the zoning or legality of the properties for nightly rentals so now I'm contacting cities directly to check the status directly.  Destin allows it as long as you register, but it seems that all cities have different policies.

Since I'm in Alaska I' going to need a 24/7 boots on the ground local company to manage the rental.  It sounds like Vacasa sources local property managers in many cities.  

Does anyone have any Leeds on property management in Southwest Florida? That seems like the best place for visiting in winter but has much more restrictive zoning for STR.

@Traverse Zink , I have a vacation rental in Palm Harbor-Crystal Beach specifically (unincorporated town in Pinellas County). It's 3 blocks from the Gulf of Mexico and it's doing very well as a vacation rental. No special licensing is required, but of course county and state transient tax is. I'm currently rehabbing a property now that will be a vacation rental in Fort Lauderdale. There are licensing requirements here in Fort Lauderdale. It's important to check out each area you are interested in to determine the regulations regarding short term vacation rentals. I always purchase with the mindset that if vacation rentals go away tomorrow that I will still be able to cash flow as a long term rental. 

@Traverse Zink - I actually came to work for Vacasa after investing in my first STR condo in Panama City Beach. It's an amazing company, very process driven, unparalleled online marketing abilities, and they earn every cent you pay them to maintain your property! Bay County has some of the most relaxed rules for STR's in the state along with the best ocean front prices per sq. ft. making it an amazing place to live or invest. I've traveled to PCB all my life and moved here 5 years ago. We own a local business here, are Chamber ambassadors and very well connected locally. I'd love to connect you to our network if you want to look here. If you do prefer South Florida - yes, you are correct, much more restrictive for STR's! I love Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Sanibel Island and Anna Maria Island. I can link you to our reps in those areas as well - depending on where you decide to invest. My cousin owns here and works in Alaska too! Vacasa manages their property as well. :)

@Bob Mueller Jr. , The Palm Harbor home I've owned for quite some time. It was originally a LTR that I converted to my primary on one side and a LTR on the other (it's a duplex). I currently get $289-$450 per night for the vacation rental side (max 10 occupancy). Most often on the higher end because it's based on day of the week and number of occupants. As for the Fort Lauderdale home, I'm in the process of rehabbing now. It's a duplex, it will be a 2/2 on both sides. We will have a double door in one of the units allowing for a rental of a 2/2 or a 1/1 and studio. The vacation rental market seems to be a little different on this coast where smaller works well. In Palm Harbor it's a nice size property with 4 bedrooms. You can see pictures on my profile of that property. My strategy has been duplexes with the mindset of being able to cash flow if I had to turn them in to long term rentals. At this time the short term vacation rental has done well so I plan to keep it as that.

@Bob Mueller Jr. , I forgot to include the property price. The Palm Harbor property wouldn't be necessarily as relevant since it was purchased years ago. The Fort Lauderdale purchase was this year so it's more pertinent to your question. Purchase price 350k, 20k credit at closing and I will have near 100k in rehab and furnishings. South Florida real estate is more expensive than my area on the Gulf. Location is very important, this property is a mile from the beach and 2 from the downtown entertainment area. Also, I will go back and forth so I was particular on location since I will be staying in the properties. If it was a straight STVR than my criteria may be a little different. Also, I should mention that I plan on doing the BRRR strategy with this property since I will have a nice chunk of equity. I've learned a ton with this purchase and will take those lessons with me to the next purchase. Buying remotely is a challenge in itself, especially if rehab is involved.

Hi @Anand S. , love Victoria Park. No, I purchased in Lake Ridge, a couple blocks from Victoria Park. I was looking in both Victoria Park and Lake Ridge. I couldn't find any multi-family that made financial sense in Victoria Park when I was looking. Do you have properties there?

Hey @Traverse Zink   I would recommend you to consider St. Petersburg beach Florida. Visit St. Pete Beach Clearwater marketing campaign brings in more people and a lot of them are Airbnb users. 

So business has been good, 2 Bed Condos make from $33,000-$40,000 a year. 

Here is AIRDNA occupancy rates in St Pete beach:

There are only a few communities on St. Pete beach that allow short term rentals. Min lease 7 days.

Message me if you are interested.

My YouTube Channel

@Traverse Zink for anyone considering your research and talk to the local group/office. . They are atrocious in the st pete/clearwater area. Other areas may be different but my experience was terrible. The group im with now is so much better.