STR in Smoky Mountains amenities

26 Replies

Hi,

We are currently under contract on our first STR in the Smoky Mountains. We are trying to maximize space and offer the amenities that guests are looking for. The cabin currently has a game room with a pool table. We have room to do a nice home theater system with a sectional and video games and lose the pool table. The other option is to keep the pool table and do a nice size TV, but with no seating. We will have Queen bunks in this room as well with both options.

There is also another small loft space with a Foos Ball Table.  Thoughts from those with experience with what guests tend to like these days?

Thanks!

@Lauren Johnson My suggestion is to get what YOU want and YOU like! We consistently see self managers occupied at 80+% year round. Management is more important than foos ball vs pool tables. 

Me.... I’d get big buck hunter :) 

@Lucas Carl I hate all games, so I'm not a good judge when it comes to that :).  Management is more my thing!

@John Underwood Yes, we have a hot tub going in for sure!

@Lauren Johnson hello! I’m currently under contract on my first cabin too! It’s so exciting!

I won’t have room for a home theater, so I’m going to put a nice big flat screen in the living room with a sound bar or speaker system and then add a nice comfy sectional. Maybe this could be an option for you to have the best of both worlds.

I can offer what I look for when I look to rent a cabin out that way. I rent cabins for my out of state friends and I to meet up so I look for hot tub, nice areas to gather like game tables, an outside fire pit. I like these items as its a good way to encourage conversation and things I don't have a home. Vs a movie theater where everyone sits quietly and removes you from the fact that you're in a cabin in the beautiful Smokeys.

Id also say most cabins have a game table vs a theater room, I'm sure do to space and cost, but it also makes almost standard to see in a cabin.

Hope that helps! Hopefully I can join the your ranks as cabin owner one day.   :)

@Lauren Johnson We bought our Smokey Mtn cabin in the fall. It had a game table and looked good in photos. It was not in great shape so we tossed it and took new photos. We bought board games and puzzles. Not one person asks for a game or pool table but they ask if we have board games. And @John Underwood is right - they love the hot tub. To @Lucas Carl 's point, we automate messages using Airgms and get great feedback on our responsiveness and customer service. Congratulations to you and @Reagen Natho too. 


As a very experienced guest of STR cabins all over western North Carolina I can tell you from my experience that a clean, comfortable sectional sofa or other ample furniture to kick back and relax on with the company of friends after a long day of outdoor activities is essential. The comradery around a fireplace when it's cool on a comfortable sectional is memorable (Baines Mountain, Bryson City). A home theater is a nice addition but not necessary. Quality furnishings and a decent/modern entertainment set up as you mentioned with high speed internet for streaming movies (night time or for rainy days) makes for an enjoyable experience, and maybe a game system. I generally reserve higher end cabins and have experienced both; well thought out and quality arrangements, as well as some deplorable, uncomfortable, dirty, and tattered furnishings (in a "Luxury Cabin" in Valle Crucis). My reviews are always accordingly and my patronage of that managing company is as well. As a prospective owner I would not rely on the eyes and ears of a cleaning service to communicate the condition of the furnishings. In the two cases that I experienced shocking and insulting conditions it was revealed in one case that the management company owner had never visited the cabin and in the second case the management company owner laid blame with the house keeper for not informing them of the condition of the duct taped, pleather sofas. What I've experienced in some cabins, it appears that things are done on the cheap just to call it stocked and furnished. That's just not practical from a guest' experience, especially in a high end $350 & up per night cabin, or for a profits perspective when cheap items have to be replaced more often. I can't stress practical enough... I once stayed in a beautiful cabin with an amazing hand made log king size bed, the mattress height side rails were logs with the bark still attached. The bed was beautiful to look at, but that bark didn't feel good on the back of the thighs when sliding in and out of bed. Another cabin had placed the hot tub in a remote area under the deck, near the central a/c compressors, downstairs and away from the main hub of the home. Sure it qualified as a hot tub, but no one really wanted to use it. So a hot tub that is strategically placed to take advantage of the views and conveniently located is important. The cabins I've enjoyed the most appeared to be professionally planned, practical, clean , and up to date. Something I have not seen cabin owners mention here is accessibility in regards to roads and snow. That's something that will rank high on my list of priorities in my eventual purchase...paved or well maintained roads and snow removal, not only for safety, but thus keeping the cabin available even when it snows, lessening the likelyhood of a cancellation. And... firewood. I suppose it depends on the budget and class of the cabin, but having a generous supply of firewood is a nice convenience for guest that are not familiar with sources. Best wishes for an enjoyable and lucrative venture with your first cabin!

@Brady Richard That is such a well thought out and detailed explanation on your part. Thank you! I'm on the hunt for a cabin and other STRs and working to identify the strongest markets aside from the Smokies. Sounds like you have been to many locations! What locations really stand out to you? Cheers. 

@Nidal Daraiseh If you happen to put one of your STRs in Gatlinburg, it would be really neat to have a fully functional Gatlin gun as an amusement device in the back yard. You can have old appliances, broken cars, mannequins, etc as targets. The closest thing I have to replicating that is a bucket of starling/pigeon bait, a scoped .22 pellet rifle, and a vacant lot next to my STR.

I don't own a cabin (yet.. knock on wood for changing that in 2020), but a dedicated home theater is 1990s thinking. One TV in the main sofa/gathering area is sufficient. Kids will be attached to their personal electronics anyway.

A Foosball or Pool Table makes more sense for a loft.

I like the board game idea. Yeah, pieces will get frequently lost. But you can pick up board games on sale for deep discounts regularly. They bring family/friends together more than a movie will.

I am shocked, but homes in the Smokies with media rooms seem to do so much better than those without, and other than questions about a view it is the #1 item people ask about. It surprises me, but guests want what they want. Kids use them to connect their game consoles, family movie time, sports events, etc. 

Meanwhile my pool tables don't seem to get a lot of use at all, nor the air hockey tables. 

Originally posted by @Chuck Kramer :

I am shocked, but homes in the Smokies with media rooms seem to do so much better than those without, and other than questions about a view it is the #1 item people ask about. It surprises me, but guests want what they want. Kids use them to connect their game consoles, family movie time, sports events, etc. 

Meanwhile my pool tables don't seem to get a lot of use at all, nor the air hockey tables. 

That is shocking. Can't a standard family room with a nice big 65" TV serve as a media room rather than a separate dedicated space?

 

Originally posted by @Daniel Bradley :
Originally posted by @Chuck Kramer:

I am shocked, but homes in the Smokies with media rooms seem to do so much better than those without, and other than questions about a view it is the #1 item people ask about. It surprises me, but guests want what they want. Kids use them to connect their game consoles, family movie time, sports events, etc. 

Meanwhile my pool tables don't seem to get a lot of use at all, nor the air hockey tables. 

That is shocking. Can't a standard family room with a nice big 65" TV serve as a media room rather than a separate dedicated space?

 

Depends how large your house is. In my larger houses, I have at least 2 “TV areas”

 

My two cents - biggest bang for your buck:

1. New retro TV video game systems (Nintendo, Genisis, Atari etc) These are like $50 bucks each and come preloaded with games. Kids love them. And they are cheap to replace if needed. Parents love that the kids dont have to fight over the "arcade" game.

2. Outdoor "fire" pit seating area. If you have any outdoor room, you can get this put in for under $100. Clear a space, dig a circular hole, etc. Get some nice tree stumps for "chairs" - looks great in the photos and is super cheap

3. If you have room/trees - do some hammocks - i cant tell you how many people write reviews that mention "The views from laying in the hammock" "Reading a book while in the hammock" etc.

4. Get one of those Keurig type coffee maker things and load up the cabin with the K Cups. Doesnt have to be brand name or expensive. I get it all from Amazon delivered to my property manager. I think i spend maybe $50 bucks a month. Its a nice tough that sets you apart.

5.  I chose to invest in bedding/mattress that I would want for myself. I think i will get some repeat guests just for having comfy beds and soft linens.

6. I definitely think pool table if only room for that or the theater. Everyone can watch tv on a big screen, even just laying some blankets out on the floor will make it a "theater" especially if your cabin has curtains to block out light etc. But a pool table is almost expected at this point - also keep in mind there are smaller pool tables available.

7. Small items = big bang for your buck.

  1. Bedside ipod/radio/phone charging stations with alarm and FM radio etc.
  2. Popcorn airpopper machine and small bags of kernels (super cheap)
  3. Non metal (not sharp) dart board
  4. Walking sticks
  5. Cheap binoculars
  6. Fishing pole if you are near a creek/water (I am)

We manage a number of properties in the Smokies.  

We have seen instances where the addition of a pool table or hot tub adds $15K a year to a rental.  

Foosball is better than nothing, but a table style multicade would be a much better amenity.

Amenities DO impact your revenues.  A game table, hot tub, and WIFI are critical.  New stainless appliances are a big deal too. 

WOMEN pick the cabin, and they do so by looking at pictures!





The need for pool tables is a myth with beginnings in the property management monopoly in this area in the 90's. Back when everyone HAD to use a local manager, the managers said the properties needed to have a game table in order to be accepted on their program. It's an antiquated notion. Game tables do not make much difference in income. And some of the ones I have go largely unused. It's 2020, people entertain themselves with devices.

Originally posted by @Avery Carl :

The need for pool tables is a myth with beginnings in the property management monopoly in this area in the 90's. Back when everyone HAD to use a local manager, the managers said the properties needed to have a game table in order to be accepted on their program. It's an antiquated notion. Game tables do not make much difference in income. And some of the ones I have go largely unused. It's 2020, people entertain themselves with devices.

  I think this was said further up the thread, but you know what people rave about in my houses? Board games!!! They don’t take up a lot of space, and people LOVE mixing up some cocktails & sitting around the fireplace at night (or patio) playing board games. And you know what else? Amazon has dozens of them in the $6-$7 range. Each of my houses is stocked with 10+ board games. Every couple years I throw a couple new ones in the mix

I wouldn't want a pool table, because inevitably someone would tear the felt and then you have to get it repaired immediately or disappoint the next guests.

Interesting thread. From my time browsing listings on AirBnB, a hot tub seems a lot more crucial to increasing income than a pool table. I'd also be afraid of a quick felt tear, as mentioned above.

Cheap retro video game system remakes and board games seem much more cost effective. Sometimes they might get used. Other times folks are just chillin' in chairs, playing on their phones after a day of adventuring.

I keep 2 sets of boxing gloves and 2 sets of headgear in one of my STRs.  I brought them to my Super Bowl party a few days ago.  

Since then, I've learned that bourbon gives me a bloody nose.  Especially when you box a linebacker that played for a Division III school.

@Daniel Bradley In this market, hot tubs are expected. So it's not going to add "extra" income to what a property should be grossing in this market, but rather just get it up to par with all the other properties.

I stick by my assertion that a pool table is a big deal.  We have seen rents rise considerably before and after.  An occasional rip in the felt is worth several $ thousand a year in new revenue, although I don’t recall any such repairs in the last 10 years.

People do play on their devices, but like some element of novelty - that is why they are renting a cabin to begin with.


We had a client in the Blackbear Falls area with no game table.  We recommended a small table multicade that cost $1200.  The annual rents went up from $5-7K depending on the year, and that was 4 years ago.

So another $20-25K in rents for a $1200 purchase.  That is real money.