Do small STRs on a lake work or do the houses need to be big

28 Replies

Does anyone have any luck with smaller STR's? Do they all have to be houses with 5 bedrooms? I'm interested in a house on a lake that is only 1200 sf. I'd like to add another bed and bath to bump up the potential but it would still be on the small side but it's on a popular lake. Any thoughts?

thanks for the reply, so you are suggesting that families that air bnb a house on the lake don't always travel in packs of 10 only looking for houses that would accommodate large groups?  It's a small house that probably would only accommodate a single family or at best 7 ppl. I'm nervous that if I do this it won't rent out, or the rents will be so low that it won't cover the mortgage. It only rents out for max 81 days of the year (summer time) and the house is listing for $340K but $360 will probably take it.  It will probably sit vacant in the spring, fall and winter.  

Landlording made easy.
Best-in-Class Platform for DIY Landlords
List unlimited units, screen tenants, draft and sign leases, and collect rent—all free.
Use Avail—Free!

it's on Conesus lake, one of the finger lakes.  It's a good market in the summer but I don't think anyone is renting a waterfront cottage in the spring (too cold), fall (too cold), and winter (nothing to do).  

@Kevin Scott lakefront properties small and large absolutely crush it in the Poconos. I think the strong summer seasons financially make up for the weaker off seasons. Make a nice use of that 1200 sq ft and you'll have no problems getting at least 60% occupancy/year.

If it can comfortably fit a family of 4, then have at it.  I vacation on Lake Champlain every year with my wife and son. We only need two bedrooms and a bathroom.  You won't be able to cater to large families or groups, but who cares. And if you live close enough you can use it yourself sometimes. 

We have a larger house and a small one <650sf. They are both full, and the average renters are a single couple. Very few people travel in large packs, just think about're much more likely to have a couple traveling together or a family.....

Originally posted by @Collin H. :

Crush it, kill it. I'm not sure what these things mean, but hopefully it's positive!

From my experience "crushing it" can mean anywhere from $10k annual gross to $1,000,0000 annual gross on the same property depending on who's defining "crushing it".

Coming from Luke I trust it's pretty darn good.  In some of the random FB groups I'm in people will brag that they're crushing it and then when you really push them on it they're doing some insanely low number that seems good to them. 

I remember visiting Crested Butte last year and met someone who was staying in their condo they rented out as a vacation rental.  They were super elated about how their condo was "crushing it".  When I drilled down with them a little more it turned out they were super excited that the gross revenue was almost enough to cover the P&I on the mortgage (before expenses).

REI Nation
Turnkey Real Estate
Wondering how to safely invest in out-of-state real estate?
This 40-page eBook is your best resource for safe, profitable, passive real estate investing.
Download Now

The short answer is...yes, it could work.  Can't say specially without knowing all the details of this specific place.

If there is a medium-sized population center nearby, it is likely that it'll be partially booked in the winter as well by non-vacationers.  How close is the nearest Hilton Garden Inn or Marriott Fairfield Inn?

I can only speak from my experience and travel needs, but as we don't have kids we're often looking for smaller places to rent out either by ourselves or maybe with another couple or two. 

Also, I've got some friends who are planning to visit the Finger Lakes in a few weeks (mid November) to go wine tasting and had another friend celebrating their birthday in the area this past weekend. So while it will be slower than the summer months, there is always the possibility of some interest. Have you been able to check AirDNA for any insight on occupancy in the off season?

@Kevin Scott

We owned a small 2 bedroom 1 bath on a large lake for two years. With taxes, mortgage, business and flood insurance, expenses, monthly payments of $1159 a month. Once I insulated the crawlspace and added heat, I was able to rent year round.. Once I figured out all of the systems, I was able to rent it all the time at more than enough to cover all expenses. The problem I ran into was it was an hour away, so turning the cabin around between guess it’s just way too much of my time and work. My suggestion is that you hire somebody to do all of the cleanings snow removal and lawn care. Selling it for a large profit. I don’t regret that decision at all. But it was a really good mourning experience. 

@Kevin Scott

Both of our’s are under 1000 sq feet. By not having a party house, you’ll have less wear and tear, so your investment will stay nice longer. It also takes a lot less time to clean and less upfront setup costs to furnish.

Good luck.

Originally posted by @Sean Lambert :

@Kevin Scott

Both of our’s are under 1000 sq feet. By not having a party house, you’ll have less wear and tear, so your investment will stay nice longer. It also takes a lot less time to clean and less upfront setup costs to furnish.

Good luck.

Exactly! You'll hear many of the 'big-time' operators here talking about 'heads in beds' and such, but the more heads, the more stress/liability/pressure. Sometimes smaller is better. Only sometimes :-)

@Kevin Scott of course bugger is better in this instance. However, I find for my smaller STR, I market the property differently and use the method of corporate rentals instead of Airbnb or vrbo. I have been very successful renting to traveling nurses, executives, snowbirds, training staff and more. There are many platforms I use to gain these highly qualified tenants.

@Kevin Scott


Look into groups that winter camp, hunt, or fish!

As a kid my dad took me to lodges for ice fishing often.

Need a nice warm bed after a cold day on the ice!

You could also set up a cooking area outside the house for the cooking of fish so your house keeps a good smell.