6 Tips I Use to Furnish Vacation Rentals — Even From 1,000 Miles Away

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My husband received military transfer orders this past April. Since our new market didn’t make sense to buy in, we decided to live out his lifelong dream by living on a boat. When researching storage options, I realized the costs were going to be $300-500. Since I had no desire to absorb such high storage costs, I decided to do something different with our house that we were turning into a rental. So instead, I rented out our house fully furnished.

Of course, that crazy idea did so well in the first two months that I decided to do three more all in the span of six months and, of course, from 1,000 miles away. Naturally, all of this was starting from scratch, on a shoestring budget. I like to think crazy, so not only did I do it from 1,000 miles away, but I also did it with secondhand materials.

The two places I have had the most success are Craigslist and Facebook Trade.Sell.Buy for your local area.

My favorite second hand place is Trade.Sell.Buy. The majority of our furniture has been picked up from these groups even in our small towns. By buying used furniture, we have been able to furnish entire houses for less than $2,000 in furniture.

Unfortunately, what I have learned the hard way is that the most underestimated but highly expensive items are not furniture, but other items such as linens, small appliances, etc. That is not including knickknacks, pictures, etc., as we don’t really include those items in a furnished rental. These items I have been less successful buying secondhand due to living in a small town, so I have picked them all up from Amazon.

Related: 10 Rental Property Red Flags You Should Never Ignore

Over the past 6 months, we have learned the following 5 tips that made thing easier to do from a 1,000 miles away.

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6 Tips to Furnish Vacation Rentals

1. Buy everything from Amazon Prime.

I love the fact that I can sit on my couch and order everything. While you do need to watch the delivery dates (some things are on back order or can take a while), as a rule, it’s great because its two-day shipping on everything. Plus, I love that I can easily go back and look at what I bought. I can reorder the items I need, and best of all, it’s really easy for tax time.

2. Maximize Amazon’s deals on sale.

Amazon has some amazing sales. While I have my list, I love to take advantage of them. If I see at least a four-star product and I like the reviews, I will take the on sale product over my normal one for certain items (I don’t do this for linens, dishes, glasses, etc. — things that need to match). I have gotten some fantastic deals and much higher than normal product quality. For example, I LOVE bath mats, but there is no way I would pay $75 for a rental bathmat.

3. Keep it simple.

Remember, this is not your house. While I believe in having the house fully furnished and nice, I do not go over the top. For example, those sailboat shower curtains at 3x the price are not worth it compared to a simple shower curtain. So I buy midline quality, not junk but not fancy where you are paying for the name (i.e. Macy’s not Walmart nor Gucci). I also don’t over furnish the house. For example, in my opinion, every bedroom does not need a full bedroom set. I don’t buy decor or pictures for the wall.

4. Only buy white sheets.

In the beginning, I bought colorful sheets and comforters to make the rooms more colorful and inviting. Truthfully, this is a horrible idea. It makes it hard to interchange between rooms. Comforters get dirty, and there are no easy ways to wash them in between people, as they do not fit in the washer/dryer. You also can’t bleach them.

The reality is, your cleaning crew doesn’t have time to go to the laundromat in between every client, and honestly, even if they did, that is not a bill you want to pay. In my experience, cleaning bills are already high enough.

Now I buy only white sheets, duvets, towels, etc., all of the same brand. It makes it easy to bleach, and you never have to worry about the colors not matching. They also last longer, as the colors don’t fade. I buy comforters with duvets. When the duvets get dirty, I just bleach them, and we are good to go. I can interchange everything because it is the same color. This allows all of my stuff to last longer.

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5. Buy the same items for all units.

We try to buy the same items for all units that could need replacement, i.e. linen, glasses, etc. Unfortunately, things do break and unlike with a traditional rental, it’s harder to charge for this kind of breakage, as it’s considered wear and tear. This way, we can just buy a few (for example, glasses) and don’t have to replace the entire set or have mismatched items, which reduces our costs. We also can interchange between units, so as we grow, we can move supplies around, allowing us to save on costs.

Related: 6 Tips to Craft a Highly Coveted Rental — Without Over-Improving It

6. Hire a moving crew.

I hire a moving crew to set up the house. At $25 an hour per person, they aren’t cheap, but they do great work, and this is what they do all day long. They are amazing and truly know how to set up a room. They help me set up the houses all the time. As they have seen so many houses, they truly know how to set up a great house!

This new furnished world is crazy. Honestly, I am no expert, as I still feel like I am in the middle of figuring everything out. While the stress is higher, so is the income potential.

What are your tips for operating in the furnished world?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

Elizabeth Colegrove

Elizabeth Colegrove is a passionate "buy and hold" investor who specializes in turning her once-negative transient lifestyle (Military) into a positive lifestyle. She self manages her entire real estate portfolio from long distance while holding down a full time job. When she isn't finding new real estate deals, she enjoys traveling, hanging out with her awesome boat-building husband, playing with her mischievous kitty, or writing on her newest project, her blog.

4 Comments

  1. Sam Y.

    Thanks for the good tips Elizabeth! It is not clear to me where do you ship the Amazon items to? directly to the rentals at 1000 a way, if so who’s there to receive? Or to home? Or are items ship directly to the movers at 1000 aways?

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