For some short-term vacation rental property owners, there comes a point when they consider throwing in the towel. Perhaps a series of frustrations have prompted them to consider selling their vacation rental property. Or maybe a slow period has them wondering if this whole short-term rental thing is all it’s cracked up to be.
If you’re asking yourself if it’s time to sell your vacation rental property, we’re here to help answer your questions and address your concerns. Chances are, another homeowner has faced the same challenges. And chances are, they’ve developed a solution or found a new way of looking at the situation.
Keep reading to hear some of the most common reasons vacation rental property owners consider selling their home. And then learn how to overcome these problems to increase your bookings — and your profits.
Excuse #1: “Managing a vacation rental property is too time-consuming.”
If you feel like owning, managing, and running a successful short-term vacation rental property is a lot of work, you’re not crazy. Our experts at TurnKey say it can take up to 30 hours per week — per property — to field inquiries from potential guests, guide them through the booking and sales process, greet them when they arrive, and be on call to answer any question or address any issues that come up during their stay. Then there’s the time it takes to get the home ready for the next guest.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of people who are attracted to the short-term rental business but thought it would be way too much work,” said Christina DiPierro, owner and property manager with The Allora Group. “People seem to get overwhelmed because they assume they’ll be the one cleaning the home and meeting every guest. Some hosts love to do all of that and other people find it too onerous.”
Fortunately, if you’re part of the latter camp who prefers a more passive approach to the short-term rental business, there is a solution.
The best way to overcome the temptation to sell your vacation rental home because it seems like too much work is to hire a property manager, said Kenny Cassady, vice president of business development for Oranj Palm Vacation Homes and Catalina Island Vacation Rentals.
“You don’t have to do all of this on your own,” he said. “Most people are not in the position to do everything themselves. Or they are remote from the market and can’t be there to take care of the home and meet every guest’s need. One of the benefits of working with a full-service vacation rental property management team is that they take over all the hard work and then send you a check.”
In addition to working with a professional property management team, DiPierro also recommends hiring a cleaner who is familiar with the short-term rental industry. (Many property managers include this service in their fee.) She says she has several trusted cleaners whom she considers partners because they understand the needs of short-term renters. They’re quick to keep an eye out for things like nicked walls, leaky faucets, and other problems the average cleaner might not consider part of their scope of work.
DiPierro also recommends developing a network of service people whom you or your property manager can call on to fix any problems that arise before, during, or after a guest’s stay.
She’s also a big advocate for embracing technology that will make your job easier.
“There are so many tools out there that can either simplify your efforts or take away the responsibility entirely,” she said.
For example, there are services that will help you adjust your pricing to accommodate high and low seasons. Autoresponders can let people who are interested in your home know you’ve received their inquiry and will reply shortly. Automatic locks can let in guests and service people when you’re miles away from the home.
Or you can make things even easier on yourself by trusting your vacation rental home to our property management team. They can handle everything from marketing your home to welcoming guests to ensuring your home is hotel-grade clean for the next booking.
Excuse #2: “My short-term rental is not getting enough bookings.”
If you’re considering selling your vacation rental property because you’re underwhelmed by your bookings, it’s time to take a cold, hard look at your listing, our experts said.
Specifically, you need to examine your listing’s photos.
“Photos are number one,” said Cassady. “Your listing needs really good photos that help people imagine themselves spending time in the space with their friends and family.”
Both he and DiPierro recommend hiring a professional real estate property photographer to ensure your home’s photos are as appealing as possible.
Consider the cost an investment in the future.
“I know it seems expensive, but most people don’t have the skills, tools, or equipment necessary to take really good photographs,” she said. “It’s tough to know how to photograph a bathroom.”
Ready to hire a photographer? Here are 5 tips on how to prepare your vacation rental home for its photo shoot.
In addition to investing in great photography, she also recommends ensuring your listing’s description is compelling and highlights all the home’s attributes. And, as crazy as it may sound, make sure the description also includes the home’s shortcomings.
DiPierro used to own a short-term rental that was located near the town’s train tracks. She was honest in her description that the train sometimes came by at night. In a way, she made the train part of her home’s brand by offering sound machines and ear plugs to guests. This way, she could get ahead of any bad reviews.
“I couldn’t make the train go away,” she said. “So I made sure guests knew it might be an issue and gave them all the tools they needed to mediate the noise.”
You can also boost your bookings by embracing amenities that appeal to guests, even if they don’t appeal to you as a homeowner.
“Guests have different expectations of how to use a space,” he said. “We have to remember who we’re trying to appeal to and what guests are looking for.”
Some small changes to consider are offering a pull-out sofa instead of a regular couch to increase the home’s sleeping capacity. Investing in landscaping can also increase a home’s curb appeal. And of course every vacation rental home should have comfortable beds and high thread count linens and towels.
“That’s how you attract higher-quality guests,” said DiPierro.
Excuse #3: “The short-term vacation rental industry is too competitive.”
If you’re in a saturated market, setting your short-term rental apart from the pack may feel like a daunting task. But it’s no excuse to sell your vacation rental property.
“If you go into it knowing you have to bring your ‘A’ game, then it’s not that difficult to get in and stay competitive in a saturated market,” said DiPierro. “There’s so much demand for short-term rentals. I don’t see that going away any time soon.”
So how do you bring your “A” game to a competitive market? It’s not just a matter of having compelling photos and high thread count towels, you have to go above and beyond. DiPierro recommends setting your short-term rental apart by offering amenities like free beer or wine, complimentary bike rentals, and unparalleled customer service.
Excuse #4: “There’s too much regulation around short-term rentals.”
Cassady’s business is based in part in Palm Springs, California, one of the first cities in the country to enact regulations around short-term rentals, he said. But he doesn’t see them as problems.
“Good regulation, if properly enforced, is actually helpful to the process,” he said. “It helps protects renters and homeowners, as well as the surrounding community.”
The key is to ensure the regulations and ordinances around short-term rentals in your community are helpful, not harmful, to your business. And the only way to do that is to get involved, he says.
To help advocate for short-term rentals in his community, Cassady has joined multiple community boards and groups and is an active participant at city council meetings.
“You have to get involved in the process,” he said. “You can’t just sit back and expect others to try and fix the problem for you.”
Learn more about how to become an advocate for short-term rentals in your community here.
Excuse #5: “I’m not making enough money.”
This one is tricky. Sometimes, increasing your vacation rental home’s profitability is an easy fix. Just see all of the suggestions above.
Another tip from Cassady is evaluating how you use the home for your personal needs. Are you a frequent visitor during high seasons and weekends? If so, can you adjust the dates you use your home to bring in more income during peak times?
For example, if you like to use your home during spring break, can you arrive a little later or earlier in the season? This will allow more reservations during the height of the break.
“If you show up on April 1st instead of March 27, you might be able to rent out the home for an entire month,” said Cassady. “Little things like that can make a big impact.”
So, when should you sell your vacation rental home?
There does, however, come a point when homeowners have to evaluate if the expense of their vacation rental property is worth the effort. If you’re losing substantial money on the venture, running your rental monthly is costing you more money out of pocket than you’re earning, and you’ve tried all of the steps outlined above, then (and only then!) it may be time to consider selling the home.
Before you decide to sell your investment property, we also recommend consulting a property manager, like TurnKey, to see if they can help you address issues that you’ve identified and ones that you may not know exist.
Schedule a consultation with us here.
Most problems that homeowners face can be easily overcome with just a few easy tweaks. Don’t let small issues prevent you from making big money with your short-term rental.
Want to earn more money from your vacation rental? Learn more here.