What is a Long-Term Vacation Rental?

Year round, vacation rental homeowners have options when it comes to advertising their rental homes either as a short-term vacation rental or a long-term vacation rental.  Short-term rentals are great for guests looking for a quick weekend getaway, but long-term vacation rentals can be great for those seeking a longer stay.

Whether it’s snowbirds heading south for the winter or a young professional looking for a place to call home temporarily without signing a lease, the market for long-term vacation rentals includes people from all walks of life. These kinds of rentals typically offer a more stable income year-round in lieu of a more flexible schedule.

When compared to short-term rentals, long-term vacation rentals should be advertised, marketed, priced, and managed differently. Find out the key differences between the two kinds of rentals and gain the knowledge needed to successfully own a rental home optimized for long-term stays.


Long-term vacation rental vs. short-term vacation rental

A long-term vacation rental is a “fully furnished property which is leased on monthly or longer term basis,” according to Daniela Andreevska, marketing director for Mashvisor, a real estate data analytics company. In contrast, Andreevska told TurnKey a short-term vacation rental is leased on a nightly or weekly basis.

There are benefits and shortcomings for both kinds of vacation rentals. Andreevska said that while both types are located on top holiday and tourism destinations, providing everything necessary for renters within the homes, long-term rentals offer stability and less turnover while short-term rentals offer flexibility and, often, more revenue.

Because long-term vacation rentals are rented out for prolonged periods of time, homeowners will also find that they have to book fewer professional housekeeping visits and spend less time marketing their home throughout the year overall. If rental homeowners do end up with the occasional open night or two in the calendar, they can still market to short-term rental guests to fill those gaps.


How to advertise and market a long-term vacation rental

Long-term vacation rental homeowners should market to snowbirds, according to Dawn Sabato, marketing director of Contempo Vacation Homes in Florida. Sabato said contrary to the term’s typical definition, snowbirds aren’t just northerners who head south during the winter; it can be used to describe any person who chooses to change their geographic location for two to six months.

Increasing popularity of vacation homes with more mainstream travelers have made this a year-round opportunity, and a great way to earn the loyalty of respectful guests who will return year after year,” Sabato said. “Know that market! They have a feeling of personal responsibility and pride with the homes they choose to ‘adopt’ – almost like a feeling of ownership.”

Sabato said at Contempo Vacation Homes, the overwhelming majority of inquiries they receive on stays of longer than one month are married couples, ages 55 to 70, and about 50% of them will have tiny dogs in tow. They also will typically book a year or more in advance for their visit. “They also deeply appreciate human contact and a friendly host who is communicative, helpful, and genuine,” Sabato said.

This market of renters is typically most interested with lower prices, a pet-friendly status, quiet but convenient locations, one story-homes or condos with one to three bedrooms. In your ads, Sabato says homeowners should share “vibrant, sunshine images and carefree retreats.”  

There are dozens of sites where homeowners should list their homes for long-term vacation rentals, including HomeAway, Airbnb, Homelidays, VacationRentals.com, Colorado Vacation Rentals, Rental Source, LakeRentals.com, Agoda, CoastRentals.com, TripAdvisor, VRBO and more.

In addition to more mainstream sites, Sabato says her company gets a fair share of bookings for long-term vacation rentals on AmericanSnowbird.com. “We only have ten homes listed on this site, and we receive at least 20-25 inquiries on those ten each month, without fail,” Sabato said.  

Sabato also recommends joining snowbird-related Facebook groups and other groups associated with extended travelers/digital nomads.

“These rely on being more personable, chatty, and just endearing yourself to the group members as a reliable resource on your area,” Sabato said.

Lastly, long-term vacation rental homeowners should advertise on their own website as well, and make sure to target ad campaigns appropriately to attract the right market.


Long-term vacation rental vs. long-term rental

A long-term vacation rental is typically located in a tourist-centered location where there’s an on and off season, whereas a regular long-term rental is usually located in an area close to schools, hospitals, colleges, or jobs, according to Breyer.

For example, a cabin located in a ski resort town that rented out for a couple months at a time would be considered a long-term vacation rental. Its price per night would change depending on whether it’s in peak tourism season or not. When it’s in an off-season, the homeowner may decide to have discounted rates.

“Long-term typically means for the duration of the season,” Breyer said.

On the other hand, a three bedroom house in a great school zone that a family wants to move in to for a year or more so that their child can attend their school of choice would be considered a long-term rental. The leases on these properties last years at a time and won’t depend on a peak “season” of tourism.

“With regular long-term rentals, the owner will experience more consistent, predictable cash flow,” Breyer said. “And with properties located in a great area, the rents will increase every year.”


How to price a long-term vacation rental

When pricing a long-term vacation rental, Andreevska said long-term vacation rental owners should follow basically the same strategy as when pricing a traditional rental while also including the cost of the furniture.

Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers, suggests long-term vacation rental homeowners use dynamic pricing to charge more during times when guests are willing to pay more and less when demand is down and they aren’t willing to pay as much.

“During the high season, you charge more because travelers are willing to pay more during periods of higher demand, and you lower your prices throughout the slower seasons because your vacation area gets fewer visitors,” Breyer told TurnKey. “Also, people who do travel during the slow seasons are looking for a good deal.”

But Breyer said dynamic pricing gets even more sophisticated; it takes into account the historical trends for the season that the booking is in, as well as daily and even hourly fluctuations in demand.

“The dynamic pricing model allows your rates to adjust up or down depending on how quickly other vacation rentals in your area are being rented, or whether there’s a surplus of properties sitting empty,” he said. “With the historical trends data, dynamic pricing can assist you with pricing your long-term rental at competitive rates.”

When pricing homes for snowbirds, Sabato said Contempo Vacation Homes usually offers savings to that particular market due to the length of travelers’ stays. She said their snowbird rates range $75-$110/night for 28 night rental, or as low as $65 per night if longer than 90 nights.

“Of course, you have to earn a profit, but there is something to be said for the value in that length of stay, especially if this falls on your non-peak season,” Sabato said. “Find a perfect place to be where your guest appreciates the value, and you don’t come out behind. Do it right, and these guests can potentially be your least demanding, easiest to book, and most appreciative.”  


How to decide to manage your long-term vacation rental

Similar to short-term vacation rentals, Andreevska recommends long-term vacation rental homeowners get a professional property manager to take care of all aspects of their rental business, unless you plan to become a full-time real estate investor or a full-time landlord.

“While you will have to obviously pay your property manager, they will be able to secure maximum occupancy for your rental, set up the right price, and minimize your expenses,” Andreevska said. “So you will end up making more money in less time with fewer efforts. That’s your way to passive real estate investing.”

For example, TurnKey works with homeowners to set the rates for their rentals. We set a floor rate, separate rates for different days of the week and seasons of the year, and then invite homeowners to use TurnKey’s dynamic pricing program. Then, TurnKey monitors and adjusts pricing up or down based on actual market demand, so its homeowners don’t have to monitor and adjust pricing themselves.

Property managers, like TurnKey, can also ensure there are updated, high quality photos on your listing; coordinate with a cleaning service to keep your home clean; take care of maintenance requests; communicate with current guests; and schedule regular services such as lawn care.

Long-term vacation rentals, when managed correctly, can offer homeowners more stability financially and require less upkeep. By using dynamic pricing and targeted marketing, long-term vacation rental homeowners will find their homes get booked year-round with little to no stress.


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