What makes a successful Vacation rental?
There are many inexpensive ways to improve the success of your vacation rental. Vacation guests appreciate an owner that takes their comfort seriously. Our most successful vacation rentals have the following in common:
• Owners who care about the guest experience and are consistently adding little personal touches and upgrades to their property.
• Owners who are flexible on their personal use of the property; keeping their property open during the prime booking periods.
• Having most, if not all, of the "guest amenities" listed below.
• A strong web presence
• Allow dogs
Based on years of experience in the vacation rental industry, we have compiled a list of popular amenities that many guests look for in a vacation rental home.
• Large BBQ's
• Hot Tubs
• Air Conditioning
• TV/DVDs in every bedroom (preferably Flat Panel TV’s)
• Well equipped kitchens (click here for a list of suggestions)
• Double appliances - especially refrigerators
• Recreation rooms with a TV, pool table and/or ping pong table
• Games such as Foosball, Ping Pong, Pool, and/or Air hockey (with extra balls)
• King Size beds
• Baby equipment (cribs, play pens, high chairs, etc.)
• Seating at dining table for total number house sleeps
• Chaise lounges, Adirondack style chairs and small tables in deck and patio areas
• 5 blade/3 speed ceiling fans in all bedrooms
Adding artwork can be an easy and inexpensive way to brighten up a room and really make the whole property feel warm and welcoming.
Prints of nature, skiing and wildlife are popular in Sunriver and can cost anywhere from $10 on up. Let us know if you'd like help purchasing art for your property. Amazon is having some great deals on paintings if you are looking to update the art in your home and we also have a relationship with a local photographer.
The color of your bed's comforters can mean the difference between renting and not renting your vacation rental. Certainly comfort and durably are important, but for marketing, the color of your comforters and how they appear in the marketing photos for your property can make a HUGE difference. Consider upgrading your comforters every two years to give your property a fresh, attractive look. Many stores such as Ross, TJ Maxx, and Bed Bath & Beyond offer designer comforters for a fraction of the cost. Let us know when you do and we will take new marketing photos. Save money in dry cleaning costs by making sure that all of your bedding can be machine washed in your property's washer and dryer.
Games & Puzzles
There is nothing that says Sunriver more then a family enjoying a puzzle or board game together. Every time you visit your home bring a new game or puzzle for families to enjoy. Make sure to throw out old games and puzzles that are likely missing pieces.
A nice coat of paint makes a huge impact on the overall appeal of a vacation rental. It's so easy for little scuffs from suitcases being carried up and down the stairs to start causing walls to look dull or dirty. We recommend all of our homeowners keep extra, good quality paint in their owner storage so we can do light touch-ups when needed. We also recommend that you consider adding warm colored accent walls throughout your home.
A frustration for many guests is finding dull knives in their vacation rental. Providing a knife sharpener will help make sure your guests have sharp knives when they need them. Hand held knife sharpeners such as this one from Amazon.com are an inexpensive way to enhance the guest experience at your home. NOTE: Knife sharpeners generally only work on straight edge knives (non-serrated). We recommend one like this from Amazon for under $14. Click here for additional ideas for stocking your vacation rentals.
Nice patio furniture is a summer must-have and something guests specifically look for when booking their summer vacation homes. We recommend choosing a durable stain resistant material like a powder coated metal or a tough wicker. You can find great deals on sites such as Overstock.com, Wayfair.com and Lowes.com.
Air conditioning is becoming more and more important to secure summer reservations. Our summers tend to stay hotter for longer than they used to, making it uncomfortable for guests staying during those hot weeks. Most of the year our cool nights make cooling off your home no problem, but guests booking for the summer don't know whether they will be in Sunriver during a time where it won't be so easy to cool off (some years it is in July, other in August). Last year it started in June.
Air conditioning can run you between $3000 and $4000 depending on the size of your home (and location of your furnace). If you are interested in installing air conditioning, ask us about our Property Upgrade Assistance Program. Contact Robert Bennington with questions.
Hot Tub Covers
The lifespan of a hot tub cover ranges from 2 – 5 years in most cases. It is very important to replace covers when needed to keep the use of your hot tub safe for guests.
Getting a good nights sleep is a top priority for many guests on vacation. To ensure your vacation rental is providing this luxury for guests we recommend sleeping on every bed in your property to test out the mattresses. The average lifespan of a mattress in a vacation rental is about 7 to 10 years. If the budget doesn't allow replacement or the mattress still has another season left but is starting to show it's age, we recommend providing foam mattress toppers to create a great sleep experience that guests will remember!
Home Decor and Furniture
Some of our favorite online sites for Home Décor & Furniture:
In Sunriver there are only three websites worth your effort to make sure your homes is being marketed on. Google is still number one with the vast majority of customers still looking for lodging directly through a search quiry on google. Type your property's address into google to make sure it is at the top of the list. A distant second is VRBO.com. And a growing, but still small 3rd is Airbnb.com.
Family travel is at the core of what makes Sunriver .... well, Sunriver. The goal of all marketing is to ultimately attract more customers by giving them a reason to choose you over your competition. Here are some statistics to consider about families traveling with children.
88% of parents said that their main fear of traveling with kids is safety.
8 out of 10 parents said that their main vacation rental problem is a lack of gear for their kids (baby gear, toys, games, etc).
44% of parents find that the most stressful travel factor is finding family friendly accommodations.
When parents were asked what would help them relax on vacation, they answered.
► Safe environment for their children.
► Activities and ideas for families
► Gear for their kids
Vacation Rental Insurance
In our overly litigious society it is critical that you are adequately protected against liability claims. By offering your property for rent to the public, you are running a business and are accepting all of the risks associated with that business. Before you rent your property and each time you visit your property there after, make sure you do a thorough walk-thru and remedy any potential hazards. Our rule of thumb is if you think it may be a hazard; fix-it immediately.
Here are some important things to think about when insuring your vacation rental:
1. It is crucial that you find an insurance agent that you trust and that is knowledgeable in the areas of liability insurance as it relates to owning a vacation rental. It is best not to make your decision solely on price.
2. Shop around. Your current insurance company may not be the best suited for your vacation rental or they may not have the right products for your situation. Make sure you are getting the best protection and service at a reasonable price.
3. Make sure your agent knows that you are renting your home as a Vacation Rental. Your insurance company may not cover you for a liability claim if insured differently (for example, we know that State Farm will NOT cover a liability claim on a home NOT insured as a Vacation Rental that is available to rent for more than 90 days).
4. Here are some questions to consider asking your insurance agent:
• Do you have a policy specific to vacation rentals?
• What is your policy on classifying a home as a vacation rental? (example: Do you base it on the number of nights rented per year?)
• What is your experience with liability claims?
• How high have you seen claims go before? (this answer will help you decide how high your liability coverage should be)
• What are the steps someone would go through to file a claim?
• What process do you go through to tender a claim?
5. Liability Insurance vs Guest Medical Protection. Liability insurance coverage protects against property damage or bodily injury claims you are legally responsible to cover due to your own negligence. Liability insurance protects you from claims such as someone slipping and falling on your front porch or a child playing in your yard breaking an arm. Another part of most homeowner or renter liability insurance is Guest Medical Protection. Often referred to as “good will” coverage, this part of insurance coverage will pay for medical treatment for non-relative visitors in your home, regardless of who is at fault.
Guest medical covers some of the most casual situations we might expose ourselves. For example another child on your daughters soccer team will miss Saturday’s game unless the other team families provide childcare for the weekend. You agree to have the little girl spend Friday night at your home, take her to the game and send her with the coach's family for Saturday night. Everything goes fine until bedtime when both girls think it is a slumber party and start acting up, causing problems. Eventually one of them knocks over a glass dish in the bathroom and the little girl spending the night steps on a piece and is bleeding all over the place. The insurance protection you have makes it possible to rush the child to the nearest hospital so she can be seen by a doctor. The medical expenses resulting from this accident would be covered by your homeowners or renters policy guest medical coverage. Paying this type of expense encourages policy owners to be careful and act quickly to help mitigate any more damages and creates a feeling of “good will.”
The standard amount of non-relative guest medical coverage is $1,000, but if you feel you need more, you can purchasing higher limits. When you have visitors, and a non-relative is hurt don’t hesitate to use your Guest Medical Insurance regardless of how an accident or injury happens. People are generally less likely to sue for liability claims when we are able to help them quickly and without hesitation.
6. If you have any questions you are welcome to contact our insurance agent, Richard Downie, with State Farm. Richard insures many of the vacation rentals on our program and knows the industry well. He is a great resource whether or not you want insurance from State Farm. Call on him for information regardless.
7. Here are additional resources for insuring your home as a Vacation Rental.
Tax Implications for Vacation Rentals
A vacation home would be considered a full-time vacation rental if you rent out the property and you spend less than 14 days in the home annually, or your time in the home accounts for less than 10% of the total time the property is occupied in a given year. In the case of a full-time vacation rental, you face the same tax implications that you would face with any other type of investment property. Many of the expenses associated with home are deductible, including repairs, maintenance costs, marketing fees, property management fees, and interest on a home loan.
A hybrid rental is one in which you stay more than two weeks per year and also rent it out for more than two weeks per year. With a hybrid rental, you must keep detailed records to determine what percentage of the time you spend in the vacation home versus how much time renters spend in the property. Let's say that you spent 30 days in your vacation home last year. Renters spent a total of 110 days in your rental. So in all, your family accounts for 21% of the occupancy, while renters account for 79% of the vacation home's occupancy. Next, you total up all of the deductible property expenses. Then, you subtract 21% from the final figure (this corresponds to the 21% of the time that you spent in the vacation home). In all, 79% of the eligible expenses would be deductible from the taxable rental fees collected. It's NOT possible to claim rental-related losses in this scenario, but it would be theoretically possible to deduct away all of your rental income.
** We are not tax experts and we recommend you seek advise about your specific tax situation with a qualified accounting professional. **
Making sure you have extraordinary housekeeping of course depends alot on your housekeeper. But there are many things that homeowners can do to give your housekeepers the best possible opportunity at success.
► Make sure all your bedding is machine washable
► Reduce or eliminate all decor in bathrooms and kitchens other than framed artwork hanging on the wall. Reminder, every item in your house is another surface your housekeeper needs to clean. Bathrooms and kitchen create a lot of dust and gunk.
► Keep your counter tops free from decor, with the exception of one or two items.
► Eliminate all bathroom rugs, tooth brush holders, soap holders, or other items you don't find in hotels. There is a reason hotels don't have these items.
► Cover all your mattresses with waterproof mattress encasements (Here are the ones we recommend from Amazon)
► Carpet is a vacation rental's worst friend. Eliminate all carpet in high traffic areas, such as kitchens, living rooms, hallways and stairs.
► Use extra large comforters that hang over your mattress and box spring instead of bed skirts. If you want to cover your box spring, use a fitted sheet or mattress encasement.
► Kitchen Supplies. On each trip to your home, stock it with tin foil, saran wrap, coffee filters, zip lock bags, salt & pepper, and other non perishable kitchen goods for your guests. These little touches will help make guests want to come back to your home again and again.
► No shoes please. Reduce stains on carpet by encouraging guests not to walk on ﬂoors in their shoes. Placing shoe baskets, with a kind sign by the doors will cut down on the overall items trekked in by guests.
Allowing dogs in your home can be the difference between booking your home and not booking your home. Dog friendly homes in Sunriver always book up first. On average a homeowner can expect up to 30% more booked nights by being dog friendly. Charge a nightly pet fee to help cover any damage or extra cleaning required.
Skimping money on maintenance may seem like a good idea at the time, but it can actually cost you more money by losing or reimbursing guests. Investing in your property now will pay off in the long run with happier guests and less issues. Here are some common areas to consider investing in.
► Installing hard flooring in high traffic areas, such as kitchens, living rooms, hallways and stairs.
► Roof inspections and proper sealing to prevent leaks from ice damns during the winter
► Replace your appliances when they are past their average life expectancy and before they die.
Dishwasher: 9 years
Microwave Oven: 9 years
Range, Electric: 13 years
Range, Gas: 15 years
Refrigerator: 13 years
Dryers: 13 years
Washers: 12 years
► Pay for a full house inspections every few years instead of waiting till just before you sell. This is a great way to catch any developing issues before they cost you even more money.
► Spend a day with your tool belt going through every detail of your house, fixing everything you find and noting anything you can't fix.
► Locate and note where all of the following are located on your property: Boundry line, Main water shut off, Circuit Boards, Sewer Flush Out, Furnace, Crawl Space access,
► Review the SROA Rules and Regulations. Removing just one wrong tree can cost you as much as $2500.
The number one activity in Sunriver is biking. In all surveys guests report biking more often than any other activity as a key activity they enjoy while staying in Sunriver. Kids bikes come in so many different sizes, that they are not as important to provide as adult bikes. Parents recognize their need to bring their kids bike from home. But lugging along adults bikes for the whole family is often not an option. Make sure you have at least half the number adult bikes at your house as your home sleeps. For example, if your home sleeps 8, you should have a minimum of 4 adult bikes. The more the better. Stay away from buying bikes at the big box stores. The price might be right, but the cost in repairs will far exceed any savings. A high quality, single speed bike is all you need. These in general cost upwards of $250+ but you will save big on annual repair costs. To really wow your guests, buy high quality multi-speed bikes from a local bike dealer (not a big box store). Your repair costs will likely be more but your guests will really appreciate having the extra speeds for some of the Sunriver hills.
Vacation Rental Wear & Tear
If your house accommodates 8 people and rents for 105 nights, that’s potentially 840 people playing, eating and drinking in your home. This level of use consistently over and over again is hard on a property and results in normal vacation rental wear and tear. Often, as occupancy increases so will normal wear and tear. Property owners should plan to set aside a percentage of rental income each year to re-invest into their property.
Carpeting, Carpeting may only last one-half the time they would in a personal residence. Spills and stains on carpets are common in a vacation rental. Newer carpets will need to be cleaned at least twice a year. Older carpets possibly more often. Wine and fruit juice stains that are difficult or impossible to remove are considered normal wear & tear.
Furnishings. Furnishings may only last one-half the time they would in a personal residence. Think of a sleeper sofa, you may use it 4-5 times a year at home. A nightly rental means that the sleeper sofa may be opened and closed twice a day for 105 nights. That’s 210 times! If there’s a coffee table in front of it, it has to be moved or dragged across the carpet the same number of times. Also, the low humidity here in the high desert is hard on wooden furniture especially dining chairs. The lumber shrinks, the glued joints crack, and then they become weak. The quality of your furniture and amenities will be a factor in their life expectancy. Many “discount” furniture stores are great places to outfit a personal residence, but the inexpensive furniture available at these stores (although often nice looking) will not hold up in a vacation rental.
Kitchen Supplies. You can expect a certain attrition rate of kitchen supplies. Wine glasses get broken in the dishwasher, coffee cups go missing, etc. You may find some kitchenware at your neighbor’s home or vice versa. This would be the inadvertent result of a reunion occupying two or more properties. Some common items you will likely need to budget to repair or replace annually are dishes, glassware, coffee carafes, cookware, and silverware.
Walls. Scuffed and chipped paint on walls is very common in vacation rentals. Often this is caused by luggage bags rubbing the walls. We recommend planning to touch up your paint annually.
Bedding. Pillows and bedspreads will get make-up, body fluids, and other fun things on them. We recommend choosing machine washable items thin enough to fit into your property's washer and dryer. This will save you a lot of money in dry cleaning.
Blinds. Bent or tangled blinds are also very common in vacation rentals. We recommend simple window coverings that are easy to repair and clean, avoiding metal mini-blinds and vertical blinds when possible.
Preventing Guest Damage
The first defense against damage is to prevent certain high risk groups from renting in the first place. Our sales team does a phenomenal job of identifying guests of a questionable nature and keeping them out of our vacation rentals. On the same day a guest departs we send and inspector to do a full security check. They focus on making sure that all windows and doors are locked, that lights, oven, and stove are turned off, and that there aren't any wet towels sitting on the beds or wood floors. Our inspectors ensure that there is no running water, that our homes were left by the guest in an acceptable state of cleanliness, and that there is no significant damage.
Guest damage does occasionally occur and we make every effort to catch and repair damage right away. With a designated housekeeping team who are familiar with our homes and a detailed inspection process we are able to catch and remedy most guest damage very quickly. For our owners peace of mind and the protection of their investment we guarantee that guest damage is resolved at no cost to our property owners. If we don’t catch it, we will cover the expense ourselves. This refers to damage of $500 or less ($1000 or less for our luxury properties) and does not include common wear and tear.
Noxious Weeds of Sunriver
Noxious weeds are non-native invasive species which threaten Sunriver. They are harmful to native plant communities, wildlife habitat, and increase our risk of wildfire. In March 2002, Deschutes County enacted Ordinance 2002-037 establishing a countywide Weed Control District, which states: "Every person, firm or corporation owning or occupying land within Deschutes county shall destroy or prevent the seeding on such land any noxious weeds within the meaning of ORS 570.515 to 570.600 or declared to be noxious by the Board. No weed declared noxious shall be permitted (to produce seed) by the owner or occupier."
The most common Noxious Weeds in Sunriver are:
In accordance with Section 4.01 of the Sunriver Rules and Regulations, owners are required to obtain a permit prior to removing any vegetation from private properties or SROA owned properties. The above listed noxious weeds are excepted from permitting requirements.
Contact the Environmental Department (541-593-1522) or (www.sunriverowners.org) for appropriate control methods for specific weed species and for a list of weed control contractors registered in Sunriver.