You Can Market Your Vacation Home as a Rental

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The lure of a vacation home is strong this time of year, especially if you live in a chilly latitude. Imagine having a place at the beach. Swimming, tennis and golf in January! T-shirts instead of overcoats!

But can you make it work financially?

Face the facts: It would be awfully tough to turn a vacation home into a money-maker, even if it’s somewhere highly sought by vacation renters. A vacation home is a luxury.

But renting it out when you’re not using it can bring in substantial income, cutting your ownership costs dramatically. There are tricky tax questions here, which we’ll save for another time. For now, let’s look at ways to maximize the income.

The first step, of course, comes before buying, when you research the property to find out how much rent it has drawn, and how consistently. It will also pay to look at similar properties, to see what they charge, what they offer and find ways to gain an edge.

If the competitors offer 50-inch TVs, maybe you should provide a 55-inch TV — and add a TV to each bedroom. If competitors offer basic cable service, maybe you should have some premium channels.

Today, many people are never quite free of the office. So think about providing high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi, plus a decent printer/copier/fax/scanner.

Next question: How will you get your renters?

The best option is to combine your own efforts with those of a professional. In many vacation areas, real estate agencies offer rental services, often for a commission of up to 25% of the rent. A good pro will have tips on making your place more appealing and will know how much rent you can get during the high season and offseason.

In a well-designed arrangement, the agent’s incentives are aligned with the owner’s. Both of you, for instance, want to get the highest rent possible without scaring off prospective renters by overcharging. A good pro will know when it will pay to accept less rather than risk going vacant for a week.