There are vacation rental properties, and there are great vacation rental properties. Make yours stand out from the crowd.
By Shelagh Duncan
Owning a great rental property can make you stand out from the competition and will ensure that your property is rented as often as you’d like it to be. This will also ensure that you not only get top dollar, but good reviews and repeat customers. There are two types of rental properties—those that are used by the owners, and those that are not. Often those used by the owners are favored as they tend to be kept cleaner, better equipped and more up to date. Regardless of whether you choose to use your rental or not, let’s help you to create a great rental property.
Choosing your furniture carefully will give you better returns on your investment in the long run. Do your homework—and set a realistic budget! The rule of thumb when buying furniture is to buy the best quality you can afford, even for a rental property. If you use a local company to supply a ‘package’ of furniture for your rental and you chose one within your budget, you will benefit from their expertise in coordinating all the pieces, and they usually will deliver and set it up for you too. It may not be as personalized as selecting each piece yourself, but you can save yourself a lot of stress, time, and probably money in the end.
If you like decorating and prefer to do it yourself then the most important items to concentrate on are the sofas and the mattresses. If your renters are not comfortable sitting or sleeping they will not be happy, and unhappy renters give bad reviews! At the store, I have had many conversations with renters who have had bad experiences like this because there is nowhere for them to relax in comfort—and it’s their vacation! Cheap sofas can become uncomfortable quickly and start to look shabby. Better quality sofas will have superior construction and use durable fabrics that are easy to clean.
Remember that you do not need to over-furnish. Make a list of the essentials and as long as renters have the basics and some decent storage you will be okay. Give them somewhere to put away their luggage, their clothes, and their other personal stuff as a minimum. If you have a wall mounted TV, add a table below to hold remotes and other accessories, and a place near the entry where keys, change and other bits and pieces can be placed and easily located when needed.
Back home we are used to having indoor dining, but remember that here we live outdoors. Get an outdoor dining set that will accommodate at least as many people as you can sleep in your rental. Consider selecting multi-purpose furniture when possible. Comfortable outdoor dining chairs are useful in providing some casual outdoor seating when needed, and don’t forget the pool loungers. People need somewhere to sit when they come from the pool, so encourage them away from the upholstered pieces and give them some comfortable seating where they can dry off without ruining a chair or sofa!
Living down here, we may not worry so much about privacy at the windows unless there is another house close by—but you know that the vacationers will. They are used to pulling blinds or curtains at home, so reduce possible stress and help them feel comfortable by adding ready-made panels or custom shades to at least the bedroom windows. They are on vacation and may want to sleep in! Window coverings can add some colour and texture to a room, and tie in nicely with the bedding.
If you have the sun beating into your house and heating it up or damaging your furniture, then consider adding window coverings too.
BED & BATH LINENS
This is not an area where you should cheap-out. You should try to provide at least hotel-quality pillows, sheets and towels for renters. If yours is a luxury rental then go for the luxury linens. It all comes back to the experience you are offering renters—and that’s what they will remember. Use mattress and pillow protectors and make sure these are always clean and fresh. Put out extra pillows and towels, and if you have A/C, a blanket for each bed. Towels should be plump and thirsty, and keeping linens all white to make it easier for doing laundry. If you have different size beds here is a tip: use a sharpie to denote the sheet size, F, Q or K on the bottom right corner of each sheet, and then fold them up with their pillow cases so this mark is visible. Twins make a smaller package so are always easier to find.
Be sure to allocate some funds in your budget to decorate the walls, especially if you decide to supply just the basics in furniture. You will have the advantage of being able to add something dramatic, and that will make your rental property stand out from the rest.
Rule #1 Select art you love.
Buy a few pieces to start and try them in different rooms and areas. Once you know where they will work best, you can add more as necessary. If your furniture is more neutral toned, you can go to town on art and accessories to bring the space alive. Choose large art pieces for the living area and master bedroom, they will add an element of prestige to your promotional photos.
Some people love to decorate with monkey, parrot, or beach art to echo the area. Others may prefer a modern, eclectic, or primitive look. Whatever direction you take, you can use art to be your inspiration for colour throughout the house.
There is no need to have lots of bits of home accessories everywhere. Make it look finished, but not cluttered. Select accessories that are more sturdy than glass or ceramic and not as easily broken. Ideally they will be not too expensive or difficult to replace either. Inexpensive throw pillows are handy for a touch of colour here and there, and you always have the option of adding a new pillow cover later, if you need to hide a stain or damage.
Rule #2 Less is more.
A few carefully placed and well chosen items can bring a room together beautifully.
Try to place a mirror somewhere in the living area, and if possible a long dressing mirror in each bedroom. Renters will appreciate this often overlooked detail. Check the lighting levels too, some people may want to read in the evenings, so have bedside lamps on both sides of the bed, and a couple of table and floor lamps in the living area.
Equip the kitchen with renters in mind. They are going to eat out much of the time, but they will also want to be able to prepare meals at the house too, especially if they have kids. Have all the basic equipment, food prep and cooking utensils, cutlery, dishes and pans, as well as beverage glasses. Supplying sets of unbreakable pool and patio plates and glasses is highly recommended too.
Have some puzzles, books, board games, movies, and copies of local magazines available. Other ideas to add to your renter’s positive experience would be to compile a binder containing brochures on local attractions, tours and restaurants—with your recommendations on where to find the best Pizza or Chinese food! Tell them about the community markets and where and when they operate, where the banks, pharmacies, supermarkets, and libraries are, as well as your favourite beaches and waterfalls. Advise them too about the national holidays, when the banks will be closed, and which days are recycling and garbage pick-up.
Providing a “how to” instruction list or book about the house with your property manager’s information will help them settle in quickly and add to their overall enjoyment. Especially if you have Spanish instructions on the microwave! Tell them about any quirks, and any special ‘personality’ your house may have!
Give them the security and internet codes, and let them know where you keep the remote and DVD’s or CD’s, and how to operate the equipment. Tell them that you provide some basic cleaning supplies in the laundry room, as well as cloths, (so they are not tempted to use your facecloths for cleaning off their sandals!), and they can hopefully deal with accidents as they happen, not wait for the cleaners to come.
There are many other considerations to deal with when renting your house, and furnishing and setting it up is just step one.