The dream of having a vacation property in Costa Rica is something many of us are living, and many others would love. However owning a second home that remains vacant most of the year can be a financial burden if you are still working, or have long-term commitments back home. If you want to be able to make the most of your investment (and still fully enjoy your time here), it is worth looking into renting your home out during the year.
The rent from your home should be able to cover any wear and tear, utility bills etc., plus commissions and fees to property managers or rental agents. Here are some tips that may help you make your vacation home as appealing as possible for renters, and help you stay cool and collected during the process.
Curb appeal – this works the same here as it does back home – and it is not just for selling homes. First impressions really do count, so your main picture needs to stand out from the rest. Make it Fabulous!
Make your home inviting. Vacationers (and this probably goes for you, too) are there to relax. If you have a large home make your main space as welcoming as possible for larger groups. A large dining table and an open floor plan are both great ‘selling’ points. Don’t overdo the decorative accessories, go big – use large art or colourful wall hangings, and try to find metal table lamps, and wood or metal candle holders etc. instead of glass or ceramic. This saves on damage! Window coverings are important to renters for privacy and shade, so make them a feature with economical, ready-made solid colours, or tropical print drapery panels. Coordinating throw pillows and accessories will pull it all together.
Maximize sleeping quarters. Many vacationers will be looking for the most possible number of beds to accommodate their family or group. If you have multiple bedrooms, put two beds in at least one of them. Even if you have a small one-bedroom cabina, you can still have a sofa-bed, futon or even an air mattress available. Use washable mattress and pillow protectors on all the beds.
Most important room – The Master Bedroom. Solid furniture, a fresh and pretty paint color, fresh bed linens and perhaps somewhere to read or write postcards are all welcome touches. The occupants will probably be the people making the rental decision so make their room great!
Update outdoor dining and hang-out zones. If you have been putting off decorating the outdoor spaces, now is the time to take action. Replace those plastic stacking chairs with some comfort and style, and add a couple of planters and some wall art. It certainly doesn’t need to be fancy and expensive, but having a comfortable outdoor dining and seating area is a must.
Keep a basic but well-stocked kitchen. Don’t break the bank when it comes to stocking fragile items in a rental, but do attempt to keep a simple set of white dishes in stock, along with the essentials for cooking and baking tasks. If you stick to white you will know you can usually find replacements, even if you can’t find the exact same ones again. Stock up on inexpensive but colourful plastic plates and cups for the pool and patio. These will help reduce breakages and increase safety by the pool.
White linens radiate cleanliness. White sheets and towels are easier to keep looking clean than prints or darker colors, because they can be bleached. Use the best linens you can afford, because they will wash and wear the best too.
Make it fun. It is a nice gesture to provide renters with a few fun perks to give them a more personalized visit. You might consider leaving some board games, puzzles, extra beach towels, boogie boards, and frisbees.
Prepare for the worst. Realize that people will not treat a rental home as if was their own. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can do your best to be prepared. Provide a full set of disposable dishes and glassware in case they decide to have a party, have plenty of coasters around, even on the nightstands, to protect your furniture. Put energy efficient bulbs in your light fixtures, and keep spares available.
Working with a management company can make your life a lot easier. They will deal with immediate problems so you don’t have to. They will arrange for the cleaning and maintenance staff to keep everything looking and working perfectly.
Consider having professional photos taken. Since most visitors will be booking your vacation home without seeing it in person, having really superb photos is essential. Make your main photo fabulous! Enlist the help of a friend with top-notch photography skills or hire a professional. When it comes time for the photo shoot, make sure the house is clean and uncluttered from top to bottom (put all personal items away), inside and out and add some inviting touches. We ‘stage’ homes for home sales so you should also stage it for your rental.
Make up a Local Guide Book. You may want to take a few pictures of nearby draws, such as beaches and waterfalls, and even local wildlife, and have business cards from popular local restaurants all together in a binder for renters – noting your favourites! You can include brochures on tours, local attractions and activities, great sunset and happy hour spots, as well as easy maps to get here and there.
Keep a home inventory and a reference book. A thorough and well-organized vacation home reference binder is worth its weight in gold! Avoid mishaps by clearly recording all inventory in a master list, and provide visitors with ample instructions on everything from garbage pickup to how to work the remote control. Include your WiFi and alarm codes, tide table information, and emergency numbers and contact information for the doctor, vet and even dentist – you never know. Ensure that any expectation or rules are clearly spelled out here – no smoking inside, no glass near the pool etc. Anything that is personal should be set aside in a locked closet or spare room.
You will have to emotionally detach yourself from the property – this is now a business. Look around your home with a critical eye, test every light, faucet, and toilet, and imagine what you would expect from a rental.
Now you are ready to let your vacation home help pay for itself!!