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How to Determine Whether the Vacation Rental Lifestyle is Right for You

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By Christine Karpinski

RISMEDIA, October 30, 2010—More and more people are investing in vacation homes today. And no wonder: between unbelievable real estate prices, low interest rates, and a rapidly growing base of potential customers, vacationers who’d rather stay in a charming beach cottage or woodsy cabin rather than a hotel room—there’s never been a better time to buy. But here are the real questions to consider before you purchase a vacation home: Is the lifestyle that comes with owning and managing a vacation rental home right for you? Do you have the right personality for the job?

Christine Karpinski, director of Owner Community for HomeAway, a leading online vacation home rental marketplace, and author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner, 2nd Edition: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment urges homeowners to ask themselves a serious of questions to determine whether they should consider buying a vacation rental.

Am I patient? It’s important to recognize that your vacation rental is not going to be a “get-rich-quick” opportunity. The most profitable vacation rental owners are patient and keep their focus on the long-term potential for profiting from their homes.

Do I have five extra hours a week to spare? That’s about how long it takes to manage your property during peak season—a job that involves answering inquiries, taking reservations, managing staff, and so forth.

Am I willing to do business on a week-by-week basis (rather than year-by-year)? Managing a vacation rental is nothing like being a full-time landlord. You won’t have tenants with year-long leases. In fact, for the most part, your guests will be gone in a week or so. Every week presents a new opportunity to be successful and impress new guests. You have to be ready to meet that challenge head-on.

Am I detail-oriented? You need to be, if you’re going to be a good vacation homeowner. Guests expect a certain level of quality. Be prepared to regularly visit your property to make sure your on-site staff is keeping it in excellent shape and to freshen it up as needed.

Can I follow a marketing plan? Fortunately, you don’t have to be a professional marketer to follow simple instructions. Just as fortunately, the days of old-school newspaper advertising are over. These days there are many easy ways to market your vacation rental property.

Am I responsive? You have to grab opportunities right away. Potential renters will more than likely inquire about more than one property, and in order to be the owner who closes the deal, you have to act like any great entrepreneur and be the first to return the call.

Am I personable? Building trust is a huge factor in the vacation rental industry. Making people comfortable when they are renting your home is a must.

Am I a good people manager? If you’re a long-distance vacation rental owner, you must be prepared to hire and manage a productive “staff”—which means housekeepers, lawn care people, plumbers, and so forth. Building a great staff and making sure they understand what you want to achieve with each guest will ease your anxiety and make your renting experience truly enjoyable.

Am I okay with managing from a distance? For many people, their vacation property is hours (and many miles) away from their primary residence. As long as you have the right on-site staff in place, it is easy to manage your vacation property from far away.

“Being a vacation rental property owner isn’t for everyone,” says Karpinski. “However, for many people, it’s a fantastic way to invest money, earn extra income, make new friends, and truly experience different parts of the country.”

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