Home, Sweet Vacation Home: Yes, You Can Own One—Even If You’re Not Rich
By Christine Karpinski
Teacher, Author and Speaker Specializing in Renting Vacation Properties "By Owner" 770-592-7860 Christine@HowToRentByOwner.com How To Rent Vacation Homes By Owner
Woodstock, GA (November 2004)—You’ve always dreamed of owning a vacation home. After all, real estate is a smart investment, and what investment could be better than one that lets you spend several weeks a year in your own little slice of heaven? Problem is, you fear getting in over your head. You are hardly wealthy, so your first concern is cost. You know that many vacation homeowners pay for their properties by renting them, but the details seem daunting. How would you find renters? Deal with damages? Clean the home from 200 miles away?
Don’t give up your dream yet, urges Christine Hrib Karpinski, author of the book How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment (Kinney Pollack Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-9748249-0-9, $26.00). Vacation homes are no longer just for the wealthy—and if you cut out the “middleman” property management companies, you’ll not only break even on your mortgage but make a tidy profit.
Her book, which reads like a friendly chat over coffee with a friend who’s “been there and done that,” will inspire even the most nervous reader to take the leap. Packed with tips, techniques, and suggestions from successful vacation home owners, it covers subjects that run the gamut from financing options to advertising for quick results to avoiding “bad apple” renters. Here are just a few examples:
Aim for the magic “17 weeks.”
If your monthly mortgage payment is less than or equal to one peak week rental, and you rent approximately 17 weeks per year, you will break even on the cost of your property. Usually there are 12 peak weeks in a rental year. So if you rent these 12 weeks, you will have enough revenue to pay your mortgage payments for the entire year. Other costs, including bills for your phone, power, cable, and association dues, are paid by your earnings from approximately five off-week rentals.
- Talking to renters yourself is “damage insurance.”
The obvious reason to cut out the middleman is, of course, money. But the other reason, says Karpinski, is that you get to control “who” rents your vacation home—an informal brand of “damage insurance.” “I like to talk to each renter,” she says. “I am friendly and personable, and let the renters know that they are renting my second home. By establishing this relationship, the renters have now transcended from customer to ‘friend.’ If you stay in a hotel and spill coffee on the carpet, what do you do? But if you rent a ‘friend’s’ place, how differently would you handle that spilled coffee? My renters take care of my unit.”
- To find renters, rely on the Internet.
“There are hundreds of websites that are devoted to listing vacation property renting by owner,” says Karpinski. “They are pretty inexpensive to list your property—only around $150/year. I guess you can say it’s like a classified ad that you take out on the Internet. I have found listing on three to five sites to be 100 percent effective in renting my places.”
- When writing your description, certain words get results.
Karpinski offers a list of her favorite vacation property descriptors to include in ads. Examples are clean, peaceful, romantic, spacious, classic, cozy, private, inviting, rustic, warm, secure/security, and well-appointed. “You’ll notice that beautiful, nice, spectacular, and magnificent were not on my list,” she points out. “These words are so overused—especially in titles—that they just don’t have impact. Use them sparingly.”
- Consider accepting pets.
Vacation properties that accept pets increase their occupancy by 10 to 50 percent. It’s also a great way to increase off-season rentals. When you accept pets, it’s okay to take an additional $20 to $25/night or $140 to $175/week. That’s enough money to get the carpet cleaned each time, or rent eight to ten weeks and you have enough money to replace the carpeting! And the best part is this: if people have a dog that they want to take with them, chances are excellent that it is not the kind of dog that causes a lot of problems—otherwise, they would have spent the “pet fee” to board him.
- With a little creative thinking, good help isn’t that hard to find!
You will almost certainly need to hire a cleaning service for your vacation property. Here are two suggestions: 1) Visit your property on a weekend and go outside when most renters are checking out. Your neighbors probably have a cleaning service. Talk to them and see if they want to pick up a side job. (You can stagger your check-out time so they can clean both.) 2) Another good resource for housekeepers is your local church. Sometimes a pastor will know of someone who is looking for extra work. It pays to be resourceful.
These tips are just a small sampling of the wealth of advice found in How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner. It also offers appendices of forms, template documents, lists of recommended websites, partner companies, and more.
Karpinski also offers a companion book, The Vacation Rental Organizer. This 144-page double-O bound organizer helps vacation property owners track their bookings, manage guest information and phone numbers, log expenses and organize receipts, and keep track of important phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
Of course, Karpinski admits, renting by owner isn’t for everyone. There are risks, but that’s true of every new endeavor. And along with the risks comes learning experiences, personal growth, new friendships, and yes, financial rewards.
“I recently saw a statistic that said the average annual income of second home buyers is $80,000” she says. “That’s pretty solidly middle class. So if you’re concerned that you don’t have the resources to realize your dream, put that worry aside. Where there’s a will, there’s usually a way. My goal is to arm you with the information you need to determine whether vacation ownership is right for you. I enjoy it so much that I’ve made a career out of it. If I can do that, you can buy that beach house or ski slope condo or mountain cabin, pay your mortgage with ease, and maybe even make a decent profit in the bargain.”
About the Author:
Christine Hrib Karpinski’s first and most important job is as a stay-at-home mom. She fell into teaching about vacation properties only by chance. Realizing that there was no way she could afford to buy a vacation home using a management company, she started “renting by owner.” Not only was she successful, others wanted to know how to do it too. She started writing a column in Gulf Coast Condo Owner Magazine. From there, the rest, as they say, is history. Today she's the most respected voice of vacation property investing. She’s been featured on CNNfn, CBS Marketwatch Radio, Good Day Sacramento, MSNBC TV, RealtyTimes.com , Bankrate.com, Kiplinger’s Magazine, The Chicago Tribune and many others
When she’s not teaching or taking care of her family, you’ll find Christine in a pottery studio creating with her hands, singing in her church choir, or relaxing on the beach in Destin, Florida. She currently resides in Woodstock, Georgia, with her husband, Tom, son, Zachary, and two Nova Scotia Duck Tollers, Trumpet and Piccolo.
About the Book:
How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner: The Complete Guide to Buy, Manage, Furnish, Rent, Maintain and Advertise Your Vacation Rental Investment (Kinney Pollack Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-9748249-0-9, $26.00) The Vacation Rental Organizer ((Kinney Pollack Press, 2004, ISBN: 0-9748249-1-7, $19.00) is available at bookstores nationwide and all major online booksellers, or directly from Christine's web site: www.HowToRentByOwner.com
US Vacation Real Estate Directory
Many states now have real estate agents that will represent you, while the selling agent represents the seller. You can have your own agent working in your interest.
A full time real estate agent in a vacation area knows what's on the market and what's new every day. If you've always wanted your own getaway in your favorite destination, click on the state of your choice and find a Realtor who'll work for you.
When selling your vacation property, one of the most important features in this market is the Real Estate agency's web presence. Most vacation properties nowadays are first located on the internet.
We hand pick most of the companies and invite them to list on our site. Through the links below, you'll generally find real estate companies with extensive internet marketing networks.