Popular shows like HGTV's "Vacation House for Free" suggest you can own your dream vacation home by renovating and renting it out -- but it's not that easy.

The Insider's Guide to Renting Your Vacation Home

Free Rental Guide!

Learn what it takes to rent your vacation home and maximize your rental income.

Free Rental Guide!

Learn what it takes to rent your vacation home and maximize your rental income.

Don’t be misled by realtors, TV shows, or rental agents that stretch facts!

Popular shows like HGTV’s “Vacation House For Free” can lull viewers into thinking they can own their dream vacation home by buying, renovating, furnishing, and renting it out for part of the rental season and cover all the cost of home ownership.

Making a return on investment with a vacation home might be possible in some  cases, but buyer beware! As Cheatsheet.com explains, this is the exception, not the rule.

Renting a vacation home is a great way to offset the cost of ownership, but don’t plan on making a profit.

Gains in real estate ownership are more likely from long term appreciation and income tax reduction by writing off losses against other income.  Investors need to be well versed in complicated tax laws to know if the benefits of renting a vacation property if right for them.

If you decide that renting your vacation home is right for you, consider using a professional vacation rental management company. As Zillow points out, vacation rentals require a lot of work! Here’s just a few of the things on Zillow’s list you’ll need to do to succeed:

  • Take calls and respond to emails from interested parties
  • Market/advertise the property
  • Build and maintain a website
  • Draft leases
  • Process rent payments
  • Check in guests
  • Schedule routine cleaning and maintenance
  • Schedule gardening/landscaping services
  • Pay bills
  • Be available/responsive when emergencies arise

And that’s just for starters. Here’s a few of our own additions/amendments to the list:

  • Obtain a business license
  • Stay informed on local ordinances, governmental regulations, and rental restrictions
  • Collect and remit taxes
  • Maintain rental records and financial statements for state and federal tax filings
  • Manage social media and reviews
  • Maintain supplies of guest amenities
  • Check out guests
  • Provide guest services and answer questions
  • File accidental damage claims
  • Make sure your insurance coverage covers vacation renting! (Many if not most do not.)
  • Have procedures in place to rapidly respond to emergencies 24/7

Remember, TV shows like “Vacation House for Free” are entertainment. We love them, and they can provide valuable inspiration to aspire to your dreams. But before you dive into the vacation rental business, think twice about going it alone. Lest your dream become a nightmare, you might want to consider partnering with a professional vacation rental management company.

Alan Hammond
Alan R. Hammond is the founder and Managing Director of Holiday Vacation Rentals and Birchwood Property Management. He has served as a Director, Officer, and Treasurer of the Vacation Rental Managers Association (VRMA) and holds the Certificated Vacation Rental Manager (CVRM) designation. A recognized industry leader, Alan is featured in the book The Rental Game: Winning with a Professional Vacation Rental Team by Maureen Regan. Read more....
Jeremy Hammond
Jeremy Hammond loves the northern Michigan outdoors, and his hobbies include hiking, biking, exploring, and photography. He does technical stuff for Holiday Vacation Rentals like helping to ensure a great user experience on the website. He enjoys researching and writing and also contributes to the HVR blogs.

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The Insider's Guide to Renting Your Vacation Home

FREE Rental Guide!

Learn what it takes to rent your vacation home and maximize your rental income.