Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rent that second home now! Beat the spring rush!

If your vacation home has become a white elephant, consider renting it out, at least part of the time, and it can become a cash cow.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com
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Deadline Newsroom - If you are sitting on a rarely used vacation home and the economy is closing in on you, maybe you should open the door to that second home and turn it into a vacation rental.

Many second home owners who use their extra property only as a personal getaway often avoid renting it out because of misconceptions or fears about the business of vacation home renting, says Christine Karpinski, Director of Owner Community for, online vacation home rental marketplace.

Karpinski, also 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" (Kinney Pollack Press, $26.00), says the recession is the perfect time to turn a vacation bungalow into a bundle.

And setting up the deal right now, before the spring and summer travel rush, will position you ahead of the pack.

"Money's tight for everyone and second homeowners are no exception. Perhaps you've lost your job. Or your retirement portfolio is in shambles. Or things are okay now, but having that extra mortgage payment in this economy just makes you nervous. At any rate, it's looking like you're going to have to sell that beach house or mountain cabin you and your family love so much. But don't start the grieving process just yet," advises Karpinski.

"There is a way to enjoy your vacation home and profit from it, too: Rent it out!"

She says rent out your property only 17 weeks out of the year and the revenue you typically can collect can pay your annual mortgage costs plus all other associated rental bills. Rent it more often than that -- a surprisingly easy task for most homeowners -- and you could find yourself well out of the red and into the black.

If the task appears daunting, chillax. Most worries never materialize.

For a dose of vaction rental myth busting, here are some concerns second home owners fear about renting and the reality vacation rental owners experience.

Myth: Renters will constantly trash your property.

Whether they find you online or go through a property manager, most vacationers understand that they're guests in a private home and are more likely to treat it with more respect than they would a commercial hotel room. Also, when you rent by owner, you get to choose who stays and who doesn't.

Myth: You'll be on your own handling a business you don't know.

You can always hire a property manager to oversee your property and its upkeep. also offers the Owner Community of tips and advice for smooth operations. Articles, weekly podcasts, webinars, industry news, sample forms and checklists keep you in the know.

Myth: It is too difficult and pricey to get the word out about your property.

Sign on with a reputable listing site to get guests to beat a path to your vacation rental's door. From about $169 and $550 a year you can rent on a host of portals.

"Most listing websites are worth their weight in gold," says Karpinski.

"They tend to be inexpensive, and if you carefully craft your listing, you may find this is all the marketing you need to do. Just remember: There is no advertising more effective than word-of-mouth. Give your guests a great experience, and they'll spread the word," said Karpinski.

Myth: Property upkeep will be a nightmare.

One of the most consistent excuses from non-renters is that the homeowners don't want to be woken up in the middle of the night because their renters are locked out or because a toilet has overflowed. This problem can be solved by simply putting a good plan in place and by hiring the right maintenance and cleaning people in the city or town where your property is located.

Ask around town for recommendations. Don't forget to inquire about negative experiences to weed out the weeds. Once you have hired your staff, have a friend or family member stay at the property and evaluate the level of care they receive. Provide your renters with clear instructions on what to do in trying situations and you can avoid most calls of this nature.

Myth: It is too time consuming.

The bulk of your time is spent up-front, setting up your rent-by-owner business. After that (except for time spent doing your banking and bookkeeping, of course), your work usually consists of a phone call or two and a couple of e-mails per guest to make sure everyone has the information they need.

"Even at your busiest, you most likely will need to spend only about an hour fielding inquiries and making arrangements," says Karpinski.

"If that still sounds like too much time, just think about what your return-on-investment will be. One inquiry call could turn into a $2,000 opportunity, and when you have that check in your hand, you'll likely think of that as time well spent," she added.

Myth: You'll never be able to enjoy your home yourself.

There is no requirement on how frequently you have to advertise your property as "available." You can rent out your home during peak season and enjoy it yourself in the off-season. You can live in it during the winter and rent it out in the summer. Or you can reserve a few weeks out of the year for your own use and rent it out the rest of the time. It's all up to you.

Remodel now! Beat the spring rush!
Sell now! Beat the spring rush!
Buy now! Beat the spring rush!

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Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist, parlayed 30 years of old-school journalism into a digital real estate news service, the San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews Group -- DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service and Web site and the Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's news back shop. Perkins is also a National Real Estate Examiner. All the news that really hits home from three locations -- that's location, location, location!

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