So you’ve been lucky enough to buy a vacation home. Congrats. It’s like a sweet gift to yourself, albeit one you have to keep paying for monthly. But then again, it’s a gift that could finance itself. All you need is some paying guests!
Reality check: You might need to do some work on the place first. So just how much should you invest in renovating your vacation home to get it ready for outsiders?
Check out these tips on how to turn your cozy getaway into one classy cash cow. (And if you’d like the chance to win a waterfront retreat in Florida that’s already been fabulously remodeled, use this link for a bonus entry to the HGTV Dream Home sweepstakes!)
Think like a guest
At the outset of a renovation, you always want to consider the cost versus value of various projects. It’s all about the return on investment! But what projects should be your focus? To figure that out, think like a guest.
Brian Morris, who owns Logan’s Retreat on 4 acres in Hocking Hills, OH, determines which features to add, remove, and adjust by staying at vacation rentals nearby. That way he discovers his own likes—such as large bedrooms, covered hot tubs, and extra propane tanks for the gas grill—and deep-seated dislikes.
“Consider how your guests will use and enjoy the property, and do everything possible to make their stay convenient,” Morris says. “That way you can plan your layout and amenities accordingly.”
For instance, you might gravitate toward replacing the garage door, which recoups 91.5% of its cost if the home is sold within a year, according to a 2016 report by Remodeling magazine. However, if you’re also hoping to charge higher nightly rates, consider renovating the family room instead, which will return slightly less when you sell—67.9% of its cost—but will allow you to price your property higher on the rental market.
Maintain curb appeal
Aesthetics count, big time. “Curb appeal is still one of the most important factors,” says Cedric Viquerat, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker in Lakewood Ranch, FL. You want your guests to fall in love with your place at first sight—that will color their subsequent impressions.
But you don’t need to spend a ton of cash on the exterior: “A fresh coat of paint is always a winner as an economical way of sprucing up the house,” Viquerat says. Still, if your siding is looking a little dodgy, consider a replacement—either engineered, vinyl, or fiber-cement, all of which recoup more than 73% of their cost.
If you feel like spending a bit more, consider installing manufactured stone veneer. At an average cost of $7,519, it’s pricier than siding—but recoups a staggering 92.9% of its cost ($6,988). And it lasts.
Replace, don’t remodel
If you’re unsure whether you plan to keep your vacation home in the family or rent it out, but you still want to spruce it up, skip the elaborate remodel and focus on simple substitutions. Replacements recoup an average of 61.5% of your investment, whereas remodels return just 57.3%, with the highest returns coming from swapping in new windows and doors.
Focus on the bedrooms and bathrooms
If hosting guests is the plan, Heather Bayer—the creator of Cottage Blogger, a resource for vacation home owners—recommends prioritizing bathrooms and bedrooms.
“That’s a major draw for people to convert from being a looker on a website to a booker,” Bayer says. “Bedrooms on vacation are critical. After all, people are there to relax.”
Unfortunately, neither kitchens nor bathrooms recoup much of their value—a midrange bathroom remodel costs $17,908 on average, but it returns only $11,769 (65.7%). But these can have a big impact on the bottom line of your vacation rental business, so as long as you don’t plan on selling soon, they can be an excellent investment.
Pay attention to the small things
Guests cared less about the details 10 years ago. That was before the explosion of rental options from sites such as VRBO, Airbnb, or HomeAway that would-be renters can scrutinize online before committing. So meticulousness is a big selling point.
“There’s so much choice now,” says Bayer. “So people are very quick to turn something down flat if it doesn’t look great on a photograph or a listing.”
Owning a vacation home requires an eye for the small things such as baseboard scuffs, small window cracks, and torn carpeting. Get ahead of the game by scoping out these areas beforehand to determine which small changes have the biggest impact—like switching carpeting for easy-to-maintain (not to mention classy and nonallergenic) hardwood flooring, which will increase your resale value and please potential guests.
Posted by Jamie Wiebe on realtor.com