So you’ve just purchased a 2nd home/condo on Hilton Head Island that you are looking to rent on the weekly vacation rental market. If you are looking to maximize rentals, there are a few tricks of the trade that you can do to gain as many rentals as possible while leaving some time for you to visit as well.
1.) Choose a Rental Company Wisely- Remember that renting your property is a business and every rental company is not created equally. Start by choosing a company that genuinely seems excited about managing your property. If they are not excited, chances are they won’t be able to maximize rentals on your behalf. If they initially provide you with a rental proforma, make sure you are clear on whether that represents what you can expect the first year or its highest potential. Do you know what % will be paid back to the rental company? What can you expect to pay in cleaning fees? Does the rental company deal with reliable repair vendors in case something is broken? Does the rental company require you to secure a certain level of homeowner’s insurance?
These are just a few of the common items that are not always made clear in the rental agreement. The more questions you ask on the front end, the less problems you will have once your property is on the rental market.
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2.) Communicate with your Rental Company- As with any good relationship communication is key. For example if you want to make use of your own rental for a week or more, consult with the rental company first to see whether they think it could rent to someone else. Ultimately it is your decision but knowing that 4th of July and other weeks normally sell out may help you shape your travel plans. Also some owners see their property vacant on the rental website and plan a last minute trip without letting the rental company know, only to show up and find someone sleeping in their bed.
3.) Trust your Rental Company- If you have taken the time to interview a number of rental companies prior to signing with one, trust that they are giving you advice to maximize your rentals. It may be worth replacing an old heating and air conditioning unit to save on energy costs or fixing a jetted tub that guests would enjoy using.
Sometimes upgrades to the rental may also be needed to not only make things function but to set it apart from other properties. These days most people book online and you really need the pictures to pop in order to get the highest number of bookings. Maybe everything could use a fresh coat of paint or replacing the countertops and/or appliances is in order, but other times all that is needed is a general makeover of the décor with new artwork, lamps, bedding and accessories.
4.) Find the Snowbirds- Hilton Head Island’s prime rental season is from
Memorial Day to Labor Day with a lesser extent the spring and fall seasons. The trick to getting the highest gross rentals numbers is to build up the shoulder season. Snowbirds are renters that are looking for a month or longer stay over the winter season. We are seeing more and more Canadians that look to rent for 4-5 months giving the owner peace of mind that their property is rented consistently during the slowest season and to save on weekly cleaning costs.
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5.) Keep It Clean- When interviewing rental companies make sure they are happy with the cleaning companies they use. Besides determining what they will charge you for each weekly clean, make sure you are clear on what you can expect and whether an annual deep clean is recommended. With guests wanting late check-outs and early check-ins the cleaners have very little time to get the place spic-and-span. The rental company may ask each guest to start a load in the dishwasher, but you can do your part by purchasing quilts or comforters with duvet covers since they can be washed while the rest of the unit is being cleaned.
6.) Pet Friendly- A popular segment of the vacation rental market these days are pet friendly rentals. If you have a home or condo that allows pets for renters you may want to consider promoting this distinction. You can consult with your rental company to see if they take a pet deposit or whether they would recommend size or weight limits for certain animals.
7.) Repeat Business- Every successful business can benefit from repeat customers and this is especially true for vacation rentals. Guests like the familiarity of a rental they are comfortable with and know has everything they need. You would be surprised how repeat business can lead to new business through referrals. The old adage applies that it is easier to keep a customer happy than to try and find a new one.
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8.) Positive Reviews- Many vacation rental companies or travel sites now have an area for guests to leave their comments. This may not make or break your rentals as compared to other industries where reviews are more widely used, but this is definitely something to pay attention to. One bad comment can live in cyber space indefinitely so making sure you and your rental company are doing everything possible to keep the guest happy is very important.
9.) Get In The Game- Through the popularity of vacation rental sites like VRBO.com or HomeAway.com many owners are finding success renting their properties on their own or at least in conjunction with a local rental company. If you do have some extra time on your hands this may be worth it as most rental companies will provide a sizeable discount of their percentage if you bring the rental.
10.) Personal Touches- The devil is always in the details so take pride in your home even if it is a second home. Adding personal touches like a sign-in book will let guests know that you welcome their comments (outside of the internet) and it reminds them that it’s someone else’s property so hopefully they will take care of it like their own home. Other tips would be to have a welcome book listing local restaurants and other area attractions.
The idea with most vacation homes is to maximize rentals when not in use by the owner. Over the years your vacation rental income can offset a number of expenses of home ownership while the property appreciates. When you go to sell, your rental company can let interested buyers know the success of your rental achievements helping to make your property that much more desired.
Hilton Head Island and the surrounding Lowcountry are a popular vacation destination with some of the most sought after beaches in the country. Why not take the plunge into 2nd home ownership and begin 2014 building lasting family memories as well as financial gains.
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