The paperwork is signed, the money has changed hands, and you are now the proud and excited owner of a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Will you use your cabin as a second home or family vacation spot? Should you put the cabin on a vacation rental program to help cover those monthly expenses? You can also use it as a vacation rental.
Is your long term plan to use the cabin as a place to live when you retire? If so, using your cabin as a vacation rental until then can be a useful option to consider. If you and your family aren’t planning on visiting the cabin regularly why not place it with a professional management company that manages vacation rentals and help offset some of the cost of ownership? .
Once you’ve decided to use the cabin as a vacation rental, the next order of business is to select a reputable management company who can handle all of the details for you such as marketing, maintenance & repairs, security, cleaning and everything else that comes with having a vacation rental.
Renting a vacation rental yourself can be a major undertaking, especially if you live hundreds of miles away. Some things you’ll need to consider are how and where will you advertise, how are you going to handle reservations, who will clean the cabin when the previous guests have left? How about maintenance, trash pickup, lawn care and more. There’s a lot to think about when trying to rent the cabin yourself and though you may find one person who will be responsible for all maintenance and upkeep, you will still be the one who handles the income and outgoing expenses, not to mention all of the record keeping required for tax purposes (state and local governments are really starting to crack down on property owners who rent their properties and don't bother to collect and/or pay the required state and local taxes) and even complaints or bad reviews from your guests.
There are a few benefits for handling your vacation rental yourself such as you will have have full and complete control, you don’t give a percentage of the gross income generated by the cabin to anyone else. You will, however, be required to pay certain fees to some websites where you advertise, and many of the popular travel websites you se on TV or hear on the radio, they'll require a percentage of each rental you book through them and that can range from as little as 3% to 15% or more! They'll also charge a similar percentage to your guest as well.
Does it sound like an aggravating, confusing, and daunting task trying to handle all of this yourself all while trying to have a life of your own and spend time "away from work"?
There is the other option of signing on with a property management company.
If the cabin you purchased was already on a vacation rental program with a property management company, you may want to consider keeping your cabin with that company. If it wasn’t, call a few local property management companies and ask them to come look at your cabin, see if it fits their vacation rental paogram and if they can help you determine an approxiate annual income potential if you put it on their rental program.
When choosing a property management company, there are many things to consider. All property managements companies will require you to sign a contract. In the contract there will be provisions about what percentage of rental revenue goes to the management company and what's included for that percentage. How will you be charged for the linens and towels? Will you pay up front for those or will they deduct that cost ffrom the gross revenue? Is there a pre-set limit the property management company is allowed to spend for appliance repair or building repairs without having to get your specific approval before doing the repairs? Will you get a monthly or quarterly statement? How are the fees for credit cards handled? Do those come out of your percentage or theirs? Is there a basic monthly maintenance fee you’ll be responsible for? There's many, many things to consider. Carefully read over the contract and be sure to understand everything fully before signing. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You're the property owner and you need to keep yourself educated on things.
Signing with a property management company like Pioneer Vacation Rentals can take a lot of the weight of owning a vacation rental off your shoulders and there'll be a lot less frustration on your part when it comes to handling bookings, maintenance, complaints and the like. When you sign with a property management company, many days/weeks a year can you block out for yourself? How do they handle stays by your friends and family, do you need to call and set those up yourself or is there a way you can do it online or some other way? Will the property management company be giving away free stays for promotional purposes? If so, how many? A cabin owner needs to keep in mind when blocking out days or weeks for themselves or friends, those time periods will not be income earning so they more you, your family and friends stay in the cabin, that's all lost revenue you could have earned.
Anytie you want to block out days for yourself or friends, it’s always a good idea to stay away from peak seasons and holidays since those time periods can garner a higher rental rates and will potentially book faster and more often. In the Great Smoky Mountain National Park area, peak seasons are the summer months and the fall. In the fall, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect destination for viewing the changing fall foliage and cabin rentals are usually booked solid with rates adjusted slightly higher, as with holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. These times are not only financially beneficial to your property management team; they are also beneficial to you for generating income.
Another thing you need to remember is that even though you own the cabin, after your stay you will more than likely be required to pay the normal going rate for the cleaning fee. The cabin still has to be cleaned after your stay so it's clean and ready for your next guest. You'll also need to be aware that even you, the cabin owner, will need to honor the normal ‘check out’ time because there may be another guest coming in to stay the same day you leave.
Typically, the months of January, February, and March are very slow in terms of bookings, especially if you have a larger cabin. Most bookings may come from short weekend getaways instead of week-long stays and even then your cabin may go unrented for a month or two. So, how does your property management company handle the slow season? That would be a good question to ask. Do they run specials or discounts to help attract guests? What kind of winter marketing efforts do they normally use to help boost rentals?
All in all, having a property management team can help lead you to much success with your vacation rental.
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