This may seem trite or simple, but it is the most important question. It must be well thought out, to be well answered. Do not think that any renter, no matter how well-screened or well-intentioned they may be, will appreciate or respect your home the way you, your family, or your friends will. They won’t. Unless they have rental properties of their own, their most common reference for renting rooms is at hotels or resorts owned by large corporations like Marriott, Sandals, or Holiday Inn.
Lamps, bedspreads and tables are all expense lines on a balance sheet, depreciated for tax purposes by the company’s accounting departments. Chipped china, stained sofas and broken coffee makers are all “part of the carefree vacation experience” that the wealthy hotel corporation has built into their profit margin. You will have a personal property to maintain, with your property management company’s help.
2. Harden your house.
Think like a hotelier. Understand that while guests are away from their own homes, they will abandon some disciplines of behavior. They may accidentally damage or destroy goods on premise, out of neglect or unfamiliarity. Make the rooms and the house itself as inviting, comfortable, and functional as the rental market standards demand, but safeguard your personal extras and luxuries. Tile floors are sturdier than wood, wood floors are sturdier than carpet. Limit or eliminate decorating accessories.
Have a personal set of bedspreads, china, flatware, and glassware you use only for yourself, in addition to those supplied for guests. Load your owner’s closet with what makes your house special for when are staying there, the things that make your beach house a home.
Simplify and standardize your furnishings for when you are not there. Utilize heavy duty, pleasant, and easily replaceable tableware, glassware, and flatware. Choose styles that you know will be in stock for years to come, so you can easily replace what gets chipped, bent, or broken from rental use.
3. Live in your house as often as you can during low seasons.
All houses need constant maintenance, and no inspector or cleaner can ever identify all of the nuances of each house included in their portfolios. Even the best maintenance managers can’t locate all the issues that need attention, because only intimate, familiar, and regular contact with a home can provide that.
Renters will often overlook, or decided not to note and reports, any issues discovered during their stay. Maybe it doesn’t bother them, or they don’t want to raise an alarm because of security deposit issues. Maybe the just don’t want to deal with waiting for repairmen to arrive and interrupt their vacation time.
The final maintenance management of your home must truly be your own. No one knows what you want your home to be like as well as you do.
4. Secure the private areas of your home.
Secure your private areas, like liquor cabinets, owner’s closets, and storage areas as completely as you can. Deadbolt locks should be installed on all storage doors. If hinges are visible from the common areas guests can access, put two dead bolt locks on each side of the door.
When people are clustered and carrying-on together, group-think and curiosity lead to some poorly-considered decisions.
Help them not to be led astray and take temptation out of the mix with carefully planned security and impenetrable locks.
5. Help your guests to enjoy your house and the area the way you do.
Label the electrical light switches. Leave them directions to easily walk to the beach or bay. Prepare a booklet or notebook of your favorite “things to do,” restaurants, retail stores, adventure activities they can access, and provide contact information and rates if possible. Help them feel like a local, share with them your insider knowledge and secret tips. Help them develop a personal connection to your specific home.
This loyalty will reward you with future renewals and more frequent returns throughout the year.
6. Keep your home current and comfortable.
Make sure that your simple, industrial-strength amenities are sufficient in numbers to accommodate all the guests in your house like it was filled to maximum potential. If you list it as sleeping 12, you have to have it supplied to seat and feed 12.
But also make sure that the furnishings are comfortable and quality, and that they go together in a way that makes sense. There is so much interior decor information out there that putting together a vacation home that suits your sensibilities should not be difficult. You don’t want it to look thrown together.
And never underestimate the power of a good mattress and fluffy pillow for ensuring repeat renters!
7. Prepare for hurricane service yourself, too.
Hurricanes and tropical storms will come… and usually at the worst time. It seems like it’s always when your home is full of renters, and you are hours away from being on-premise and hands-on.
Your rental management company will do all they can to “storm proof” your home, but many times they will not have enough time or manpower to prep it the way you would. Work with your management company to find alternative local providers with whom you can work in advance to develop a comprehensive plan to execute when the inevitable storm comes. Make sure that alternative local person is competent, comfortable, and familiar with your home to defend it the way you would.
8. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, and enjoy the house for the reason you bought it!
Odds are pretty good that if you harden your house, simplify its decorations, and plan for the worst, the best of times will remain for you when the Island empties out. With proper preparation, you can enjoy the spectacular preserve of nature and solace that is St. George Island. Make sure you take advantage of it!