Vacation Rental Business – 6 Tips For Success

If you’ve wondered why I’ve been quiet the past few months, it’s because we’ve been busy: buying, renovating and setting up a brand new vacation rental business – The Hygge Suite. It’s been a dream of mine to get into property investment for a long time, and ironically we chose 2020, the year of COVID and chaos, to jump in. 

There’s a lot to learn in setting up a business of any type, including setting up a vacation rental business. We wanted to share what we learned in setting up our first vacation rental to help you by avoiding the same pitfalls. 

The Hygge Suite after renovation - our vacation rental business
The Hygge Suite – Our First Vacation Rental

1. Don’t underestimate how much stuff you’ll need to buy

After multiple IKEA trips and carefully stacked truck bed of stuff, it felt like we were students again, moving to university for the first time. We bought a fully furnished vacation rental, complete with furniture, knives, cork screws, and door mats. But that didn’t mean any of it was worth keeping.

It depends on the standard you want to set for your guests, and where you want to be positioned in the market. If you want to offer a budget bed for the night, then buying an existing vacation rental that’s a few years old and using the equipment it came with will probably be fine. However if you want to create a higher-end experience to generate more rental income, you’ll need to assess the condition of the existing items and take a call on whether you need to buy new.

The Hygge Suite before renovation
The Hygge Suite BEFORE Renovations

The place we bought had been a vacation rental since the 90’s and I don’t think much had been updated since then. We wanted to create a higher-end rental that would stand out, so we ended up replacing everything, even the cork screw!

2. Careful planning

If you’re buying a vacation rental in a remote place, or even one that’s not familiar to you, this will create some challenges. We bought our vacation rental in Northern Minnesota on a ski resort, with very few stores locally, and a three hour drive from the city where we live. We quickly found out that this required a lot of pre-planning. Add to that the challenges of COVID and it creates a project management nightmare. 

I highly recommend creating a project plan up front, and if you’re doing the work yourself, you’ll need to plan it down to every last detail. You don’t want to be running to the hardware store every five minutes buying that tool that you left at home. Not only does it waste time, but it also wastes money. Which brings me into my next learning tip – return on investment.

Look out for a blog in the near future on Project Planning.

3. Think like a business owner

Unless you’re buying your vacation home primarily for yourself and don’t care about the profit you make on it, you need to treat every decision you make as a business decision, i.e. what’s the return on investment. 

This means you need to save money wherever you can without jeopardizing the overall look you’re trying to achieve. It’s important to understand the market you’re in and the standard of decor and amenities that’s expected. If you’re trying to match the market and everyone around you has laminate countertops, then maybe you don’t need to splash out on quartz. But if you’re trying to appeal to a more premium market, and stand out from the competition then maybe quartz would help with that.

Quartz countertops at The Hygge Suite - our vacation rental business
Quartz Countertops at The Hygge Suite

There’s also the maintenance aspect. Quartz will likely outlast a laminate countertop as it’s scratch resistant, stain resistant and hardwearing. So you need to factor in the total cost of ownership, i.e. the upfront cost vs the replacement cost, and how long it will last. 

Some questions to consider when making decisions about your rental are:

  • How many nights does that take to earn back?
  • Can I charge more for having this feature / amenity / upgrade?
  • Does this need to be purchased new or can I buy this second hand and save some money?
  • Will I be upset if this gets damaged?
  • How often will I have to replace this?
  • Is this something that only I want? Or that guests would enjoy too?

4. Utilize smart technology

Being remote hosts, we explored ways to manage the property remotely. One thing we did invest in was a Nest thermostat, allowing us to control the temperature of the condo from anywhere, therefore saving money. This came down to the ROI decision I was talking about. We didn’t need to change the thermostat, the old one was working perfectly fine. The $250 it cost to buy though, plus the $100 rebate from our electricity provider, and the money it will save us from turning off the HVAC when we are not at the property, means it will pay itself back within the year easily. 

We also upgraded all the smoke detectors in the condo to Nest smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Not only is it required by local code, but having these detectors in every room with remote capabilities gives us peace of mind to know what’s happening at our remote rental in case of emergency.

Nest thermostat
Nest Thermostat – Image Courtesy of Google Store

Another thing we considered was an August smart lock. This is a remote door lock that you can change the code from anywhere, and costs about $200 to buy. We decided not to go for one, even though we love the functionality. We already have a keypad lock on our door that is easily changed by our cleaning staff each time they clean. It only takes them about a minute, so doesn’t cost us anymore in cleaning fees. So for now at least, the investment doesn’t seem worth it. We’d love to hear from more experienced hosts though to see if you think differently!

5. Try it out yourself

Something we learned from the Thanks For Visiting podcast was to try out the rental yourself before renting it to others. Even though we’d been living there through the renovations, I’d still recommend this as a great idea. Live a day in the shoes of your guests. Can you reach all the glassware? Is it easy to find the trash can liners? Do you have enough space for all your clothes? It’s the little details that count, and having a small detail not considered can mean the difference in a good vs a bad review. Even better, have some honest friends stay at your place before you launch it to the general public. That way you get someone’s fresh eyes on it that you may not have considered.

woman reaching for something from a high shelf

6. Invest in marketing

Another thing we learned is that even if you buy an existing vacation rental business, you’re really starting from scratch in terms of marketing. The first year is probably going to be the hardest year in terms of raising awareness of the rental, and getting people to book a property with zero reviews. We listed on Airbnb and VRBO, because the research we did via AirDNA told us that 50% of guests booked through each platform in our particular location. And that’s great, but you can’t rely solely on these platforms to get your listing seen. 

I’d recommend you set up your listing on Google Business, Facebook and Instagram, and get your own website as a minimum. That way you can control your own destiny. Don’t be shy to talk about your listing on your own personal accounts to friends and family too. Word of mouth is a powerful (and free) tool that can help get your listing noticed and talked about in a potential pool of guests. 

You may have to spend some money on getting noticed though – make sure you have a marketing budget. Facebook and Instagram have easy to use ad tools where you can quickly and easily set up a paid ad for a few dollars that can potentially reach thousands of potential guests. Same goes for Google AdWords too. Research keywords, start testing, and see what works.

Look out for a blog in the near future on Marketing Your Vacation Rental.

Our vacation rental business journey

We’re only two weeks into our vacation rental business journey. Our listing The Hygge Suite went live to our first guests last weekend. We bought the condo 3 1/2 months ago, and since that time it’s been a wild ride. From living like students again, camped out on an air mattress for weeks. To having to adapt our designs due to availability issues with products caused by the pandemic. One thing for sure is that we’ve learned a lot, and we’re sure there’s still so much more to learn. 

Are you interested in setting up your own vacation rental business? Or listing that spare room on Airbnb? Or maybe you just did? If so, We’d love to hear about it, and what you’ve learned, or have questions about. Message us, or comment below. 

Thanks for reading!

Jo & Harv

@britflipper @thehyggesuite

10 Best Boho Lights Under $500

Summer doesn’t have to be over just yet. Adding a Boho style light can extend the feeling of long summer days well into the winter months. Check out my pick of the 10 best Boho lights.

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Under $50

For a cheap and easy update, try this plug-in rope light from Amazon at just $12.99 for a 15ft length or $27.99 for a 27ft one. Pair with a vintage bulb and no shade for an industrial take on the Boho style (bulb not included).

If you prefer to have a shade, try this seagrass shade from Overstock for $59.49, you could even pair it with the plug-in rope light from Amazon above.

Under $150

The IKEA Sinnerlig shade is probably one of the most popular bamboo shades out there, and for good reason. It’s large bold design for only $69.99 is a powerful statement piece at a very affordable cost.

This hard-wired beaded pendant light from Safavieh creates a stunning focal point. Try hanging it over a dining table or kitchen island for full effect. It’s available from Amazon at just $132.48, RRP is $401, so hurry while stocks last.

For a more impressive statement shade, this seagrass pendant shade from World Market can be paired with a plug-in pendant light to create instant impact for little effort. It’s available for $129.99.

Under $250

For a more premium alternative to the plug-in rope light, this on-trend macrame plug-in pendant light from Anchor Stitch is an impactful and unique way to add Boho chic to any room. Available for $190 on Etsy complete with oversized bulb, they would look great paired either side of a bed.

This hard-wired wicker chandelier from Amazon looks great above a kitchen island in pairs, or in a set of three if you have the space. The chain can be adjusted to suit the length you want to a maximum of 30″. At $245 it’s worth the spend.

For a more modern Boho feel, the Cabo small woven pendant light from Crate & Barrel is a great option. It’s a hard-wired option with an extra long cord of 108″ and is available for $249.

Under $500

If you really want to splash out the Cambria rattan pendant from Pottery Barn is a stunning option. It’s a hard-wired pendant crafted of rattan and abaca rope with an iron chain and a clear cord. At $499, it’s not cheap, but it would certainly make an impact.

For a versatile option that can be used indoors or outdoors, this Pacifica Outdoor Pendant from Serena & Lilly comes in two colors Harbor Grey or Driftwood (pictured here). It’s made of a powdercoated steel frame and weather-friendly wicker for a durable finish and is on sale now at $498 (RRP $548).

I hope you enjoyed reading this round up of the 10 Best Boho lights, if you’d like more inspiration on Boho style, check out this blog for 5 Styling Secrets For A Boho Outdoor Space.

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Jo

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Going AWOL

I always like the give my blog posts a purpose and value for the reader. This post isn’t going to be about interior trend recommendations, or nifty DIY tips. It’s not going to be a search engine optimized blog post, with a healthy dose of Pinterest Pins to accompany the traffic driving techniques. Instead it’s a status update and a state of mind address, and a moment for you to pause and think about what you really need right now.

We’ve been busy living a double life for the past couple of months. Spending half our time in the Twin Cities working from home and barely scratching the surface of everything that needs doing in a 3000+ sqft house. And the other half of our time has been spent in Northern Minnesota renovating a small condo ready to turn it into our first investment property. A dream come true for me.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to invest in property, whether renovating and converting warehouses into loft style apartments, or owning a farmstead barn wedding business slash livery yard slash tea room slash farm shop slash B&B… (Dreaming up ideas has never been one of my weaknesses!) I’ve known this has been my passion and my calling for a long time. This July, during the middle of a global pandemic, financial crisis and while being temporary laid off from my job, we did it. We bought our first investment property.

Life has understandably gotten a bit hectic as of late. And we’re doing all we can to keep on top of it, and even enjoy it. But it’s also important to realize what you must drop in times like these and give yourself some grace. For me that was blogging (and fitness unfortunately).

I’m an impatient and highly goal driven person, and when I set myself goals in my blogging business and real estate business I want to achieve them, yesterday. But sometimes you need to realize that you can’t do it all at once and sometimes you need to slow down and focus, and not feel guilty doing it. For me right now, it’s doing a good job at work and getting our real estate business off the ground successfully. The rest needs to take a back seat, for a little while anyway.

Whatever you’re facing at the moment, whether that be struggles trying to juggle childcare, home schooling and a full time job. Struggles staying social and engaged with others on a multitude of Zoom calls. We’re all facing struggles of some sort, and it’s important to give yourself some grace and go AWOL on a few things to lessen the load.

Image courtesy of four4soaring.com

Having a property up North to escape to for us has been a blessing in disguise. It’s been the change of scenery we needed in the monotony of emails, Zooms, Facetimes and conversations with out pets, that we now call “WFH – working from home”. While renovating our investment property, we may be living like students with paper plates, camping chairs and an air mattress, but sometimes simplifying your life can be liberating and make you realize that you don’t need all the things you thought you needed. Taking a moment to slow down once in a while, look around you, and appreciate the here and now can be just what you need.

The view right outside our investment property – not a bad workplace location!

How can you simplify your life? What can you go AWOL on for a while? What do you need right now? Comment below, I’d love to know.

Thanks for reading.

Jo