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

Budget Kitchen Makeover Tips

Kitchens can be expensive rooms to makeover, trust me, I’ve been there recently. So how do you makeover a kitchen on a budget? Is it even possible? The answer is, “it depends”. Let me walk you through some deciding factors as to how cheap or how expensive your kitchen makeover is going to be.

Kitchen makeover by Rustic Country Chic
Kitchen makeover – Rustic Country Chic

Does the Layout Work?

The first thing to ask yourself, and be careful how you answer as this could save you a LOT of money, is “Am I happy with the layout of the existing kitchen?” If you answered “yes” then congratulations! You just saved yourself a lot of money, mess and time!

If your existing kitchen layout does work for you, then you have a couple of options to save money:

  1. Paint the cabinets
  2. Reface the cabinets
  3. Redo the countertops

Paint Your Existing Cabinets

The cheapest way to makeover your kitchen on a budget is to paint your kitchen cabinets. Note, I didn’t say the “quickest” way or the “best” way, but definitely the cheapest way. Painting kitchen cabinets is not for the faint-hearted, or impatient (like me!) But it can look amazing with the right techniques, proper prep and care taken.

Painted kitchen cabinets - In My Own Style
Painted kitchen cabinets – In My Own Style

Check out some of these great tips from other bloggers:

Reface Your Existing Cabinets

If you don’t like the shape or design of the existing cabinet doors, or just don’t have the time or patience to paint them, then another budget friendly option for you would be to reface the cabinets with new doors. This is where you swap the old doors out for new, but keep the existing layout of the kitchen. Jenny from Refresh Living does a great job of talking you through the whole process from start to finish and the end result looks amazing!

Redo the Countertops

There are lots of ways to redo countertops. From painting them, to tiling them, replacing them with poured concrete, or the traditional way of replacing them for an upgraded material like granite or quartz. Hometalk does a great job of offering you 13 Ways to Transform Your Countertops Without Replacing Them. These are all great budget friendly options that cost just a few $100, however they will take more time and skill.

DIY marble countertop - Refresh Living
DIY marble countertop – Refresh Living

If you don’t mind splashing out, my recommendation would be to replace them for quartz if you can afford it. It’s hard wearing, stain resistant, scratch resistant and will last for years. To make it more affordable try looking for remnants that will fit your space, remnants can start as low as $40 per linear foot, so if you have a smaller kitchen it can really give the wow factor for around $1500-2500.

If the answer was “no” to “Am I happy with the layout of the existing kitchen?” then I’m sorry, read on…

Re-Purpose Old Cabinets

If you are lucky enough to know the source of your existing cabinets, then you could save money by re-purposing your existing cabinets and changing the layout of them, or adding more. You’ll have to do some investigation into what new stock cabinets you could buy to match your existing cabinets. However if you really can’t find any new ones that match, you could combine this option with the refacing option above, that way you could re-use the cabinet boxes (the frames without doors) and save some money by just buying new doors. Or even cheaper, re-purpose the existing doors, and new doors by adding trim over them so they match. Brooke from Cribbs Style did exactly that with her MDF kitchen doors, and the end result looks amazing. This is something I’ve also tried in our downstairs bathroom and can confidently say it’s cheap, quick and easy and the results are amazing!

Custom end panels on kitchen cabinets Thrifty Decor Chick
Custom end panels to existing kitchen cabinets – Thrifty Decor Chick

You can add smaller details to existing kitchen cabinets to make them look more custom too. Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick did an amazing job finishing the ends of her cabinets here and island here. With just a few pieces of wood and some paint, the end result looks so much better and more high-end.

Another way to get a high-end look with existing cabinets, is to extend the wall cabinets right the way to the ceiling. Lori from The Stonybrook House does a great job here showing you every step of her kitchen transformation. Laura from Inspiration for Moms also has a great tutorial for how to add height with trim here. This is a great way to achieve a high-end look from a budget kitchen makeover.

The Last Resort – New Kitchen Cabinets

If you’ve exhausted all options above, and you’re tired, busy, don’t know how to swing a hammer etc, then perhaps your only option is to get new kitchen cabinets, but it doesn’t have to cost $10,000’s. There are some tips for finding budget friendly kitchen cabinets, the first is to stay away from custom anything. The cheapest way to get new kitchen cabinets is to by stock cabinets. These are the ready-to-go cabinets from your local DIY store. The options are limited, and you may need to paint them yourself, but they will be cheaper than semi-custom or custom options.

IKEA Veddinge
IKEA Veddinge kitchen

A great place to find well-made cheaper kitchen cabinets is IKEA. They start out very affordably, and can run quite expensive, so to save money stick to the cheaper ranges like the Haggeby or the Veddinge but you can make them feel more expensive with quartz countertops, remnants of course, and upgraded handles. We’re actually going down this route ourselves currently in our new vacation rental property. We chose Oland White cabinets by Klearvue Cabinetry from Menards, which is very similar to the IKEA Veddinge, and upgraded it with white quartz countertops and modern pull handles. Follow our journey on Instagram to see the progress.

I hope this helped guide you through the daunting task of deciding which route to go down on your kitchen remodel. We’ve lived this decision process for the past couple of years with our own home kitchen remodel and now our vacation rental. And both times we opted for new cabinets, and new everything. For reference our vacation rental will cost around less than $5k all in. Even though it is a small space, there are ways to do a kitchen makeover on a budget with new cabinets by shopping around and saving in some places and splashing out in others.

Thanks for reading!

Jo

Please Pin It!

De-clutter and Restyle Your Home

Firstly I owe you an apology for my lateness. If there’s one thing you can be guaranteed of with me it’s that I take too much on, and I’m always late. I owed you Week 9 – De-clutter and Restyle of my Quarantine DIY Home Projects two weeks ago. I hope it’s worth the wait.

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have seen that my husband and I bought our first investment property at the end of July – The Hygge Suite. We couldn’t be happier! It’s a one bedroom condo on a beautiful lake in northern Minnesota, and more importantly, it’s the first step on a path to becoming real estate investors and not just homeowners. However it also came at the same time as my return to full time work, and the tail-end of finishing our bathroom renovation. So things have been a little hectic these past few weeks, as we realize every day how much STUFF you need to set up a vacation rental!

So I will apologize for the lateness of the final two installments of the Quarantine DIY Home Projects, but I’ll hopefully make up for it by bringing you more content on how we set up our vacation rental business and how we completed a full renovation of a tired northern cabin into a modern Scandinavian retreat. Deal!?

Great! Now we’ve got the grovelling out of the way, let’s take a look at this week’s Quarantine DIY Home Projects – De-clutter and Restyle. A pretty broad topic, but another low / zero cost way to instantly make your room feel and look better.

House Doctoring

If you’re reading this and you’re British, like me, you may remember a TV show back in the late 90’s early 00’s called House Doctor with Anne Maurice a Californian Real Estate Stylist. If you don’t, then you’ve definitely missed out on a huge piece of TV gold! The popularity of the show led to the terms “house doctoring”, “curb appeal” and “de-clutter” to be common household terms in British homes. Her mantra was to de-clutter, de-personalize, then add back in some tasteful personality that we know today as home staging. This show had a profound impact on me personally and ever since I’ve styled my homes in this way to make them more sale-able.

scandinavian room interior with mockup photo frame and vase
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Now I’m not going to make this article all about painting your walls off-white and removing all personal belongings. That might be great for selling your home, but what if you actually want to live there? Having personal belongings and trinkets out is a must to make a home feel like a home, but you can and should be careful about how many and what you place on display. But where to start? Here are some tips to get you going.

1. Tidy Up

A great many of us have now been working from home, or at least in our homes more than we’ve ever been before, and that means one thing – messiness! Even if you’re the tidiest person ever, I’m probably betting that you’ve created at least some more mess than usual. So a great place to start would be tidying up.

If you’re like me and find yourself walking around from room to room in a daze getting distracted and overwhelmed when trying to tidy, read this from Apartment Therapy on 3 Tidying-Up Tricks Everyone Needs to Know Right Now for some solid tidying up tips. (She says while grabbing her laundry basket for all the crap…)

2. Sort

While tidying, you may find things that you no longer need or want, so instead of putting them back on the shelf, toss them to one side to sell or donate. For this task, you’ll probably need to dig a little deeper than surface level mess. What about the dreaded junk drawer? Or (shudder) the closet? You could go all Marie Kondo and throw all your clothes onto the bed to sort through them, throwing any that don’t ‘spark joy’.

anonymous black girl lying on stack of clothes in bedroom
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

However if that prospect scares you (yes!!) then at least skim the closet and donate anything you haven’t worn for at least a year. The same rings true with home furnishings. Trends change, and don’t tend to come back into fashion for a number of years. So instead of hoarding old decor in the cupboard ‘just in case’, donate it or sell it. With all the money you make from selling them, you could invest in some new updated decor!

3. Re-purpose

Not everything that you don’t want anymore needs to be sold or donated. What about re-using? Or re-purposing? Maybe that antique mahogany table would look great painted white? Or the floral armchair re-covered in a clean crisp white linen? Get creative! There are literally thousands of DIY hacks out there to inspire you, just try searching Pinterest!

Image Courtesy of Kendra Dare Home

A great DIY hack, and also a great de-cluttering hack is this one from Kendra Dare Home about Nooks and Crannies. Here she re-purposed an old media cabinet to become a tasteful and practical storage cupboard for all her mud room needs, and added tonnes of personality in a seemingly unsuspecting corner of her home.

4. If in doubt… baskets

If you’re not a naturally tidy person (like me), then the answer every time is baskets! Baskets come in all shapes and sizes and are super stylish for an array of different interior styles from bohemian to farmhouse. Toss children’s toys and games in there, dog toys, newspapers, magazines, whatever you have lying around that constitutes clutter. With a basket you can least hide the clutter and make it look somewhat disguised.

For my pick of the best baskets on Amazon here are a few to choose from. Please Pin It!

  1. BlueMake Woven Seagrass Belly Basket
  2. Goodpick 2pack Jute Hanging Basket
  3. Storage Basket Felt Storage Bin Collapsible & Convenient Box Organizer
  4. Sweetzer & Orange Large Woven Cotton Rope Storage Basket
  5. Extra Large Woven Storage Basket
  6. Spectrum Diversified Vintage Extra Large Cabinet & Wall-Mounted Basket
  7. Large Woven Rope Basket
  8. LUFOFOX Cotton Woven Storage Baskets

Thanks for reading!

Jo

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