Investing in Vacation Rental Properties: What You Need to Know

Published on
June 22, 2024
Vacation rental properties

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The vacation rental market has boomed, with Vrbo reporting a whopping 68% increase in bookings for 21- to 30-day stays in 2022 alone. The boom is no longer confined to week-long vacations. A new trend sparked from the growth in remote work: vacation rentals turn into extended stays, and travel turns into temporary relocation. This global shift in travel habits has opened up a grand opportunity for investors: the vacation rental property. If you were thinking of getting in on the game, there is a great deal you need to know to make sure your investment is a success story. 

What are Vacation Rental Properties?

Rental vacation properties refer to a provision of fully furnished accommodations, such as apartments, condos, houses, cabins, and, in some instances, extraordinary units like treehouses or glamping tents, for travelers who want to stay for a short period. While tenants may rent a property for one year or more on a classic lease, a vacation rental usually rents for a nightly, weekly, or even monthly time frame.

This inherently short-term nature means vacation rentals require a more hands-on management approach than traditional rentals. There's guest communication, housekeeping between stays, and possibly the management of amenities such as hot tubs or pools. The good news is that property management companies specialize in vacation rentals and can handle these types of operations on your behalf for a fee.

The vacation rental market is experiencing explosive growth, with Custom Market Insights predicting the global vacation rental market to reach as high as USD 317.76 billion by 2030, growing more than 13.97% annually. Occupancy rates are also impressive, with AirDNA's report of an average national occupancy rate above 60% in 2023 for the vacation rental industry in the United States.

Potential Benefits of Investing in Vacation Rentals

So, what makes vacation rentals one of the hottest investment properties? Let's now delve into the possible benefits that have attracted investors en masse to this market:

  1. High Return on Investment (ROI): Depending on the location, the type of property, and the management strategy of the property, this can vary greatly. It is estimated that the returns would average between 5% and 20% each year. Remember: location is king. A well-chosen property in a popular tourist destination with high demand will more likely deliver healthy ROI than a property in a less-traveled area.
  2. Passive Income: Vacation rentals will be a great source of passive income. There may be some monotony, in the beginning to setting up your property and guest management system, but once vacation rentals are up and running, they will create a hassle-free, steady form of income from short-term stays.
  3. Capital Appreciation: In most cases, real estate appreciates historically. Vacation rentals are part of this lot. Besides the potential rental income, you have an opportunity for property appreciation in the long term, mainly in desirable locations with low supplies of property. This means that once you eventually sell your vacation rental, you could perhaps make a handsome profit on top of the years of possible income it brought you.
  4. Tax Advantages: Rental vacations can have some possible tax advantages, including mortgage interest, property taxes, repairs, and possible depreciation as a deduction. Do consider that tax laws may get very complex, so it might be a good idea to see a tax professional to get the details on the benefits that apply to your situation.
  5. Hedge Against Inflation: Real estate, being a physical asset, can be an inflation hedge. As and when the inflation rate goes up, typically so does the value of your property, which could help bring down the loss in purchase value as a result of a decrease in cash purchasing power.

Potential Drawbacks of Investing in Vacation Rentals

Just like any other investment, vacation rentals have their challenges. Here are the potential drawbacks of vacation rentals to be aware of before jumping in:

  1. Management Challenges: Managing a vacation rental property can prove a significant time investment. Among other things, this includes communicating with guests, cleaning schedules, coordinating repairs, and problem-free stays for guests. While the property management company may manage these, there is yet another layer of expense added to your bottom line.
  2. Market Fluctuations: Short-term rental markets for holidays and vacations are sensitive to market fluctuations because they are not year-round leases. There might be a low-occupancy time, so the income level drops. It is important, therefore, to consider looking at the historical performance of the rental market in a given location and maybe have a strategy for soft seasons.
  3. Maintenance and Upkeep Costs: This arises from the accelerated turnover of vacation rentals relative to traditional rental properties. The property is thus more likely to experience wear and tear, which subjects the owner to numerous and unexpected maintenance costs, be it replacement of furniture or leaky faucet sealing.
  4. Legal and Regulatory Considerations: Remember that the most significant variation to the current zoning laws and other such short-term rental regulations lies with the location. Some prohibitions could be placed on vacation rentals, along with licensing requirements or zoning regulations limiting the number of nights a week that a property can be rented. 

Market Research and Due Diligence

Investing in vacation rentals is not a business pursuit to bumble into. Before embarking on developing your wealth creation and visions of passive revenue brought by beachfront rentals, taking key steps in market research and due diligence will prove most prosperous in helping you set yourself up for success. Let's discuss the key aspects:

1. Location, Location, Location!

The adage concerning real estate couldn't be more accurate for vacation rentals. The success of your investment has much to do with location. There are certain things you need to keep in mind as you go about researching potential vacation rental locations:

  • Popularity: Go where there is already proven demand for tourism. Look out for historical interest areas, scenic beauty spots, centers for major annual events, and an entertainment district.
  • Accessibility: Consider the ease of access, proximity to an airport, public transport, and general walkability. Convenience is what most tourists seek; hence, ease of access to any facility or attraction is a definite advantage in a location.
  • Seasonality: Be aware of seasonal trends in the area. Some places have year-round tourism, while others vary drastically. If you need steady income, you may very well look for a location that has a more excellent balance of seasonal-length occupancy rates.

As noted above, short-term rental law varies significantly by region. Do your homework on local zoning laws and permitting requirements for vacation rentals.

2. Analyzing the Property

Once you have picked your fabulous location, it's time to consider the actual property. Here is a roadmap to help steer you through considering potential vacation-rental properties:

  • Property Type: The property type largely depends on the area and guests intended for. A ski resort, for example, might like snug cabins. However, a beach destination might undoubtedly be better off with oceanfront condominiums. Look at what makes a location unique and pick a property type that will fulfill the typical vacationer.
  • Size and Amenities: The size and amenities of your property will influence how you discern your target audience and what type of income at rental may be obtained. For instance, a studio might serve solo or couples travelers well. A bigger house with several bedrooms and bathrooms would work well for families or groups.
  • Financial Considerations: Consider operating costs, which may include property taxes, property insurance, operating expenses, such as maintenance and utilities, and property management fees, as applicable.

3. Calculating Potential ROI

Now that you have identified a promising location and a suitable property, do some number crunching. While predicting the future is impossible, calculating potential ROI can give you a very good estimate of how profitable the property may be.

Estimating rental income for expenses on comparable properties in your target location is a critical research component. Given various online calculators and resources, you can take into consideration factors like size of the property, amenities offered, seasonality, and provide estimates for daily/weekly rates. Use historical data to establish this, and give an allowance for periods of probable vacancy.

Setting Up Your Vacation Rental Business

So you've spotted a great location, selected a spot with potential, and crunched the numbers. The time has come to turn your dreams of a vacation rental into reality! But, before you welcome in those pioneering guest adventures, there are a few quite essential steps you will need to follow to be running clean and 100% legal.

  1. Legalities and Permits: This can't be emphasized enough – you need to get all the local permits and licenses for running short-term rentals where you are located. Remember, the regulations widely vary from location to location. Local zoning laws and licensing requirements in regard to vacation rentals must be researched on your load. This will include city regulations and county guidelines, or even your homeowners association. 
  2. Business Structure: Select a legal structure for your vacation rental business. Sole proprietorship is the easiest form, but it also includes the most personal liability. When you are a sole proprietor, your business and personal finances are mixed together. On the other hand, a Limited Liability Company popularly called an LLC has a more formal structure that keeps your personal assets separate from those of your business. This can, in turn, safeguard them in case of lawsuits or bad financial times.
  3. Insurance Coverage: Most vacation rental business insurance will need to afford proper coverage. Property damage insurance will replace your property in case of fire, theft, or vandalism. Liability insurance will cover you in case visitors have an accident or are injured within your premises. Discuss with a qualified insurance representative to ensure you have the correct level of coverage for your vacation rental property.
  4. Taxes: This will all depend on how you've set up your business, its location, and your income. You may want to consult a professional tax company to understand your obligations and ensure you file everything correctly. 

Managing Your Vacation Rental Property

With the legal issues done and the scene set for the vacation rental business, attention can be placed on day-to-day operations. Attract guests, provide for a seamless guest experience, and keep your listings as secure as possible. One of the very first decisions you must make pertains to self-managing your vacation rental versus enlisting the excess help of a property management company. Neither avenue proves to be the right solution for all, and, for the majority of cases, either option proves successful. 

You have the choice of managing your rental property or hiring a property manager: 

  Self-Management Hiring a Property Manager
Control Complete control over guest experience and pricing Less control over guest experience and pricing
Cost Potentially lower costs (no property management fees) Higher costs (property management fees)
Time Commitment Significant time commitment required Frees up your time
Expertise May lack expertise in marketing, guest communication, and maintenance Offers expertise in marketing, guest communication, and maintenance
Local Presence Requires local presence to address issues Provides local presence
Reward Can be rewarding to personally manage your investment Less direct involvement

Ultimately, the choice between self-management and hiring a property manager boils down to finding the approach that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

Wrapping Up

Throughout this comprehensive guide, we've explored the exciting world of vacation rental investing. We delved into the potential benefits, from generating passive income and capital appreciation to enjoying tax advantages and hedging against inflation.

However, we also put a strong emphasis on due care. The location is key, and one should focus on popular places where the locale is very friendly in terms of regulations. It is vital to look into the property itself, considering factors such as the type and size, amenities, and the probable return on investment. In case you are thinking of venturing into this vacation rental business, do your homework, embrace a strategic approach, and be ready to adapt.


This information is educational, and is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security which can only be made through official documents such as a private placement memorandum or a prospectus. This information is not a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell an investment or financial product, or take any action. This information is neither individualized nor a research report, and must not serve as the basis for any investment decision. All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of capital. Past performance does not guarantee future results or returns. Neither Concreit nor any of its affiliates provides tax advice or investment recommendations and do not represent in any manner that the outcomes described herein or on the Site will result in any particular investment or tax consequence.Before making decisions with legal, tax, or accounting effects, you should consult appropriate professionals. Information is from sources deemed reliable on the date of publication, but Concreit does not guarantee its accuracy.

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