Vacation Real-estate rental informationWith real estate prices so low, you might be thinking about buying that cabin on the lake you’ve been renting for the past few years. You’ll use it a little and rent it out to folks like yourself.

Sounds like a plan, except being a successful vacation property owner is more work than it seems.

Christine Karpinski has been renting out her vacation property for more than a decade. In fact, she tells me that 2009 was her most successful rental year yet.

But as author of How to Rent Vacation Properties By Owner and director of Owner Community for HomeAway, Inc., a collection of websites devoted to the business of buying, selling, and renting vacation real estate, she knows how much hard work goes into being a successful vacation property owner.

In her book and online, she’s shared her knowledge and, in the process, helped tens of thousands of owners be more successful in renting their own vacation property.

Karpinski says there are nine things you need to know if you want to successfully rent your vacation property:

  1. Get the word out. These days, you must be on the Internet if you want to get your property rented. Vacation-goers will traverse a variety of different vacation property websites, such as If you’re listing your vacation property in only a small, local weekly, you’re missing the vast majority of travelers who begin and end their search for a vacation destination online.
  2. Be visual. Travelers have a lot of fear that they’ll rent a property that isn’t everything it seems. One way you can help them overcome those fears is to make your listing as visual as possible, posting as many photos, videos, and floor plans as you can. Prospective renters will want to see interior and exterior shots as well as photos of each bedroom and bathroom. In short, you can’t post too many photos, Karpinski says.
  3. Make your property appealing for travelers. When you’re traveling, you want to stay in a clean, beautiful, well-decorated home. If you’re renting your vacation property, you have to make your property appealing to travelers, even if it means repainting and buying new bedroom furnishings, sheets, towels, and curtains. “Pay attention to the aesthetics,” Karpinski warns, because your renters will.
  4. Anticipate your renters’ desires. Vacation property owners never know who doesn’t contact them. “You never know who lands on your site and hates what they see,” Karpinski says. But by anticipating what a traveler to your area is expecting, you can increase the number of prospective renters by making sure that your home contains everything they’d want while on vacation.
  5. Price it right. A big mistake vacation property owners make is pricing their property too low. If the property isn’t priced where a traveler expects it should be, he or she will think, “There must be something wrong with the property because it’s too cheap,” Karpinski says. A better solution is to price the property correctly, say at $2,000 per week, and then offer a time-sensitive discount.
  6. Describe your property in minute detail. Karpinski says vacation home renters like to know every detail about the property they’re renting. Does it have a coffeemaker? A towel warmer? A hot tub big enough for six or eight people? A barbecue grill (gas or charcoal)? An outdoor fireplace? Most vacation property rental websites will allow you to check off the amenities you’re offering, so take advantage and click off everything that’s applicable to your property.
  7. Write the right ads. Make sure your property sounds as attractive as possible. If you don’t know how to write a vacation property ad, visit the websites of other properties in your area and see how owners write about their homes.
  8. Respond to questions immediately. Make sure your email address is displayed prominently in any vacation property ad you write. If possible, make sure that email address filters to a handheld PDA so you’ll get the message instantly. Then be sure to respond quickly so the potential renter knows you’re on the ball.
  9. Have a handle on the logistics. Do you have a handyman who can fix things immediately? You’ll need a handful of trusted service providers who can do everything from clean the property in between rentals to change lightbulbs and fix the pool heater as necessary.

Ilyce Glink is a best-selling author, real estate columnist, and web series host. She is the managing editor of the Equifax Finance Blog and CEO of Think Glink Media. Follow her on Twitter: @Glink

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