// by Melody Taylor
When you think of your ideal vacation spot, do you picture a beach-front condo, a cozy cabin in the mountains, or a city penthouse near all the action? No matter how you prefer to get away, one of the main draws of investing in a vacation property is in knowing you’ll have a dedicated place to escape that’s truly yours.
But, as with any property, a vacation home needs to be managed and maintained—which can sometimes bring stress back into the forefront. What if something breaks while you’re away? How will you keep up with maintenance issues if you rent it out? And can you make it appealing, cozy and durable at the same time?
Invest in Smart Technology
Home automation gadgets and apps have flooded the scene in the last decade, allowing homeowners to program their thermostats and keep an eye on their front stoops from anywhere and at any time. If you own a vacation property, this technology can save you a lot of worry, particularly if you rent the property out or can only visit in-person every few months.
“If the property is unoccupied, you’d want to be able to keep an eye on it. For example, after a hurricane, you’d want to be able to check on it and make sure it’s in good order,” says Blakely Hughes, broker for Nest Finders Property Management. He recommends investing in smart lights that can be scheduled to turn on and off using an app, and an outside security camera.
Instead of coordinating pick-up and drop-off of hard keys for renters or visitors, Hughes recommends a self-showing smart lock. “It allows Airbnb or vacation rental owners to issue a temporary key to anyone who downloads the app, and allows people to tour the property [virtually].”
A smart lock and security camera are also useful for hiring a service contractor while you’re away from the property. Hughes recommends using them in conjunction with Homee, an on-demand home service request app.
“It’s almost like Uber for maintenance,” he says. “Whether you need an electrician, a plumber, a painter or a handyman, you can jump on Homee and schedule a contractor who is background-checked, vetted and insured.”
When you can’t be on site, Hughes recommends hiring someone to check on the property at least once a quarter—particularly that faucets are not leaking, air filters have been changed, HVAC is heating and cooling, windows and corners are free of mold and smoke detector batteries have been changed.
Small Investments Pay Off
“An owner may be charging $125 a night for a condo at the beach with really basic, furnishings. If they were to put nicer stuff in there, or maybe get the help of a designer to spruce up the furnishings and the artwork, they could charge more for the unit,” Hughes says.
If you plan to rent out your vacation unit, Hughes recommends hiring a professional photographer to create photos and a video walk-through of the property to improve occupancy rates.
“They may have driven eight hours to your condo or apartment. So have some cold water and cookies, and a nice, laminated print-out of pertinent information, such as the WiFi code, nearest hospital and local attractions,” he says. “Give the consumer as much information as you possibly can about your property, and then make the property comfortable.”
Keep it Simple
When it comes to decorating your vacation home, less is more, says Christy McCarthy, owner of Interiors Revitalized.
“Keep the furnishings themselves pretty neutral. You want it to feel vibrant and full of life, but you don’t want to have a bunch of little knick-knacks that could be broken or that you’d have to worry about replacing. Artwork is a great way to do that,” she says.
McCarthy recommends using white towels and rugs because they can be bleached, and slipcovers for sofas because they can be washed or replaced inexpensively. You may be able to attract more renters and to demand a higher rate if you allow pets in the property, she says; just be sure to opt for large floor tiles instead of carpet. “Renters might not take off their shoes or treat it as their home, so tile—especially for beach areas—will hold up for a long time and is easier to clean.”
The most important rule to follow when owning a vacation property? Use it. That’s why you bought it in the first place.