Lessons learned from Managing a Vacation Rental Property

I have a rental property at a ski resort managed as a nightly rental during the winter months and a monthly rental the rest of the year. Over the years, hassles have been few. The property has appreciated nicely. Some years cash flow is positive and some years it’s negative – overall it breaks even. The main two lessons learned have to do with cleaning and revenues.

The biggest complaint from tenants is the cleanliness of the rental. The cause of the problem is likely the transient employee population at the resort. Property management companies and cleaning companies just cannot keep employees, so they are constantly training new folks. This translates to poor cleaning jobs.

If you are considering hiring a property management company for a vacation property, inquire about their employee retention and their cleaning strategies. Once you contract with a property manager, periodically inspect the rental yourself, or at a minimum, develop a relationship with the housekeeping supervisor and keep a dialogue going as tenants check in and out.

The second issue is inadequate revenues produced by our property manager. While my contract with the property manager forbade me from renting the unit out on my own, when I discussed my dissatisfaction with them they gave me permission to rent the unit. I did this with much success. Surprisingly, they continued to provide good support in checking tenants in and out, and in providing cleaning and maintenance services.

The property manager was using advertising and pricing approaches that worked for their entire rental pool, rather than developing strategies for our individual unit. Using my own advertising avenues- a local paper combined with Craig’s List postings, had a big impact on the revenues.

Being a landlord is not without risks or headaches. However, my experience over the last 10 years has shown there are excellent property management companies to help out, and nearly all tenants take decent care of the property and pay the rent on time.