When you’re first starting out as a vacation rental owner, there’s one big question: how much money can I expect to make?
Short-term rental properties can give second homeowners solid revenue returns, and are often more profitable than long-term rentals. But that additional income doesn’t come without costs. From taxes and insurance to cleaning and management fees, it’s important to factor a number of expenses into your income calculations to help paint an accurate picture of your home’s profit potential.
That’s where our vacation rental income calculator comes in. Simply plug in your monthly revenue and expenses below, then sit back as our tool automatically churns out an annual income estimate — all factors considered.
Not sure where to pull all those numbers? Take a peek below our tool to understand your income and expense variables in more detail, and check out our bonus resources that can help you make confident estimates.
The first step in accurately predicting income? Defining each term properly. Here’s a quick-reference glossary of what each variable used in our vacation rental income calculator means.
Avg rate you expect to charge/night
Avg # of nights you expect to book/month
Your monthly mortgage payment
Monthly costs for heat/hot water, electricity/AC, wifi & cable
Insurance & Property Taxes
Monthly costs for homeowners insurance, liability insurance & property protection plan + your state’s property tax rate
Monthly sum of HOA & maintenance costs + avg cost of stocking/upgrading your short-term rental
Monthly % of income set aside for management/marketing fees (dependent on how you choose to run your property)
Let’s be real: calculating an accurate income for your investment property can be confusing. Certain elements — like mortgage and utility payments — have fairly standard numerical values you can enter into the calculator without much math. But other components require more contextual consideration, so let’s walk through each step of the process in more detail.
To accurately estimate nightly rate and expected nights booked, it’s important to understand the current market in your area.
The good news: we’ve analyzed thousands of listings across North America to aggregate the most influential performance metrics for you. From nightly rate and nights booked to average lengths of stay and prime booking windows throughout the year, all of the results can be found in our library of Vacation Rental Performance Reports. Each gives you a data-backed gauge of how direct competition performs — and, in turn, how much you can expect to charge and book.
You can pull the nightly rate and nights booked averages from those performance reports, then plug them into the vacation rental income calculator above to provide a solid foundation for estimating monthly income (and, ultimately, overall revenue).
But homeowners who work with Evolve also get the benefit of our proprietary SmartRates algorithm. It adjusts dynamically each night to guarantee your home always paces alongside rival listings — and outperforms in the long run. Case in point: SmartRates has earned our homeowners 24 percent more than traditionally-static pricing methods!
From taxes to marketing fees, your expense estimate relies heavily on custom quotes and individual choices.
First, add up the monthly costs of your different types of insurance — like homeowners insurance, liability insurance, and a property protection plan. (Fun fact: our Evolve homeowners are automatically covered for up to $3,000 in damages and $1,000,000 in liability at no additional expense.)
Then comes property taxes. How they’re applied varies by state, so be aware of your particular municipal requirements. If you’re not sure, you can plug your rental property’s address into this complimentary tool to receive the right rate.
Once you have an estimate for both, combine the numbers and enter the sum into our vacation rental income calculator.
Next, input your monthly mortgage payment and utilities.
To incorporate what we’ve deemed other expenses, first combine monthly HOA and maintenance costs, cleaning fees, and the average expense of keeping your short-term rental well-stocked for guests.
If you need to make furniture or decor upgrades, put a price to those overarching updates and divide by 12 before adding to your total monthly view of those additional expenses.
Finally, there are management costs to consider. This figure will look different depending on how you choose to run your vacation rental.
If you run a vacation rental without any help:
If you use a property manager:
If you use Evolve as your property manager (P.S. we list your home on all the top short-term rental marketplaces at no additional cost):
Between the steep fees of traditional property managers and the overwhelming responsibility of a DIY approach, it’s hard to strike a cost-benefit balance that guarantees your success. At least, it was until Evolve came into the picture.
For the lowest management fees around, we’ll apply a data-proven marketing and booking strategy to your vacation rental, boosting your revenue potential while keeping costs (and stress levels) down. It’s how we’ve helped over 14,000 homeowners earn more than $1 billion in rental income — and we’re ready to help you.
See if you qualify or call one of our Vacation Rental Advisors today at 877.881.7584.
Imagine: after a long travel day, a guest arrives at your vacation rental and — ugh — spots a glass in the sink, an unswept floor, or even a ruffled bedspread. It’s enough to make them wonder: is the place just a bit messy, or are the cleanliness standards at this home not quite up to their expectations?
As a vacation rental owner, a situation like this could be the difference between a five-star review and a two- or three-star rating. And the stakes are even higher amidst a global pandemic. Safety precautions and total sanitation are critical as travelers want to responsibly escape reality. Which means guests won’t — and shouldn’t — look past cleaning snafus.
To make sure your vacation rental is totally spotless and giving off those safe-and-comfy vibes, download our three easy-to-use vacation rental cleaning checklists. Available in both English and Spanish, they’ll make your pre- and post-guest cleaning routine comprehensive and foolproof.
Download Our Vacation Rental Cleaning Checklists
When establishing best practices for your vacation rental management, adding organization to processes helps standardize them. With codified documentation, you’ll spend less time handling mishaps and more time nurturing (and scaling) your business.
With a vacation rental cleaning checklist in hand, you’ll:
Even when a cleaning routine is tried and true, it’s natural to overlook a step in the process — or think you’ve done something you haven’t.
With checklists, you effectively eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) that risk. Having your cleaners initial each box as they go is a super easy way to ensure the service is as thorough as intended.
When you onboard cleaning services, it’s important to outline expectations from the jump. Providing comprehensive cleaning checklists helps teams not only navigate the areas of your home that obviously need attention, but also tackle tasks that may be less obvious to the naked eye (like, say, sanitizing surfaces and handles).
Certain cleaning services may also have different people coming through your home between each guest visit. Requiring every team to fill out the same checklists mitigates discrepancies, so you can rest easy knowing consistent standards are applied every time. (Just remember to get those completed checklists back for recordkeeping.)
Guests pay a professional cleaning fee when they book your property, so they’re expecting an impeccable home that looks just like the pictures online.
By utilizing cleaning checklists, you make the turnover process between bookings seamless. This helps avoid unpleasant phone calls or complaints while giving guests peace of mind that their health, safety, and comfort is top of mind.
Plus, if you do receive concerns from guests, you’ll have a record of everything your cleaning services covered before their stay.
All of this makes for a happy guest. Happy guests write great reviews, and great reviews mean more trust-backed bookings.
Evolve believes maintaining your vacation rental should be as easy as checking a few boxes. Download our cleaning checklists today (available in English and Spanish), which include additional pre- and post-stay checklists for an even more robust set of processes.
And don’t forget, we’re here to support you in more ways than one. Our fresh approach to vacation rental management gives you total marketing, booking, and customer support across popular websites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com.
We’ll also connect you with trusted cleaning and support partners, so you can decide who to work with to create the Home Team of your dreams.
It’s our job to drive more guests to your property for maximum income, so you can focus on providing an incredible guest experience — all for an industry-low 10% management fee.
We’ve helped 14,000+ homeowners earn more than $1 billion in rental income. And we’d love to help you.
See if you qualify or call one of our Vacation Rental Advisors today at 877.881.7584.
Digital nomads, rejoice: Work and play no longer have to be separate. While you’re still remote, get some fresh air without using all of your vacation days. Switching up your routine a little can inspire new thinking and deepen your focus — all while you enjoy all the luxuries of vacation on your off-time.
Ready to get out of the house? Pick one of these places based on how you like to feel at work and change up the scenery.
Make your co-workers jealous by joining the company meeting poolside. Lounge in the sun while you knock projects off your list, then enjoy a crisp plunge in the water. Bonus: all of our homes are vetted in person, which means these pools are as good as they look.
Soak in the desert sun from this Goodyear home with a resort-style hot tub and pool combo. Work on your tan while you work from the sprawling patio, complete with a fully shaded outdoor area. The interior’s open layout and farmhouse furnishings are so beautiful that you’ll want to stay in and make meals at home — but when you’re ready to get out, grab ice cream at The Frozen Monkey and take a stroll around South Lake Park.
If you’re feeling fancy, this Florida short-term rental is like stepping into a palace you can call your own. Here, 6,500 square feet of space is yours — meaning you can find a new place to work remotely every day. Sit al fresco in the expansive outdoor cabana or lounge by the palm-tree lined pool worthy of a magazine shoot. On weekends, day trip to the Florida Keys or take it easy with a bottle of local wine from Schnebly Winery.
The moment you set your bag down, the cerulean waters of this backyard pool will invite you to take a dip. Catch up with your group beneath the pergola, then swim laps in this sophisticated marvel as the sun goes down. Enormous windows let the light in here and make it feel like you’re by the pool, even when you’re hard at work inside. When you need to get out, experience the big city feeling by taking a walk through downtown Austin.
Honorable Mentions: Enjoy views of your own private lake and private pool at this luxurious vacation rental in Norman, OK, visit this meticulously decorated home with its own mini golf putting green and awe-inspiring pool in the Coachella Valley, or swim by day, stream movies in the home theater by night from this Pigeon Forge vacation rental.
Exercise helps mental health and increases productivity — and companies are encouraging their teams to work out more than ever. These vacation rentals are perfect for a getaway that blends work-life balance, with a home gym to break up your day.
Redwoods and red wine are waiting for you in Sonoma County. This charming cabin is the place to go glamping in the woods while still keeping a wi-fi signal. Nature is your gym here in a home that’s surrounded by trails and a few minutes from the beach, but if you want a more traditional place to exercise, hit the cabin’s small home gym. After a long work week, hop in the car, soak in ocean views, and savor wines from famous vineyards.
Turn your workday into a fairytale at this welcoming Acworth mansion, complete with a pool and its own movie theater. Take your lunch break in the home gym, catch up on emails from the gazebo, and toast to the day by the outdoor fire pit once five o’clock hits. There are so many ways to clear your head — whether it’s playing billiards, or cooking a meal for your group and enjoying it in the sprawling dining areas.
Honorable Mentions: This budget-friendly vacation home in Glendale, AZ offers all the perks of a private resort, including a pool and a putting green. Or, go big and work remotely from this enormous vacation home sitting over the lake in Kaiser, MO. You can also sit out by your own private creek and access some of Colorado’s most pristine trails from this home amid the treetops in Evergreen, CO.
Evolve only rents homes with private entrances, which means that every place on our site is perfect for finding focus. But if you’re looking for a getaway where you can separate your 9-5 from your night of relaxation, these picks come with a home office and the bliss of complete quiet.
Enormous Retreat In Erie, CO
This vacation rental is made for remote work retreats with multiple offices, plenty of separate seating areas, and a boardroom-style table. Travel with friends and tackle the workday separately from your own private spaces, then reconnect over a game night in the living room. Wind down while strolling downtown Boulder (just a short drive away) with the Flatiron mountains as your backdrop.
Enjoy a life of luxury from this scenic cabin equipped with its own lofted office for working remotely. Catch up about the day around the outdoor fire pit or sip wine on the sprawling wood patio immersed in the forest. If you feel like getting outside, explore the easy Show Low Bluff Trail on foot or spend a leisurely day fishing at Fool Hollow Lake.
Honorable Mention: Work remotely from this vacation rental in Fairplay, CO, and enjoy a cozy, log cabin exterior with a clean, modern interior.
Good books are meant to be enjoyed next to a crackling fireplace. After a long day at the (virtual) office, sink into the couch at one of these places and find your cozy. All you need to bring is hot cider and groceries — each of our homes comes fully equipped with all the amenities you need to stay in for the night.
Hit the road and head to Idyllwild, which sits in California’s San Jacinto mountains. Pets are welcome at this airy dome house that’s a theater to thousands of night stars. Once you’ve closed up your laptop for the day, hit the trails at Mount San Jacinto State Park, then bring home a mountain pie to share from Idyllwild Pizza.
Rise to the sound of trees rustling out this bright property filled with natural light. Kick your feet up in the loft to get some focus, then spend happy hour in the hot tub before cooking up a feast in the gorgeous, modern kitchen. When you’re ready for fresh air, take an evening bike ride along Lake Tahoe, or just sit out and enjoy the lake.
Breckenridge is an outdoor paradise — and this enormous cabin that sleeps 14 is just the place to enjoy it. Take your calls from the quiet porch, indulge in a midday break to shoot some hoops in the in-home basketball court, and wind down by the fire after an evening of exploring the area’s sites. Window shop along Main Street and grab takeout, or find a hike like Hoosier Pass you can do as the sun goes down over the mountain.
Honorable Mentions: Sip a nightcap on a porch overlooking the creek at this vacation home in Frisco, CO, or soak your bones in the hot tub surrounded by trees in this Alto, New Mexico cabin.
EXPLORE ALL HOMES WITH A FIREPLACE
Get some new perspective on what you’re working on from one of these places with a view. Find yourself thinking in new ways as you walk along the beach or sit out on the lake, free to let your mind wander. Just be sure to bring a notepad with you as you roam these houses for the moment a great idea strikes.
If you’ve ever had the dream of looking out to the shoreline from a hot tub, this is just the place for you. This hilltop home in the Pacific Northwest is a destination for remote work, with several cozy seating areas, an unbelievable porch view looking over the coast, and a hot tub where you can dip and drink it all in. After work, take a scenic, slow drive along the Tillamook Bay and end the evening with scoops at the iconic Tillamook Creamery.
A lake with a private dock is yours at this calming escape in Albion, MI. This home is filled with windows so you never miss the view, even when you’re inside. There are so many places to work at this home on the golf course — whenever you need some fresh thinking, just pick a new room. The spacious kitchen opens right up into the living room, so you can share stories as you prepare the dinner to share. Days off can be spent on the course, dipping in the lake, or curling up next to a roaring fire while keeping the view.
Beachfront Home In Topsail Beach, NC
Creativity is often sparked by a long walk, and here, you can take that walk out on the beach. Sit out on one of the two decks facing the waves, then step out onto the sand when you need a break. Sunsets here look like a postcard, and you can enjoy them from a bright, cheerful house that is decorated to feel like vacation in every room. Spend the weekend grilling up porch on the outdoor barbecue and catching up your beach read in the pristine sand.
Honorable Mentions: Get out into the mountains at this Jefferson, CO cabin with a verdant view of the mountains and its own game room and treehouse. Or, book this cheerful beachfront home in New Smyrna Beach, FL with ocean access and take your morning coffee in the sand.
Enjoy the freedom to work remotely from a vacation rental anywhere, with all the comforts of home. Find your perfect place to get some fresh air and rest easy knowing that it’ll be professionally cleaned and ready for your arrival.
So you’re thinking about hiring a property management company for your vacation rental.
Maybe you’ve got an extra home, you just purchased a new property, or you’re exploring ways to make some extra income. It could be your first time dealing with vacation rentals, or maybe you’ve been burned by property management companies before.
A question you might be wondering is — why shouldn’t I just do this myself?
While there are owners who handle management themselves, it can be incredibly time-consuming to promote your rental, field traveler inquiries, take quality photos, write and revise the listing, answer questions about your property, vet potential guests, juggle on-the-ground services like cleaning and maintenance, and follow up for reviews.
There’s a better way. Hiring the right vacation rental management company for your home can take the stress, endless tasks, extra time, and marketing responsibilities off your plate.
But before you hire a traditional or local property manager, make sure to ask these seven questions to know you’re getting everything you need.
You’re looking for a manager who has a good feel for the local market. A great property manager will know the ins and outs of your location — high season, low season, competing rates, what types of property are most popular in the area, and how local regulations and trends are affecting vacation rentals. You can prep for your conversation with our market-by-market vacation rental performance reports.
Ask your potential manager questions about the local market and feel out their responses. If the vacation rental manager has reasonable answers to those questions, you’ve probably found a solid manager who spends a good amount of time thinking about how to help their clients succeed.
If they seem uncertain or their answers seem off, you may want to keep looking. Be particularly wary if you know about regulations in the area that they don’t; every manager should be fully aware of the status of local short-term rental regulations. And don’t base their experience on years in the business. There are quite a few longtime property managers out there who haven’t kept up with changes in the industry and don’t perform well as a result.
Many vacation rental property management fees range from 25-50% of your rental income. And, in some areas, the rates continue to rise.
Before hiring a local property manager, do the math to determine whether you can afford to pay that high of a fee and still meet your rental income goals.
Contracts are the biggest sticking point for owners who have wound up with a poor property manager. If you figure out in the first two months that the property manager isn’t doing their job well, but you’re locked in for a year-long contract, you’re going to be very unhappy for the remaining ten months of that year. You’ll also want to know the payment terms and timing. Some managers can take months to pay and, if you’re caught in an unfavorable contract, it can be a long time until you get paid.
If a management company requires a contract, ask whether there are any out clauses based on performance or poor service. For example, if the management company fails to clean the property three times in one year, or only gets you two bookings in six months, you should be able to leave their service without a penalty.
Above all, make sure any fees and agreements help you build a vacation rental business that prioritizes guest experience over short-term profit.
You’re hiring a vacation rental management company for the high level of services they provide. You’ll want to know exactly what services are included in their fee.
Specifically ask whether the fee covers marketing, photography, writing the listing, updating the listing, observing market trends, cleaning, maintenance, pre-stay walkthroughs, or in-person visits for any issues that arise during a guest’s stay.
You should also ask about any services that are not included in their fee – for example, some property management companies will charge an additional fee if one of their employees has to visit the property outside of business hours to address a problem the guest is having. Excellent guest support should not cost more.
Once you know what services the fee does and does not cover, ask yourself if you’re getting enough bang for your buck. If your management company covers everything from marketing to maintenance, the fee may be worthwhile. If it only covers cleaning and all other services are a la carte, you should probably keep shopping for a better deal.
This is an important one. Ask them how and where they’ll market your property.
Many vacation rental management companies prefer to market their clients’ properties only on their own website. These days, that’s not enough. You want to be on all the major websites with highly professional listings. No matter how popular a local manager’s site is, it’s never going to get the same amount of traffic as major online listing sites like Vrbo, HomeAway or Airbnb – which means you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential guests if you’re limited to one website. Make sure you understand their marketing plan.
Marketing is a big word that includes the photography of your rental, a high-converting property listing, framing your rental for current trends and the market, and how it is promoted.
A vacation rental manager’s 25-50% ought to cover the cost of marketing your property on at least one major listing site in addition to any marketing efforts they make to raise the profile of their own site. Listen for words like “appear high in the search results” or “search engine marketing” – these are good indicators your manager has put effort into raising and maintaining their website’s profile online.
Your manager should also actively solicit reviews from happy guests and follow up with guests who have already stayed at the property to see if they want to book again next year. Ask your vacation rental manager what they do to ensure repeat business and 5-star reviews to entice new guests to come and stay at your property.
Vacation rental managers aren’t awake around the clock, (which is just fine, because most guests aren’t either) but they should be available when people are likely to be making their travel plans: before work, after work, and on weekends.
If your manager is only available to make bookings from 9-5 on weekdays, the odds are very good you’ll be missing out on bookings from people who work standard office jobs at those hours. Believe it or not, the ideal response time for inquiries is 15 minutes, so the bar is pretty high for providing the kind of service that turns into bookings.
You should also ask if guests are able to book online and use a credit card. The vast majority of guests prefer to book online, and very few are willing to get on the phone or send a paper check in the mail. If your potential manager doesn’t offer any way for those guests to book online, you’ll again miss out on bookings.
After every stay, you should confirm that your guests left your property in good condition and that any accidental damage was documented and addressed. Be sure to ask your potential vacation rental manager how they handle issues like broken dishes or missing items after a guest’s stay.
You’re looking for a manager who performs a post-stay walkthrough after every guest leaves, takes photos of any damages for your records, and takes steps to bring the property back up to good condition for the next guests.
Your property manager isn’t expected to pay for damages out of pocket – that cost will come from the guest’s deposit or a damage protection program like Property Protection Plus (included as part of Evolve’s lightweight vacation rental management approach). However, your manager should notice the damage, report it, and speak to the guest about retaining their deposit to cover the damage if necessary.
Always ask to speak with a few existing clients prior to signing a contract. Previous and current owners can share details about working with the vacation rental managers and exactly what to expect from your arrangement.
If a manager is reluctant to give you references or isn’t enthusiastic about current clients speaking about their experience, that’s a sign this manager isn’t going to be a good fit for you. You should be able to hear or read success stories from customers who endorse the company.
On the other hand, if their current clients rave about this vacation rental manager and give you lots of insider tips they’ve learned since working with them on navigating the local market, full speed ahead! This manager may well be just the business partner you’re looking for.
The traditional models of vacation rental management are outdated. Doing it yourself is a LOT of work and, as we’ve covered, working with traditional property management companies means less control with fees that are hard to justify.
But there’s a better way. You don’t have to do it all yourself. And you don’t have to sign a contract with an overpriced property manager. Evolve is different.
Evolve’s lightweight management approach gives you total marketing, booking, and customer support, plus the power to choose your own “home team” to clean and monitor your property.
Basically, we drive more guests to your property for maximum income, while giving you more choices with fewer rules – all for an industry-low 10% booking fee.
We’ve helped 10,000+ homeowners earn more than $500 million in rental income. And we’d love to help you.
See if you qualify or call one of our Homeowner Consultants today at 877.881.7584 (and if you have more questions, take a quick look at this FAQ about Evolve).
“Aren’t you just like Airbnb and Vrbo?”
We get that question a lot from people who haven’t worked with us yet. It’s easy to see why. We’re all in the same industry, short-term property rentals. You can find and book great properties on our website or on theirs. And the fact that every Evolve property appears on Airbnb, Vrbo, and other online marketplaces just adds a little more to the confusion.
So let’s clear things up and outline exactly how Evolve is NOT Airbnb, Vrbo, HomeAway, TripAdvisor, or any other online marketplace.
Airbnb, Vrbo, and similar websites are online “marketplaces” where guests find properties and homeowners find guests. Essentially, they act as a distribution channel for owners or property managers, attracting potential guests to their website but leaving the management of the properties and listings to the owners (or whoever is representing the property) themselves.
Evolve is a vacation rental management company. That means we actively manage our properties on behalf of our owners, ensuring maximum bookings and eliminating the stress of the traditional vacation rental process.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Evolve is a BIG customer of the online marketplaces. We have more than 11,000 properties listed on their sites, and we constantly take advantage of the latest strategies to ensure our owners’ properties are always positioned for maximum traffic and conversion.
Behind the scenes, we have teams of specialists working on the hardest parts of managing a vacation rental: marketing, booking, and customer service. Our teams do everything from creating search-topping property listings to dynamically setting rates to answering guest questions and asking for online reviews. We even hire professional photographers at no cost to owners to show each property in the best possible light.
As a result of our approach, Evolve properties outperform most others on the online marketplaces. So we don’t compete with Airbnb, Vrbo and the rest. We work with them–and everybody wins.
Unlike most marketplaces, we don’t offer home sharing, extended stays, campsites, trailers, or other mobile structures. Each Evolve property has its own entrance and kitchen (typically a house or condominium). A lot of Evolve guests appreciate having the comforts of home when they travel, and our properties reflect that.
We take even more guesswork out of vacation rental by making sure our properties meet our four core standards. We believe guests simply won’t have the experience they’re looking for unless the property they’ve booked is:
By focusing on properties ideally suited for vacationing and making sure each one lives up to our standards, we’re building a brand that guests can trust to have the time of their lives.
Since Airbnb, Vrbo, and the like don’t handle property management, homeowners have traditionally been forced to either hire a local company to do it or fend for themselves. Evolve is different.
We give homeowners performance-focused marketing and booking support, plus the flexibility to choose their own partner(s) to clean the property and greet guests. Evolve handles all guest inquiries, bookings, and pre-stay communications. We can also connect owners with hundreds of vetted partners nationwide that can handle cleaning and guests.
With Evolve’s help, every guest enjoys a booking experience that feels as professional as the world’s top hospitality brands. We handle all inquiries directly, resolve guest and owners questions, and communicate directly with cleaners to ensure the property is ready for every guest. Our unique approach makes vacation rental actually feel like vacation for owners and guests.
Once you work with Evolve, you quickly discover the difference between our service and all of the others. It starts with the way we charge owners nothing to join (plus an industry-low 10% management fee) and list properties on all the major online marketplaces––not just Evolve’s site. It continues with the way we market your listing and promptly handle every query, seven days a week. And it becomes clear in all the ways we make vacation rental easy for everyone.
Owners should be able to relax, trusting that their property is living up to its potential. And guests should be able to relax with an experience that feels like a big hospitality brand. That’s the Evolve difference.
Learn more about Evolve and how we can help you find success with Airbnb, Vrbo, and other online marketplaces.
Your Free Welcome Book Template is Here!
Sure, your property listing covers a lot of info about your home — but guests will still have some questions when they arrive. Like, which local coffee shop has the best ambiance? What’s that one trick to getting the dishwasher started? How should they handle check-out?
Your welcome book is the perfect place to answer common questions, and it’s also one of the most searched for vacation rental amenities. By providing essential info up front, you can free guests from encountering snags during their stay.
We think that putting together this important resource should feel easy — which is why we made you a free welcome book template. All you have to do is download it and plug in your home’s info!
Welcome books have a big impact on your guests’ experience. Here are some reasons to block off a few minutes and fill in this template.
Welcome books help others navigate your rental property and treat it the right way.
Guests want to know how to watch a movie at night or adjust the temperature in your house. Giving them a resource on how to get comfortable living in your rental is sure to make their vacation stress-free for both of you.
Welcome books provide local highlights and a sense of your personality.
The reason many guests book vacation rental properties is to immerse themselves in the location. Recommending restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and more can turn a good trip into the best trip ever. Lead your guests to the most delicious slice in town — or teach them how to avoid crowds at a local attraction — and they’ll want to book with you again in the future.
Welcome books show guests that you care.
Your advice on how to make the most of your property gives guests the friendly engagement they’re looking for. It also protects their personal space and privacy by providing valuable information without requiring personal interaction.
Welcome books help you get great reviews.
Your guests are likely to reward your thoughtfulness in their reviews. Even better, you or your guest contact may get fewer questions during their stay, and you’ll be sending new customers to your favorite local shops and restaurants, ensuring they thrive!
Sounds pretty great, right? But where should you start?
From a friendly “hello” letter to your home’s policies, these are the sections you’ll need to put together the most useful welcome book.
Guests who choose vacation rental are looking for a unique home with a real person behind it. Writing a note to personally welcome them to your property is another way to separate yourself from a hotel — and reinforce their decision to stay with you.
Make sure your welcome book provides at least one name, telephone number, and email for a local contact near your property. This person can be you, a local property manager, or even a neighbor — but they should be easily reachable, and available to come to the home on short notice. Nobody wants unanswered guest complaints to derail a pleasant stay.
You’ll also want to include contact details and addresses for the following emergency resources, just in case:
Remember, guests don’t have all of the resources they’d typically have at home. They’ll feel more at ease if they know you have their safety in mind.
Even if you send your policies in a pre-stay email, (Evolve does!) it’s still important to reiterate them at the property. Including policies in your welcome book can help you resolve common vacation rental issues and complaints because guests will have a difficult time arguing that they weren’t aware of the rules.
You should include all of the following information in your welcome book:
An in-home reference guide will help remind guests how best to enjoy your home and leave it in good shape for the next guests. Another perk of including your policies: you’re way less likely to find broken or misused items after a stay!
When your guests can’t figure out simple things like how to turn on the hot tub, they can get frustrated and wind up taking out that frustration in their review of your property. Even if every appliance works perfectly, spending valuable relaxation time figuring out how to use it is no one’s idea of a fun vacation.
Include helpful instructions for your:
This is also a good place to note any quirks of your property. For example, if the Wifi works very well all over the house, but not in the family room downstairs, make sure your guests know that. If they aren’t expecting an issue, they’ll be annoyed by it, but with a little forewarning, they’ll feel like they know exactly what they can expect, and it’s less likely to trouble them.
You know all of the insights you’ve collected about your neighborhood? Now’s the time to share your expertise — because everyone loves a good recommendation from a local! Try to suggest activities that would appeal to a range of guest types, such as family-friendly museums or romantic places for a dinner out.
Be sure to give addresses and phone numbers for each of your recommendations. Adding the amount of time it takes to get to the destination is a great idea, too. Include at least a suggestion or two in each of the following categories:
And share places where you personally enjoy going. This isn’t to say you can’t include popular attractions you haven’t visited in person. Just let your guests know that you haven’t tried them yourself, but you’ve heard good things and you hope they’ll tell you how they liked them! You can then use the guest feedback to gauge whether that activity merits a mention in your Welcome Book.
Help guests explore your area by creating a section devoted to local transit. Be sure to include contact info, directions, schedules and any other details that guests might find helpful, like:
Here’s the good news: we’ve already created one for you.To make things easier for you and your guests we created a free downloadable template. Enter your email in the form below to get your free, customizable copy. Then, type your information into our template, print the completed welcome book, and display it in an obvious area of your rental property, such as the kitchen counter. And if you’re looking to start booking more nights on your vacation rental, we can help with that, too.
Vacation rentals can be lucrative investments. They offer rental income in the short term and build equity in the long term. It’s an exciting proposition attracting more investors, especially as travelers embrace vacation rentals as their preferred accommodations.
For the third year in a row, we’re happy to share our list of the ten best places to buy a vacation rental. Our experience working with over 10,000 vacation rental properties across the United States has given us insight into more than 500 markets and how they perform.
This year, we’re including our estimated capitalization rate (cap rate) to help with rankings. Cap rate compares the net rental income generated per year against the purchase price of the property. It’s a good indicator of a property’s earning power and a reliable way to determine where you might get a better return on your investment.
To calculate our cap rates, we started by looking at the median annual rental revenue for Evolve properties in 500+ markets. We also applied yearly expenses of 30% to reflect the costs associated with operating a vacation rental. We then divided that by the median home price on Zillow for properties in each market.
If you’re looking to purchase a vacation rental property, make sure you take a closer look at these areas. Your numbers may differ based on operating costs, property values, and other factors, but this list helps shine a light on promising locations for investors.
A new addition to our list, Maggie Valley is in the Smoky Mountains area outside of Asheville, North Carolina.
It tops our list with a strong cap rate of 17.5%. Driven by low real estate costs with a median price of $155,500 and a median income of $38,949 per year, the Maggie Valley area presents an appealing investment option.
Proximity to the region’s famed mountain range is the primary tourism draw in this area. And the natural resources provide year-round activities, with hiking in the summer, leaf peeping in the autumn, and skiing in the winter.
If you’re looking at this area for a potential investment, shop around for a property that has a nice outdoor area where guests can enjoy the surrounding mountain views. Our data also shows that homes with hot tubs, fire pits, and decks typically perform better than average.
Consistently a top vacation destination for American and international travelers, Florida is an obvious frontrunner for short-term rentals. The warm weather allows for year-round tourism and lower real estate costs leave plenty of room to generate a sizable rental income.
But with so many beach towns, where is the best place to buy in Florida?
St. Augustine rises above the rest in our research with a cap rate of 17%. The median home price is $209,100 and you can earn an estimated median revenue of $50,989 in this area.
That’s an attractive rate of return, and it has the potential to increase further when you have top amenities like a private pool, hot tub, and proximity to the beach.
Rich in history, outdoor recreation, and prime beach access, St. Augustine offers great vacation rental potential for investors.
Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville have been proving their weight in gold for years. These family-friendly vacation rental destinations have a high demand for accommodations ten months out of the year and they provide a steady source of rental income.
With relatively low housing prices and few restrictions for short-term rentals, it’s no surprise that this area has become a top destination for vacation rental investors. Cabins are the preferred type of housing for regional visitors, and we found that the median home price ranges from $162,000 to $202,300 across Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg.
While the area is generally affordable, you might run into prices as high as $800,000 for larger (five bedrooms+) and more luxurious properties. Essential amenities for the Gatlinburg area are hot tubs, mountain views, and game rooms.
While the median for rental revenue is around $42,751, we do see six-figure revenue potential for larger properties in the area. If your rental is in good shape, with a desirable location and popular amenities, you stand a high chance of earning even more.
An hour down the coast from Galveston, this Texas town is known for beautiful beaches and a laid-back community. With few tourist traps or boardwalk shops, most Surfside Beach visitors spend their evenings cooking family dinners at home rather than hitting the town. That makes fully equipped vacation rentals all the more successful in this area.
We found the median home price for Surfside Beach was $136,500, which is a bargain compared to the stilted homes in the Galveston area that range from $200,000 to $400,000.
A median revenue of $29,321 gives this lesser-known area on the Gulf Coast an impressive cap rate of 15%.
If this coastal Texas town checks all the boxes for you, look for a property that offers ocean views and proximity to the beach. Fortunately, Seaside Beach is situated on a narrow tract of land, so beachfront real estate is not too hard to come by.
The Pocono Mountain region has been drawing tourists to its lakes and ski resorts for more than 100 years. With a strong demand for accommodations and a large inventory of real estate at affordable prices, it’s easy to see why this region is one of our top five places to buy a vacation rental.
The median home price in the Poconos ranges from $118,300 on the low end to $144,300 on the high end. With a property that has an open calendar, the median rental income you can expect to generate ranges from $25,058 all the way up to $40,278 per year.
We found that results vary from town to town, but we see the strongest returns with properties in Tunkhannock Township, Tannersville, and Pocono Lake.
Large lakefront properties that can accommodate a group perform best in this market. It’s also a good idea to look for houses that are updated or that you can renovate after purchasing. This traditional market has many outdated properties, and you can beat out the competition and charge a higher nightly rate with a home that has modern kitchens, bathrooms, and furnishings.
Situated in the Brainerd Lakes area north of the Twin Cities, vacation rentals in the Pequot Lakes area are hugely popular in summer months. Even better, they get bookings during the slow winter season for holidays and weekend retreats.
This market provides advantages to buyers in the Midwest because it’s a great investment opportunity where you can make strong returns, but it’s also close to home. That makes regular maintenance easier and offers the added benefit of having a second home for your personal use when you don’t have guests in residence.
While the median home price is $204,600 for properties in this area, larger homes that sleep eight or more people tend to see the best success. So it pays to invest in a larger property if you have the budget.
Something to consider with an investment in the Pequot Lakes area or a similar market is that rentals here tend to have a shorter season. With cold winter months, you face some pressure to hit your revenue goals during the high season, which requires smart pricing and aggressive marketing strategies.
Spanning two hundred miles across the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley is an outdoor oasis. Visitors enjoy exploring National Parks and Forests, outdoor sports (skiing, fishing, golfing, canoeing and more) and a segment of the famed Appalachian Trail.
With an area that large, home prices and rental income will obviously vary. Still, the median home price in the markets that made our list is $227,500, earning $37,763 per year in estimated annual revenue.
To increase your income potential, look closely at the four-season resort areas of Massanutten and Wintergreen. They can expand your booking season via snow sports in the winter and water parks during the peak summer booking window.
Profit-driving amenities include hot tubs, a deck with a view (and a grill), and game tables like billiards and foosball. If you’re looking to invest in this area, the closer a property is to Massanutten Resort or Shenandoah National Park, the better.
With theme parks, specialty museums, shopping, and hundreds of shows per year, there’s no shortage of things to do in Branson. This Ozark getaway is a family-friendly vacation spot that has caught the eye of investors who want reliable returns and a lower price point.
The median home price hovers around $145,000, making this an affordable place to buy a vacation home. Our data revealed that rentals in Branson generate $24,062 in rental revenue per year at the median for a 11.6% cap rate.
The tourism season spans from March to December, so you have the opportunity to book ten months out of the year and reach an impressive occupancy.
Another benefit of investing in this area is that there are few regulations standing in the way of vacation rentals. Some areas west of Branson may come with restrictions, but the area is generally friendly toward short-term rentals.
The vacation rental inventory is a mix of condos, cabins, and homes. So no matter your budget, you can find something in this market that will perform well. Amenities that can help you succeed include proximity to popular attractions (the Shows District, Table Rock Lake, and Silver Dollar City), decks, and lake or mountain views.
For the third year in a row, Myrtle Beach makes our top-ten list. The seaside town is known for its 60-mile stretch of beaches, as well as theme parks, museums, and shopping. It’s also home to festivals, bike rallies, car shows and other events that draw crowds and drive up demand for accommodations.
Yet, Myrtle Beach is a budget-friendly place to invest. Condos frequently sell for under $100,000, and Zillow data shows the median home price is around $144,700.
If you buy in this market, beach proximity is important. However, unlike Surfside Beach, you don’t have to be on the water to be successful. Rental properties within one or two miles of the beach will also book and perform well.
When you’re buying a condo in a resort or community, be careful with association fees and restrictions. Higher fees typically get you nice facilities, upkeep, pools, and other amenities that are attractive to guests, but you may pay a lot for those add-ons.
Hot Springs, Arkansas is named for Hot Springs National Park, a treasured natural feature that draws visitors for its mineral-rich water.
A prime benefit of investing in this market is that your money stretches here. The median home price is $148,800 and generates a healthy $24,425 per year at the median for estimated annual revenue. That leaves plenty of flexibility to pocket the income or pay off your investment quickly.
For the best returns in this market, look for properties close to downtown Hot Springs or on Lake Hamilton. In our experience, waterfront homes tend to achieve higher occupancy rates and command better nightly rates than properties farther from the action.
Lake views, updated interiors, and dock access are additional amenities that can improve your performance in Hot Springs.
As always, the answer depends on your budget, your revenue goals, and your personal preferences.
You might want to purchase in a proven market like Gatlinburg or Poconos even if that means stiffer competition to get bookings. Or, you might want to buy in an area that isn’t as saturated, like Hot Springs or Surfside Beach, where you get more for your money.
We always encourage investors to think about where they’d like to visit. One of the key benefits you get from a vacation rental is that you get a second home for yourself. Where would you want to stay?
This list is a great place to start your consideration process, but it’s by no means definitive. There are many popular destinations that didn’t make our list. Think of this as a snapshot of the markets that you might want to explore if you’re looking to get the biggest return on your investment.
If you want more information, Evolve is constantly updating resources like these to help you better understand the vacation rental market:
If you’ve already chosen a property and need to get your vacation rental off the ground, let us help.
With Evolve, you get everything you need to start a successful vacation rental: professional photos, a custom listing, competitive rates, vacation rental expertise, and full-time teams to support you.
There are no upfront costs and you pay just a low 10% fee per booking. Learn more about our services and contact us to see if your home qualifies.
Have you ever thought about investing in a vacation home to use a short-term rental? We asked Daniela Andreevska at Mashvisor to share some insight on why real estate investors are wise to consider this avenue as they get started with their first real estate investments.
Looking for the best way to make money outside your 9-to-5 job? How about real estate investing?
It can be intimidating to dive headfirst into the world of real estate investment, but buying a vacation rental home is one avenue that’s gaining a lot of popularity. We think it might just be the best way to enter the real estate business and become a property investor.
There are many benefits to buying a vacation rental and we have put together a list of the top reasons that we think you should consider this as your first step in real estate investment.
If you’re a first-time real estate investor, you are probably considering all the options and thinking about what’s best for you.
Buying a vacation rental home has one clear advantage: It can serve dual purposes. You can use it as a second home and spend your own vacations there with your family, and then rent it out to guests the rest of the year.
Buying an investment property for the sole purpose of renting it out long-term does not give you this option.
One of the major advantages of real estate investing in general, and investing in rental properties in particular, is the fact that you gain a source of steady income.
How? Through rental income.
The idea is that you will be renting out your second home to guests when you aren’t using it. You’ll be making money without having to necessarily buy an “investment” property. After all, your vacation home is your second home. It just happens to make money on the side.
When you buy a vacation home and use it as a short-term rental, the money you make from bookings actually helps you pay the mortgage and other expenses (property tax, insurance, maintenance, and repairs) for the place where you spend your vacations.
In addition to making money in the short run, a vacation rental home also makes money – potentially a lot of it – in the long term.
A second home is a real estate property, and real estate generally appreciates in value over time. When you are ready to sell your vacation rental property, you can usually sell it at a higher price and cash in on the profit. The best part is that you don’t have to do anything to enjoy this benefit. Natural real estate appreciation will take care of it.
If you want to make even more money when selling your property, you can make modifications and improvements to push up the market value of your vacation rental (known as forced appreciation).
Similar to your primary home or an investment property, a second home also provides tax deductions. These apply to mortgage payments, property tax, rental income, insurance premium, utilities, and other rental expenses.
However, the situation with a vacation rental can get somewhat complicated depending on the number of days you live in your property and the number of days you rent it out to guests. So, if you decide to buy a vacation rental, we recommend that you work with a professional accountant and/or a real estate attorney to assure that you are taking maximum advantage of tax deductions without breaking any tax laws.
Investing in vacation rental exposes you to lower risk than other types of real estate investment. First, vacation homes are in top tourist destinations, so you can attract lots of guests, reach high occupancy rates, and charge a high nightly rate.
The combined effect is high rental income. And rental income is how investors make money from their rental properties.
One way to reduce your risk even further is to choose a location and a property that works as either a traditional, long-term rental or as a short-term rental. If you find that you have a low occupancy rate, low rental income, and negative cash flow, you have the option to switch strategies and become a traditional landlord.
And in the worst case scenario, if a long-term rental strategy also fails to bring you a positive cash flow, you still have a second home to use with your family. This will save you the cost of renting hotels or other people’s vacation homes until your property has appreciated enough in value to sell it. After all, if your vacation rental is located in a popular destination, appreciation should not take more than a few years to kick in.
No matter how many real estate books you read or how many real estate classes you attend, you will not become an expert real estate investor until you actually buy an income property and start managing it.
Buying a vacation rental home provides you with an easy entry into the world of real estate investment because it’s often less stressful than other real estate investment strategies, such as becoming a full-time landlord, fix-and-flip, wholesaling, etc.
While some people take on vacation rental management as a full-time job, you don’t have to do this in order to start making money in real estate. It’s feasible to make owning a vacation rental a part-time job that doesn’t take up too much of your time, especially if you use a vacation rental management service.
Management is a major concern for inexperienced investors, and it can potentially turn into a real nightmare for first-time vacation rental owners. Imagine having to clean your property, change the sheets, wash the towels, and refill the toiletries between each guest – sometimes multiple times a week – all the while working your 9-to-5 job.
Most owners don’t have time for that. Instead of handling it themselves, they’re hiring property managers or vacation rental management services to take over those time-consuming duties. Then they are free to oversee the aspects of vacation rental management they want, like talking to guests, making recommendations, and collecting rental income.
Investing in a vacation rental home is an easy entry point to real estate investment that provides endless opportunities to learn and carries lower risk than other options. But if you are a beginner real estate investor, you might be wondering how to go about the whole process of buying a vacation home as an investment property.
Here’s a list of the main factors you need to consider as you look for vacation rental properties:
Experts say that “location, location, and location” are the three most important factors in a successful real estate investment, and they are not mistaken. When buying a vacation rental home, choose places where other travelers – besides you and your family and friends – would enjoy. To check out some of the best places to buy a vacation home to start investing in real estate in 2018 based on data from Mashvisor, click here.
Regulations on short-term rentals have been tightening in many places around the U.S., so once you’ve chosen a location for buying your second home, make sure you will be allowed to use the property as a short-term rental and make sure you won’t be taxed too heavily for it.
Before buying your income property, conduct some real estate market analysis to make sure you’re not overpaying for your second home. Real estate comps are the only way to assure you can get positive cash flow from renting out your vacation home on a short-term basis.
Compare the rental property you’re considering buying with other vacation rentals around the area to see how you can stay competitive while making money in real estate. Predictive analytics can also help.
Mashvisor’s rental income calculator allows you to conduct all the necessary analyses you need in order to make the best real estate investment decisions quickly and easily.
More people are buying vacation rentals as their first real estate investments because it’s a sound financial decision. The demand for vacation rentals is at an all-time high and continues to grow. There’s low risk, because at the end of the day, you have a second home where you can vacation for free. And with new cost-effective vacation rental management systems, you have access to the help you maximize the return on your investment.
Daniela Andreevska is the Content Marketing Director at Mashvisor. Mashvisor helps real estate investors quickly find traditional and Airbnb investment properties.
Every year is a collection of memories. 2021 could be the year you witness foliage that resembles a real-life painting as you wind through the Poconos. It could be the holiday season you stroll a Bavarian-style mountain village, marveling over 500,000 lights with a hot pretzel in hand. Or maybe, this is the year you finally take a beach trip to the islands with nothing to do but admire gentle waves and miles of white sand.
Planning your 2021 vacation is half the fun — and science shows that even thinking about travel can make you happy. Whether you’re looking forward to a family vacation or a secluded solo getaway, this trip planner is sure to take your imagination on an adventure. Book early, start getting excited and know that every Evolve vacation rental comes with the flexibility to change your plans.
Health and Wellness Update: For your safety, we require you to follow local instructions regarding COVID-19 and wear a mask if you choose to interact with an owner. Evolve’s flexible cancellation policy helps you book with confidence, knowing you can change the dates of stay or the chosen property up to 48 hours before check-in.
This spring is about seeking peaceful moments and taking it easy. In Cape Coral, you can visit islands that are home to picturesque shores by way of a short drive. Grab your sun hat, find a place in the sand, and float in the ocean as you admire vast blue skies.
Mornings in Cape Coral: Start the day with a maple latte and s’mores waffle (or find savory eats, too) at Bullig in Fort Myers. Then, head to Manatee Park in North Fort Myers, a warm-water refuge for manatees. On your way back to your vacation rental, stop by the lively Fort Myers River District and pop into local shops and galleries on foot.
Afternoons in Cape Coral: Cape Coral days are best spent perfecting your tan from an island in the Gulf of Mexico. Pass slow afternoons on Sanibel Island, known for stunning white-sand beaches, see-through waters, and beautiful shells that find their way to shore. Play in the sun at Bowman’s Beach, grab a quick New England-style seafood sandwich at Clam Shack, and take a drive over to Captiva Island, where more unspoiled beaches and clear waters await.
If you’re back from the islands early, toast to the day’s adventure at Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery. You can schedule a tour here to gain a deeper understanding of the spirit or taste your way through rums that are big on flavor, including fruit Rumshines.
Evenings in Cape Coral: At night, dress up and dine on an organic farm covered in Spanish moss that sits on 100 acres of land. After a scenic meal at Rosy Tomorrow, you’ll leave with a new appreciation for the fresh Florida produce and grass-fed, heritage meats.
If you’re looking for more a relaxed evening — maybe a sunset walk at Bunche Beach and a scoop of ice cream — stop into Cape Creamery for everything from classic flavors to Banana Puddin’ and Great White Shark scoops.
Where to Stay: Enjoy a dip in your private pool or hot tub with serene canal views in the luxurious Cape Coral vacation rental (pictured above) that’s a resort of your own.
In Blue Ridge, you can breathe in crisp alpine air and enjoy summer how it’s best spent: nestled in the mountains. Go on hikes surrounded by waterfalls, pay a visit to local orchards, and when evening rolls around, time-travel back to 1955.
Mornings in Blue Ridge, GA: Sleep in, then enjoy a leisurely morning walk around Lake Blue Ridge. When your appetite kicks in, grab legendary Cuban sandwiches and Cafe Con Leche at Rum Cake Lady Cuban Cafe (and treat yourself to a rum cake for your afternoon drive ahead).
Afternoons in Blue Ridge, GA: The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to a handful of small towns that make charming day trips. Helen, Georgia — a European-style village with only 430 residents — is just about an hour from Blue Ridge.
Right in Helen, you can rent tubes for a refreshing river float, visit the awe-inspiring Anna Ruby Falls that tumble through the forest, or spend the afternoon sipping your way through local tasting rooms. Be sure to bring your camera along, as you might be inspired by the cobblestone streets and playful facades here.
Before you head back to your Blue Ridge vacation rental, pay a visit to Mercier Orchards and pick fresh fruit right off the vine for snacking later. If you’re in more of a mood to grab and go, Mercier sells pies, jams, and even hard cider that let you sample their signature apples.
Evenings in Blue Ridge, GA: Make the most of long summer nights by going old school. Grab a cold pint at Grumpy Old Men Brewery, pick up candy at Huck’s General Store, then head down the street to Swan Drive-In. Awaken the past as you turn on the radio, let the headlights dim, and experience what a visit to Blue Ridge might’ve been like back in 1955 when the theater opened.
If you’re looking to get dressed up, make a reservation at Black Sheep, where you can savor steaks and seafood inside of a darling, historic house circa 1914.
Where to Stay: Take in the lush surroundings next to the fire from this Blue Ridge, GA vacation rental cabin (pictured above) that offers an upscale spin on rustic living.
Want more outdoor-focused summer travel ideas? Read our feature on National Parks.
Hit the road, put on your favorite sweater, and experience a brilliant palette that rivals New England foliage. The Poconos are about taking your time and reconnecting with nature through drives, day trips, and the occasional glass of local wine.
Mornings in the Poconos: Cook a decadent fall breakfast in your vacation rental (like one of these ideas from Love and Lemons). Once you’re fueled up, grab your camera and adventure out on a tour of local waterfalls.
A short and easy hike will take you to the base of Hawks Falls at Hickory Run State Park, or you can head to the immersive Bushkill Falls, where eight cascading waterfalls paint the side of the rock. For a day trip, take a drive to the tiny, romantic town of Jim Thorpe, PA, where a mansion from 1861 awaits your visit.
Afternoons in the Poconos: Midday is the prime time to wind through the mountains, admiring fall in its rich hues. Heat some cider at your cabin and pick one of these seven scenic drives. The best way to see fall color is to take your time and stop when something piques your interest — and the Poconos Mountain area has also rounded up a list of leaf-peeping FAQs right here.
When you’re ready to relax, stop for a wine tasting at Three Hammers Winery, and bring a bottle home for later.
Evenings in the Poconos: Fall is about crisp evenings on the porch, sipping with a blanket and good conversation. Grab something cozy to-go for dinner (like locally loved pho), then sit outside your vacation rental cabin surrounded by trees, admiring their colors as they shift in the fading light. Then bring the party inside, playing board games, curling up with a movie, and falling asleep in the stillness of the mountains.
Where to Stay: This welcoming Poconos vacation rental cabin (pictured above) fills fall days with natural light, crackling fires, and a porch overlooking it all.
If you’re in the mood for more cozy getaway ideas, read our guide to hygge homes.
Cradled in the Cascade Ridge, this inviting town embraces the holiday season each year by way of half a million holiday lights that twinkle over Bavarian-style buildings. Drink cocoa at your Leavenworth vacation rental, then let yourself get lost in the magic of Leavenworth, home to authentic German restaurants, quaint shops, and quiet natural wonders.
Mornings in Leavenworth, WA: Get a strong start with an ethically sourced brew at J5 Coffee, where decadent flavored lattes are made with love. Next, head over to The Gingerbread Factory and pick up decorated gingerbread cookies. Wander the bright, dreamy downtown area as you shop small-batch home decor at Posy Handpicked Goods, find a new read at A Book for All Seasons, or pick up a piece of German Christmas decor that’s sure to become an heirloom at Tannenbaum Shoppe.
Afternoons in Leavenworth, WA: Leavenworth is home to a one-of-kind museum, where nutcrackers are the star. Explore 7,000 timeless wooden toy soldiers at The Nutcracker Museum, befriend woodland caribou at Leavenworth’s Reindeer Farm, and embark on a fairytale sleigh ride journey through the snow. Once you’re ready for some warmth, grab an afternoon pie at Blewett Brewing.
Evenings in Leavenworth, WA: As night falls over this Bavarian village, take a walk and experience why Leavenworth is called The Village of Lights. Then, ski Cascade Ridge under the enchantment of evening — Stevens Pass invites adventure-lovers to night-ski with six lifts that stay open late. When a nightcap is calling, visit Pika Provisions (on Friday and Saturday evenings), where you can sip inventive craft cocktails in a soothing, speakeasy atmosphere.
For an elegant night out at a slower pace, make a reservation at Mana, an intimate dining experience where eight courses tune to the season. Or, pick up homemade soup from Yodelin Broth and locally crafted to-go cider from Bushel & Bee, then rest easy in your Evolve vacation rental.
Where to Stay: Sleep nestled in the woods at this welcoming Leavenworth vacation rental cabin (pictured above) that comes with a fireplace and outdoor ambiance.
Want more of that European feeling that’s closer to home? Check out our guide to the Best Places in the U.S. That Feel International right here — or take a journey into America’s Best Small Towns for more winter vacation ideas.
Put exciting plans on the calendar without the pressure of having them set in stone. Evolve lets you book vacation rentals that come with the flexibility to change the property or travel dates up to 48 hours before check-in. Our verified homes are backed by our Rest Easy Promise — meaning you’ll always arrive at a clean place that’s 100% ready for you.
The vacation rental industry has flourished over the last few years, and experts project it won’t slow anytime soon: Between now and 2024, it’s estimated the space will see a market growth of $62.7 billion. (That’s right, billion.)
Shifting traveler behaviors in 2020 have contributed to the widespread appeal of short-term rental property investment. With social distancing and seclusion at the forefront of everyone’s minds amidst the coronavirus pandemic, people are looking to escape cities for small town America, driving to destinations that let them take in the fresh air and peace that Mother Nature provides.
With booming investment opportunities in the quaintest corners of our country, we’re excited to be back with our annual list of the best places to buy a vacation rental. From hotspots nestled in the mountains to beachy enclaves, here’s where you should consider scooping up property in 2021.
The By the Numbers data below is based on a combination of proprietary and public data, but the three main metrics we took into account are:
We also evaluated a property’s potential to outperform market expectations with an Evolve partnership. Below, you’ll see how we helped some of our top performers maximize income in each area, resulting in them significantly surpassing the market’s projected revenue.
Back for the third year in a row, the Poconos now sit in the top spot for vacation rental property investment. An ideal destination for the outdoorsy traveler, townships like Tobyhanna, Pocono Lake, and Albrightsville attract year-round visitors with their expansive woodlands and picturesque mountain views.
New York and Philadelphia city-dwellers escape to the Poconos for skiing in the winter, hiking and water sports in the summer, and small town charm all year long. Our Real Estate Services (RES) experts suggest looking for waterfront properties near Lake Wallenpaupack or Arrowhead Lake, where most rental properties see the hottest booking demand.
Making its debut in our #2 spot is the idyllic mountain town of Blue Ridge. From hiking and horseback riding to apple picking and trout fishing, this storybook-worthy slice of the South is a vacationer’s rustic dream.
Visitors often enjoy the trails and waterfalls of Chattahoochee National Forest, or ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway to the neighboring mountain towns of McCaysville and Copperhill — making your vacation rental the perfect homebase for a variety of dreamy day trips. Our RES team says to look for cabin homes with views to really maximize your earning potential.
If Gatlinburg, TN wowed you on last year’s best places to buy list, then you won’t be disappointed in its neighbor to the north. Located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge is the geographic epicenter of Gatlinburg and Sevierville vacation rental demand.
Known for its array of family-friendly activities and breathtaking natural beauty, visitors often come to explore Great Smoky Mountains National Park or to frequent Dollywood for rides and water slides with the kids. When the temperatures drop, skiers flock to the Ober Gatlinburg resort for thrilling days of snow-filled fun.
What’s more: Evolve vacation rental owners have found the Pigeon Forge area (again, that includes Gatlinburg and Sevierville) to be a true property investment gem thanks to year-round occupancy and impressive returns on investment.
Another newcomer to our lineup, Granbury presents a must-consider investment opportunity in the Lone Star State. Sandwiched between Dallas and Fort Worth, this town offers easy access to big city attractions while maintaining a rich cultural heart of its own.
For an escape into nature, the beach at Lake Granbury is the area’s most notable outdoor recreation hotspot, so our RES team recommends snapping up investment properties with easy lake access or a lakefront view. Given it’s only about an eight-minute drive from downtown (where live theater and historic town tours await), your guests will feel tucked away, yet never too far from the action.
If you’re wondering what the hubbub around Hot Springs is, you can find it right in the name. Right next to Hot Springs National Park, this Ouachita Mountains locale draws visitors from near and far for its naturally-heated, mineral-rich springs and bathhouses. Add in photo-worthy waterfalls and a 210-acre woodlands botanical garden, and Hot Springs is home to some truly stunning nature views.
The great news: list prices are surprisingly low for properties near Hot Springs National Park, and our RES team says it shouldn’t take long to recoup the investment. Consider this destination a formidable up-and-comer with loads of untapped potential.
File under: “Mountain town…but make it Southwest.” Nestled in the Sierra Blanca mountain range, Ruidoso is a paradise for skiers and cowboys alike. In the winter, the slopes at Ski Apache Resort and Ruidoso Winter Park see an influx of snowsport lovers. In the summer, the Ruidoso Downs Race Track gets its fair share of guests, as does the photogenic Bonito Lake. Year-round, visitors patronize the area’s casinos to try their luck at Billy the Kid Casino or the Inn of the Mountain Gods.
While Ruidoso median revenue hovers around $26,000 annually, we’ve seen Evolve homeowners earn over six figures in just 18 months. Between the wide array of outdoor recreational activities, casino nightlife, and preponderance of the ever-popular cabin home aesthetic, Ruidoso is solidly one of the best places to buy an investment property for vacation rental.
Broken Bow is so nice, we’re officially featuring it twice. A woodsy wonderland with historical charm, Broken Bow is the gateway to Beavers Bend State Park and the home to Broken Bow Lake. Fly fishing, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and ATV riding are just a few of the outdoor activities this lush landscape has to offer.
Given the abundance of watersport activity, our RES team says investors should look for cabins along Broken Bow Lake or in Hochatown. Many travelers are on the hunt for added amenities when they book in the area, too, so it’s worth exploring luxury homes (factored into our investment stats) to maximize revenue.
That said, luxury price points aren’t your only option: prospective buyers can still find homes a bit farther from the lake at prices as low as $96,000 — you may just need to anticipate lower revenue, too.
Branson is making a well-deserved return to this year’s best places to buy list. A popular family destination in the Ozarks, this small town with Wild West vibes has a variety of amusement parks, specialty museums, and entertainment opportunities on the famous 76 Country Boulevard (Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner & Show is truly a can’t-miss).
Guests who want to experience the great outdoors flock to Branson to hike and fish in Table Rock State Park, or take in Ozark views during a ride on the historic Branson Scenic Railway. Your occupancy won’t dip in winter, either, as people gather to enjoy Branson’s many festive holiday lights displays.
Lake Havasu City is perfect for travelers seeking desert and water. Best known for its many red rock trails, the Lake Havasu terrain is a hiker’s paradise. Situated alongside Lake Havasu, though, the city becomes a bit of an oasis as explorers can uncover hidden coves and beaches. Boating, fishing, water sports, and scuba diving are among the most popular recreational activities.
For history buffs, there’s also the London Bridge. Relocated from the Thames in 1964 and known as the world’s largest antique, the bridge now spans the Colorado River and attracts a multitude of annual visitors.
In general, Arizona also happens to be very short-term rental friendly. Free from regulations and with year-round travel demand, our RES team says the investment opportunity in Lake Havasu City is yours for the taking.
For investors interested in finding beach property, Cape Coral is worth serious consideration. Right on the Gulf of Mexico, this coastal haven offers more than just ocean views and sandy coves — ecological and aquatic preserves give visitors the chance to experience rich biodiversity, too.
It’s easy to take a kayak excursion through the mangroves of Four Mile Cove to see herons, ibis, and eagles. Guests can also relax in Sirenia Vista Park for a manatee sighting, or take a Cape Coral Dolphin Tour on the open ocean. Of course, water sports, boating, kayaking, and fishing are also popular activities in the area.
While high HOAs are often a deterrent to Florida investors, Cape Coral is one of the few areas in the Sunshine State without heavy regulation. This means fewer hoops for buyers to jump through financially, and a much easier path to ROI on your income property.
A few hours north of New York City sit the Catskills, a lush mountain range dotted with charming small towns. New Yorkers head that way year-round to enjoy the natural landscape, heritage of arts and culture, and plethora of foodie communities. The Catskills also offer a variety of family-friendly activities, loads of outdoor recreational options, and the perfect backdrop for romantic couples getaways — so it’s pretty likely travelers of all kinds will find something to really make their hearts sing.
Our RES team notes investors looking to capitalize on the Catskill’s ever-present draw should check out the eclectic Woodstock, riverfront Catskill, pastoral Margaretville, or Windham at the area’s northernmost tip. And remember, you want to strike while the iron’s hot: the local market has seen 40 percent growth in the last two years alone.
Investing in a vacation rental property is a personal decision, but you don’t have to navigate your options alone. Whether you’re drawn to one of our tried-and-true mountain towns or enticed by the untapped potential of a lesser-known up-and-comer, our Real Estate Services team can help you take the next step.
We have the data to contextualize your investment opportunities and define your objectives, preferred real estate agents who specialize in vacation rental purchases, and an arsenal of management tools to help you reach your personal and financial goals once you’ve closed on your short-term rental property and are ready to jumpstart your business.
For additional research, here are some resources to help you better understand the potential of vacation rental investment:
And here’s a quick list of additional locations that have made our Best Places to Buy a Vacation Rental list in previous years:
Now that you’re ready to talk about purchasing the home of your dreams, let’s get the conversation started today.
Snowy driveways, cozy firelit evenings, frost on the window panes, hot cocoa on the stove.
To your guests, these ingredients make for a charming winter escape. But to unprepared vacation rental owners, they can translate to icy danger, a freezing-cold draft, and a seasonal headache brewing.
Luckily, we’re here to make sure that isn’t you. So even though prepping your vacation rental for winter bookings might feel like a mind-boggling game of Jenga (where the heck do I start?), we tapped Nicole Guidi of Book by Owner to share the inside scoop on how to winterize a home with confidence.
From seasonal cleaning tips to getting your rental’s amenities cold weather-ready, these are the key action items — along with a few bonus tips! — that’ll winterize your vacation home and help lock in those five-star guest experiences.
In an ideal world, your cleaning services are already operating like a well-oiled machine. (If they’re not, check out our comprehensive cleaning checklists for some easy and efficient standardization.)
But what about the fireplace that’s gone unused for most of the year? Or those gutters that are now filled with autumn’s leaves? To winterize your home and prep for cold-weather guests, you’ll want to task your cleaning or maintenance team with the essential to-dos that may have been put on the backburner during warmer months:
Bonus Tip: Carpets should be cleaned every 12 to 18 months, so while not required, Guidi recommends using the season change as an opportunity to get it done. “It’s expensive, but it really keeps up your investment,” she says. Think of it this way: your guests will be spending more time cozied up inside your home, so might as well make things pristine!
You remember that nightmare we started laying out? The icy driveway, the piled snow, the it-looks-pretty-but-my-car-is-buried scenario?
Many homeowners have experienced some version of that after forgetting to equip their maintenance teams (and guests!) with winter-specific supplies. So it’s important to take a pre-season inventory of what’s needed to combat the elements, then stockpile. Guidi says it’s common for homeowners to provide the following:
Bonus Tip: To level up your guests’ experience, consider throwing in some cozy robes, hot chocolate supplies, and hand warmers for extra comfort. It’s the little touches that add to your home’s charm and stay top of mind when your guests leave five-star reviews about the experience!
Before the chill sets in, hire certified professionals (or tap your property maintenance team where applicable) to verify proper functioning of important systems, inspect windows, and winterize amenities like above-ground and inground pools, hot tubs, and sprinkler systems. Here’s a step-by-step guide for how you and the pros can winterize your house.
Bonus Tip: Get a priority on-call service partner for the winter. “The toughest thing we run into is that when the heat goes out, it’s hard getting a contractor out in a timely manner to fix the issue,” Guidi says. And it goes beyond heating repairs. Whether it’s a guest check-in issue, snow removal, a drafty bedroom, or a hot tub snafu, it’s a good idea to have vetted service partners available to handle emergencies. (P.S. If you become an Evolve homeowner, we can help you find the perfect fit.)
It may seem like a splurge, but investing in “smart” technology can be really valuable if you’re managing your property remotely. Simplify the winterizing process, save money and energy, and handle issues without deploying your on-site contact with these tech improvements:
Guidi’s biggest rule of thumb for vacation rental homeowners: “If you can’t do it yourself, hire professionals to make sure all of these checks and balances get done.”
Enter Evolve. Our fresh approach to vacation rental management makes year-round success feel like a summer breeze. We give you total marketing, booking, and customer support across popular websites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com. We also connect you with trusted cleaning and support partners, so you can decide who to work with to create the Home Team of your dreams.
It’s our job to drive more guests to your property for maximum income, so you can focus on providing an incredible guest experience — all for an industry-low 10% management fee.
We’ve helped 14,000+ homeowners earn more than $1 billion in rental income. And we’d love to help you.
See if you qualify or call one of our Vacation Rental Advisors today at 877.881.7584.
When someone opens a gift they truly love, an extraordinary thing happens — the holidays feel like the holidays. The opener will always remember where they received that gift, the palpable excitement, and the understanding that someone in their life really gets them.
Finding this kind of holiday gift can bring on a lot of pressure — because, let’s face it, that new pair of socks is likely to sit collecting dust. Our 2020 holiday gifting guide is here to help you give the people you love the best present of their year: an experience. Book an escape for them to share with you, put a handwritten note inside of a card, and let the joy unfold. The best part is, it’s a gift for you, too.
Every Evolve vacation rental is professionally cleaned and flexible (meaning, if you don’t feel comfortable traveling on the dates you booked, you can change them). So put on your favorite holiday music and explore unique travel gifts for everyone on your list this year.
Vail invites you to fly down mountains at new speeds by winter and hike wildflower-laden trails by summer. Pristine slopes line this awe-inspiring town brimming with warm shops and restaurants that will make you think you’ve been transported to Germany. If you’re considering a Colorado mountain stay but want to learn a little more first, explore our top things to do in Vail.
Bask in the warmth of the sun, dig your feet into the sand, and watch the seagulls skim the shore in breathtaking Hilton Head. Spend casual days taking dad to tee off next to legends on world-famous golf courses, enjoy a never-ending walk on the beach with your significant other as the sun goes down, or rent bikes as a family and feel the wind in your hair.
No matter what you choose to do, Hilton Head brings the leisure of vacation to every moment. Read our top picks for Hilton Head right here.
Mid-century haunts by the pool and retro sophistication are ahead of you when you book a trip to Palm Springs. This desert oasis is made for design enthusiasts, home to stylish pools, swanky restaurants, and trend-setting boutiques. Bring your friend who is a Mad Men fan and spend days worshipping the sun with an old fashioned in hand (and read our travel guide to Palm Springs to get really excited).
Drives here are something to behold, with pink-tinged sunsets and mesmerizing cacti. Relish the desert’s magic from Saguaro National Park, then get a new perspective on your surroundings from a geothermal hot spring. Spend evenings winding down with wine from local vineyards, stargazing, and appreciating the rare wonder of uninterrupted time together. For even more Tucson ideas, check out our top things to do here.
Foodies are always looking for a refreshing new way to indulge their taste buds, and Traverse City has two compelling flavors: bold local wines and fresh cherry, well, everything. Traverse City celebrates its signature cherries with creative finesse, from homemade pies to craft cocktails. Venture on an indulgent getaway you’ll savor for years with this overview of what to do when you’re in town.
We all know that nature-lover — the one who treks deep into the woods, cooks over an open flame, and falls asleep with the stars as their ceiling. Going to the Poconos in a vacation rental gives them a way to delight in all of the nature they love while still getting their best night’s sleep.
Explore lush scenic hikes on foot, quiet days at the lake, or take it easy at the house with the great outdoors as your backdrop. You can read up on more ideas for your Poconos vacation here.
Each day in Cape Cod brings a chance to stroll charming villages, eat fresh-caught seafood on the shore, and wander historical sites that revive the past. Away from the hustle of the big city, creative types can revel in their surroundings and hit the page (or the blank canvas, or even the cutting board) with fresh momentum. We’ve created a full travel guide to Cape Cod you can check out right here before you choose the perfect vacation home.
Gatlinburg is a dream trip for a family — from nostalgic thrills at Dollywood to days spent getting lost in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Adults can raise their glass at local breweries and wineries, discover the next up-and-coming musician, explore a scenic downtown area, or grab a bite at a memorable restaurant (like Crockett’s 1875 Breakfast Camp, home to the largest cinnamon roll you’ve ever experienced). Get a feel for what you’ll uncover in Gatlinburg with this curated travel guide.
It’s natural you’d want every gift to be perfect, and that’s why Evolve stays are backed by our Rest Easy Promise. Enjoy a professionally cleaned home that’s always true to what you saw online, and if something about the gift isn’t quite right (such as the travel dates), you can change plans up to 48 hours before check-in when you book directly with us on our site.
For even more holiday travel gifting ideas, check out our roundup of America’s best small towns or explore vacation homes near national parks.
Chill the champagne — a new year is almost upon us. As the holiday season winds down, it’s more important than ever to carve out time for yourself and leave the stress of 2020 behind. This month, we’re putting the spotlight on self-care with some easy ideas sure to help you recharge mentally. Because a new year isn’t about a new you — it’s about replenishing everything you already are and starting to feel your best again.
Dive into our self-care guide, and if you feel like extra credit, take any of these ideas for handling holiday stress (and post-holiday stress) on the road. Our professionally cleaned, private vacation homes are made for restorative nights away.
How you begin your day sets the tone for everything that follows, so put your phone aside and enjoy the quiet of the morning with a warm beverage — whether it’s coffee, hot water with lemon, or a cozy cup of tea. While you sip, take a few moments to observe your surroundings and gather your thoughts by journaling or meditating.
Once you’re feeling centered, power up with a healthy meal that doesn’t skimp on taste, making sure you’re getting a balance of protein, fat, and fiber. These breakfast sandwiches from Well + Good are a delicious beginning.
Yes, sleep is a big deal. Are you getting enough of it? Going to bed at an established time each evening will help you welcome the next day with more energy. To find your best sleep, make your bed, try to keep your bedroom free of clutter, and treat your sleep space like a sanctuary.
Fall into better rest by listening to relaxing music before bed, reading a lighthearted book, or using an app like Calm. If you’re in need of deep sleep that’s completely free of distraction, head off to a vacation rental that’s just a drive away for a long weekend.
It’s natural to feel drained after a holiday season indoors — and the arrival of much shorter days can also contribute to fatigue. One of our self-care ideas that’s sure to help you recharge is simple: Get outside in the sun. Take a break from your devices (including that social media scrolling), indulge in some fresh air, and return home feeling rejuvenated. If you’re looking for hiking inspiration, check out Travel + Leisure’s Best Hikes in the U.S. for some self-care ideas that will help you reconnect with nature in a meaningful way.
You don’t even need to go for a long hike to enjoy all of the benefits of being outside (here are 11 of them, if you’re curious). The Japanese art of Forest Bathing suggests that the mere act of engaging your senses in the outdoors can make you happier.
Looking to explore cabins nestled in the woods? We’ve got just the place for you to clear your head.
Just because spas might be closed doesn’t mean you don’t deserve time out for R&R. Bring the self-care home with a full weekend devoted to a spa experience. Put on some calming music, light candles, start a soothing bath, make some hot towels, and try out a new face mask. If you’re missing the “getaway” part of the spa, retreat to a private vacation rental and soak in captivating views as you soak in the hot tub.
Hobbies are meaningful because they let you explore other sides of yourself. In fact, researchers have found that those who engaged in a hobby were 34% less stressed than those without a hobby. The great thing about a new hobby is, it doesn’t have to be a big time commitment.
Hit up the craft store to pick up a single-day painting project, try your hand at knitting, bake a family cookie recipe to deliver to your friends, or put your first short story to paper. If you’re unsure where to start, write down all the things you might be interested in exploring and narrow the list down until you find something that excites you.
Escaping your phone and social media can feel like an escape of its own. Challenge yourself to turn off your phone for a while and enjoy some playful time offline. Your analog afternoon could involve curling up with a book you’ve been wanting to read, going for a long walk, challenging a friend to a board game, redesigning your space, or taking a nap. Letting go of the constant need to check devices can help you manage holiday stress (and post-holiday stress).
When you can’t get outside, try reconnecting with nature indoors. Plants invite you to set aside a few peaceful moments each week to make sure they’re watered, they give you an oxygen boost (and a productivity boost of up to 15%), and they make your space feel magazine-worthy with just a small purchase.
For full self-care, we recommend making a day of plant shopping. Stop by your favorite coffee shop and try a new drink, put on a playlist you can’t stop listening to, and head out on a shopping adventure for some of these low-maintenance houseplants (be sure to make sure your choice is pet-friendly if you live with a dog or cat). You can also dive into a day of virtual plant shopping from home with a company like The Sill, which delivers houseplants to your door.
Here’s the thing about exercise — it doesn’t have to be a big lift to get the benefits. And when it comes to benefits, there are almost too many to count. Beyond helping you feel stronger, exercise can boost your mood, enhance creativity, improve your confidence, reduce your anxiety, lower your stress levels, and so much more (this article from Greatist offers a great roundup of the perks).
If you’re new to an exercise routine, clear your head by taking a walk around the block, checking out a new park, or trying out one of these streamable yoga classes.
Obviously, we’re a little biased, but travel leaves you feeling relaxed and gives you the chance to discover new sides of yourself every time. Taking a few days away can also help you manage stress, beat emotional exhaustion, and focus on fun again. Check out this piece from Brit + Co on why travel is an incredible form of self-care, then book that long weekend you’ve been itching for with Evolve — knowing you can change your plans if needed. Jet-setting by plane can be a little tricky right now, but it’s the perfect time to hit the road for a safe, professionally cleaned vacation rental.
If you’re feeling exhausted after handling the stress of the holidays, quiet down in a place you can count on to be ready for you. Our Rest Easy Promise helps you tap into relaxation — and lets you travel without surprises.
Mollie and Jim Platt are successful vacation rental owners in the historic coastal district of Morehead City, NC. The high-season calendar is packed with bookings at their quaint Mermaid Cottage. They’re making thousands of dollars in vacation rental income every year.
You wouldn’t know it, but not long ago, the Platts were vacation rental newbies. They’d never before taken on the responsibility of managing a short-term rental property, and were worried about whether their business venture would succeed or fail.
The Platts are not alone. Hundreds of investors and second-home owners enter the vacation rental industry every day. Running a second home or investment property like a business is a tall task for first-timers. That’s why we asked the Platts—and other now-seasoned owners like them—to reveal what they wish they knew when they were just getting their rental properties off the ground. Here, find our comprehensive list of strategic tips for first-time vacation rental owners. You’ll reduce stress levels while maximizing returns. It’s a win-win.
You’re off to a great start…because you’re here, reading this right now!
From setting rates and figuring out which listing sites are best to staying in the know on state and local regulations, there’s a wealth of knowledge first-time vacation rental owners must absorb to be successful.
“When I first started in the business back in 2005, there wasn’t as much information about vacation rental readily-available. I would read everything I could get my hands on and study other rentals in my area,” said Karen Hopkins, owner of eight short-term rentals in Branson, Missouri.
Karen paved the way to profitability by doing her homework. She was committed to avoiding first-time mistakes by leveraging hospitality recommendations from experienced sources. Today, Karen’s properties get hundreds of bookings a year.
Luckily, owners no longer have to look as hard as Karen did in 2005. A simple Google search pulls up a ton of valuable info for first-timers. Our personal suggestion? The Evolve blog is a great place to start. Check out some of our key resources here:
Pour over these articles, be a sponge, and use this knowledge to empower your next steps in vacation rental success.
When you’re just getting started with vacation rental, it’s tempting to cut corners in an effort to maximize your returns. This often takes two common forms:
Frugality might seem like a responsible driving principal, but it forces owners to work tirelessly to generate rental income results. Ultimately, investing in your vacation rental upfront and releasing the reins of absolute control mean a simpler path to success—and more money in your pocket in the long run.
You might be thinking, “Okay. I’m on board. But what exactly will that entail?” Here’s the short of it: upgrade your vacation rental with simple luxuries, and onboard services that can take your business venture to the next level. Our next two tips will help you navigate these recommendations in more detail.
When decorating your vacation rental, it’s important to create a comfortable and convenient space for any guest to enjoy. To achieve this goal, start with a base canvas of classic, crisp lines and color palettes. Exercise design discretion and prioritize neutrality to appeal to a wide array of tastes.
“I should have skipped the cheap colored linens, the themed heavy comforters, and the mountain of coordinating throw pillows,” said Tyann Marcink, a professional vacation rental photographer and the owner of eight rentals in Missouri. “I should have gone straight to commercial white linens with extra pillowcases and the triple sheet method of making the bed.”
Similarly, make an investment in new, high-quality furniture when you first open your rental’s doors. The scuffed living room set you’ve had for years might be perfectly comfortable for you and your family, but it looks like wear and tear to guests.
“At first, we used the outdoor furniture we had instead of shelling out for new chairs, and our guests noticed,” said John Lisanick, the owner of My Sweet Escape, a cottage in Virginia’s Northern Neck. “We corrected that right away and added ample deck chairs and cozy cushions.”
And while choice furniture and unbusy prints are sure to suit a variety of design tastes, guests have also selected their vacation destinations intentionally. “I would add more decorations sooner than I did,” explained Al Williamson, a successful property owner and the expert behind the Leading Landlord Blog.
Incorporate subtle accents that evoke the feel of the area to position your vacation rental as an idyllic extension of the destination. Ski condos outfitted with mountain touches and beach houses with coastal decorations tend to get more bookings than those with no nod to the charm of the locale.
The final step in capturing understated luxury? Keep each room well-stocked with simple amenities.
Offer spices in the pantry, toiletries in every bathroom, and throw blankets in living spaces. Your guests should have the comforts of home at their fingertips for that kick-back-and-relax feel. “It’s surprising how much of a difference the right amenities and local decor can make to your success,” said Karen Hopkins.
“Then,” added Al, “I’d quickly get a professional photographer in so I could show off how great the place looks. This would have shortened the time it took me to recoup my initial startup investment.”
It only took a few months for Mollie and Jim’s Mermaid Cottage to see wild success. Their secret? They did not attempt to own every aspect of their vacation rental endeavor.
“We studied the pros and cons of going with Evolve and it was a no-brainer! I am happy to let Evolve handle the business aspects of running a vacation rental. It frees us up so we can spend more time bringing 5-star, above-and-beyond customer service to our guests.”
By outsourcing their rental marketing and management, the Platts achieved a polished professionalism right out of the gate—and avoided setbacks that often accompany inexperience.
For Karen Hopkins, this lesson was learned the hard way. “I thought I needed to do everything myself to preserve as much of the revenue as possible. When in actuality, after I made the switch to using Evolve, my revenue increased by far more than my fees. ”
“Plus,” she noted during our conversation, “it left me with more time to take care of all the other parts of the business so we could continue to grow.”
After hiring a vacation rental management service to help, homeowners often realize that their revenue results can significantly outweigh the rental income they’d give up in the process. And, like Karen, they see a return on investment faster, while doing a lot less work.
All too often, vacation rental owners make mistakes when establishing daily rates for guests.
Some apply a flat rate to an entire calendar year, only to find their listings struggling when peak season ends and competition dwindles. Others price too high year-round, and consistently lose out to cheaper rentals nearby.
For owners who come out of the gate with the lowest prices on the market, occupancy soars—but when returns are tallied, they’ve ultimately undercut themselves, and miss out on revenue they should’ve had in hand.
There are a number of pricing strategies worth consideration when you’re first starting out in vacation rental. The key across every option is to pay attention to market data, seasonal fluctuation, and your direct competition. Be sure to measure your home against others with equivalent amenities and conveniences. And stay away from applying personal value to certain luxuries. Just because you’d pay $100 extra per night for a 3-car garage doesn’t mean your guests will see it that way.
Bottom line: a dynamic pricing strategy is crucial for achieving solid net occupancy and making top dollar on every booking. At Evolve, we’ve developed an exclusive algorithm, called SmartRates, to analyze billions of ever-changing data points. We track overall demand, seasonality, similar properties, and current trends.
As a result, our owners are outperforming their competition with record-breaking success; they earn 24% more compared to those using traditional pricing methods.
With the right resources and strategies under your belt, you’re sure to leave mistakes at the door—and join the ranks of our most successful vacation rental owners.
Evolve’s fresh approach to vacation rental management gives you total marketing, booking, and customer support across all websites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com.
We’ll connect you with trusted cleaning and support partners, and you can decide who to work with to create the Home Team of your dreams.
It’s our job to drive more guests to your property for maximum income, so you can focus on providing an incredible guest experience—all for an industry-low 10% management fee.
We’ve helped 14,000+ homeowners earn more than $1 billion in rental income. And we’d love to help you.
See if you qualify or call one of our Vacation Rental Advisors today at 877.881.7584.
There is a beautiful comfort to winter. We set our stresses aside to build snowmen in the yard, sing around the piano, unwrap thoughtful treasures, and make rich new memories. The season for holiday travel is upon us, and this year, we’re celebrating the Danish art of coziness, otherwise known as hygge (pronounced hoo-gah).
Hygge is a feeling of coziness and connection — but in order to achieve that feeling, you need the right scenery. Read on to learn the key elements to achieving hygge by way of our unique home rentals and explore ideas for your winter vacation.
Nature has a way of reminding us of our inner worlds, welcoming us to slow down and put our devices away. We’re able to relax more, breathe in the fresh air, and delight in our surroundings — an integral part of hygge living. This retreat in Saxapahaw, North Carolina is a wonderful example of a cozy home, with giant windows that peer into the forest and a rustic, crafted design.
Another place that has just the right setup for indulging in quality time together in this luxury getaway in Winthrop, Washington, which immerses you in 360-degree mountain and river views. With plenty of snug seating nooks, a wood interior that brings the outside in (a big part of hygge design, according to HGTV), and an open layout, you can keep the conversation and the cocoa flowing.
Honorable Mention: This Montana cabin rental lets you watch wildlife from your window, just a short drive from Yellowstone. Massive windows look out into the landscape, and it’s perfect for two guests. Some of the most hygge places are known for being small (and if you own a small home, The Spruce has some hygge style tips here).
Thoughtful lighting contributes to evenings filled with soft laughter, movie nights tucked under blankets, and meals that linger. When a fireplace is crackling, our mood lifts and we feel at peace. This cozy A-frame cabin nestled in the Colorado mountains has a wood-burning fireplace and a dinner table looking straight into the scenery. Part of the magic of hygge is working on something together, like throwing logs over the fire as a soup simmers on the stove.
This Gatlinburg mountain home also comes with the fireplace of holiday dreams, circled by plush leather furniture arranged for conversation. While sprawling in size, this place offers many places to come together and bond. Spend winter days relishing the views from a hot tub, then dive into a game of pool together at night inside the warmth of the wood interior.
Hygge homes tend to feature white furnishings, soft textures, and modern open layouts that invite conversation (Apartment Therapy describes the style as having an uplifting ambience). Take this upscale Topton, North Carolina home, for example. It feels completely free of clutter, sets you right over a serene lake, and is draped in sheepskin and blankets. Make new traditions by the fire here while the aroma of nutmeg and mulling cider fills the house.
This Bloomington, Indiana home is all charm and it is fit for a memorable small family holiday. Bring your pet along and watch the snow fall as you bake cookies, humming along to your favorite holiday classics. The light interior makes it easy to settle in, and enchanting bistro lights dotting the outside of the home add holiday charm.
Not traveling? No problem. Here are a few ways to try out some hygge ideas right from home this season.
“LIGHT” FLAMELESS CANDLES: When it comes to hygge, lighting is everything. Candles can make your home feel like a different world — and flameless candles are an easy, safe way to keep the aesthetic for hours. You can also achieve a similar effect with fairy lights, as referenced in this article from Buzzfeed.
BRING OUT SOFT TEXTURES: Hygge is all about texture. The physical feeling of something soft and comfortable lends itself to cozy experiences and conversations. Treat yourself to a new sweater or a hand-knit throw. Bonus points if it’s handmade or a family heirloom, since hygge celebrates items and pieces with a story behind them.
DECORATE WITH PLANTS: Inviting the outside in is a key element to a hygge setting, and one of the simplest ways to do this is with plants. Houseplants like succulents or Pothos will do the trick, but it’s also the perfect season to bring home a real tree.
SET UP A “HYGGEKROG”: You read that right. A hyggekrog is a small reading nook perfect for unfolding a new book, ideally near a window. Remove all clutter, round up the blankets, add a soft cushion, and make sure you’ve got a view.
HOST A SMALL DINNER PARTY: Have two to four friends over for dinner and cook something new together. Be sure to choose a stew or something that takes a while to simmer and creates a lovely fragrance.
ENGAGE, WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY: Set your phones aside and dive into real conversations. Ask your family or friends questions about their lives, play a board game, read a book out loud and discuss the plot, or try out a winter craft together.
Want even more tips on how to make your own home cozier? Check out this how-to article on how to master the concept of hygge from Dwell. And if you’re looking for a destination that’s cozy in itself, you’ll want to read our travel guide to the most charming small towns in America.
Find the perfect cozy rental for your holiday travel — knowing that it’ll be professionally cleaned and ready for your arrival. Our Rest Easy Promise helps you stay in the moment together and lets you travel without surprises (except for what you’ve gifted each other).
Be sure to check out The Little Book of Hygge for more ideas on how to celebrate the season.
There’s a reason that Winter Park has been named Colorado’s Top Adventure Town by Elevation Outdoors. It draws crowds to its alfresco scene year-round, home to world-class skiing, mountain biking, fishing and hiking. There’s truly an adventure for everyone in “Colorado’s Playground.”
In winter months, you can plow through fluffy powder at Winter Park Ski Resort and sled your heart out at Fraser Tubing Hill. When the cold departs, biking and hiking trails — along with photo-worthy wildflower fields — reveal themselves from beneath the blanket of melting snow.
For a truly elevated Winter Park visit, book a vacation rental steps away from the chairlifts or tucked away in an aspen forest. Coziness is key for enjoying the ultimate Rocky Mountain retreat.
Winter Park Resort and its sister mountain, Mary Jane Mountain, serve as the town’s mainstay anchors, dominating the skyline as you descend into Fraser Valley. From smooth groomers to steep black diamonds, the mountains’ diverse terrain offers ski slopes designed for both the novice and seasoned skier alike.
Even more adventure can be found at Winter Park’s Railyard Terrain Park, home to a number of jumps, jibs, and rails perfect for both skiing and snowboarding. New to snow sports? Winter Park features a remarkable ski school available for both kids and adults, so you can shake off those first-time nerves and get to practicing your turns.
From downhill mountain biking to adventurous snowmobiling, Winter Park has a plethora of outdoor experiences in store for you, no matter the time of year. Visiting during the heart of winter? Include a dog-sledding trip with Dog Sled Rides of Winter Park and a snowmobiling excursion (guided or unguided) with Grand Adventures in your trip itinerary. For more laidback winter days, head to the hills of Fraser Tubing Hill or Coca Cola Tubing Hill at Winter Park for adrenaline-fueled descents down steep, snowy lanes, quickly followed by a hot cocoa in the warming station.
Those who prefer warm weather to the cold will love Winter Park’s vast hiking trails that wind deep into the Rocky Mountains. Berthoud Pass and the James Peak Wilderness are two of the most popular high-elevation trails, but for more recommendations (plus important safety information) you can check out Hiking In Winter Park.
Mountain bikers can keep the good times rolling on the trails of Trestle Bike Park. Grab a lift ticket, rent a bike, and take a class if needed before diving head first down the 40 miles of gravity-fed dirt.
There are those who come to ski and those who come to après ski — thankfully, Winter Park offers the best of both worlds. Prop up your skis (and your feet) for evening refreshments on Main Street. Hernando’s Pizza Pub, Deno’s Mountain Bistro and The Ditch on 40 are classic haunts for after-skiing eats and drinks, while Tabernash Tavern (just up the road) treats your palate to international culinary entrees and an extensive wine list.
Thirsty? We thought so. Grab a cold brew at one of Winter Park’s many breweries like Hideaway Park Brewery and Big Trout Brewing Company. Or, lift your spirits at Idlewild, offering everything from locally made whiskey and gin to rum and vodka.
While Winter Park features a lifetime of adventure, don’t miss out on the rest of Grand County’s spectacular sights. Within Grand County, Colorado, you’ll find several quaint mountain towns and a myriad of outdoor destinations.
A quick drive up Highway 40 brings you to Granby, home to family-owned Granby Ranch. Here, the skiing is beginner-friendly, the panoramic views are unparalleled, and summer nights never seem to end.
The valley transforms into an oasis as you make your way north into Grand Lake, an idyllic destination for hiking, paddle-boarding, and boat tours. Additionally, the area is known as the ‘Western Gateway’ to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is truly a sight to behold.
Farther west, discover the Rocky Mountain spa paradise of Hot Sulphur Springs. This small mountain town features Gold Medal Waters for fly fishing, along with 23 thermal pools that line the Colorado River. Rejuvenate sore quads in the natural hot springs before making your way back to your Winter Park vacation rental.
From its snow-covered mountains to its small, ski-town charm, Winter Park has all of your mountain-retreat desires covered. For more details on visiting the area and discovering something you love, order the visitors guide here: Get your free Winter Park Visitors Guide
The moment you book your vacation, you should start looking forward to your trip — not worrying about the little details. When you choose Evolve for your Winter Park vacation rental, you can feel confident that the home you book will live up to our standards.
Every Evolve vacation rental you book comes with a team of hospitality experts, and we’re here to help make your stay more comfortable 24/7. To help you feel even more confident, we created The Rest Easy Promise: if a stay doesn’t match our standards, we’ll make it right.
Find Winter Park vacation rentals you can count on.