As Vacation rental managers in the Outer Banks, we know that it doesn’t matter whether you’re just getting started in this industry or you’ve been managing rentals for a while, you’ll always be met with a seemingly endless to-do list. There are a ton of details to consider, from cleaning supplies to finding the best pricing strategy.
Honestly, it can get pretty crazy sometimes. That’s why, drawing from our years managing properties, we put together this crash course with the top 10 things you need to know as an Outer Banks vacation rental owner.
Let’s start with an unavoidable topic: costs.
Launching costs, or startup costs, are the expenses you’ll have when starting your OBX vacation rental business. When it comes to costs in general, it’s important to plan ahead. Estimating costs for your beach home seems a bit complex at first, but we’re here to make it easier for you.
Essentially, there are two types of costs:
One-time costs: these are costs that new owners or owners expanding their portfolios have to deal with. You might have necessary repairs to make before you can list your rental. You’ll need to invest in decor and furniture, including buying unique pieces that photograph well, as well as amenities that will make your property stand out. Moreover, you’ll need to invest in high-quality photos to advertise your place.
Fixed costs: these are the costs you’ll have to deal with regularly, such as utility bills, internet service, certain supplies, and staff payroll. Some of these costs are already familiar to you; they are the same as the ones you’re dealing with for your own home. You’ll have to deal with them whether or not you’re already getting enough guests.
Extra tip: if you’re just starting out, your first few months will likely have negative revenues. It takes a while to gain some traction. Every startup goes through this, but don’t lose hope. It will be worth it.
Decor at Duneridge Estates 10.
In this market, guests look for uniqueness. This means that a nicely decorated rental with updated hardware and appliances is a given. Good decor design usually comes down to finding the right mix of furniture, a lighting scheme (including balancing natural with artificial light), and houseplants.
To create a unique environment, it’s always a good idea to seek inspiration from the surroundings. Aim to tell a story with your rental that relates to local culture. There’s so much to talk about in the OBX! You can take some ideas from our website.
In our segment, guests usually appreciate tasteful and understated nautical decor as something that certainly adds to the experience. Ultimately, having a design-centric mindset will boost your rates considerably.
When you’re decorating your home, drawing inspiration from the natural beauty, history, and traditions of the OBX is a wonderful way to choose art and furniture pieces.
Private pool at Pelican Breeze.
Having the right amenities for your type of rental is a big deal in this overcrowded industry. That’s how you go the extra mile to deliver a unique experience to your guests, get more bookings, and boost your revenues.
Keep in mind that offering streaming services and having Smart TVs are not considered luxuries anymore; guests already expect those. From our experience, most people look for hot tubs and private pools, so these are two champions to aim for to create that “wow” factor and break the pattern.
A full-size kitchen with all the appliances for cooking enthusiasts will also earn you a lot of points — and dollars!
As a rule of thumb, the bigger your beach house gets, the more amenities you should consider adding to it.
Regarding essentials, at Village Realty, the standard amenities include:
Again, this is the minimum across all our homes. If you’re really trying to impress your guests, it’s okay to let your imagination run wild a bit.
Extra tip: another thing that we’ve noticed guests value these days is properties that welcome pets. Consider this option to open yourself up to a larger portion of visitors in the OBX.
Allowing pets in your beach rental can open up a whole new segment of guests and boost your income. Modern travelers like to take their little friends for a ride at the beach.
Every vacation rental manager in the Outer Banks will tell you that having a clean beach home is among the top factors influencing your quality score. It also affects your rates and reviews. In summary, cleanliness should be a top priority for anyone with a rental beach house in OBX.
However, as much as you want things to be spotless, you don’t need a deep clean every time a guest leaves; they cost three times more than regular cleaning, and you’ll need to block your calendar.
At Village Realty, our cleaners work their magic before every stay, taking care of the most noticeable issues, such as replacing linens and sanitizing hard surfaces, floors, and hot tubs.
We offer deep cleanings to our homeowners as well, but these most often occur before the start of the season. That’s when the heavy lifting happens: it’s the time to clean under heavy appliances and furniture, check all walls and ceilings, treat the wood, and flush and clean the hot tub, for instance. A good deep clean is always beneficial to reset things.
Just as a precaution and to go the extra mile, we also like to have inspectors who will work alongside certain cleaning crews to ensure the job is done right.
Besides cleaning, maintaining your home is something you should do regularly to keep your quality score high. Your cleaning staff will be your best ally, as they are the ones who report damages and maintenance needs.
A vacation rental property sees a lot of people coming and going and requires more maintenance than a regular home. Once a while, you can check the property yourself or have someone you trust inspect everything. This includes checking the supply inventory (always replacing broken or old items) and inspecting sinks, showers, and baths.
Here’s a crucial point: don’t neglect the bigger tasks, such as repainting walls, fixing flooring, and replacing carpets. Doing so can lead to a lot of headaches and higher costs down the line.
In our corner of the country, there’s a complicating factor: wild weather. So it’s not just about taking care of the interiors but also the exteriors of houses. As Outer Banks vacation rental managers, we have systems in place for regular check-ups and preventive measures.
At Village Realty, we take maintenance very seriously and we’ll always keep you informed as we report any damages as well as provide recommendations for regular upkeep.
Professional photo of A Shore Thing.
You’ve got your place looking top-notch, with all the right decor and amenities. Now it’s time to get snapping!
Some owners think they can save a few hundred bucks by taking property photos with their smartphones. Those little cameras have come a long way, no doubt. But in our book, having a trained eye and the right equipment makes all the difference.
There’s more to it than just point-and-click. Mastering light, focus, and angles are points just as crucial as having an Instagram-worthy beach house. And don’t overlook the HDR (High Dynamic Range) technique – it’s what the pros use to blend multiple shots, capturing all those details in a single frame with smooth, balanced lighting. This is very useful, especially in a sun-soaked place like OBX. Plus, professional lenses can work some real magic with interiors and exteriors.
That’s why we always recommend setting aside a budget to bring in a professional photographer. At Village Realty, we’ve got a pro photographer in-house, taking care of all our beach house pics. We know that in this competitive rental game, superb photos are a (not so) secret weapon. Believe us, the right pics can boost your nightly rates by a whopping 50% or more.
Professional lenses and a good eye behind them will make all the difference in shooting your rental.
Photos ready? Now, let’s showcase your property to the world.
Many websites specialize exclusively in short-term rentals, while others are excellent for marketing. The most popular platforms for vacation rental owners in OBX include Expedia, Orbitz, Airbnb, and Vrbo. Among these, Airbnb and Vrbo stand out as the superstars, generating more bookings than the others.
However, the decision is a bit more nuanced, and you really need to pick a few that are the best fit for your rental property and the way you want to run your business. When choosing where to list your rental, consider the following questions:
With listing platforms, exclusivity isn’t a concern. You can choose multiple platforms, so aim for the optimal mix that works best for you and your audience.
Working with the right OBX property manager can be a helpful hand in this matter. Managers are constantly seeking the best listing sites on behalf of owners, ultimately bringing in more income and higher-quality guests with fewer headaches.
Price is a critical factor for vacation homes, often determining success or failure. We know that, after all the effort you put into decor, amenities, and photos, it’s tempting to set a high price. However, it’s essential to step back and evaluate your rental objectively.
All the factors mentioned so far in this blog contribute to establishing a nightly fee. You must calculate your expenses, including both major and minor costs, and add your desired profit margin. Once you have a base figure, compare your property, its offerings, location, and how it stacks up against similar rentals in the market. Ask yourself a crucial question: is this price fair and competitive?
If your answer is yes, that becomes your optimal nightly fee. But pricing isn’t static; it fluctuates with changing circumstances, particularly demand.
In hospitality, adopting a dynamic pricing strategy is vital. This means adjusting rates based on your guests’ willingness to pay. For example, you can charge a premium during high seasons and lower prices during low seasons.
But things get a little more complex than that, and setting the optimal pricing continually can be challenging. The good news is that there are tech-based solutions available to help you, like Wheelhouse, PriceLabs, and Beyond.
Property managers in OBX know just how much of an impact these pricing tools can have, often reducing your workload by 70-80% while boosting revenues by 20-30%.
Amazing, right? Now, imagine having an experienced professional on it full-time. At Village Realty, we have a dedicated Revenue Management team focused on optimizing pricing strategies all day long. That’s the way to maximize your property’s profitability to the absolute most.
That’s it! Everything is set! Do you think your work is done here? Witnessing those bookings rolling in is a delight, but that’s also when the real work begins.
A significant portion of your efforts in vacation rental ownership goes into dealing with guests, and the kind of relationship you establish with them is fundamental to your success.
In simple terms, guests depend on you as an exceptional host to ensure they have an enjoyable experience in your rental.
The best approach is always to strive to align their expectations with reality. This involves making sure that the core aspects of your listing, such as images and descriptions, are specific and realistic. When your guests arrive at your rental, they should find exactly what you promised.
Communication is another major element of guest relations, and it’s very time-consuming. To streamline this process, it’s a great idea to provide most of the information guests need in advance through your descriptions, manuals, and guidebooks, and doing so in a way that addresses as many questions as possible before they’re asked.
Even so, guests will always have questions and requirements, so it’s essential to respond promptly and helpfully. At Village Realty, we have a dedicated customer service team that operates around the clock to attend to guests’ needs, helping to alleviate the burden for our property owners. We know just how promptness in replying is a major factor in collecting positive reviews for our beach houses and condos.
Some guests are bound to bend the rules or leave a bit of a mess behind, maybe even break a wine glass or two. Deciding how to deal with it is a big part of being a good host.
Don’t take it personally when guests misbehave or accidents happen. Sometimes you’ll encounter unpleasant surprises. If that happens, try to detach emotionally and remind yourself that you’re running a business, after all. It’ll help you handle things more smoothly.
A nice piece of advice: owners pour a lot of time, money, and love into their vacation homes, and sometimes they get attached to them, treating them like their own homes. But it’s important to remember that these homes are tools to earn money, so think of your rental more like a product.
There’s no doubt that hosting can be a fantastic way to generate income. It’s both an art and a science. Approach it with care and always keep your guests in mind to ensure the success of your business.
If you ever need assistance, we’re here to help! Village Realty offers your vacation rental comprehensive care, a strategic marketing approach, a loyal guest database, and round-the-clock customer support. Our services allow property owners to worry less and earn more.
Feel free to reach out and try a free rental revenue estimate on our website. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for new blogs like this one, packed with valuable information to take your business to new heights.