How to Use Your Waterfront Home as a Vacation Rental

Alexis Smith-Frady


For many would-be second-home buyers, purchasing a waterfront vacation home is the culmination of a lifetime of hard work and success. A second residence provides you and your family a getaway to enjoy whenever you want, however you want.

While there's no better feeling than owning a waterfront vacation home, you don't want that property sitting idle for a large portion of the year.

You want it working for you—earning income the weeks you're not using it.

But how does one go about turning their waterfront oasis into a moneymaker? Let's explore five steps in how to use your waterfront home as a vacation rental.

Choose the Right Home

Choose the Right Home

Before we jump into transforming your waterfront property into the perfect rental property, it helps to start with the right home. If you've yet to buy a vacation home and you hope to earn rental income from it, you'll want to consider factors beyond the personal enjoyment you’d get from the property.

A few things to consider:

Location: Let's face it, location is the beginning, middle, and end of all wise real estate investments. For waterfront property, that means being on the water, with direct access to the beach. Simply put, a premium property in a premier location will allow you to charge the highest rates.

However, even a property that is a block or two off the water will still prove popular with renters. Homes that are close (specifically within walking distance) to other amenities such as restaurants, coffee shops, or shopping destinations will allow you to increase your rental price as well.

Rentability: Along with location, you'll want to ensure the home is rentable. Particularly those waterfront homes tucked into neighborhoods, some HOAs or local municipalities frown upon renting out homes to the general public.

From occupancy limits to parking restrictions to noise ordinances, several regulations may limit or altogether eliminate your ability to rent your home short term. Ensure you verify what you can and can't do before offering your property for rental.

Seasonality: The key to maximizing your rental income is ensuring the home's location is in a desirable place to travel for much of the calendar. The good news is if your vacation home sits on Longboat Key, Siesta Key, or Anna Maria Island (really anywhere along the Florida Gulf Coast), you have a property people will want to access year-round.

Even the Gulf Coast has its off-season. To counter this, consider amenities that could set your waterfront home apart during shoulder season. For example, if your home has a pool, think about heating it if it's not already. Or the very least, having a hot tub installed or usable in the off-season. No matter the time of year, your property will always be in demand.

If you already own a property that meets the above criteria, you're ahead of the game. If not, don't stress too much over it. Even if your home isn't a "perfect" rental, there's plenty you can do to ensure it proves irresistible to vacationers.


Dress Your Home for Success

The type of travelers that rent out waterfront homes for their vacations do so for a reason. They're not looking for a static, boring place to rest their head (if that were the case, they would have rented a hotel room). Instead, they're seeking experience. It's your job to give them one.

Designing your home, so it looks and feels like a genuine escape, is a key to generating word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business which is critical to long-term vacation rental success.

Foremost, you want to craft a welcoming and comfortable space—a home away from home that feels as if it's their waterfront vacation home, not yours.

Start with high-end linens and towels and feature extra pillows and blankets to accommodate the renter's needs. Keep an extra set of each on hand, but also stock the home's laundry room with detergent and dryer sheets.

For the kitchen, stock essential cooking equipment—a set of pots and pans, various-sized mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, a complete set of cooking utensils, and plenty of plates, bowls, forks, spoons, and knives. Also, have essential small appliances on hand—especially a dependable coffee maker. After all, one of the primary draws to a vacation rental is using a private kitchen for cooking meals.

Finally, create a vacation atmosphere. Waterfront homes often mean beachfront homes, and you'll want to provide the environment to match. Let the sunlight in with Light, airy drapery. Add nautical paint colors to give the home a bright, beachy aura. Choose furniture that is equal parts functional and comfortable that carries the feel of hanging out in an oceanfront bungalow.

If you're uncertain of how to bring the design together, you'll want to employ an interior designer. It's a worthwhile investment, especially if it creates an Instagrammable environment that renters will love and love to brag about.

Creating an Irresistible Listing

How you market and list your home is critical to attracting renters. Even with waterfront property, competition is fierce. A few simple steps will ensure your listing and your home stands out.

First, seek out a professional photographer to capture the home at its absolute best. High-quality, high-res images are the critical driver of whether or not someone wants to rent your property, so don't shortchange your efforts.

Hire a stager to optimize every pic taken and ensure every room is captured. Your photo set should include bathrooms, the laundry room, and patio or deck areas, so renters know what they're getting. Also, invest in creating a virtual or video of the property to entice renters further.

Beyond your images, include a concise and scannable yet descriptive copy that further highlights the home's features and amenities. Items such as bed sizes, accommodations for dining, how the kitchen is outfitted, and variables like distance to points of interest should all be part of your copy. Keep it accurate and reflective of the property.

In addition, creating a theme for your property—including branding it with a name—will distinguish it even further from the competition. You don't need to go overboard, but the more cohesion you bring to the property, the more the listing will shine and find favor with renters.


Don't Neglect the Intangibles

A vacation rental is more than just a place for people to get away from the rigors of daily life. Some renters work. More often, they relax. Families celebrate holidays together. Couples opt for romantic weekends. Adventurers use the home as a base for all of their excursions.

Whatever the case, realize that your intangibles will determine if you can attract a broad audience, and the home will only appeal to a specific type of renter. For almost every vacation home, amenities such as Wifi, a full-sized washer, and dryer, spices in the kitchen, cleaning supplies in the laundry room, or basic bathroom necessities are all appreciated and expected.

Entertainment options also increase the appeal of your home, with cable television, billiard or foosball tables, video game consoles (or classic table arcade games), or cornhole or beach games a huge plus.

Some owners will even go the extra mile and provide local guides on where to eat or shop, or where to go to experience the area's top attractions. Finally, to ensure your home always carries with it a festive flair, don't forget to decorate for the holidays or time of year. Renters will appreciate the attention to detail.

Price Wisely

With a waterfront property, you can expect to command top rates for your home. Your final rate, however, must account for several factors before setting a final price. These include the total number of bedrooms, if you're in a popular destination near major towns or attractions or if your property is more remote, and your home's amenities.

Research nearby comps with similar amenities and water access as your home to gauge what a fair rental rate should be. Also, recognize that your rates will fluctuate throughout the year—increase in peak season and drop when fewer people are vacationing. And avoid minimum stay requirements to keep your listing attractive to as many renters as possible.

This can also help you identify when you should use the home for your personal use. You want to make the most of your waterfront home, personally, while also maximizing its income-earning potential.

Final Thoughts

If the above seems too much, yet you still want to maximize your waterfront home's income potential, it may be worth it to employ the use of a third-party management company.

Although you'll still maintain a say in how the home is outfitted and rented, the management firm will handle much of the heaving lifting, including housekeeping and maintenance, marketing and advertising, automated booking and guest services, and assisting with local regulations such as permits, fees, and lodging taxes.

Ready to explore the best of on-the-water Sarasota real estate? Contact Alexis Smith-Frady today to start your homebuying journey. From Anna Maria Island real estate to Siesta Key homes for sale, let Alexis and her experience and expertise be your guide to Sarasota's luxury waterfront real estate market.



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