Chatting it up

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Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?

I’ve had the great pleasure recently of chatting (they called me out of the blue after reading our VRBO pages) with two different folks who are interested in purchasing beach houses as vacation rentals. They asked me some good questions, so I thought I’d answer a few of them here as well.

How do you screen renters?

I talk to everyone before I send out a rental agreement. I ask questions like, “Who’s coming with you?” “Have you been to Port A/Galveston before?” I ask them what they like to do there etc. It takes a little time, but it’s worth getting to know the guests and letting them get to know you a bit. Some groups I expect to be a little harder on the houses than others but some groups surprise me. I also go with my gut instinct. I rarely rent to prom groups, but on occasion, have done so without incident. One family had a wedding at our Galveston home – it was lovely. I do have in my contract that no parties are allowed without my  written consent. As a renter, I’ve been required to list our names as well as ages. I think that’s also a great way to see who will be in the house. On occasion, I’ve googled people. In the end, the houses are our second homes and I’d recommend to anyone to take the steps necessary to make you comfortable with who will be renting.

How do you find a house keeper and How do you handle repair issues?

We found one housekeeper from a property manager. I’ve also searched on Craigslist and sent requests for information on help and contractors to our property owners email lists. A personal recommendation by another owner is a great reference. For contractors/repair folks, I’ve also found the yellow pages for each region helpful. I do recommend taking the local paper (I get mine online) – it’s a great way to stay ‘in touch’ with the area as well as read the ads for local service help like handymen and other contractors.

When do you use the beach houses?

I always go in May (usually with a friend or two) to prep the houses for the season and in September to restock and evaluate the needs of the house. We also take the kids there for part of spring break. We have large extended family gathering for Thanksgiving at one of the houses as well. If any repair works needs to be done, we take care of it in the off season (November – February.)

However, what good is owning a vacation rental (VR) if you don’t get to go and enjoy it some of the time too! Making memories at our houses is a priority for our family. Most of the time we take the kids and friends in the off season with an occasional summer excursion to the coast sprinkled in.

Are you making money

Happily yes! The rental income pays for all expenses on the homes (mortgage, insurance and taxes included) as well as upkeep.

How do you advertise

We list both properties on Homeaway.com and VRBO.com. These websites make it so easy to showcase a property to potential guests. The Reservation Manager program available through these sites makes payments and calendar management a snap. Highly recommend it. I’ve also found the Homeaway Summits I’ve attended extremely helpful, both to hear what’s new in the VR market as well as talking with other VR owners and learning from their experience. This year Homeaway is having several one day conferences around the country. The one in Austin is 5/31/14.

Other questions?

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