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Getting Your Vacation Home Ge Out to Short-Term Guests

If you’re considering renting out your private vacation home to short term guests, it’s important to physically prepare your vacation home for this change.  Your guests will be expecting to rent a home that is clean, comfortable and feels like a hotel stay. 

Get your cabin ready to rent out on VRBOIn addition to preparing the vacation home physically, you may also need time to mentally adjust to your vacation home becoming a place that you allow guests who you do not personally know to stay at. While it’s true that screening potential guests during the reservation and rental process can save you a lot of potential headaches, at the end of the day no one will take care of your place quite like you do. Successful vacation home owners accept and understand that although they can still use their retreat whenever they desire, it’s also become an investment and things like broken glasses, mud on the carpet and someone’s kid trampling the flowers will happen from time to time.  The important thing to remember is that you get income in exchange for that inconvenience and you also collect a security deposit to fix any kinds of minor damage(s).  If you’re able to accept all of this, then you’re ready for your vacation property to become an income producer instead of an income drain.

To get your vacation home ready to rent to short term guests, you’ll need to:

1. Secure Your Valuables and Personal Property

We highly recommend you go through every square inch of your cabin and declutter, as well as, lock up anything you don’t want guest to have access to.  Most of our owners have a private closet they use to secure their personal property.  They simply pick a closet and install a commercial lock on the door and put their belongings like:  

Below is a short list of the types of personal belongings you should remove from your cabin or lock in your closet:

  • Clothing - Guests need places to store their stuff during their stay, just like a hotel. You wouldn’t expect the hotel room you stay in to have someone else’s coats hanging in the closet or their socks in the dresser drawers. At our rental property, each family member has a portable tub to store away their clothing from the cabin in.  We take those tubs out of the owner’s closet when we arrive and put them back when we leave.
  • Jewelry and Cosmetics - Personal care items like toothbrushes, makeup, medicine etc.   At our vacation rental, we store all that stuff in the owner’s closet for our visits and keep it in several small boxes, (one for each family member), that is designated for toiletries.  When we arrive we simply grab our own box and put it in the bathroom for the time of our stay.
  • Family Pictures and Valuable Art - Look at your walls and remove anything that is personal or sentimental to you like family photos or mementos that would be impossible to replace if they were broken. Your home should still be tastefully decorated but it’s best to remove these kinds of personal decorations.
  • Firearms - Many cabins have firearms inside. We highly recommend locking them in a gun safe in your owner’s closet or removing them entirely from your property before your guests arrive.
  • Mail -  If you get mail sent to your rental consider a locking mailbox or rerouting any bills to a PO Box or your primary residence.

2. Prepare Supply Closets

Most of our rental properties have two supply closets. One closet is locked and contains extra bedding, cleaning supplies. toilet paper and garbage bags. Our cleaning crew has access to this closet to restock supplies and change sheets between guests.  We recommend providing your guests with at least two sets of sheets for each bed. When a guest leaves, our crews come in and strip all the beds and replace the sheets with clean ones and take the dirty ones with them to be washed. 

We also recommend a shelf or additional closet with supplies the guest can access.  This shelf or closet should contain minimal supplies like paper towels and toilet paper, garbage bags, light bulbs, cleaning supplies, a vacuum, and a broom.  Again, your bulk supply should be locked up but a few items should also be left out for your guests in case they run out during their stay.   Over the years, we have found that most guest in our rental properties are willing to clean up after themselves if they make a mess or break something if they have access to a vacuum, broom, and some cleaning supplies.

3. Prepare Your Kitchen

Guests like to prepare meals during their stay so it’s important to have a fully functional kitchen with cooking utensils and table settings available for them.  Before your guests arrive, make an inventory of all the items in your kitchen and even take pictures of what is in a drawer or on a shelf so you can post the photos so your guests will know where things go and you can tell what is missing quickly.  

We also recommend removing or locking up food items and emptying your fridge completely.   As we’ve discussed, guests don’t always take care of your things like you would, so be prepared to replace Teflon pans that have been scratched up and broken dishes from time to time. The team at Manage Cabins will help you manage this aspect of the rental if you use us to manage your vacation home.

4. Secure Your Boats, Snowmobiles and ATVs

Many of our owners have these toys at their cabin and that’s ok.  We do NOT recommend you allow guests to access or use these expensive machines. Especially anything with a motor.  

If you have a boat lock it up on the lift or secure it in the garage.  The same goes for ATVs and snowmobiles.   A garage or shed that is locked is the ideal spot for these items.   If your rental is on a lake you will want to make sure that your renters have a place to dock their boat or a boat they might rent for their stay. Things like paddle boats and canoes can help attract guests to stay with but it’s important to provide clear instructions on your expectations for how their used by your guest.  Again, your management professional will help you create those rules and instructions.

5. Secure Your Lawn Equipment and Tools

We recommend you again remove or lock up any maintenance equipment or tools like shovels, rakes, weed trimmers, mowers etc.   If you can’t lock them in a garage a garden shed, an off-site storage unit is a good solution.

6. Provide Patio Furniture and a Fire Pit

We recommend you provide patio furniture to your guests along with a fire pit.  Most cabin renters like to have an outdoor fire during their stay.  Your management company can help you manage firewood for guests and be sure to inventory your patio furniture.   

7. Provide Additional Amenities 

Offer your guests amenities such as:

  • Bedsheets
  • Kitchen Towels (we ask our guests to bring their own bathroom and beach towels)
  • Fire Extinguisher and Smoke Detectors
  • Books, DVDs and Board Games (for those rainy days)
  • Outdoor Patio Chairs
  • Hair Dryer
  • Ironing Board

8. Prepare a House Manual with Clear Instructions

At Manage Cabins, we prepare a house manual that has detailed instructions about house rules and what we expect from our guests.  These same instructions are also communicated to the guests via email before check-in. 

The instructions include detailed information on how to operate the thermostats, water heaters, lights, what to do with the trash, etc.  We also recommend including maps of the area and brochures for local activities and dining.  These instruction books should include a checklist for checking-in and out of your cabin as well. It’s very important to make sure that your guests understand that this is your personal cabin and that you expect them to take care of it while they are there.

9. Complete Any Necessary Maintenance or Repairs

It’s important to ensure that your home is in good repair and safe condition.  Now is the time to fix things like broken steps or lights.  Anything that could cause injury to your guests or that you have been meaning to get around to should be done before you rent out your cabin. 

10. Be Insured

Some of the online rental listing sites like Airbnb offer limited coverage for injuries that might happen to your guests, but we highly recommend you talk to your insurance agent about adding your own short-term rental coverage to your policy.   Most vacation rentals go off without a hitch, but insurance is still something you must do.   

11. Be Licensed

In the state of Wisconsin where most of our rentals are located, you are required to register with the state and be inspected.  In many local townships and municipalities there are additional requirements. If Manage Cabins helps you manage your vacation rental will work through this process with you.

12. Provide Emergency Contact Information

Be sure to post your emergency contact information or that of your management company along with local emergency contact information like the sheriff’s office and fire department numbers. When we manage a cabin, we like to leave a sign up with this information.  Be sure to include the rental units address your guests will be able to tell authorities how to get your rental unit in the event of an emergency.

13. Provide a Guestbook

It’s fun to look back after a few years of renting your cabin and see all the different folks that have visited your rental.  A guestbook is a great way to do this and your current renters will also enjoy looking through the book during their stay.

Although this list may seem a little overwhelming at first, keep in mind that there is a high and growing demand for vacation home rentals and the most owners find the reward well worth the hassle and risk. 

If you have any questions about renting your vacation home, the management professionals at Manage Cabins are here to help you every step of the way.  Please reach out us anytime!