The main downside to furnishing your vacation rental home is the sad realization that, unfortunately, very few of those essential items will last forever.
Trends come and go and appliances break meaning that sooner or later you’ll have to renovate your vacation rental property. The sound of a vacation home renovation can be daunting for owners or property managers, but it doesn’t have to be. Planning out your refurbishment, calculating the cost, setting aside the time in your booking calendar, and designating renovation responsibilities in your task management system will make the process a whole lot smoother.
Judging the lifespan of those more expensive investments – such as major appliances or vacation rental decor – can be a difficult task. In your own home, you live with and use these items every day. In your vacation rental, however, it can sometimes take a guest to point out that something isn’t how it should be.
Let’s take a look at what you need to upgrade at your vacation rental home so you’ll have some indicators of what to look out for when it comes to the renovation for your rental property.
Tips to renovating your vacation rental
1. Plan first, then buy
The most important thing is to strategize. Prioritize all the essential furniture first, and then consider the accessories after. Be realistic, do you really need that chandelier when you actually need to buy a new mattress? Make sure you include a budget plan prior to buying.
Take time when researching, have a look in different stores and on websites. There may be some deals in place too. Once you have listed the must-haves, then you can start thinking of accessories to go with the rest of your vacation rental upgrades.
2. Prioritize updating your appliances
Home trends come and go, but older appliances stick out tremendously. You don’t have to have the latest and greatest, but it is important that you’re staying up to date with home technologies, so you can keep your guests happy and your reviews top notch.
Keep in mind that some appliances are even considered an amenity which is a perk you can add to your property’s website. A washing machine or air conditioning unit are a couple of bonuses you can accentuate. Find inspiration from 47 must-have amenities to see potential upgrades that could make your property stand out.
A refrigerator is one of those appliances a lot of us take for granted. Compared with other items around the home, fridges tend to last for a long time and require little maintenance. But, as the most important feature of any vacation rental kitchen, you need to make sure yours is in proper working order for your incoming guests.
According to the Central Electric Cooperative Inc., most refrigerators can last between 10 and 20 years. If something seems wrong with your fridge and it’s less than eight years old, it’s probably worth repairing. However, if it’s over 15 years, you’re better off replacing it altogether.
There are many noticeable signs that your refrigerator needs replacing. For example, if there is condensation or frost, or if the motor is constantly running and noisy. Even inefficiency can be a decisive factor in switching to a newer model. If your fridge is nearing its 10-year anniversary, check it regularly to ensure it’s still keeping perishables fresh. It’s also important to clean the fridge after every guest departure.
If you provide laundry facilities in your vacation rental, the likelihood is that your guests are going to use them. Consumer Reports states that the average lifespan of a washing machine is around 10 years.
There are a number of telltale signs that your washing machine needs an upgrade. It might be that there’s a foul smell of mold inside (even though it’s clean!), or a leak which can indicate a split in the tub. Just like with fridges, energy efficiency is also a key consideration when weighing up repair vs. replace for an older model. According to Energy Star, a new energy-certified washer dryer can be a more eco-friendly choice, as it will save you around 3,000 gallons of water per year and uses 25% less energy.
3. Do some DIY
Before throwing out old furniture, take a moment to think. What could you do with it? Or any of their parts? You can take an old wooden shutter, paint it and hang it on the wall to use for mail, postcards or magazines. Is your laundry room quite dull? Decorate your washing machine with some colored tape.
There are thousands of ways in which you can redecorate. One of these creative designs is to make a clothing rack from a branch to use as a coat hanger. Guests will be able to hang their clothes stylishly and uniquely. Or you can also get a metal coat rack if you are lacking space for a wardrobe.
Don’t forget about the many environmental-friendly DIYs for sprucing up your property. These include handcrafted wood furniture. Find a wooden pallet (get it for free by asking a local store), and turn it into a table. Get a fruit box and paint it to use as a bookcase. Likewise, if you have a garden or balcony, how about using some tins as plant pots? This way, you’ll be saving both money and the environment.
4. Think in terms of the future
Buy household appliances with a guarantee. Although it means that the initial cost will be higher, it will be cheaper in the long-term. Avoid laying down carpets as they can get dirty easily or flimsy hardwood flooring as it can be worn down, which can result in something difficult to hide for future guests and expensive to replace.
If your typical guests are retired couples, make sure the furniture is comfortable and easy to access. If you think families will stay in your vacation rental, don’t forget to add a pull-out sofa bed which is easy to set-up. This way, you won’t have to adjust in the near future.
5. Prevent replacements
Which things are the most delicate or the most likely to break? Which parts of the house are the most difficult to clean? Ask yourself these questions, and think of ways you can avoid replacements. For example, avoid plain and light color sheets and blankets, because if they get dirty you will need to replace them straight away.
If your vacation rental allows pets, adapt your property around this rule. If you accept dogs, don’t build a beautiful garden, and if you accept cats, don’t put curtains that reach the ground.
6. The “No-Screw rules”
Drilling holes in the walls may seem like a good idea at the time, but later when you want to rearrange some stuff, you’ll end up with holes scattered around the walls and you’ll need to pay extra to have them replaced. You don’t necessarily have to drill holes to hang something up. You can put up pictures or mirrors using hanging strips or adhesive hooks. If something is too small to hang up, consider putting it on a table or a piece of furniture instead.
7. Use wallpaper
What are your thoughts on wallpaper? Add some touch to a blank wall or cover some stains. There are so many reusable wallpapers available, and they’re also very easy to put on!
If you don’t want to put wallpaper on the entire wall, there are other things you can try. You can place wall decals or stickers, they come in all sorts of colors and sizes. You can put them wherever you want and can even utilize them to cover a patch of non-removable dirt. You can also place wallpaper on just one side and not the whole room.
8. Utilize small spaces
Give your guests a warming experience by setting up a cozy corner where they can relax, read or look out the window. Add a touch of creativity to small places. Do you have space under the stairs? Convert into a reading cave, the same goes for your attic. Add built-in bookcases around your window including a windowseat.
This is especially important for smaller vacation rentals. You want to maximize your space to give guests more places to relax. Not to mention, the more snug spots you have, the more photo opportunities you’ll have for your website as well!
9. Focus on comfort
Coziness goes a long way when it comes to guest experience. If your vacation rental needs an upgrade, you could consider focusing on something relatively timeless: comfort. Remember that your guests are coming to your vacation rental to relax, make sure you’re providing them a place to properly do that! Replacing certain fabrics, linens, and beds is not only a way to enhance guest experience, but it’s also something that might only need to be updated periodically.
Linens and towels
The quality of the linens and towels you provide in your vacation rental can carry a lot of weight in terms of repeat guests and the reviews you receive.
Unlike in your own home, where on average you will change bedding every week, owners of short-term rentals have to launder linens after each guest’s departure – even if they’ve only stayed one or two nights. Consequently, this can substantially decrease the longevity of linen. By buying the best linens for vacation rentals, that have a higher thread count and are more durable, you’ll save yourself the trouble of constantly replacing linens.
Keeping bedding crisp and towels fluffy is a surefire method to raise guest satisfaction. But how can you tell if linens need replacing?
We got in touch with a seasoned expert on the topic, Alanna Shroeder (founder of The Distinguished Guest) for some insights:
“We always suggest that sheets and towels should be replaced at least every two years, if not sooner. Our recommendation is that vacation rental owners keep a minimum of two sets of sheets per bed, and two sets of bath/beach towels per guest. Inspect them after every guest departure to check for stains, snags and other issues that would trigger the need for replacement.”
Rather than comparing your vacation rental to your own home, when thinking about updating mattresses, it’s better to think of it as a small hotel. High-quality hotels tend to throw their mattresses every three to five years, but a smaller establishment may keep them for up to 10.
The main point to take into consideration here is: are your mattresses still doing the job? Travelers go on vacation to get away from their daily life, and in many cases, to relax. If the mattresses in your vacation rental are lumpy, springy, stained or soiled – they need replacing.
It’s good practice to rotate the mattresses in your rental to make them last longer. MattressOnline states that rotating mattresses every three months helps provide a consistent level of support, continued comfort for your guests and a reduced risk of sagging. If the mattresses are double-sided, you can also flip them twice a year. If your rental is only used for short periods of the year (i.e., in your location’s peak season), such frequent rotation is not necessary.
Unlike hotels, vacation rentals don’t usually have “pillow menus” for guests to choose from. You should, however, aim to provide a mixture of soft and firm pillows to cater to different preferences.
But how do you know when it’s time to freshen up your pillow supply? Kris Beck from Hilton Worldwide states that synthetic pillows last around 18-24 months when laundered properly, whereas a down or feather pillow can last up to 36 months.
In order to prolong the life of your property’s pillows and maintain top hygiene standards, owners should use pillow protectors underneath pillowcases as an extra barrier.
“You would wash the pillowcase on every changeover, whereas the pillow protector can be washed every few weeks or so,” she adds.
10. Consider the curb appeal
When it comes to keeping the exterior of your rental looking attractive and up to scratch for incoming guests, there are no set rules about how often you should be making improvements.
Some experts recommend painting the exterior every five to 10 years, however, this may vary depending on the type of finish your vacation rental has.
For example, for wood siding around every three to seven years is ok; for aluminum siding and stucco it’s five or six years, and newer materials (like cement fiberboard siding) can last up to 10 or even 15 years before needing a touch-up. Regardless of the material your rental is built from, you can always make upgrades sooner if they are necessary to add to the appeal of your home.
What are the most common vacation rental upgrades?
If you aren’t sure how to renovate your rental property, a good place to start is asking where to renovate. You might find that it’s enough to upgrade only one or two rooms in your vacation home rather than the whole space. In the beginning phases of the renovation, mapping out which areas are most important for your guests will help you to decide on the rooms to fix your attention to.
The kitchen is a space where your guests will spend a lot of time. This is a space to cook, share meals, or maybe even just hang out at the barstools. Since this area gets a lot of traffic, a rental property kitchen renovation might get you the highest return on your investment.
Guests value a state-of-the-art kitchen so if you’re planning to update one room at a time, this is a good place to start. Consider too, that many kitchens are in the front of the rental property making it that much more important to make the most noticeable space a good one.
Not only is the kitchen a frequented space, it’s also one that shows outdatedness the most. This room is full of appliances and having dingy, dated kitchenware is an immediate eyesore. You want your kitchen to radiate modernity and convenience. Not only should this space be kept new, it should also be practical. Invest in the most used appliances first and, if time and budget allows, trade out old cupboards and countertops.
Much like the kitchen, the bathroom is an unavoidable part of a vacation home. Here, your top priority should be cleanliness. Remember that guests seek spaces that are clean.
That isn’t to say that your restrooms aren’t up to hygiene standards, but an old toilet or shower might be yellowing after years of wear which gives it the appearance of being unclean. Even relatively new showerheads start to have calcium and limestone deposits making the metal look old and outdated. Try to replace old fixtures first and see if it brings your bathroom up to modernity.
Not every vacation rental renovation needs to be grandiose. You can still make a huge difference with a couple small changes. Instead of looking at renovations room by room you could consider general upgrades that could be done throughout the whole house. Maybe the color scheme is out of style and needs to be repainted. This is a relatively cheap upgrade that sets the style of your whole rental property.
Alternatively, you could try to replace the metal fixtures in your vacation rental such as the door knobs or cabinet hardware for a quick, easy fix. Metallic finishes go in and out of fashion quickly, so subbing your brass fixtures for a sleek, brushed silver could completely change the look of your vacation rental property.
What are the renovation costs for a vacation rental property?
Renovation costs for rental property vary depending on numerous factors such as the current state of the home, money you’re willing to invest, and costs by location. It’s important that you try to account for all expenses beforehand so you don’t go over budget or end up with an incomplete upgrade. Remember that the idea is to renovate and rent, so be particular about calculating your budget so you’re not spending unnecessary time or money.
Plan for the unexpected
There’s a reason you buy insurance that covers incidentals. Life happens and we need to plan for that as much as possible. Vacation rental renovations are no exception to this. When mapping out the cost of your renovation try to brainstorm what additional expenses or incidents could occur during your reno.
For example, if you’re renovating your beach property during hurricane season, unfinished window coverings or new additions could be damaged or knocked out by a storm. Try to account for the unexpected as much as possible so you don’t end up with sudden charges that weren’t accounted for in your budget.
Only spend what you need to
Although it may be tempting to install those trendy new sliding doors or replace all your lighting with wicker pendant lamps, think about it for a second. Are you going to get the return on your investment that you expect? According to Budget Dumpster, you shouldn’t spend more than 10 to 15 percent of your home’s value on a single room.
Try to do as much as you can with as little money as possible. You don’t want to be stuck with a loan that’s being paid off by months of bookings. Instead, try to make modest changes where necessary and add instant luxury in areas that you were eyeing out for renovations.
Keep in mind that time is a cost as well. Every moment your property sits vacant is a day that could have a booking. Use the time efficiently and reduce vacancy by using vacation rental management software. With this, you can coordinate workers, cleaning staff, and administration in a way that minimizes your renovation time while maximizing your reservations and earnings.
How to calculate the cost
The most important part of any vacation rental refresh is the budget. Planning a thorough budget will give you peace of mind, an idea of what you’ll need to finance, and, most importantly, a sense of what your return on investment will be.
Take an assessment of your renovation priorities. What is broken? What is most used? What is aesthetic and what is essential? By prioritizing your upgrades, you can not only calculate for the most expensive, but also decide what can be cut from your budget.
Tools like these help you to not forget the details, such as rewiring, labor, or hardware costs. 1 in 3 renovations go over budget, don’t be one of them by not planning accordingly.
Lastly, your property is going to have to be vacant during these remodels. Try to find the best periods to plan a renovation so you don’t lose out on booking opportunities. Use your vacation rental reservation system to look back at previous years’ bookings and try to account for the lowest booking periods. It’s a given that your property will have to be empty for a bit to get the renovations done so plan for it wisely.
Bonus tips to renovate your Airbnb
If the majority of your bookings are coming through Airbnb, it might be useful to have a customized Airbnb renovation project planned. In order to renovate for Airbnb, you must think about what type of guests are staying at your lodging: are they young professionals or new families booking their first getaway?
Statistics show that 60% of all guests are millennials. If your reservations are coming from a younger generation it could be beneficial to maintain a trendy look to attract a particular traveler.
You can still refurbish your Airbnb property cheaply, by focusing on small updates that would wow trend followers. Adding a smart TV, a surround sound system, or updating your home’s color palette are cost effective ways to upgrade and market your Airbnb for millennials. The hottest home trends are always changing so be sure to check what is current and what your Airbnb guests are looking for.
If your Airbnb guests vary in age range, it’s best to keep your renovations more generic. Consider changes that could make you a SuperHost or turn your listing into an Airbnb Plus property.
According to Airbnb, Airbnb Plus properties not only offer exceptional hospitality, but also well-designed, fully equipped, and spotless maintained spaces. If you think your property is close to achieving this, it might be smart to do an inspection of your vacation rental and see what would make it exceptional enough for Airbnb Plus status. Follow the top 20 Airbnb blogs to see what competitors are doing to achieve Superhost and Airbnb Plus status.
Finally, if you’re planning on blocking some dates off your calendar for upgrading your property, you should consider using an Airbnb channel manager. This useful tool will automatically sync your Airbnb calendar with your booking calendar on your vacation rental website and the rest of external channels, so you don’t have to manually update your availability.
To increase bookings, keep your vacation rental up to date and all the appliances fully functioning. Travelers want somewhere to relax and your property needs to reflect this desire. Whether you choose to focus on one area of your vacation home or do a full revamp, keep these tips in mind.
The guest experience begins well before they’re at your doorstep and a stylish house isn’t complete without a sleek website. Remember that your website is the window to your property, so it needs to be “on trend” as well. By choosing a software that provides ready to use templates and effortlessly upscale websites, you can focus your attention on refurbishing your vacation rental to increase your bookings and guests’ experience.
Keeping your vacation rental contemporary will help to increase your property value and get more bookings. Moreover, these types of upgrades are essential in order for your property to stay competitive and relevant in the booming 21st-century vacation rental market!
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