The Ultimate Vacation Rental Maintenance Guide
Imagine having to bench two months out of your peak season for a major plumbing repair. Not only does this hypothetical sound painful, but it also sounds preventable. Most major issues that appear in vacation rentals could be avoided or amended if tackled early. Waiting until an issue becomes blatantly obvious or noticeable to guests means you’re probably about to pour in double the amount of money than if you would have fixed the issue ahead of time.
Waiting too long to take care of vacation rental maintenance or conducting a maintenance check inconsistently can result in preventable expenses when small fixes become big problems. Of course, this is rarely due to negligence. Many vacation rental owners are unsure just how often they should be maintaining their second homes.
Even when they set up a maintenance schedule, many owners are in the dark about what exactly should be checked and tested. A vacation home faces different types of wear and tear than your primary residence, so there might be different factors to consider when maintaining a short-term rental.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be. We’ve broken down the vacation rental maintenance essentials so you can cover every square inch of your house. Further, you’ll know exactly when it’s time to run through the list to make sure everything stays in working order.
What is vacation rental maintenance?
Through the joys of being a homeowner, maintenance and repairs become household terms. Regardless of how new, foolproof, and robust your home may be, maintenance is still a necessity. Our homes, vacation rentals or otherwise, are played in, slept in, and lived in. A good majority of time is spent inside the home meaning heavy usage of its equipment and space. Even if your vacation rental is only available for a small amount of time out of the year, it’s going to need a check-in from time to time.
So it’s understood that maintenance is essential, but what does it entail? Vacation rental maintenance is the process of preserving the condition or current state of your holiday home. What this looks like exactly might depend on the condition you’re trying to keep up and the type of home you own.
What do vacation rental properties do for maintenance?
If maintenance for vacation rentals is so different from a primary residence, what exactly sets it apart? Your vacation rental isn’t going to be treated with the same care as your own home sadly. You can lay ground rules with house rules and try to solidify the care of your home with a short term rental contract, but, at the end of the day, the mere traffic that your vacation home receives will cause your home to weather – that’s where a maintenance checklist comes in!
We can think about vacation rental maintenance in a number of ways. If you want to break it down with a timeline or divvy up the different sections of your home, it’s ultimately up to you. Make sure you’re structuring your maintenance list in a way that makes sense to you, so you don’t miss any of the important steps.
Let’s zoom out and look at vacation rental maintenance in chunks. We’ll talk about the interior versus exterior as well as some categories, like security and appliance functionality, that are essential to your business’s overall operation.
Keeping your vacation rental secure should be at the top of your list. If your property is left vulnerable to intruders and troublemakers, the rest of your maintenance checklist won’t matter too much. Step one would be to have a good security system in place and the obvious second would be to keep it in working order.
If you have any motion detecting devices, you’ll need to test the full range of motion detected periodically. The view and reach of these devices can become obstructed over time, so to keep the full parameter secure, check the accuracy of motion detected.
On the topic of protecting the parameter of your home, the points of entry should also be well-maintained. Rusted locks or a stripped doorknob makes for an easy opportunity to break-in. Periodically replacing the hardware to your window and door locks not only prevents old visitors from making a set of your keys and potentially entering, but it also minimizes the risk of forced entry.
Maintenance for the interior
Maintaining the interior of your home can vary widely depending on what type of home you have. If you own a yurt, it might be critically important to check the integrity of the rafters while a log cabin in snowy Colorado might be more concerned with keeping the fireplaces usable. If your home has special considerations like the accommodations mentioned above, you’ll want to add it to your regular maintenance list.
The majority of vacation rentals aren’t anything out of the ordinary. They might be a typical build with 2-3 bedrooms and a standard layout. With that said, let’s cover the interior considerations of your run-of-the-mill vacation home.
Start with the outer edges of each room and work your way in. For example, check the walls, molding, and ceilings for any cracks, structural damage, mold, or water stains. Be sure to check the air vents and filters as well. Your air filters should be switched out every 6-12 months depending on how often your property is occupied. The ventilation system also needs to be regularly checked to make sure there’s no blockage that could pose a fire hazard.
If all of that checks out, start checking the rest of the objects in each room. Are all the outlets, electrical cords, and plugs free of fire hazards or electrical issues? Do you notice any evidence of rodents or pests on the materials of your furniture or any droppings hidden on your shelves? Keeping living creatures out of your living space is also a crucial part of vacation rental maintenance.
If you’ve done a full check of the floors, ceilings, walls, outlets, and lighting, and furniture in each room, you’re ready for the next step!
Maintaining the outdoor area
It might seem like most of the maintenance for your vacation rental is about sealing up the interior and keeping out anything unwanted, but the exterior of your home also plays a large role. The degrading condition of your exterior might not be as easy to notice, particularly if your vacation home’s main appeal is the inside.
Don’t neglect your exterior maintenance by only worrying about the interior. In fact, taking poor care of the outside can actually seep into the inside of your home (think terminates, mildew, and structural damage).
Just like the inside of your home, start from your property’s outer edges. Walk around the parameter of the home and check for any new damages or changes. Do you see any trace of groundhogs or underground rodents that could undermine your shed, fence, or retaining wall? If you have a fence that lines the property: are there any weak points in the fence or spots where the fence has been broken? This is especially important if your vacation rental allows pets.
Check the driveway for any weathering or cracks in the pavement. Your sidewalk should also be clear and level to prevent any future injuries or incidents. If you have an irrigation system make sure there aren’t any leaks.
Preventive maintenance for appliances
Think about why guests book a vacation rental over a hotel – the luxury of a new accommodation with the comforts of home. With that in mind, having a fully-equipped kitchen is a huge selling point for many guests. Further, the ability to wash their clothes or host a bbq sets a vacation rental apart from its hotel competition… but what if these offered perks aren’t working?
The worst thing you can do for the guest experience is to promise features and amenities and not deliver. Maybe your guests are eager to make sugar cookies during their Christmas vacation only to find out that the oven is broken. Perhaps, they decided to host a large dinner party for the extended family only to find out the dishwasher doesn’t work. Having broken or faulty appliances is a sure-fire way to get a negative review.
The best way to test your appliances is to use them! Run a load of laundry, test the cleaning strength of your dishwasher, and adjust your faucets to hot and cold to make sure they’re working properly. You should test each appliance in your home, especially if it’s one of the main selling points of your home.
Common vacation rental maintenance mistakes
So we’ve covered a broad overview of how you can start to think about your vacation rental maintenance list, but practice makes perfect. Most first-time vacation rental owners learn “trial by fire” when it comes to maintenance, even with a conceptual understanding of how to conduct a vacation rental inspection. Get ahead of the issues by checking out these common mistakes and how to fix them before it happens to you.
Only checking the main appliances
Remember that the maintenance we conduct in our own homes doesn’t necessarily transfer into what needs to be checked for a vacation home. Maybe you’re primarily sticking to the fridge, microwave, and stovetop in your own home, but guests in your vacation rental might be looking to maximize the use of every appliance you offer.
If you advertise a full breakfast bar complete with a toaster, waffle maker, and espresso machine you better make sure each of those appliances works! Frequently homeowners make the mistake of thinking that only the repair-prone appliances like the washing machine and refrigerator need to be checked.
As time-consuming as it may sound, every appliance needs to be checked. If your property offers it, it needs to work. Think of it this way: you’ll have to fix all repairs in your home no matter what. It’s better that you discover any issues by including a full appliance inspection rather than a guest bringing it to your attention.
Not understanding the potential hidden costs
Some owners skimp on the inspection because they’re concerned about the cost of a thorough maintenance list, especially if you’re hiring someone to conduct the inspection. Unfortunately, the cost is far greater than if you decide to postpone or just quickly do a walkthrough of the property. What are the costs of not conducting a thorough vacation rental inspection?
Just like your primary home, most governments and localities will require your home to meet a certain code. Building, zoning, and safety codes all need to be taken into consideration for your business. Failure to comply might result in a slap on the wrist at first, but it could also end up costing you hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines. Staying up to code by conducting inspections is going to keep you in good graces with your local authorities and save you the expense of paying fines for code breaks.
Anything left untreated is always going to cost you more in the long run. Let’s say you quickly check the outside of your home and fail to see the mud tubes and termite damage that’s starting to whittle away at the structural integrity of your foundation. Then you return one year later for the next annual inspection and now you’ve got a major structural issue. You can only imagine how costly it would be to have to fix the foundation of your home.
Sometimes these seemingly small things or issues that are easy to overlook can cause you huge problems. In the worst of cases, houses that aren’t structurally sound will need to be demolished – a horror story, indeed! Thorough, timely inspections help to prevent this long-term damage from costing you money, or worse, your whole business.
If you visit your property often, you could probably navigate the place in your sleep. With that said, you might not notice when a problem is stirring. On the other hand, property owners who manage their vacation rental remotely might only come to the premises when there already is a problem. Both ends of the spectrum can be prone to poor vacation rental inspections despite their importance.
The problem with poor maintenance is that it results in poor guest satisfaction, which ultimately leads to fewer bookings. If you’ve been scratching your head and wondering why you’re not getting any return guests, maybe it’s time to conduct a vacation rental inspection. Those paint chips, faulty thermostats, and broken outlets could be just enough to convince a guest not to return to your property.
Allowing unpermitted construction
It’s tempting to want to find the cheapest solution to vacation rental maintenance; after all, owning a holiday home can be quite expensive! Fixes and maintenance are not where you want to cut corners. Remember in the eyes of most governing authorities, your vacation rental is a business. Just as they would hold a restaurant or factory to a certain standard, they’re going to do the same for you. If you proceed with unpermitted construction to fix any of your maintenance issues, this could result in serious consequences with your locality.
Not only is it a risky move in terms of legality, but it could also cost you more down the line. When you fix your maintenance issues in a cheap way, you’re really just fixing it for a temporary period of time.
Expecting guests to do the heavy lifting
Most guests understand that there are some responsibilities that they’ll need to keep in mind when staying at your vacation rental. You might add a couple of to-do’s on your cleaning checklist for guests to complete before they leave, but as a word of caution: don’t overdo it.
It’s not up to your guests to conduct your vacation rental inspection. They might be so kind as to warn you if something isn’t right, but they’re not going to check that everything is in working order and nor should they. You can kindly ask that they report any issues that may arise, but that’s about the extent of what guests can, or should, do for your vacation rental inspection checklist.
Not following a vacation rental property management checklist
What is a successful business without a bit of organization? Your vacation rental maintenance routine is no exception to this. Keeping a list of all the things that need to be ticked off for your maintenance duties will help you not forget anything.
For many vacation rental owners, this is their second home. They think they’ve got a good mental map of what maintenance checks they need to look for based on the personal experience they’ve gathered from their own homes, but that’s not totally true. As we said, vacation rental maintenance looks a bit different, so it’s ill-advised to go about it unguided.
Airbnb and vacation rental property maintenance: what’s the difference?
Frequently we look at Airbnbs and vacation rentals as separate categories. Airbnbs are famous for having a large variety of accommodation options like single-room stays, guest houses, or even camper vans. As you can imagine, each stay will need a catered property maintenance checklist, but ultimately most things are equal in terms of maintenance.
In terms of tending to your property, your checklist might look the same, but keep in mind that Airbnb expects you to follow their terms and conditions so you’ll need to meet their standards for things such as cleaning.
Should you use vacation rental maintenance services?
If you’re driving back to your vacation rental property for the third weekend in a row to fix something that’s gone awry, you might be asking yourself, “Is it time to employ vacation rental maintenance services?” This will ultimately depend on your own property management, the need of your home, and the standard you plan to upkeep.
Let’s look at a comparison. Imagine you own an 1800’s plantation-style home. Your maintenance is going to have to be a bit more thorough: frequently checking pipes, fixing cracks in the wall, replacing warped flooring, etc. Due to the age and wear, these homes can have a much more involved maintenance to-do list. Compare that with a newly built condominium, where the building is quite new and the exterior of the property is communally cared for and it might not make sense to hire for vacation rental maintenance services being that the need is far less.
Download our vacation rental maintenance checklist
You’re ready to get started in the world of vacation rental maintenance! It might not be the most fun thing you’ll do around your vacation rental, but it will certainly be one of the most important. Following a tight vacation rental maintenance routine is going to keep your property in working order and tip-top shape for your guests. You’ll save money by preventing major repairs done to the line, while also earning more by providing guests with a superb place to stay.
Thanks to our vacation rental maintenance checklist, you won’t have to worry about where to start. Our rental property maintenance checklist covers everything you need to know about checking over your property: from the exterior to the interior and from the basement to the attic.