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Your Guide to Owning, Maintaining & Enjoying Your Vacation Home

Here at HOAG REAL ESTATE, we’ve seen more and more home buyers searching for vacation properties here in the Pacific Northwest. From luxury apartments downtown to unique homes in the Columbia River Gorge or the Willamette Valley, there’s sure to be a vacation home that catches your eye—and your heart.

But what happens after you’ve purchased your vacation home? Let’s take a look at how you can get the most out of your vacation property. We’ll explain the do’s and don’ts of owning and maintaining a vacation property in the Pacific Northwest.

How often will you visit?

You need to be honest and realistic about how much you really expect to use your vacation home. Will it be close enough to visit every weekend? Will you be taking longer trips—like for skiing during the winter or fishing during the summer?

How often you plan to visit your vacation home will affect a lot of future decisions, including whether you want to rent the property for extra income. If so, you’ll need a property manager to get the home ready for your visits and then shut things down during the offseason.

Will you rent your vacation home?

The good news is that it’s never been easier to rent out your vacation home. You can DIY through Airbnb or VRBO. Vacasa is a Portland-based company that can manage almost every aspect of your rental property from guest services to cleaning and maintenance.

Of course, while there’s the obvious financial advantage to renting out your vacation home, there are downsides, too:

  1. After fees, expenses, taxes, insurance, and other costs, as well as the time you invest, your net income might be lower than you expect.
  2. Unexpected costs like property damage can reduce your overall profit.
  3. The best time to rent your vacation home might be during the same season when you want to use it.
  4. Upfront costs like marketing, furnishings, and any needed repairs might keep you from turning a profit quickly.
  5. If you go for a DIY approach, renting out your vacation home will feel like a stressful part-time job—because it is!

Tips for renting your vacation home

It’s possible to rent your vacation home for extra income without it taking over your life. You’ll just have to temper your expectations. No, you won’t become a real estate titan overnight and you likely won’t quit your day job any time soon.

Websites like Airbnb are competitive with many professional property owners using the service. Getting traction can be difficult and building reviews and repeat business takes time. Plus Airbnb users have high expectations — do you want to invest the time, energy, and money it takes to meet them?

If you’re renting your property out sporadically, consider looking closer to home. Let friends, colleagues, and associates know you have a property to rent and offer a fair price. You’ll avoid the Airbnb fees and the hassle of dealing with unknown renters. Offer a free night (or a cash bonus) to friends who refer someone who stays at your property. It takes a bit of work, but most people have a big enough social network to get the word out!

Look for longer-term rentals. A family looking for a 2-week getaway at your beach house on the Oregon Coast will usually be less work than a handful of shorter rentals. If your home is big enough, look for larger groups, particularly church groups and executive retreats. They’ll usually treat your home respectfully and leave you with less clean-up and a lower risk of property damage.

Before you start renting, get your ducks in a row. Talk to your accountant and lawyer about any legal or tax issues you might face as you start your new venture. You might be surprised at what can be “written off” to reduce your end-of-year tax bill. You might also be surprised to learn about insurance policies that might be required to rent a vacation property in your area. Regulations vary widely so talk to a local expert!

What if you’re not renting your home?

Not everyone needs to—or wants to—rent out their vacation property. You might enjoy the freedom of visiting whenever you like and not having to deal with renters. So what do you need to do with it? Besides enjoying it yourself, of course!

Charitable donations

There are great causes here in the Pacific Northwest. Here at HOAG REAL ESTATE, we support many of them! You might consider a charity you feel passionate about and donating a few nights at your vacation home to a charity auction or to be used for another good cause.

One common misconception, however, surrounds the tax benefits of donating a stay at your vacation home. Contrary to popular belief, this is not tax-deductible due to something called the partial-interest rule. Check with your accountant for more details. But remember, donating a stay in your vacation home to a great cause is still a wonderful thing to do.

Make sure it’s secure!

If you’re using your vacation home infrequently, you need to invest in a security system. Modern camera-equipped systems like Nest and SimpliSafe can protect your home and give you peace-of-mind. More than just security systems, these technologies can let you peek into your home to make sure everything is OK. 

Beyond a security system, it’s a good idea to find a local property manager and/or handyman who can inspect your unused vacation property from time to time. They can report their findings to you, make any needed repairs, and get your home ready for winter.

Don’t overlook the value of getting to know your neighbors! Do favors by checking in on each other’s home. Make sure they have your emergency contact info just in case.

Find a local handyman you trust!

Nothing is more frustrating than arriving at your vacation home to find something is broken, damaged, or not working. What you thought was going to be a relaxing weekend getaway becomes a nightmare of phone calls, appointment scheduling, and headaches.

That’s why it’s so beneficial to find a local handyman you trust as soon as you buy your vacation home. 

Look for handymen who are:

  • Experienced and local—They’ll be more committed to the area and more trustworthy.
  • Flexible and available after hours or on weekends
  • Capable of handling a variety of repairs—The fewer specialists you have to work with the better.
  • Friendly and communicative

Work with them to develop a year-round maintenance schedule for your vacation property. By taking care of small problems when they’re first spotted, you’ll prevent bigger and more costly repairs down the road. Also schedule regular inspections of your roof, gutters, and foundation to be on the lookout for signs of trouble. We’ve been compiling a list of trusted, local vendors that we prefer to work with since 1991. Give us a call if you need a recommendation!

Need help finding your dream vacation home?

Call HOAG REAL ESTATE today at (503) 906-1370. We work with homebuyers around Oregon and Washington to find the dream homes they’ve always wanted. We also provide property management services to homeowners who are looking for an alternative to selling their homes and vacation properties.