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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Farmer

Start a Vacation Rental Business Debt Free: 5 Reasons Why It’s Possible

By Brandon Farmer

Mortgages. Student loans. Credit cards. Car loans. HELOCs. Sound familiar? Nearly every household in America is carrying some sort of significant debt that is keeping them from living the lifestyle they dream about. If you understand compound interest, you know that every dollar spent on a monthly payment today could be worth thousands 20 years from now.

Your number one wealth building tool is your income, and the way to maximize the income that you invest is by becoming (and staying) debt free. Not rocket surgery. If your money doesn’t go toward interest, you can put it towards your future.

The boom of the “gig economy” has opened doors for people to take on freelance positions in addition to their day job. Anyone with a laptop or a smartphone can take advantage of all sorts of different side hustles to earn extra income. That extra money can be used to pay off debt, go on a vacation, or donate to your favorite charity. One of the most lucrative endeavors in the “gig economy” is vacation rental ownership.

Now I know what you’re thinking…”Sure, it would be great to be a vacation rental owner, but you have to have a lot of money to do that.” Well, no ya don’t. Here are 5 reasons why debt free vacation rental ownership is more attainable than ever:

1. Staying in a stranger’s house has officially gone mainstream.

Now I don’t mean to get all “Ted Bundy Tape’s” creepy on you...but the fact is, if you’ve ever stayed in a VRBO or Airbnb, that space belonged to someone else that you probably had never met...a.k.a. A stranger. But by the grace of basic human evolution and 5 star reviews, people have become incredibly comfortable with staying in a stranger’s house. As a matter of fact, not only have we become comfortable with it, it is rapidly taking over hotels as our preferred method of lodging when traveling. Short term rental sites like VRBO and Airbnb take most of the anxiety out of the equation through detailed property descriptions and streamlined communication between guest and host. There is a trusting target market out there for your space, which leads me to my next point…

2. The marketing is already done for you.

Airbnb estimates that in 2018, 120 million travelers visited their website EVERY MONTH. Imagine making an instagram post about your house and within the first month you have over 100 million views….well, it’s not exactly the same thing but you get the point. The traffic is already flowing, you just have to merge. All the major rental sites have very user friendly interfaces that make posting and marketing a listing rather simple. While snapping a few photos and typing out a quick description will certainly get you in the game, you should definitely look into consulting an expert to help with photos and a description that will make your space stand out from the vastly growing competition.

3. Vacation rental sites allow you to rent single rooms in your home.

While the typical family or group of friends will be looking to rent an entire home, there is definitely a niche market for low budget travelers looking to book single rooms. Lucky for us, vacation rental sites do not require listings to be completely vacant homes. It takes a certain type of host to delve into this world. Having a guest stay at your place when you’re not there is one thing, but to share a house with someone you don’t know just down the hall is a little different. Another cool feature the listing sites offer if the ability to turn off the “Instant Booking” feature. This allows the owner to properly vet the guests requesting to stay. You can read reviews, chat, or share a phone call with potential renters to get a better feel of who will be coming. It may sound weird at first, but here’s the thing….people do it every day and have wild success with this strategy. My wife and I shared an apartment with 2 other couples in San Francisco (the owner was there too) and it was a great and memorable experience, even though we were a little unsure going into it. That owner was getting $150 per couple per night to help pay the mortgage….not bad.

4. Linens aren’t that expensive.

Whether you decide to rent out your entire home, or a single space, you will need to purchase extra linens and towels. This isn’t even about money, it’s just basic human decency. No one wants to sleep on used sheets or dry off with a used towel. Gross. You can get decent sheets and towels for very cheap through Amazon or other local stores. Most travelers are not picky. As long as the towels and linens are clean, dry, and smell decently fresh, that is good enough. Depending on the size and quality of your space, most of the upfront costs of starting a vacation rental are covered by a single weekend’s rent rates. $150 should be able to get a single space rental equipped with some nice sheets and towels.

5. Your space is already furnished.

One of the major differences between short term rental management and traditional land-lording is that the owner is responsible to furnishing the space as opposed to the tenant. If you’re getting started by renting out your entire place or a single room, there is a good chance that the space is already furnished. There is no requirement to go out and buy cashmere blankets and 24 karat gold lamps. Many travelers are simply looking for a clean, comfortable place to recharge during the downtime of their vacation adventures or business trips. Although it certainly helps to add some “Charm-Factor” to your space, a good review or two and some clean photos can get your listing off the ground. If you decide to spice up your listing once some cash flow is coming in it will only help, but there is certainly no reason to go into debt to create a standout listing.

As always, look into any local ordinances or laws that prohibit short term rentals in your area. Consult a local real estate or insurance professional to see if your dwelling might require any additional coverage or licenses. Most areas make it very easy to obtain short term rental credentials.

Get on track towards the life you want to live. Earn extra money and chip away at that debt. Be adventurous and meet some new people. Start a vacation rental business debt free.

Brandon Farmer is a short term rental owner, manager, and consultant. He is also the founder of Bourbon Trail Rentals in Louisville, KY.

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