10 Pro Moves That Will Boost Your Home's Vacation Rental Value
It’s a jungle out there in the world of short-term vacation rentals — and the experts of ‘My House Is Your House’ are here with a treasure map.
Having a home that converts to a holiday space when you’re out of town can translate to serious income. As Nashville rental pros Teryn Chapin and Victoria Robinson and San Diego rental pros Ryan and Claire Danz know, tapping into that resource isn’t quite as easy as stashing your stuff in a closet and turning over your keys.
How, then, does a listing go from blink-and-you’ll-miss-it to the hottest vacation property in town? They’re so glad you asked — and on My House Is Your House, HGTV’s all-new rental-rehab series, they walk us through their fancy footwork.
Lesson 1: Get on Top of Your Digital Game
The process of being a successful host begins long before you welcome your guests. In fact, it begins before they book your home. “Respond to your inquiries immediately,” Ryan advises, “or your guests are going to book somewhere else. And never cancel, because once you do, you’re going to get dropped so far [down] in the search rank, you might as well have never been listed.” Expand your online presence, in turn, by creating a hashtag for your place. Those happy, casual social-media posts add personality to the pro details in your listing.
Lesson 2: Try to Outdo Your Neighbors
As Ryan explains, visitors aren’t just getting an eyeful of your place when they arrive — they’re taking in the look of the whole neighborhood. If the homes surrounding yours are bringing their A games and you fall short, you’re prepping guests for disappointment. Before its midcentury-modern makeover, this San Diego home looked like a commercial lot. “You drive up to this house where [there was] really nothing worth stopping for, and if you’re renting in this neighborhood, you’re feeling like, I think I got swindled,” Ryan said. Post-rehab, it’s ready to keep up with the Joneses.
Lesson 3: First Impressions Are Everything
Before Teryn and Victoria rolled up, this East Nashville bungalow’s main entrance wasn’t even identifiable. Were guests supposed to enter via the steps up front or the door on the side patio? Worse still, the pavers and landscaping were in desperate need of updates, and a lock box with the house keys was all but invisible.
No, no, no, says Teryn: “When you pull up,” she advises, “you want to be so excited: There it is! There’s my vacation home!” That immediate positive reaction lays the groundwork for a glowing review, and the funds you invest in cosmetic work are money well spent. Teryn and Victoria also swapped the mysterious lock box out for a digital entry pad that removes the guesswork from getting inside and provides additional security, since the homeowners can now change the code each time they welcome new visitors. Speaking of welcoming new visitors…
Lesson 4: Make Sure Your Guests Have Somewhere to Park
Teryn and Victoria reconfigured the home’s outdoor space to provide a dedicated space for cars — a power move that will earn their clients points with renters and their neighbors. Friends don’t make friends battle it out for precious curbside spots.
Lesson 5: Don’t Neglect the Floors
Cleanup is time wasted if the surfaces you’re tidying don’t look pristine, and this home’s wooden floors were so scarred that they made its interior look dirty. Teryn and Victoria gave them a quick but vigorous face lift, and…got a dramatic reaction, let’s say.
Lesson 6: Clean It Like You Mean It
Hiring a pro to reset your space after guests leave might seem like an extravagance, but cleaning services will get to areas you might miss — and “cleaning is probably the biggest complaint people have” in vacation rentals, Claire says. “One piece of hair, one little stain, one little dust bunny — you might hear about it in your reviews. And it is tough to recover from a bad cleaning review.”
Lesson 7: Stage Everything
“Having a room that’s locked up is a waste,” Teryn notes. Sure, this studio was square footage well spent in the context of its homeowners’ lives — he’s a musician, she needed office space, and they were able to put their personal effects behind lock and key when they turned their place over to renters — but it was also costing them $100 per night in potential earnings.
Presented as a functional bedroom, by contrast, that same area is valuable to homeowners and newcomers.
Lesson 8: Focus on a Welcoming Kitchen
Renters opt for homes rather than hotels because they want to feel at home, and a cramped prep area and dilapidated appliances were hardly an appropriate base of operations. In fact, these homeowners had received specific feedback about their falling-apart refrigerator. “So many great reviews [can] come from the kitchen,” Teryn says — and this space needed a usable one that photographed well and had a lot of counter space. Knocking out a superfluous wall, swapping in new, stainless-steel appliances, and bringing in new countertops created a room that “makes me, as a renter, want to stay in this house and enjoy a nice meal,” as Teryn puts it. Even better, it increases the home’s resale value by $40,000 — and justifies the cost of the whole renovation project in one fell swoop.
Lesson 9: Plan Carefully With Bathrooms
This seemingly-simple second-floor space is chock full of lessons for would-be vacation hosts. First of all, its very existence is a plus: Prior to renovation, this home’s sole bathroom was on the first floor, and a guest had actually tumbled down the stairs(!) visiting the loo in the middle of the night. Furthermore, this strategic use of tile demonstrates how more isn’t always more: Teryn wanted to carry bold tile all the way up the wall, but Victoria knew it would feel more like a focal point — and save her homeowners money — if she focused on the floor. The stylish space they created made the adjoining master bedroom a true master without breaking the bank.
Lesson 10: Put a Bed on It
This second-floor office becomes additional sleeping space with the flick of a wrist, thanks to the ingenious horizontal Murphy bed Teryn and Victoria swapped in for a pair of shallow closets. Folded against the wall, the square footage it claims is minimal — and arranged like this, it’s an additional $100-$150 per night in rental value.
Before Teryn and Victoria revamped this bungalow, it slept four for $115/night. Six weeks later, the ecstatic homeowners reported that their all-new, three-bedroom, two-bath space for six to eight guests was pulling down $349/night—and the house they bought for $177,000 now appraises for $385,000. Now that’s a righteous renovation.