How to Turn Your Property Into a Vacation Home – Give Your Guests Exactly What They’re Looking For

If you have a second house sitting empty most of the time, consider turning it into a short-term rental vacation home. By adding a few renovations and extra amenities, you could make a profit on the place for several months each year and still get to travel there during holidays or trips of your own. Sound enticing? Here’s how to turn your property into a vacation home.

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we get inquiries every day about the best home improvements to add to a vacation home – here are some key points you need to know.

1. Consider Every Aspect of Short-Term Rentals

Before diving in, find out if you need special permits to convert your property into a rental vacation home. Are there any homeowner’s association rules governing what you can do with the house? Will you need to perform regular fire inspections?

If you get the green light to turn the house into a vacation home, do yourself a favor and get liability insurance. Insurance providers consider renting a property as a business, so you’ll want to be protected against liability claims or property damage.

Even if you’re legally in the clear, think about the ethics of renting out and potentially renovating this particular property. Is it in a quiet suburb with young kids living next door? Short-term rentals can attract partygoers with a no-strings-attached attitude, which often bothers the neighbors. Think about its proximity to other people and short-term rental properties.

Consider Every Aspect of Short-Term Vacation Home

Is the house in a culturally significant or historic area? If so, look at the colors and building materials of the nearby residences and consider renovating your property to match the same tone. A lime-green house may look great on the beach, but it might upset people living in a place with a long history of earth-tone adobe huts.

Similarly, make sure vacationers feel safe and welcome in the area. Many locals are driven out of their historic neighborhoods by an influx of short-term rental vacation homes, often leading to a less-than-friendly attitude toward tourists. Research the area thoroughly before setting up a vacation home there.

Perhaps none of this applies to your property — it’s a cabin in the forest, an additional dwelling unit in your backyard, or a popular vacation-rental spot — and you’re ready to take the next step. If so, decide whether to hire a property manager or manage the rental yourself. You’ll also need a housekeeping and maintenance crew to clean up after guests and fix any problems as they arise.

2. Set a Few Ground Rules

Set Ground Rules for Vacation Home Rental

You get to decide what guests can do at your vacation home. Some people will specifically look for a place that allows pets and outdoor smoking, while others will avoid it. Can guests use the washer and dryer? What should they do with trash and dishes? Remember — it’s your house. If you’d prefer guests to wash their own towels, you can make it a rule.

3. Depersonalize the House

Depersonalize house for Vacation Home Rental

You own the property, but visitors want to feel like they’re in a neutral, unoccupied space. Take your personal photos, clothes, and computer out of the house and add some pleasant decorations around the place. Purge the home of any strong smells like food or body spray. If you leave anything behind, put it in a safe.

4. Deep Clean Everything

Deep Clean for Vacation Home Rental

Do you really have to replace the floor or just need to deep-clean it? Before undertaking any renovations, see what you can spruce up with a bit of soap and a sponge. Polish everything — right down to the light switch plate covers, baseboards, and mirrors. It may surprise you how shiny everything looks.

5. Do Some Renovations

Renovations for Vacation Home Rental

Complete renovations during low booking periods if you can. For example, if you have a beach vacation home, do your renovations in the winter so it will be ready for spring break.

Try only to make renovations you can afford and will give you a return on your investment. Go for the most urgent things — like broken items or peeling paint — before replacing all the doorknobs. What is essential and what is cosmetic?

A great place to start is by updating old appliances. Your brown fridge from the 70s? Gone. That fire hazard of a stove that’s one errant crumb away from igniting? Swap it out for a new one. Next, consider the curb appeal of the house. Does it need fresh paint or a new porch? It may be worth hiring a builder to do repairs if you’re short on time or need expert guidance.

Vinyl and tile floors are easier to clean than carpet and retain their original appearance longer than wood, so consider updating the floors. A new paint job can also radically improve the appearance of a room.

Calcium or lime deposits may crust toilets, sinks, and showers, but removing them is simple and makes the fixtures look clean and shiny. To make the bathroom more accessible, think about adding a handlebar in the shower or next to the toilet, a non-slip surface in the tub, and single-lever faucets on the sinks, which are easier to turn on than a spigot-style faucet.

You’ll want to replace the front doorknob with a combination door lock or install a lockbox on the property if you’re going the old-fashioned route of using keys. The benefit of a combination lock is you don’t have to hand your guests their keys physically — you can simply text them the code, which you can also change between guests.

Installing a security camera on the porch is also a wise choice. Some final touches include installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing cabinet knobs, and getting a new mattress.

6. Update the Amenities

Update Amenities for Vacation Home Rental

Guests will want fresh sheets and towels in their vacation homes, so stock the bathrooms with plenty of toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and extra toilet paper. Add matching dishes, glasses, and cookware in the kitchen, and consider providing a seat for babies and toddlers.

Your visitors could also enjoy having a pool table, board games, TV, and a strong Wi-Fi connection if you can provide one. Little flourishes — like a folder with brochures about nearby attractions — are a nice touch as well.

7. Publish Your Listing

Publish Vacation Home Listing

Your hard work paid off and you’re ready to open the doors to guests. The last step is to decide how much you’ll charge for rent. Then, hire a professional photographer to take the listing photos and post them online. Once you’ve advertised your vacation home, all that’s left to do is let your visitors have a great time.

Create a Lucrative Business with Your Property

Create Lucrative Business with Vacation Home Property 

The short-term rental market is booming and it’s no wonder why. Turning your property into a vacation home is a great way to earn money and utilize an empty house.

When it comes to finding the best home improvement contractor for your vacation home – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search in Southern California. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened home improvement services and provides project support from start to finish.


Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information:


Rose Morrison is a home & construction writer from Pittsburgh, PA. She’s the managing editor of Renovated, a web magazine for the real estate industry. She’s most interested in sharing home projects and inspiration for the most novice of DIY-ers, values she developed growing up in a family of contractors.

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.

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