Beach House for Fun and Profit

Make money and catch some rays at the same time!

Toilet Troubles

Have you ever had big problems with a toilet? Neither had I…until I did. The primary bathroom toilet began to smell foul even after it was cleaned AND NOT USED!

The toilet was clean, trust me. I replaced the seat. Still an odor. I suspected a dirty toilet tank. It can happen. I dropped in cleaner circles in the reserve tank…still the whiff of urine. So, I stepped up the cleaning…liberal amounts of white vinegar inside the tank and a brush scrub of the tank walls with the vinegar. Eventually, after the vinegar smell dissipated, the unwanted scent came creeping back.
Urine is notorious for getting other places and of course causing stains that won’t go away. I imagined the source was somewhere other than the toilet. Maybe in the grout, or on the wall or adjacent vanity? I scrubbed the grout ferociously. I sealed and repainted the wall and the vanity. Sure, all I could smell were chemicals and paint, but eventually the smell, reminiscent of a bus stop bathroom, returned.
I called a plumber and told him my woes. $350 later I have a new toilet and no smell.

Before and After Toilet

The lifespan on a toilet is anywhere from 15-50 years. My toilet was about 14 years old. But it all it takes is a crack, a broken flange, corrosion of the wax seal, etc. and you could face this frustrating problem or worse…at any point in the lifecycle.

Painting the walls and the vanity was a lot of work. More than $350 of my time. So, consider this a public service. If you have had more than a flapper to replace or start having odor issues that cleaning alone does not resolve, then consider a new toilet.

Also, during my research I discovered that the round bowl was not ideal either. Besides being more comfortable, Consumer Reports suggests that elongated bowls stay cleaner and allows fewer odors to escape. The deeper and wider the water, the better solid waste odors will be trapped by the water. Round bowls do have a slightly smaller footprint, but if you have the room, consider making the switch to an elongated toilet.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (Covid-19) for Vacation Property Owners

Update: It took several weeks but I did receive the advance portion of the loan from the SBA. That advance is limited to $1000 per employee of your enterprise.

If you have experienced rental cancellations or any type of economic loss as a result of the current Coronavirus pandemic, you may be eligible for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. See the link here: to apply. The EIDL is a disaster assistance loan administered by the Small Business Administration.

This is open to sole proprietors, with or without employees! Homeowners are even referenced right on the banner of the application page, though there is a question within the application about rental income lost so I would imagine you have to be a landlord (short-term or long-term) to request this assistance. Translation: You are not eligible just by owning a home if you do not earn rental income.

Please be aware that this is a loan that will eventually need to be paid back, but terms are yet to be determined (likely between 1%-3.75% interest) and you never know if the loan might eventually be forgiven in another round of stimulus. (One can hope?). Additionally, there is an option to receive an expedited “advance” of $10,000. Be prepared to enter your bank account and routing information in this section. This advance would NOT have to be repaid even if you are not eventually approved for the loan.

Keep in mind, this is separate and apart from the Paycheck Protection Program by the SBA which also has a grant component. Check your eligibility with this fact sheet, if you have employees and think you might be eligible. The PPP application needs to be filled out and brought to the SBA department of a bank.

Best of luck weathering this challenging time and stay healthy!

Comcast Coronavirus Price Break

If you have taken advantage of the Comcast Seasonal pricing program, right now Comcast is offering to extend the low, off-season pricing in areas affected by the Coronavirus crisis.

Typically, in the Ocean City, New Jersey area the seasonal price break ends in the beginning of March. However, if you call now Comcast will retroactively reduce the price from the expiration date through April 30. The program may be extended as situations warrant. So if the crisis causes your seasonal rental to not be available to you or others, it might be worth it to call Xfinity Contracts Expirations at 1-866-216-8634 and request the extension.

Costco Patio Furniture Deals

Outdoor pillows and cushions

It won’t be long before you can feel warm breezes and relax outdoors again. So, this is the time to get your patio/outdoor space in order!

I have earlier written about the benefits of polywood furniture. But should you need beach chairs, umbrellas, or most anything outdoors now is time to take your pick at Costco. It is an overlooked place for these items. Yes, at the warehouse for toilet paper, paper towels and rotisserie chicken you can score deals on your outdoor space needs.

Cool, new chair pattern

On a recent trip to Costco, I spotted patio umbrellas, conversation sets, outdoor dining, patio cushions and pillows, deck tile, beach carts and of course Tommy Bahama beach chairs. Including this cool, new design. I highly recommend these chairs for the beach. They are very lightweight, comfortable and sturdy. I make them available for my guests and they last multiple seasons. If you are not picky about the pattern, you can often find them on markdown in late summer (this item Costco usually has till the fall).

Tommy Bahama Chairs and Umbrellas

dining and umbrellas

Conversation set

Of course, most of these items, and particularly the larger pieces, are only in the warehouse during the Spring.  Costco moves them to make way for indoor furniture in the Summer, holiday items in the fall, etc.  So get to Costco now if you are need of these items. Happy shopping!

What is the Life Expectancy of that Appliance?

Did you know that every appliance in your home has a lifespan?  Normal wear and tear will eventually lead to breakdowns.  

We recently noticed our dishwasher was beginning to leak and it began to sound terrible.  Then the control panel on our microwave came loose.  Both still functioned, but not well.  Should I call an appliance repairman or replace these?

Leaking Dishwasher
Leaking Dishwasher
Kitchen with original appliances

To most effectively manage your budget, you should consider the typical appliance lifespan when considering this decision.  A good rule of thumb is that if an appliance is more than halfway through its lifespan and repairing it will be more than half of the cost of a new appliance, it makes more financial sense to replace it.  Obviously, if the appliance is past its typical life expectancy you should forego any attempts at repair and just replace it.

Average Life Expectancy of Common Appliances
source: Dana Chase Publications

In our case, both were original to the house and now 12 years old.  We opted for reasonably priced replacements purchased at our local appliance store-Johnson’s Appliances.  (Incidentally, less expensive than Lowe’s after factoring in the cost of install/delivery/haul away, etc!) Here is to hoping we get the full life expectancy!

New Microwave and Dishwasher

How to Choose Patio Furniture

As the summer season approached we found ourselves needing to purchase our third patio dining set in four years.  The shore salt-air makes quick work of the inexpensive aluminum tables and chairs we had been purchasing. 

Inexpensive, rusting patio furniture
(click to view larger image)

The corroding metal was unsightly but the rust stains left on the deck were even more of a problem.  And this is to say nothing of the frustration of assembly and lugging everything up our many flights of stairs.  If it was possible to purchase something that would not rust, was simple to care for, could be easily moved yet heavy enough I did not have to worry about it flying off the deck in a storm and would last…then it would be worth a financial investment.  So what to purchase?

Pretty quickly I narrowed the choices to Teak or Polypropylene (Polywood).  The chart below demonstrates the pros and cons of each type of patio material.

Each characteristic is not equal however, or I would just buy cheap plastic furniture and replace it each time it became brittle from the sun or blew off the deck in a nor’easter.  Since that is obviously not a route I could consider, I pretty quickly narrowed my choices to Teak or High Density Polyethylene or HDPE (eponymously known by the brand Polywood). 

The Teak furniture really spoke to me, but the prospect of needing to oil it on occasion to maintain the rich color seemed too onerous.  Polywood seemed my best choice as it would require virtually no maintenance, would never rust or need painting and there was no chance it could blow away.  Made of high density recycled plastic milk jugs, polywood offered unparalleled durability and appearance at a reasonable price. 

Since our deck is a rather tight space, I spent the entire off-season trying to find a slimmer profile polywood table that could seat six.  I found you can purchase polyethylene furniture from Polywood direct, from distributors like Costco, Hayneedle, Wayfair, etc. or other “poly” makers like Breezesta or Luxcraft.

If ordering a table and chairs direct from, as was my case, then your order should arrive well packaged on a pallet within ten days.  Assembly is very easy. It mostly consists of attaching armrests and table legs. 

Attach arm rest to chairs
Table out of the box
Attach table legs

Flip it all over and you are done.

We opted to pair the Nautical dining table with the the Nautic Café chairs as we liked the minimalist style of the chairs and the ability of these to stack.

Care for these items should be very easy.  While I recognize there is some metal hardware involved, Polywood uses high-performance marine-grade quality metal which is warrantied. From prior experience with poly furniture I know this can be left out all year (even in a coastal climate) and generally just needs a light wipe with soapy water to remove pollen or residue and then appears as good as new.

The furniture really only needs to last 4-6 years to pay for itself in comparison to the cheap aluminum furniture we had been buying. Here is to hoping this furniture lasts much longer than that!

Living with Vertical Blinds on Sliding Glass Doors

Your rental very likely has sliding glass doors or French doors.  If you are not fortunate enough to have built-in blinds with these doors, then you will need a window treatment option.  Typical treatment options include curtains, shutters, shades, sliding panels, and of course vertical blinds.  Let me tell you why the obvious choice of vertical blinds are likely your best option particularly in a bedroom where you must block out light from a slider door.  I will also discuss how you can mitigate the inevitable shortcomings.

Simply put, vertical blinds offer the right combination of affordability, functionality, and safety in a high traffic rental.  Any other type of treatment would come up short in one of these three qualities.


If you don’t have children, this is one attribute you might overlook.  However, there will be children in your beach rental and we have all seen the warnings on window treatment loops.  Some very beautiful options, like rollershades, necessitate pulls or chains that will be within reach of toddlers.  Likewise, shutters can fold in on and pinch little fingers. Even the most affordable option, a curtain, can be a tangle risk and will require ties which can also pose a danger.  More likely, children will yank or pull down the curtain and bring down the rod too.


I am always surprised by how people manage to stain walls, linens, carpet etc. Curtains or drapes will get stained and collect dust.  They pose quite a challenge to clean in what may be a quick changeover between guests.  To clean, a curtain needs to be taken down, washed and laid out to dry. Some of the more aesthetically pleasing options like sliding panels or shades have the same drawback but are even more difficult to clean. An important element of functionality is durability.  Sliding panels and cellular blinds are designer options that might be a great consideration in your primary home but are not likely to hold up to the beating a rental will receive.  Vertical blinds, however, are typically made of PVC plastic and are durable and can be cleaned with a wipe.  They can withstand heat and humidity well also.


Mentioned previously, curtains are likely the most affordable treatment option. Stock vertical blinds at a home improvement store are not much more costly. Custom blinds made of less typical materials like wood or fabric, shutters, shades and sliding panels will all be more of an investment. When outfitting your beach rental remember my mantra, Keep it Simple…But Nice. You do not want to throw your money away buying something extravagant if something simple, but nice will suffice.

Cons with Vertical Blinds

Vertical blinds are constructed using slightly overlapping slats (aka vanes) that connect on a headrail. Sometimes, if one slat should be turned the wrong way it can break off from the headrail. You are not out of luck when this inevitably happens, it is possible to reattach the slat.  Lifehacker has a trick where this can be done with a paper clip and piece of tape if you are in a pinch, but the best option is to keep on hand Blind Saver Clips.  If someone is even rougher on them and should bend or break a slat all together you will need to replace the slat.  For that reason, I keep an extra set of blinds on hand to replace slats when necessary.  Companies like Levolor found at Lowes has a ten-year warranty and will replace your vertical blinds when damaged, but grabbing a new slat from the closet is a whole lot easier.  To make this proposition cost-effective, stick with stock blinds and consider an easy to find neutral color like white or cream.

Your sliding door treatments will get damaged periodically, unless you manage to screen guests for children, clumsy adults, etc.  It is just a question of setting your expectations and being prepared to make repairs.

Update: New Jersey Short Term Occupancy Tax and Airbnb

Airbnb will now collect the 6.625 percent New Jersey sales tax and 5 percent state short-term occupancy fee, as required by the New Jersey 2019 budget law, with reservations booked on or after December 1, 2018.  See below this post for details from Airbnb.

Renters of New Jersey Shore properties will only be able to avoid paying this tax IF: the rental is a permanent residence (you live at the location and have at least a month to month lease), the accommodations are obtained via an agent or broker licensed by the state Real Estate Commission, or the rental is by a qualified non-profit organization which typically receives waivers of state fees.

The powerful Realtor lobby worked hard to ensure the loophole which exempts realty agencies from these taxes.  Homeowners, which have no similar lobby, have an obligation to collect the taxes even when renting directly to friends or other consumers whether it be online or offline.  This certainly seems to be inequitable.  However, shore realty agencies typically charge 16-18% commissions (and I would expect it is only a matter of time before the state of New Jersey comes to them for more revenue).

Bottomline, if you use Airbnb or local agencies exclusively this is not much of a concern for you.  Otherwise be sure you collect and remit the 11.625% required for New Jersey short-term rentals you acquire by any other means.

How to Close Up for the Winter – End of Season Checklist

October and November are the months when owners of beach homes typically close up for the winter. While some duties may vary based on your region or type of house, there are some things you should always consider doing if your property will be vacant for an extended period.

With only a little modification to cover alternative situations, below is the checklist I use.

Close for Winter Checklist


☐ Take inside umbrellas, light furniture, and any foam padding/cushions to avoid mold and mildew build up.

☐ Properly secure large furniture that will remain outdoors. I use a bungee cord to secure everything together and cover with a tarp (be sure to secure a tarp well, I use ratchet straps).

☐ Store inside a shed or garage garbage cans which have been rinsed well.

☐ While rinsing, use the garden hose and sprayer to rinse the dirt and debris off the blades and condensing coils of the outdoor AC unit.

☐ Shut off and drain outdoor water spigots to prevent freezing damage. Likewise, drain and bring in garden hoses.

☐ Check weather-stripping, exterior doors and windows to ensure no major deficiencies are present.


☐ Clean the house thoroughly! This includes:

☐ Remove all perishable foods. Any food that remains should be stored in airtight containers.

☐ Clean the oven to remove food particles.

☐ Clean out the refrigerator, freezer, sink traps and garbage disposal. (Again, we are trying to minimize the chance of rotting bits of food attracting any critters.) I leave the refrigerator on, but if you are shutting off the refrigerator, leave the door cracked open.

☐ Unplug household and major appliances.

☐ Pull shades down to protect from sun.

☐ Put dryer sheets with stored linens.

☐ Replace HVAC Air Filter and consider having your heating system serviced.

☐ Shut off cable TV.

☐ Forward US Mail.

☐ Turn off the water (requires shut off at main supply and draining all faucets. Typically, you should leave one faucet open on the lowest level of the house to allow air and excess water to drain).

☐ Keep your home warm enough to ensure the pipes do not freeze. I opt for 59°F to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where the water piping is likely located, above freezing temperatures sufficiently even if the power should go out for a bit.

☐ Ask a trusted local person to check in to perform a visual on the house occasionally…this could get as extensive as shoveling the driveway, looking for ice dams, snow drifts, etc. for you after big winter storms.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and attending to these items now can prevent a potential disaster and expensive service call. The checklist can also be downloaded as a Word document: End of Season Checklist.


How to manage a beach house from a distance

How do I manage a beach house when I live far away? It is a question to consider as you contemplate a vacation rental investment or a question you might ask after you have purchased one.

Typical challenges to a long-distance owner include how to manage check-ins/check-outs, cleanings, emergency repairs, payments, etc. If you live close by, it might be easy for you to show up on demand and manage all these things yourself. I have seen it done…with varying degrees of success. However, if you live far away this just is not practical. In my mind, I think of the tagline from the movie Ghostbusters – Who you gonna call? That is was it boils down to. You need to have someone to call for everything.

You can opt for one call…to a management company. They can handle most things for you; from procuring guests, sending leases, providing and retrieving keys, emergency repairs, payments, etc. This convenience however, will cost you. Management companies in Ocean City, New Jersey for example, charge between 12-18% commissions. Ultimately you are still responsible to handle routine maintenance, repairs to appliances and more yourself. (I imagine they could handle this for you too for a still extra charge.)

Quick story: A rental agency guest complained that a toilet seat broke at our place. The agency called me to see what I wanted to do about it. Oh, I don’t know, fix it? OK, do you have someone to send out or do you authorize us to send a repairman to purchase and replace the toilet seat? I opted for the later because I was hours away. I expected to be gouged, but I was not expecting a bill of $260! A standard toilet seat at the Home Depot is ~$35 and while the service call fee for a handyman may vary greatly, $200+ was more than exorbitant.

I learned pretty quickly it was good to have a book with the appropriate people to call for typical scenarios like the toilet seat. A plumber, a cleaner, an HVAC company, general handyman, etc. It will take some time but you will develop a network of others you can rely on and trust to handle issues for you. Sometimes that is a trial and error process. In my case, I was fortunate enough to find a capable person who performs the cleaning during our changeovers which acts as property manager and set of eyes each week at guest changeover. She lives very close and can save me a long trip for cases like a chirping alarm, lockout, etc. Finding an individual like that is a big help to the long-distance owner.

Another way you can manage a beach house from afar is by automating as many processes as you can. Whether you use a booking website, a local agency or you find renters on your own you should automate to the extent possible. You can receive payments via Paypal or Venmo. You can use a standard welcome email, create a list of FAQs, a standard lease template, etc. You should automate check-in/out too. Electronic lockboxes or smart locks can streamline check-in and make maintenance service calls easy too. I opt for a low-tech solution of a simple lockbox that my cleaner changes the code to each week, but it accomplishes the same purpose.

Lastly, when you don’t have someone to call and you don’t have a process for something, you always have a friend in Google. You will not be the first long distance beach rental owner and you will not likely be the last. Almost nothing you encounter will be unheard of, a simple web search can bring you to a blog like this or to an instructional video with a how to and step by steps for the problem you are facing.

While being at a distance from your investment property does pose some disadvantages, if you are willing to devote some time and effort these challenges can easily be mitigated.

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