Beach House for Fun and Profit

Make money and catch some rays at the same time!

Tag: Ocean City (page 1 of 2)

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!

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

Exterior

☐ 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.

Interior

☐ 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.

Either:
☐ 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).

Or:
☐ 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.

 

A Sample Rental Agreement

Whether you book your property with a booking website (Airbnb, Homeaway, etc) or through a local property management agency, a rental agreement is used to finalize the legal relationship between you and your guests. These contracts establish the terms your guests agree to abide to when booking your place. If you procure renters “on your own” – whether friends or otherwise, it is still advisable that you use such an agreement.

A standard short-term rental agreement will list things such as the renter’s name and contact information, stipulate the rental rate, check-in and check-out times, house rules and obligations, and importantly what happens in case of the unexpected.

Download my rental agreement template, which I use for all my personal bookings, for a demonstration of the points that should be covered in an agreement.  You may and likely should modify for your own use (unless yours is a four-bedroom house in Ocean City, NJ). Now is probably the appropriate time for a disclaimer. Please see below!

The information contained on this website and in this post specifically is general “legalish” information and should be treated as such. You must not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to legal advice from your lawyer or other professional legal services provider. If you have any specific questions about any legal matter, you should consult your lawyer or other professional legal services provider.

With that out of the way, the template should give you a good idea of the areas that at a minimum your agreement should cover. Additionally, all of the changeable items in the lease (guest name, rate, address fields, etc) are text boxes where you click to enter text.  Hopefully, that part makes it easy to use.

Keep in mind, my rental agreement is for a beach house in Ocean City. If your place is a ski chalet in Vermont or a mansion in Maui, you would have different points to cover in some of these sections. There SHOULD be different rental contracts for different locales.

Once again, please do not use this without at least some modification and ultimately with final consultation by a legal professional.  Also, please comment if you think I left something out or take exception to something!

How to Ensure You are Ready for the Rental Season: New Season Checklist

The unofficial start of the summer season is behind us and prime beach house rental season is about to start.  To ensure you are ready for the rental season, use this checklist I use to have our place ready to host guests.

New Season Checklist

Exterior

☐ Touch up paint or fully paint depending on condition

☐ Power wash outside

☐ Check screen doors for damage and ensure rollers move freely

☐ Check workability of beach chairs, umbrella and beach cart

☐ Check outside shower stall and hose

Interior

☐ Put away personal effects
(kid’s toys, toothbrushes, hats, etc.)

☐ Swap out owner comforters/pillows/bath rugs to renter versions

☐ Update welcome letter and house manual/guide

☐ Buy beach tags

☐ Carpet cleaning

☐ Change remote, clock and smoke detector batteries

☐ Inspect fire extinguishers

☐ Replace HVAC Air Filter

☐ Test Air Conditioner

☐ Replenish stock of soap and toilet paper our cleaner puts out
(we provide hand soap and a starter roll if none is left behind)

☐ Refresh any “labels” in house that need updating
(ex. Light switches, owner closet, leave washer door open when not in use, etc.)

☐ Restock area brochures and menus if needed

☐ Provide updated magazines (remove my home address!)

☐ Purchase and provide cleaner with welcome gifts for each guest

☐ Through house cleaning

Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and attending to these items now can prevent a potential vacation disaster and an expensive in-season service call. Some of these tasks may be best performed in the fall at the conclusion of the rental season, but I leave that to your discretion.  The checklist can also be downloaded here: New Season Checklist.

 

Why You Should Greet Renters with a Welcome Letter

High season is almost here.  One thing you will want to make sure is up to date and on your refrigerator is a welcome letter for your guests.  Think of it as the absolute “Do’s and Don’ts” you want guests to remember during their stay in your property.

I recommend a House manual too.  House manuals are a great resource of information for your renters.  However, I have been places where, for one reason or the other, the house manual was hard enough to find that we only located it near the end of our visit. Usually, house manuals are a binder which, no matter where you keep it, will get moved around also if it is read at all.

By contrast, the refrigerator is always seen right away by nearly every occupant of your beach house.  People do not move things clipped on the refrigerator.  My suggestion would be you put up a one-page sheet that covers the essentials: Wi-Fi password, trash pickup details, and your hard and fast house rules.  Feel free to use my welcome_template.  I put mine in a plastic sheet protector for durability and to convey added significance.

Please comment if you think there are any points that are absolutely necessary to include that I might have missed.

 

Frequent Service Call Alert: Garbage Disposals!

A good, general rule for a vacation rental property is to remove unnecessary items that may fail and cause you a repair bill. I would include things like complicated small appliances, ice makers and trash compactors in this category. Because I market my property as a high-end home, I do offer a few items that some might include in this “unnecessary and likely to break” category: a dishwasher and a garbage disposal.

It is my opinion that both are actually necessary items. A beach house without a garbage disposal and dishwasher would be more akin to a camping trip. Are guests going to feel like they are staying in a high-end rental if they are cleaning a sink trap after every meal? Clogged drains are even more likely to occur than a jammed disposal. So I consider a garbage disposal a benefit to the vacation rental owner as it prevents plumbing backups…and those are actual emergencies! Disposals are a must too if you have a dishwasher. Therefore it is my recommendation you provide both.

While I have never personally had trouble with the Insinkerator Badger 1  disposal at our unit, without question the number one reason I have been contacted is for trouble with it. Maybe some of these folks have never used one before or maybe they have more industrial versions at home. Either way, it has been a bit perplexing as to why all the trouble. It has been described as “jammed”, “stuck”, and just “not working.”

In most cases, any disposal that is jammed can be reset by inserting an Allen wrench underneath or pushing the reset button. I understand guests do not want to spend their precious vacation hours even doing that. One thing I do NOT understand is how people can lack common sense with the items they put in the disposal!

I debated installing a special strainer like this here. However, people would probably just pull it out.

Since I am tired of the calls, I decided to upgrade. My goals were to find a disposal that would grind virtually anything and one that had a decent warranty. I found and purchased a Waste King 9980 1 HP disposal. A triple grind, continuous feed system will grind almost anything and the warranty seems unbeatable…full lifetime warranty with free in-home repairs!

I believe Waste King can only be found online. I purchased it on Amazon…you can find it here. At that time, I purchased it for $168 and the good folks at Lenegan Plumbing performed the install for $110. So $278 all in. About the same amount I spent last year for two service calls. My thought is that if anything goes in the disposal, crazy or not, it will be obliterated.

I will update this post if I should encounter any issues but I expect to no longer hear about the disposal being jammed!

Replace or Rekey a Door Lock?

Does your house have too many keys? If your beach condo is anything like mine, you might have a key for the common front door, a key for your own unit, and another key for an owner’s closet. That is three keys and counting. You might still have different keys for a locked shed, outdoor shower stall, garage closet…you get the picture. Did you know you can straighten the jumble of keys out to a manageable number by simply rekeying a lock?

Quick story. During the rental season last year, I received a call from my renters that the key would no longer work the front door. It seemed as if it was the wrong key entirely. Of course, I followed with, “are you sure you have the right key?” After some troubleshooting over the phone, I determined I had to locate a locksmith.  I was so relieved when I finally secured someone that I did not think to insist that he replace the lock in almost any case and rekey to match my existing key.  Instead, I left the locksmith to do his job.  After the service call, I received a bill for repairs to a faulty latch. Faulty latch?  OK, it is not clear to me then how a latch could be stuck in a manner that the key would not work the lock…but my renters could use the door so I did not think much more about it. Then, during the offseason, I ran into the same problem with the front door lock…the key would not fit in the lock at all!  See video for the problem in action.

I decided to do what should have been done to begin with, replace and rekey a new lock.

Replacing a lock is somewhat self-explanatory it refers to changing the hardware out with a new knob and lock entirely. This is useful if you want a new color or style of hardware or maybe a different, more secure brand of lock. When you rekey a lock, you are adjusting the internal workings of the lock cylinder so that the lock functions with a different key.  While you could do this yourself, I would not recommend it. It requires adjusting the pins and springs inside the tumbler. Most lock pin sets are a few hundred dollars and this just would not be cost-effective. If you need to rekey multiple existing locks, call a locksmith. However, if your situation is similar to mine and you need to replace a lock but do not want a new key, look to buy the same brand of lock (in most cases Schlage or Kwikset) and ask the hardware store to rekey that new lock to match your existing key. Lowes and the Home Depot will both do this, typically for another $5. Keep in mind that different brands of lock (Schlage, Kwikset, Medeco, etc.) cannot be rekeyed to work with each other. If you have different brands you will need to opt for one throughout. I highly recommend Schlage and you will have no problem locating that brand in stores. So get that mass of keys in order and rekey your locks!

Springtime Cleaning

Spring is here and it is time for springtime cleaning. Every beach house certainly needs a cleaning inside and out in order to be ready for the summer influx of guests. One task that should be considered at least every two years, is a thorough power washing of the exterior.

Dirt, salt, mold, and moss can all build up on a home’s exterior, particularly in the harsh environment of the coast. If left to accumulate, these stains will corrode outside finishings and your siding. Not to mention there is the unsightly appearance these leave on your precious investment! You don’t want that.

If your house has been vacant during the winter, the first step will be to turn the water BACK ON to the outside spigots. Go ahead and test all inside and outside showers at this time. It is better to determine if freezing cold weather damaged any plumbing now and have ample time to schedule repairs before rental season begins.

After that, you can go in one of two ways with this springtime task. You can do the power washing yourself or you can hire someone else. I have done both. I opt for the later now. If you do it yourself, you will need to invest in a costly machine, maintain it each year and still risk equipment failure. I had a heavy duty power washer for a few years and despite my maintenance efforts it broke down in a couple years. I think water and motor equipment just generally do not work well together. A mid-range machine costs a few hundred dollars and I have been able to get power washers to clean my homes exteriors for ~$500. When I consider the amount of effort it was for me, the difference in quality of the overall work, and storage/cost of the equipment it is just a no-brainer for me to hire this task out. Your mileage may vary.
I contacted an outfit near me in Ocean City, NJ called JC Painting and Power Washing. They offered a soft washing which manages to achieve the benefits of power washing without the high pressure of typical power washing methods that can so often damage vinyl, stucco, wood and chip paint. Soft washing is achieved by combining soap with hot water and only a moderate amount of water pressure. While not a miracle worker by any means, the results are still impressive.


So when you consider the value it brings to your property’s curb appeal and the prevention of long-term damage to your exterior, power washing is a simple, cost-effective way to maintain your property’s exterior. If it has not been done recently, make sure you complete this task this spring!

How to Save Money with the Comcast Seasonal Hold!

Buffering stinks but....

Save $ with slow internet….sometimes

What is no fun is S-L-O-W internet and guests spending thousands of dollars to stay in Ocean City, NJ expect blazing internet. A good internet and TV plan are simply essential for a beach rental property. Unfortunately, there is no real competitor to Xfinity in the area, so I am at the mercy of Comcast and whatever the monopoly charges for the HD Preferred Double Play plan. Currently, $200 a month for this plan is just the cost of doing business.

 

What is REALLY no fun is paying this amount in the dead of winter, particularly when I have not been to the shore in months! I was aware Comcast offered a seasonal suspension option but I was under a few mistaken assumptions. One, that we might visit Ocean City anytime and with young kids who rely on their iPads and Disney Junior for entertainment, we did not want to ever be stranded without Internet and TV. Two, that taking advantage of a Comcast contract promotion with a Minimum Term Agreement (MTA) excluded me from this seasonal downgrade option. Three, that if I had a security system or smart home devices like a thermostat that required internet then I would be cut off.

I have since learned the error of my ways and share that with you.

There will very likely be 90+ days where you do not go to your seasonal vacation home.

It is cold, dark and most everything is closed in Ocean City between New Years and Easter. We just are not likely to be “down the shore” in January, February or March. Should a freakishly warm weekend occur during this period, however, I can use my phone as a decent hotspot and there are Xfinity hotspots accessible from the house (would use primary home credentials to access). In other words, there are options to get us by for a couple of days. Likely there are options for you too and if not, is it worth hundreds of dollars for the convenience? Seasonal spots are just that and if Comcast is willing to let you pay less for three months when you likely will not be there, you simply must take advantage. Remember we are trying to maximize the profits with this enterprise!

The only Comcast imposed restriction is WHERE.

I have also learned that while Comcast is somewhat stingy on choosing what LOCATIONS can opt for a seasonal downgrade (related news article here), a contract promotion is no such constraint. So it does not matter if you just joined.

Comcast offers a plan with a trickle of internet.

It probably helps that Comcast is in the home security/automation business now. It had been a complaint of the seasonal suspension in the past that there was absolutely zero internet. A lot of owners have smart thermostats, security cameras, and even smart refrigerators which are rendered “dumb” without internet. Comcast has accommodated the need to maintain a “lifeline” to these with a seasonal suspension option that includes a minimal amount of internet. 10mbps is frustrating slow for general web surfing and forget about Netflix, but it will be OK for your Nest!

BOTTOMLINE: I COULD HAVE SAVED OVER $500 AND LIKELY SO COULD YOU!

You will need to call Comcast and verify eligibility in your area (again Seasonal Suspension is only permitted in predetermined “vacation” areas) but below is the skinny:

As of 2018, Comcast offers a once a calendar year downgrade for a minimum of 90 days and maximum of 270 days to one of two options:

$8 for limited cable channels + $8 for no internet access
OR
$8 for limited cable channels + $29.99 for 10mbps internet

Benefits:

Obvious savings each month off the cost of your ordinary plan while you are not using the service anyway.

Avoid installation charges involved with the alternative of physically disconnecting/returning equipment and restoring service and picking up new equipment again.

Hassle-free suspension and restoration. It can all be done on the phone without the need for a technician to visit or the time involved with the “self-installs.” Customers in certain locations can even change their seasonal suspend end date online at https://xfinity.com/seasonal.

Negatives:

Below is a chart from Comcast that details what is and is not included during the suspension. Obviously the negative is that it is a pretty limited service.

If you are spending more than a few days at the house you should probably consider lifting the seasonal suspension. However, if Comcast offers this option in your area AND you spend months at a time not there to use Xfinity then this is an option you just need to take advantage of. Comcast does not promote or advertise the details of this much but I guess they are not looking to make it easy for you. Hopefully, this information compiled here helps you.

How to Furnish Your Beach House

Keep It Simple…But Nice!

Keep It Simple…But Nice should be your mantra when outfitting your beach rental.  No doubt you have heard the axiom “Keep It Simple” before.  However, you could take that to mean that buying all your furniture from a thrift store and featuring household appliances from the Dynex brand was OK.  Sorry, Dynex!

SIMPLE

Simple does not need too much explanation.  Everything should be functional and intuitive to your guests.  Household appliances should be both easy to use and clean.  Furniture should be low maintenance, not prone to smudges or stains, no deep crevices, power features, etc.  If consulting a manual is necessary for use, then it is not simple!  Keep it simple.

NICE

But Nice!  You should furnish similarly to how you would furnish your own house.  If the place screams “RENTAL!” at every turn then people will treat it like one.  Consider your own experience, even when your vacation budget is tight, you are still looking for the best when you spend your hard earned vacation dollars.  Your renters are no different.  They are not going to appreciate damaged or mismatched furniture.

HOW TO BE “NICE”

That leads to another important point.  It is best to start with a theme and furnish consistent to that theme. The uniformity will convey quality in your profile pictures and net you bookings. For example, we chose a nautical theme for our beach property as that reflects our location.  Just do not get too kitschy.  In any case, your place should have neutral colors and crowd-pleasing decorations for widespread appeal.  If you decorate with a Victorian theme then you are probably going to turn off most renters under sixty years of age. 

Be mindful that while renters will generally be respectful, accidents do happen.  Your vacation home furniture will pick up a few scratches.  Therefore it is best to invest in quality furniture and small appliances which will prove durable.  You make money not having to buy a new blender or sofa every other year.  We chose to spend extra for Sunbrella upholstery.  Nothing is worse than soiled furniture.  (More about Sunbrella to come.)  That extra expense up front is worth it if my sofa satisfies guests for additional years before replacement.

Here are some more “nice” items to remember when outfitting your beach house rental:

  • Opt for firm mattresses and purchase waterproof mattress pads.
  • Remember to be kid-friendly, no sharp corners etc. and consider supplying some children’s cups, pack and plays or baby gates.
  • Do not leave personal effects around for your guests. Photos of your family are going make them feel like intruders, put these types of items away in a locked, owner’s closet.
  • Consider area rugs in rooms with hardwood floors.
  • There should be art on the walls in every room, again just keep it simple (and preferably on theme).
  • All windows should have curtains or some type of window treatments.
  • And of course, there should be some beach chairs, sand toys, beach umbrellas for your guests to use.

If you keep these things in my mind when outfitting your beach house rental you will be on your way to accomplishing the primary mission of the beach rental owner…attracting quality guests willing to pay top rates for your property!

 

 

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