Make money and catch some rays at the same time!

Tag: vacation rental tips

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.

 

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.

 

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 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!