Tag: snowbird home

Decorate Your Vacation Rental with Hints of the Holidays

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14 Tips to Avoid Rental Scams

Deposits with no recourse, high pressure tactics, pricing and terms too good to be true and no contract are all major red flags
Deposits with no recourse, high pressure tactics, pricing and terms too good to be true and no contract are all major red flags

14 Tips to Avoid Rental Scams 

With the popularity of online shopping, online scams are also at an all time high. Rental scams can be especially devastating because guests may not even realize they've been taken until they show up to the property. Yes, it happens and it's heartbreaking.

I'm a member of several regional rental groups via Facebook where renters and rentals are matched via posts such as, "In search of a pet-friendly, 2/2 gulf front condo with pool and amenities for January/February of 2023. Max budget is $8,500, including fees." Property owners post photos and details of their units if it matches the request.

I cringe when some of the replies provide no link to "their" listing, yet ask the potential renter to "PM me for a special discount" or they provide a link and say, "Your dates aren't showing as available due to a computer gliche, but PM me and I can book your stay." These are huge red flags. Your instinct should be kicking into overdrive. If there is no direct electronic trail to the listing and/or there's explanations that aren't logical, be extremely careful or consider moving on. If it's not adding up, something is wrong.  

Prior to our first season as a snowbird, my husband and I became very nervous. We booked our rental nine months in advance of our stay via a web site that promotes/manages about 50 properties. I conducted a fair amount of research to be confident enough the listing was legit. Sixty days prior to arrival, per the contract terms we pre-paid the property manager in full for the entire stay, which was a large amount of money. We had no first-hand information about the property, only the online description and photos

A few days before we were to depart, we received a message that we would not be able to check in to our 3/3 gulf front unit due to exterior maintenance that would block our access to the door. Another much smaller 2/2 unit in a building down the street would be ours for the first week. Oh heck no! This was NOT what we signed up for. After much back and forth, we negotiated concessions to move into the 3/3 for two days, then would move down the street for 4-5 days and then back to the original unit. I was very apprehensive of the possibility that not only the property management company could be a scam, but that the rental was fake too. We were so relieved to find that we were wrong. I conducted even more research and affirmed the rental was real and the property management company has a stellar reputation.   

If you are seeking a new property and are unfamiliar with it or the area you're considering, I've offered 14 tips to assist with spotting potential rental scams. Although there's no way to be 100% sure, whether staying at a new place during snowbird season or the off season, careful research can result in a better outcome.    


1. Search well known, credible rental web sites

Credible is the key word here. Well known rental web sites such as VRBO, Airbnb, Home Away and BringFido.com are a few examples. Web sites that broker thousands of listings AND have a budget to advertise their sites are typically acceptable sources. However, having said that, it doesn't guarantee the LISTINGS are legitimate. Fake listings are rampant and the images are usually stolen from actual listings. This is why it is important to conduct further research once you locate a potential rental.

Craigslist is a well known web site, but it is not devoted strictly to vacation rentals and therefore it is not what I consider a good source for vacation rentals. Regardless of the source, further research is recommended.

2. Compare with smaller, regional web sites

Some property owners don't want to pay the fees for listing on a well known web site. Smaller rental web sites may be a good option. They may have names such as "Vacation Homes by Owner" or something regional such as "Texas Vacation Rentals." If a listing is on both a smaller source and a well known source, that adds credibility. However, it is not a guarantee of anything.

3. Compare with the web site of the property manager

Typically, if a property is professionally managed, it will also be listed on the property manager's web site. You can compare various dates with the major web site and the property manager's web site. Both sites should show the exact same dates as open or unavailable because they are synchronized by the computer. If there is a discrepancy, that's a major red flag.

Typically, booking directly through the property manager will save additional fees. The major web sites usually add more fees to the guests with line items such as "Host fee," "Service Fee" or something similar. The fees are in addition to the cleaning, taxes and other state and local fees.

4. Seek feedback online through regional social media groups

As mentioned above, online referral groups are a great way to match renters with rentals. However, as previously stated, be very careful about responses that do not have a direct link to the property and/or there are requests to private message instead of publicly message each other. The social media groups attempt to keep scammers out, but there is usually no formal vetting process. Specialized social groups are always targeted by scammers who create fake accounts with stolen photos of innocent people.

5. Evaluate online photos and listings

I devoted a recent post entirely to evaluating online photos and listings of vacation rentals. It is worth reading prior to booking a new or unfamiliar rental property.

6. Spot fake listings: typos, poor grammar and punctuation are red flags

Domestic and international scammers typically are not English scholars. Typos, poor grammar and punctuation are all red flags; however, perfect English is no guarantee of anything either (or vice versa). If the listing and/or correspondence are riddled with poor grammar, punctuation and typos, ask to personally speak with someone. If you can get someone on the phone, that's the first step. I doubt they will be available for a call if they are a scammer. If they can speak English, yet their written correspondence is poor, proceed with caution.

Be aware listing photos and descriptions may be stolen from legitimate properties. Conduct multiple online searches for the property and look for conflicting information, such as multiple listings for the property with differing contact information.

Perhaps a listing shows an attractive smiling woman or a family with young kids and a dog on their social media profile and refuses to correspond with you via any other method than electronically, that's a red flag. Scammers pretend to identify with their targets by appearing to be trustworthy. Chances are the photos are stolen.

7. Review public records

Public records such as tax and property records are easily located online in the county in which the property is located. Look up the name of the owner/s, how long they've owned the property and how many other properties they own. Their primary address will also be listed in the records as well as the names of any other owners.

If a property is owner-managed and the address of the contract doesn't match the address of record, find out why, then verify the answer. Some properties are owned by siblings or partners as an example. That's fine, but it would seem odd to have differing addresses on a tax record versus a rental contract. Look up all addresses to verify the facts to tie it all together. If all of it doesn't match, beware.

8. Meet or talk with the property manager or owner

If you are in the vicinity of the prospective rental, ask for a personal showing or meeting. If you cannot meet in person, a phone conversation with the owner or PM is helpful to get an idea of their opinions and feedback of whether a property may be a good fit for your needs. Especially if you are staying more than a few days. They may have other properties to recommend and you can ask questions about how many properties they manage, if they are local, how long they've been in business and so forth. Ask for references from previous guests.

Ask if the property is for sale. If it is, there is a chance your reservation may be cancelled due to the owner transferring the title, which will negate your contract. If you are unable to personally speak with someone after multiple attempts and you're only receiving electronic communication, that is a huge red flag.

9. Ask for references

Ask to speak with previous guests who have stayed in the property and can verify the advertised images are fair, the condition is what was advertised and whether they received prompt attention in the event of issues that needed resolved. Ask seemingly random questions about the neighborhood that you already know the answer from online research, such as "Where is the nearest pharmacy?" How far away and what is the name of the closest restaurant? If your "reference" hesitates or doesn't know the answers fairly quickly, they are perhaps not valid references.

10. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is

Compare the cost of the prospective rental with similar properties. If the availability, terms and rate are too good to be true, that's a huge red flag. Ask a lot of questions about why the rates are so low. Is it new to the rental market? Was there a last minute cancellation? Are there any problems that may be a factor such as a bug infestation, ongoing construction or other inconveniences? What guarantees can the PM or owner make to assure their property is legitimate?

11. Only pay deposits with the protection of credit cards

Never pay a deposit with funds that aren't protected in the event of fraud or misrepresentation. If you pay by credit card, you'll still have to go through the process of requesting a refund, but there's a better chance of recovering your deposit. Many popular money apps provide zero protection to the person sending the funds. Once the money is sent, it's gone. Do your homework prior to sending money to anyone for any reason. If the money app's policy is no refunds, you will have zero chance to recover any of it in the event of fraud or any other reason.

Typically, because of the credit card fees and significant expense of a long term rental, the balance is typically paid with a check 60 - 90 days before arrival. Look into the address of where the check is to be mailed. Does the address match the property manager or owner's address? If not, ask why.

12. Never pay a deposit before signing a valid lease agreement

You will have no protection from fraud, cancellation or any other issue without a valid signed lease agreement. The lease agreement will have the full names of you and the property manager or owner and the terms listed, including the amount of the deposit and balance, dates of stay, due dates for the balance/payments, policies including the cancellation terms as well as refund and dispute resolution policies. Never accept a contract or agreement unless it thoroughly addresses everything to cover yourself as well as the property owner. If you are getting high pressure to hurry up and pay a deposit without signing a complete valid lease, walk away. That is a huge red flag.

13. Electronic contracts are a good sign

If your rental is offered online and there is an electronic contract that you can sign to reserve it, that's a standard industry-wide practice. Reserving electronically protects the renter and rental agency from disputes about when and what was agreed to. It also takes the unit off the market so it doesn't become double-booked. If the property you are considering does not offer an electronic contract, find out why. It may be the owner prefers signed paper contracts. Allow enough time for a contract to be prepared and signed, but ask for assurances that the rental will be held during this time.

Perhaps they don't offer any contract. They may say they don't like contracts or haven't had time to prepare one or downplay that it isn't that important. If there's no contract, there's no deal. Walk away.

14. High pressure tactics are a red flag

If your potential property is desirable, it will have more people interested in renting it. However, if the PM or owner is using high pressure tactics such as indicating it will be off the market before the contract can be executed and signed, that's a red flag. Never agree to pay a deposit or rent a unit without first or simultaneously executing a valid contract.

If the property legitimately has multiple offers at the same time, ask how they will determine who is accepted. If they have a reasonable explanation, you can either go along with the plan or find another place. Sometimes taking a property with less demand will make it easier for you to keep coming back because there is less competition fighting for it.

Always conduct thorough research and listen to your instinct before renting a property that is new or unfamiliar. Once you are confident of your choice, you can focus on prepping for your stay.



"A clever person solves a problem, a wise person avoids it.”

-- Albert Einstein, German Theoretical Physicist


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Location, Location, Location – Peak vs. Off Peak

Map of The Emerald Coast, Southern Alabama and Northwest Florida
Map of The Emerald Coast, Southern Alabama and Northwest Florida


Peak vs. Off Peak Affects the Cost of Housing

As snowbirds return home to begin the off-season, much reflection goes into what can be done differently for the next season. Life changes happen from year to year, budgets change and energy levels for travelling to/from your destination may not be where they used to be. Snowbirds evaluate if they want to return to the same place, try a new area or whether to return at all. Because housing is the most expensive aspect of being a snowbird, rates are a major consideration of where to stay. [Costs of Snowbird Rentals: Beach, Desert, City-Metro]

Recent interactions with two readers reinforced that misconceptions related to location are far more widespread than they or I realized, which is why it is important to recognize regional differences in pricing. As the tried and true adage says, it's all about "location, location, location." Most people are well aware that being a snowbird in Maui, Hawaii is going to be much more expensive for multiple reasons. However, the cost of housing in every snowbird destination, no matter where you are headed, will be affected by peak and off-peak season. As an example, peak season in Hawaii is not January, it is summer when families are on school break. Seeking lesser known communities is another option for better housing rates. If you are considering a change, carefully take a look at what you're seeking because you may find that by making an adjustment in location based on popularity and/or peak vs. off peak season, you may be able to get so much more for your money, which can make all the difference of your snowbird lifestyle.        

At the beginning of 2022, a reader from south Florida contacted me and we enjoyed a lengthy phone conversation. Cindy told me she's a longtime, now retired snowbird who lives with her husband in the Fort Myers area five months of the year and the rest of the time is devoted to their home in mid-Eastern Wisconsin. During the course of the conversation, the topic of north vs. south Florida came up.

Cindy's perception of northern Florida is that it can be quite chilly in the winter (true) and that winter, which is peak season in south Florida, is also peak season in northern Florida (false). Cindy was surprised to learn summer is peak season in northern Florida because it's when families come to the beach for summer vacation. South Florida is considered by many to be too hot in the summer. Some people, such as myself, consider south Florida to be too hot in the winter as well. I don't mind Northwest Florida's jacket weather and truthfully am not interested in residing in hot weather all year round.

Miramar Beach, FL, the Emerald Coast
Miramar Beach, FL, the Emerald Coast

This brings us to the crux of the North Florida vs. South Florida rental rates. South Florida is desirable in the winter because of the consistently warm weather with temps in the 70's and '80s. That's an attractive quality and prices in South and Central Florida are reflective of the climate. Due to supply and demand, rental prices are significantly higher, even as much as two or three times higher to get the same square footage, amenities and views as their counterparts to the north. Just ask my friend Vicki. She looked into moving closer to her daughter who was based in Key West and was shocked at the gulf front prices of south Florida. Vicki stayed where she was in Northwest Florida, it was too good to pass up.

Another reader, Bill, recently wrote to me and said, "I was a solo snowbird last year and met some folks. It worked out fairly well. However, I would prefer to buddy-up with someone for companionship and sharing of expenses. Do you have suggestions of where to find someone?... Thank you and best wishes."

I asked Bill the area where he stayed and whether he preferred to remain there, then brainstormed many ideas of where to find a roommate. Finally, I offered one last thought and suggested, "It can be expensive to be a snowbird and reducing the amount of time away, staying in an area that is not as warm or moving inland to a less expensive spot may be helpful. As an example, south Florida is incredibly expensive during the winter months because it is their peak season. Northwest Florida in the winter is the off season and peak is during spring and summer."

Bill said, "Thank you so much for the prompt reply. I was in south Florida (Cape Coral) and it was very nice (and expensive). I drove down so I wouldn't need to get a rental car. I'm in southeastern Wisconsin and it was 1,400 miles each way, and I swore I'd never do that drive again 🙂 I really hadn't considered northwest Florida since the weather can be iffy and I assumed prices would still be on the high side since peak season... but, you have enlightened me with understanding that winter is NOT peak season (using Destin as an example) and rentals are very reasonable per VRBO search. An added bonus is that the drive is 400 miles shorter so It would be a two day drive instead of three.  So thanks for planting this seed. I will also explore some of your other suggestions."

Don't overlook checking into less well-known snowbird areas. During correspondence with an extended family member I'm newly acquainted with, we discovered we both enjoy the snowbird lifestyle. Mike and his wife travel extensively in their RV throughout the year. He said, "If things go as planned, we are hoping to spend next winter in Biloxi, Pass Christian or Waveland, all are in coastal Mississippi. We actually really love Florida for a lot of reasons, there are so many things that we enjoy, but anywhere on the Gulf Coast makes us happy. Now that we are older, I think Mississippi makes us happiest... We get the beach, ocean and warm weather without having to fight the crowds or the traffic."

Mike stated, "It’s half the cost and living on a limited budget it makes a lot of difference. Biloxi is really nice, it has everything we need. Most things are within walking distance from our RV park. Plus, we are right across the road from the beach. I get up and walk along the beach for an hour, then an hour back, starting at 5:00 am every other morning. It’s so nice, there’s a 27 mile sugar white sand beach. At that hour, it’s like I have the whole beach to myself. Well, if you don’t include the seagulls, terns and pelicans."

For property owners, here's another huge advantage to buy in an area that is off-peak in the winter. No matter whether it's north vs. south Florida or north vs. south Arizona, central vs. south Texas or elsewhere, the strategy is the same. If you buy a property where winter is off-peak and stay in it for the snowbird season, then you can return home and rent it out for premium rates while you are home and your rental guests are enjoying the peak summer vacation season.

Many times I've been asked by non-snowbird friends and family, "Why don't you stay further south?" It's all about location, location, location and I love where we are in Northwest Florida.


"Your current situation is giving you an opportunity to re-evaluate what you want.”

-- Tasha Bee, UK-based community artist

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The Basics of How to Furnish a Vacation Rental Property

25_6776 Maravilla_2411

The Basics of How to Furnish a Vacation Rental Property

Many snowbirds understandably dream of eventually purchasing their own vacation rental property. My husband and I rented for six seasons and it inspired me to write a post entitled, "What to Look for in a Snowbird Rental." The information remains relevant today and gives insight into the minds of your current or future guests. Because I was a guest, I thought like a guest and critiqued like a guest. Like me, when/if you buy your own vacation rental property, with good timing you may be able to be your own guest, which will help you see the areas that can use improvement. That isn't always feasible, including my personal situation, as well as many others who buy during a hot real estate market. This is where personal and online research becomes especially invaluable.

Long ago, I read a post on a popular vacation rental site where a woman was searching for a rental property. She said she wanted something fresh and nice. "Old, tired and dirty is what I have at home." I've never forgotten her words. She wants what everybody wants: to escape the realities of home, even if just for a week.

When furnishing a vacation rental, there is an enormous difference in approach compared to a primary or second home. With your own personal space, you need only to please yourself and your household. You can rest assured the furnishings will still be there when you return from being away, it will be in the same condition as before and there will only be wear and tear of your own making. If you love all-white sofas and area rugs; a trendy style; delicate, colorful, patterned fabrics and pillows on the beds and lots of fragile or expensive artwork and accessories, no problem, it's your choice. Vacation rentals are a significantly different mindset because it is no longer only about you and your wishes, it involves appealing to a much wider demographic who are not likely to take care of your place with the same love as you. White rugs and furniture, delicate fabrics and expensive breakables are not practical in a rental. Plus your housekeeping staff must be able to be clean with the public's health in mind. Bleachable is the new standard for linens and much more.  

Durability is first and foremost for furnishing vacation rentals, but other factors are also important such as overall freshness of decor, linens and furniture; ease of keeping the property clean in the short and long term and supplying enough, but not too much of anything including stocked items. You don't want to have overstuffed closets and cupboards crammed with too many skillets, bowls and glassware, yet inadequate plates, silverware and sauce pans. Stocked items should be in good condition and replaced as necessary.

Identifying who your target guests are and appealing to them is a good place to start. The keyword here is "target" because it is impossible to determine exactly who your guests actually are. You more than likely will never personally meet them, which is not unusual nor necessary. Therefore, it is imperative to do your best to furnish for all ages, sizes and purposes. As an example, your guests may be traditional, modern and/or multi-generational families; solo guests; couples; pet owners; babies, young children, tweens, teens, young adults, mid-range adults and/or seniors. The goal is to be attractive to a range of guests. If your rental decor says "outdated" it will be as much of a turn off to some as "too trendy" is to others. 

It is impossible to cater to every guest due to lack of space or other reasons, so don't oversell your place as "great for young families" if there's no bathtub or in-unit washer/dryer, no space for a crib, stroller and toys, and it's located on the 25th floor of a high rise with not much greenspace. Focus instead on other demographics such as couples seeking a sophisticated retreat with breathtaking views, amenities such as an on-site spa and fitness center and located near popular upscale restaurants and night life.

Any and all of your guests will encompass a range of ages, abilities and physical sizes with varying budgets and personal objectives. Your guest's purposes may be a vacation, workcation, romantic getaway, family-cation, friends-cation, wedding, honeymoon or combination of many other special milestones and life events. Accommodating as many functions and purposes as possible will widen your rental's appeal, but be cognizant not to inadvertently misrepresent your unavoidable shortfalls. The goal is "no surprises." A third floor walk-up will not appeal to as many seniors or anyone with mobility issues so market it to the guest desiring a great way to stay fit with daily step workouts. If your place has just one bedroom and bathroom, you're not going to be as alluring for an adult "girl's or guy's trip" as the three bedroom, three bath rental up the street. Instead appeal to solo travelers and couples who don't want to pay for unneeded beds and baths. If there is a road between your property and the beach, make sure it is very obvious from your promotional photos and description. Extremely tiny rentals may be trendy, but beware you may not retain guests who try out the trend and realize it's impractical. Our neighbors stayed in a beautiful, luxurious mountain retreat aptly named "Tiny Cabin." They realized, trendy or not, there is such a thing as too tiny. 

Establishing your target guest's price tolerance is another critical factor. If your vacation rental is better suited for budget travelers, there is no point in overdoing the furnishings with high end and unneeded upgrades. Think about the appeal of basic highway hotels: a safe, comfortable and convenient space near major area attractions may be just the perfect combo. Budget travelers would rather sacrifice location, amenities and/or views for a better price. Alternately, your mid to luxury guests expect to receive more in return for amenities, views and proximity to the most coveted locations, larger spaces and other desirable features.

What about the fun part, the decor? Because of the ease of online shopping for vacation rentals, decor and the overall look and feel of your rental is very important. Your photography must be accurate, flattering and showcase your property's features. Most guests won't actually see the property until they walk through the door and they certainly won't book it or return if the overall perceived value is lacking.

The not so fun part? Your budget. Owners of vacation rentals fully understand it is a business and must be treated as such. That means setting and working within a budget. Yes, you may be able to charge more for a newly furnished rental, but your "numbers have to work" so you don't overspend on items such as purchasing all new furniture when your budget requires keeping some of your existing furniture and replacing only the most worn, dated or unattractive pieces. It's tempting to throw caution to the wind and indulge, but self-restraint is in order to minimize emotion-based purchases.

I've compiled a basic overview of tips I've employed and considerations I recommend for anyone who is newly furnishing or re-furnishing a vacation rental property.


Checklist of Furnishing Your Vacation Rental Property


Your rental should reflect the area and region in which it is located because guests expect that. Coastal vibes are appropriate for a coastal location, as are mountainous themes best suited for the mountains. Other styles such as urban/contemporary are more likely to be found in metropolitan areas.

Some themes and styles complement each other beautifully such as a coastal - shabby chic - cottage style. Or you can feature a modern coastal vs. traditional nostalgic coastal or contemporary mountain rustic vs. traditional mountain rustic. Don't forget that your appeal should be to a range of guests, not entirely masculine nor feminine unless that is your target market. IE, a remote, rustic fishing cabin compared with a frilly, vintage Queen Anne or Victorian type of ambiance.

Be consistent throughout. If you are going with a sophisticated urban style, don't introduce a modern farmhouse vibe in a bedroom or bathroom.

Some theme/styles ideas include, but are not limited to the following:

THEME/STYLES: Coastal, modern/contemporary, urban, traditional or modern farmhouse, rustic, cottage, eclectic, shabby chic, Tuscan, tropical, Bohemian, vintage, early American, Victorian, Queen Anne, etc.

COLORS: Coastal blues, greens, yellow and white, Earthy, neutrals, monochromatic, bold, pastel, black/white, etc.


Rentals take a beating and it isn't only because of carelessness. The effects of nature also create havoc on your furnishings including sunlight and wind. Avoid unnecessary glass and breakables in your rental. By that, I mean why cause someone the agony of feeling bad when a glass table lamp is knocked over and broken from an accident or wind tunnel effect? Go with durable metal or wood instead. No one wants to spend their time away repairing or replacing broken items and it's a headache for you too.

Necessary glass includes specialty glass cut and polished to the exact size of all of your furniture surfaces and tabletops. It can be costly, but long term it protects the surfaces from scratches, stains and water damage from sweaty glassware.

Area rugs, pillows, accessories, bedding, linens, dishes, glassware, cookware, utensils and much more should be chosen with durability in mind.


Whether you or your housekeeping staff are cleaning your rental, it should be easy to take care of from floor to ceiling.

Avoid "dust-collectors" such as fake plants, fabric head board or porous accessories and anything that will show too much dust over time.

Most housekeeping arrangements include cleaning the basics. Dangling pendant lights and elaborate mirrors, ceiling fans and chandeliers look beautiful, but keep in mind they can require extra efforts to keep clean. If you have wall art everywhere, it also needs dusted and cleaned. Be prepared to pay for regular deep cleans if you have more complicated furnishings.


Lighting is essential for every room and should not be overlooked. Bright lighting and lights with dimmable switches suit multiple purposes.

Furnish your rental with an adequate number of lamps, wall sconces and lighting. Bedrooms should have lights on either side of the bed, plus a lamp on the dresser and/or an overhead light.

Bathrooms should be brightly lit with vanity and overhead lighting. No one wants to spend time in any dark, poorly lit room.

Don't overlook nightlights. There are lighted switch plates available with sensors that can be installed in key areas to provide lighting at night. This helps your guests avoid tripping and falling and it saves energy. You don't want guests to have to resort to leaving regular lamps on all night to serve as a nightlight.


I shouldn't have to remind anyone of this, but here we go anyway. Provide enough of everything for the maximum number of guests that your rental accommodates. If your rental sleeps six guests, then your furniture/seating, linens and towels, cookware, plates, utensils and so forth should accommodate that number of guests.

I have seen online rentals that can host six or eight guests, yet there's an image of just four chairs around a small dining room table.  If you are being conservative and only have two sets of towels and wash cloths per bathroom, yet there are up to eight guests, someone is going to be doing a lot of laundry, which ultimately adds wear and tear to not only your washing machine, but your electric bill will be proportionately higher.

As a guideline, a rental should have at least twice as much as silverware, glassware and plates as the maximum number of guests. This means a minimum of 12 of everything for six guests, 16 for eight and so forth.


Ensure that there are some elements of fun in your vacation rental. This could be a lovely selfie-spot or a playful mural or accessories in the children's bunk room. If you rent out a vacation house with a private pool, oversized flotation devices such as swans and unicorns are a fun surprise. If your rental is located near a landmark such as Disney, a homage to the region is nice with some sort of mementos incorporated into the decor.

When your potential guests are shopping online for a rental, make sure your place is noticed and remembered for all the right reasons. It could be your stunning view/s, a beautiful chandelier, a stunning fireplace, gorgeous furniture, architectural elements, lighting fixture or accessory, mural or wall art that is particularly memorable or perhaps something else noteworthy. You want the potential guests to say, "I want the property that had the amazing dining room with seating for eight." Or "The place with the stunning electric fireplace with glass rocks and mountain view."


Consider each room and the features you want to highlight or downplay. Features include a great view, fireplace, large television, wall art, built-in bookcases, furniture such as a buffet and interesting finishes such as bead board, board and batten, shiplap and crown molding.

Downplay windows without a view, walls or ceilings with unattractive finishes and problem areas such as an awkward layout or flow.

Show restraint with accessories and wall art. Your rental should not be a hot mess overload of your style/theme. The goal is uncluttered, clean and fresh.

Install mirrors where appropriate including one or two in the main living space. Full length mirrors belong in every bedroom. Bathrooms should have good-sized mirrors. Don't fall for trends of replacing large, sturdy bathroom mirrors with mirrors that are too small, practicality is more important.

A little bit of word art and sayings on the wall and so forth goes a very long way. No one needs a sign telling them to "RELAX" or "EAT." It's annoying and the last thing you want to do is provoke your guests with silly messages or cause them to remove your signage into a closet during their stay. If in doubt, don't include any word art or signage. If you feel compelled, make sure it is tasteful and understated.


--Welcome mat/s and area rugs

--At least one element to make the entrance inviting such as wall art, mirror/s, a drop zone, bench and place for shoes, depending on how much space you have.

--The entry way should be well lit.


--Comfortable, cohesive, consistent furniture and wall art and/or mirrors

--Properly sized furniture, including a spacious multi-functional dining table with adequate, sturdy seating. Even if you don't think your guests will be eating at the table very often, they may need space for game night, crafts, hobbies, computers/work/office and more.

--Hardworking multi-use furniture is smart, such as a dining table that also has storage drawers or an ottoman with built-in storage.

--High top bars or tables and chairs should be offset with a low top table and seating option to accommodate guests with physical limitations

--Bar stools should be appropriately sized for the height of the counter. Slippery, unstable or poorly constructed bar stools (or any furniture in disrepair) should be permanently removed no matter how trendy and fashionable they may seem.

--Adequate end tables, coffee tables or foot stools

--Flooring with appropriately sized area rugs

--Accents such as pillows and accessories, but don't overdo it. Spacious and uncluttered is the goal.

--An oversized or very large clock on the wall

--A large flat screen wall-mounted TV, preferably with no wires showing

--Basket or organizer for the remote control/s

--Books and games are expected in a vacation rental and a proper place for them such as in a drawer, on a shelf or within a server buffet helps keep everything organized


--Appliances should include a refrigerator/freezer, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, blender and perhaps an electric mixer, electric skillet, waffle maker or rice maker if space allows it. Wine refrigerators and separate ice makers are luxurious upgrades if there is space.

--Adequate supplies, utensils, cookware, skillets, pots/pans and dishware in good repair

--An array of sizes of plates, glasses and cookware

--A mix of ceramic plates and non-breakable plates/glasses are helpful for families with young children

--Plenty of fresh dish cloths and dish towels displayed in a small basket for easy reach

--Kitchen counters free of clutter and unnecessary items

--Wall-mounted shelving for extra coffee cups and glassware

--Drawer organizers and wire racks within cupboards for easier storage

--Dish rack stored under the sink for hand washed items

--A rack to hold wine glasses and/or wine bottles is nice if space allows for it


--Adequate furniture, end tables with lamps and a small area rug for each side of the bed

--A closet free of clutter with plenty of shelves, hangers and organizational helpers such as a wall-mounted rack for the iron and ironing board

--Extra sheets and blankets stored in marked plastic bags or clear plastic bins

--Wall hooks for ease of storing coats, hats, scarves, shoes, dog leashes, etc.

--Layers of window treatments for added privacy: slatted blind/s plus sheer curtains and room-darkening drapes

--One or more electric nightstand clocks, preferably with ports to charge a cell phone and additional built-in electric outlets

--Floor space for the pet's bed if your rental is pet-friendly

--A large flat screen wall-mounted TV, preferably with no wires showing

--Basket or organizer for the remote control/s, keys, sunglasses, etc

--Small decorative bowl or dish to put jewelry


--Adequate storage for linens and toiletries. If needed, install wall-mounted cabinets for additional storage.

--Adequate number and appropriately sized towel racks

--Adequate hand and bath towels, preferably three or more sets of each per bathroom. Wash cloths should be plentiful, preferably six+ per bathroom.

--Bath mats and washable bathroom rugs next to the commode and shower/tub

--Wall hooks for clothes, towels, robes, hats and more

--Practical items such as plungers and toilet brushes should be readily available, but preferably stored out of sight


--Organizational wall-mounted racks for detergent, hooks and so forth are always appreciated

--A plastic laundry basket is nice if there's adequate space available

--Polite signage recommending how to keep the equipment functioning, such as not putting sandy items in the washer, helps guests help you.


--Adequate sturdy outdoor tables and seating

--High top tables and chairs should be offset with a low top table and seating option to accommodate guests with physical limitations

--Comfortable cushions in good repair unless not necessary due to the type of outdoor furniture

--An outdoor rug if space and weather conditions allow for it


"Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.”

-- Steve Jobs, American Business Magnate

Pros, Cons of Owning Two Homes

One consideration of buying a second home is whether to retain or down size one’s Northern home [Covington Lake, Northeast Indiana] Pros and Cons of Owning Two Homes 15 Point Checklist Before Buying a Second Property Many snowbirds think about owning a vacation home or