The Real Cost of Owning a Vacation Rental Home
So you read yesterday‘s post and still think you want to own a vacation rental home. Now you just need to figure out whether or not you can afford it. How much money does it take to own a second home and how much money will you earn from it? I’ll walk you through the details of our second property to uncover the real cost of home ownership.
As I mentioned yesterday we purchased our rental home near the height of the housing market. We secured a 30 year fixed rate mortgage at 6% through a credit union that required 20% down. These days I highly doubt you could attain a mortgage on a second home without putting down at least 20%. The down payment came from a bunch of stocks and mutual funds that my husband and I had been holding onto for years. A large chunk came from company stock that would now be worthless.
Most people think that you can earn enough money in rental income to cover the cost of the mortgage. While this might be the case in warmer vacation spots where you can rent year round, it is certainly not the norm in a place like the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In North Carolina the typical rental season is between ten and sixteen weeks, depending on how close to the ocean your home is located. The majority of rentals occur in June, July, August and September. Real estate agents may quote you all sorts of year round rental numbers, but most homes rent primarily during that time frame. Due to the short rental season most people cannot make enough money off of their home to cover the mortgage.
If you are interested in purchasing a vacation rental home definitely ask for the latest rental rates and history. This is the best indication of the how much rental income you might be able to earn. Rates on vacation homes vary widely. The homes in our area, of comparable size and age, rent between $2,000 and $3,500 per week during the peak season. The peak season in North Carolina is roughly eight weeks long, so we charge less before and after that time period.
A home that rents for $2,500 during the peak of the season may rent for as little as $800 during the off-season. While $800 a week sounds like a decent number, you must keep in mind that you will rarely rent your home during these non-summer months. If we incurred no other expenses and rented our property twelve peak and shoulder weeks our rental income would cover roughly six months of our mortgage. Of course, there are many expenses that further reduce our income.
For example, if you do not live in the vacation area you will probably need the services of a rental agency, which will help you find renters, clean the home weekly and be available to listen to all customer calls and complaints. The commission rate is typically in the range of 16-30% in North Carolina. At other vacation spots it can vary widely. At 30% the rental company is taking almost a third of your income.
In my opinion the commission is a huge rip-off. The rental agency is relatively good at getting renters into your home, but they aren’t much good for anything other than that. The agencies almost never hold tenants responsible for broken items, so if something is destroyed or stolen the owner almost always ends up paying for it. As an owner you may expect to pay between $50 – $150 a year to replace small appliances like toasters, coffee makers and blenders.
If you own a pool and/or hot tub you will need to pay for a weekly pool cleaning service. We typically pay between $100 and $150 per week just for those services. Unless you do the work yourself you’ll also need to pay additional fees to open and close the pools. That can cost between $300 – $500 total. Of course, you can charge renters more for the use of your pool and hot tub, which does boost overall revenue.
As an owner you will also be responsible for paying any laundry related fees. For example, if a renter spills chocolate sauce all over the rugs in your home, the rental agency will send the carpets out for cleaning and then mail you bill. The same occurs for bedspreads, curtains and any other item that might need laundering.
If you want to keep renters happy you will also need to replace bedding, curtains and even art work every few years. No one wants to sleep on an ancient bedspread or look at stained and tattered drapes. We typically spend between $100 – $200 on items like this each year. I search Burlington Coat Factory and Marshall’s for inexpensive designer items and replace at least one bedspread and a handful of blankets each year.
You will also want to set aside a budget and/or time to clean your windows, repaint your home and perform other home maintenance projects. While you might allow paint chips or outdated bathrooms in your home, you should be aware that renters will not be fond of it. The costs for home maintenance can range from a couple of dollars for a can of paint to a few hundred dollars for bathroom remodeling.
Lastly, if the money you get from renting your home does not cover the cost of renting it, you may be able to post a taxable loss on Schedule E. The tax laws for rental properties are extremely complex and since I’m not an accountant I’d highly suggest you speak with a CPA. There are also lots of good articles on the Internet that can explain the differences between passive and active income and between rental properties and personal residences. In each of these situations different tax laws will apply.
At the end of the day our rental income doesn’t come close to covering our mortgage and expenses. If we purchased our property at a different point in time we might be closer to hitting the mark, but as it stands now we have a long way to go before our property becomes profitable.
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