From Vacation Property to Getaway: Staging for Guests

by : Preston Guyton

When done well, preparing your vacation property for rental is an art. Lots of people do it, but if you are one of those people who do it with style you'll see bigger and better returns, especially in a busy market. Like staging a home for sale, with a little effort you can create an inviting environment for your renters.

The first thing to decide is how often and how long you plan to rent your place for. If you use the property for part of the year (e.g. you holiday every summer) you may want to look for longer term tenants. Choosing longer term tenants will save you money for cleaning fees, but the wear and tear may go up. In a longer term situation you may choose not to furnish your property, although you will probably get a better rate if you offer it at least mostly furnished. That said, with longer rentals (more than a month) you are more of a landlord than a host.

If you are going to be renting on a nightly, three-night minimum, or weekly basis, you should consider yourself a host who will play a large role in determining your guests' experience. You need to give more attention to presentation and details.

Furnishing the property is an art in itself. Think about the type of crowd you want to attract - a tastefully decorated apartment with quality furnishings will draw a higher price than something that is mis-mashed together (unless you have a real knack and can pull off the flea market/Boho chic look). There are many average vacation suites available - why not make yours stand out? Choose interesting color schemes - color appeals to people. Neutral paints may seem more attractive, and are generally a good choice, especially in rooms with less light (although they do show dirt, so make sure you have a good cleaner). But don't be boring - choose a bold accent wall or bright accessories to liven things up. Look at decorating magazines or hire a professional designer to help you.

Think about the details. The little, luxurious details will charm your visitors, guaranteeing repeat clients and word-of-mouth advertising. Buy quality bedding. Provide candles and candle holders (with the added bonus of saving you potential damage if the renter brought candles with nothing to put them in). Think about entertainment: provide a stereo (with a jack to connect an MP3 player), a couple of board games (Scrabble is a treasured standard), and some reading material. Why not give it a personalized touch - include books about area's wildlife, history, or landmarks. Supply local maps. Does your family adore a particular local restaurant? Why not share your top picks with your guests? A list of local amenities and special events is really helpful. A DVD player is a necessity - combine it with a few classic titles in case of a rainy day. Speaking of rain, if rain is common in your area, add an umbrella to the coat closet. It's a little thing that could mean a big deal if your renters are caught out.

Choose quality toiletries - botanical or naturally scented options are good options, especially for those who may have reactions to synthetic fragrances.

When you are deciding on dishes remember that heavier dishware is more durable, but you should also have nice wine glasses on hand. Though non-stick cookware may be cheaper, it only takes one renter with a fork to ruin your nicest pan. A heavy stainless steel, cast iron or copper will last longer.

If you have the space and budget, there are some site-specific features that might make sense. A pair of bikes or flippers and beach towels are the types of details that will elicit delight in your guests.

Although these upgrades may cost a bit of money in the beginning, this process is similar to staging your home for a sale- you outlay some funds to increase your return overall. When you have finished your decorating be sure to take lots of good photos, afterall a picture is worth a thousand words. Find a reliable cleaner who will scrub the place spotless between visitors (and remember to reward them for doing so). Ask your guests for feedback - their input will ensure that your suite is creating the experience they're looking for, thus giving you the business you're looking for.