5 Secrets to a Profitable Vacation Rental Investment

I had lunch with my client Kris Getzie last week and she told me the vacation rental she purchased through me was booked the entire winter.  I asked her to share her secrets for my blog and she graciously wrote this post.  She purchased the little blue house in the photo and the investment literally transformed her life. She’ll be writing another blog post about how it transformed her life next month. In the meantime, here are Kris’ secrets for owning a profitable vacation rental investment. 

What Does it Take to Build a Profitable Vacation Rental Investment?

profitable vacation rental investmentsWith nearly 50% of travelers booking vacation homes over hotels, investors have started pouring money into properties and often ask this question.

In my experience as a consultant, novice investors approach their first vacation rental with wide eyes and a sexy dream.  Based on the latest statistics many assume their private escape will book itself and is guaranteed to be profitable.

Lucrative opportunities abound, but the reality is that turning a profit takes a lot of hard work, thought and care.  Below are five insider tips for vacation rental profits based on experience and speaking to owners and managers:

1. Help

The best vacation home owners crush their competitors by helping guests create a truly unique and authentic experience.  They provide informative blogs, guides with local secrets and approach all interactions with intention to help.

People will not remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.

2. Responsiveness

Always respond promptly and enthusiastically.  The old response standard was within 24 hours, but profitable owners often respond within 2-5 hours, even if their home is already booked.

If you are booked, at a minimum, respond with a short statement like “Sorry, we are booked”.  Industry leaders often take it upon themselves to make recommendation for alternate dates or use their networks to find a comparable rental, despite no financial gain.  Helpfulness will be remembered next year!

3. Polished Brand

Airbnb has in excess of 600,000 properties listed and is closing in on a $10B valuation (after it raises an additional $400M in capital from investors), surpassing that of Hyatt, a 57 year old stalwart.

In today’s competitive market, you will not compete if you do not have a solid hospitality brand present on the internet.  Profitable owners are active on-line (by way of independent websites, social media and blogging), have an elementary understanding of search engine optimization, and positive guest reviews.  Travelers will Google you and your home before they book, leaving missed opportunities for those who only market on listing sites.

4. Know What Your Guests Want

Successful owners outperform competitors by acting upon opportunities at their vacation rental and knowing exactly what their guests want.  How might owners accurately know what guests want?  By asking, of course!

Guest needs will continue to evolve and successful vacation rental owners keep pulse by regularly implementing surveys.   It’s easy and I guarantee you 90% of your competitors aren’t doing it.  Three to five poignant and open ended questions will not only help you elevate your guest experience, but it will also make dramatic improvements in your marketing efforts.

For example, if guests refer to your home as a cottage, be sure describe it as a cottage in marketing materials (speak like your guests!).  Or perhaps, many comment on the lovely wine bar next door; leave coupons for future groups to enjoy at a discount (local businesses often partner with vacation rental owners).

Owners can leave a survey with each group at check-in for immediate feedback or send an anonymous Survey Monkey link seasonally.  The results are astounding!

5. It’s All About The Details

Profitable vacation rental owners pay attention to details in the home.  I recommend doing a yearly audit (at a minimum) to replace and repair worn amenities.  Guests notice if towels are tattered so be sure to replace things as soon as visible signs of wear appear.

The vacation rental business is tough and getting more competitive each day. According to the 2014 Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), vacation home sales increased 30% between 2012 and 2013.  But with record levels of vacation rental guests, you can build an extremely profitable business by including these five tips in your rental repertoire.

An experienced real estate agent can help you find the perfect property for your hospitality dream.  The right home in the right market is critical to the foundation of your business (and subsequent success), so be sure to utilize this resource.  For more detailed information on building a foundation and differentiating your vacation rental to drive profits, please check out my book Vacation Rentals For Newbies.

Kris Getzie

What do you think?  What are your best learnings in differentiating your vacation home to drive occupancy and profits?

Article By Kris Getzie: Volo Founder & Principal Hospitality Consultant

www.volovantage.com | kris@volovantage.com


Best Ski In, Ski Out Neighborhoods in Park City

Ski In Ski Out Park City

From Red Cloud to The Colony, these “ski in, ski out” neighborhoods will leave you grinning ear to ear knowing you can put your ski boots on from the comfort of your own living room.  The good news is there are awesome ski in/ski out properties in Park City for almost every budget!

Snow Flower

The only true ski in/ski out condos at the base of Park City Mountain, Snow Flower condos have kitchens, balconies, and fireplaces.  There is covered parking, owner ski lockers, tennis courts and a gym.  Theses condos start at $429,000 for a one-bedroom unit.  There are two 3-bedroom units on the market priced at $650,000 and $652,000.

Snow Flower Ski In Ski Out

 Waldorf Astoria Park City

The Waldorf Astoria Park City is located at the base of the Canyons resort, just a gondola ride away from the hustle and bustle of the Canyons Resort Village and the ski slopes.  The Waldorf-Astoria offers luxury residences that pair luxurious décor with the natural beauty of the mountains. Amenities include a spa, gym and gorgeous pool.  Studios start at $312,779.  A four-bedroom residence is listed at $1,555,000.

Waldorf Park City Ski In Ski Out

The Colony at White Pine Canyon

Residents of The Colony at White Pine Canyon enjoy exclusive ski in/ski out access to the Canyons.  All homes are nestled within lush forests of aspen trees and rolling meadows with views toward the slopes or the Uintas.  These mountains are home to deer, elk, moose and other wildlife.  It’s like living in your own national park.  Ninety-percent of the 4600 acres of The Colony are preserved as open space.  Homesites range from one to 113 acres.  Currently, there are 22 homes for sale at The Colony, priced from $3.8 million to $37.5 million.

The Colony Ski In Ski Out Neighborhood

 Red Cloud at Empire Pass, Deer Valley

A gated community of homes in upper Deer Valley’s Flagstaff Mountain, the ski access from the exclusive Red Cloud community is unequaled.  At an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet, Red Cloud is close to seven of Deer Valley’s best ski lifts and most pristine terrain.  As a bonus, Red Cloud owners are able to join the prestigious Talisker Club, which provides access to an on mountain ski lodge and the golf and spa amenities at Tuhaye Club.  There are a few remaining developer lots which start at $3,350,000.  Homes range from $11.3 million to $15,950,000.  Clearly, there is not room for just anyone at the top of the mountain.

Red Cloud Ski In Ski Out

Kimball Art Center Expansion: Will it Help or Hurt Historic Main Street Park City?

Kimball Art Center Expansion ImageThe Kimball Art Center (KAC) is proposing a 15,000 square foot addition to the existing iconic Kimball Art Center building.  According to KAC representatives, the addition is much needed to fulfill the KAC’s mission of presenting art exhibitions, educational opportunities and community events.  The expansion will allow the Kimball Art Center to double in size, and add additional exhibition space, social areas, a Children’s Interactive Discover Center, and support areas.

The new building was designed by the world-renowned architectural Firm Bjarke Ingles Group, demonstrating that Park City is an emerging national arts destination. In addition to The “BIG Group,” the Elliot Work Group of Park City will be used as the local architect on the project.  KAC will raise private funds for the project and hopes to begin construction next year.

Kimball Art Center Expansion Image

Models and renderings of the design are on display in the lobby of the Kimball Art Center during regular business hours as well as online here and here.  The Kimball Art Center will be holding open houses with board members and staff members present to discuss the project.  Those dates are

  • Wednesday, 3/26 from 2 – 4 pm
  • Friday, 3/28 from 2 – 4 pm
  • Saturday, 3/29 from 2- 4 pm

Kimball Art Center Expansion Image

PARK CITY PLANNING DEPARTMENT STAFF NEED YOUR INPUT.  Do you love this proposal or hate it?  Please email your comments to anya.grahn@parkcity.org.  A public hearing will be held on Monday, March 31st from noon to 1:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at 445 Marsac Avenue.  You are welcome to attend the public hearing on Monday to share additional public comment.

PLEASE send your comments to the Park City Planning Department.  It would be terrible if a vocal minority were responsible for the future of this project. 

What do you think of the proposed Kimball Art Center expansion?  Leave your comments!

Park City’s Newest Hotspot: Hugo Coffee

Hugo Coffee Exterior

Located in one of Park City’s newest and prettiest commercial buildings, The Park City Chamber of Commerce building at the Tech Center on Highway 224, Hugo Coffee is one of the cheeriest hot spots in Park City.  Proprietor Claudia McMullin personally greets guests with a big smile and a hug for those she is already acquainted with.  The soaring, glass walls facing Park City’s ski resorts offer some of the best views in town.  Claudia has intentionally created a space with comfortable tables and chairs allowing guests to have private conversations, yet feel a sense of community in the light-filled, open room.

Hugo Coffee Menu

The menu is filled with the usual coffee drinks plus some specialties.  I was offered a “Berre”, a latte made with half & half, because Claudia follows me on Facebook and knows CrossFitters like some fat in their coffee.  She also offers a “Flat White”, for those down under who like their espresso in a small cup with steamed milk and very little foam.  The coffee is wonderful and surely the best in Park City.  It is rich and flavorful but not bitter or burnt tasting.  Barrista Rob is also a talented artist who creates designs such as paw prints with steamed milk.  Custom lunch and breakfast sandwiches are also offered.  Claudia aims to please.  You can order a sandwich off of her menu or create your own.

Hugo Coffee

Claudia envisions Hugo Coffee as a gathering space for Parkites and visitors alike.  It is a great place to hold meetings or for those who work at home, to get out.  There is currently complimentary wi-fi. If things go according to plan, Claudia hopes to offer other amenities to business people such as printing and a small conference room.

Hugo Coffee View

During my recent visit, several people were meeting at the tables over a cup of coffee (that’s County Councilor Roger Armstrong in the background), some were casually enjoying their coffee by the large window, and others, like Robert Dick of the Sundance Institute, popped by for a coffee to go.  Everyone is treated like a guest instead of a customer.

Hugo Coffee
Owner Claudia McMullin with Robert Dick of the Sundance Institute

Summer is sure to rock at Hugo Coffee.  There is plenty of outdoor seating and Claudia, who loves dogs, plans to provide water for visiting dogs.  She wants everyone to know she runs a dog friendly shop.  (After all, Hugo Coffee is named after Claudia’s adopted dog, Hugo).

If you are looking for a new place to meet with friends or clients, I highly suggest you check out Hugo Coffee.  There is no line (yet) and the coffee is exceptional.  Hugo coffee is open Monday through Saturday, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Parking is plentiful right out front.  Remember to enter the parking lot off the roundabout between Walmart and the Olympic Park.  Contact me if you would like a 20% off discount card.

Whats Happening with Bill White Farms in Park City

Bill White Farms BirdseyeAt Inside Park City Real Estate, we aren’t just your local real estate strategists, we try to keep you abreast of everything going on in our favorite mountain town. You’ll find all of those posts in the Park City Lifestyle section of our blog.

This week, we’re curious about the little parcel of land and ranchette found at 5373 Highway 224 in Park City. Our records indicate that the land is about one acre. The structure itself was built in 1938 and is 1,468 square feet with one bathroom. The property was purchased on September 20, 2013 for $355,000 after being on the market for just about a month. The property previously sold in 2010 for $370,000.

Earlier in the winter, the trees at the property were lit up with brightly colored lights. It does appear some new trees have been planted, a fence added, and what looks to be rows for planting have been put into place.

At the time of this writing, there is a sign out front that says “Bill White Farms”. Bill White Farms, LLC was registered with the state in November of 2013. As we all know, Bill White is the purveyor of delicious food here in Park City, by way of well-known restaurants like Ghidotti’s, Chimayo, Wahso and Windy Ridge. White’s newest venture (until the farm opens, of course) is Billy Blanco’s Motor City Grill. If you haven’t been there, check out our writeup.

So, Just What is Bill White Farms?

So the question now becomes, what is Bill White Farms and what does the restauranteur plan to do with it? We called the Bill White offices for comment and were told that there are no plans to open the farm to the public, and that they may be posting more info about it soon.

Until they give us more details, we can only speculate. The obvious answer is that White plans to grow his own vegetables, fruits and herbs for use at his restaurants. But with the short growing season and Rocky Mountain soil, we have to wonder if the venture is cost-effective. Either way, we can’t help but love him for it. There’s nothing like fresh produce, and nothing like a meal at a Bill White restaurant.

Of course other questions come to mind. Will there be any issues with water rights? Will any of the produce be for sale at local markets or farmers markets? And, as always, what’s next for this culinary entrepreneur?

What do you think of the venture? We’ll keep you posted as more info is known about the farm.Bill White Farms

Are Real Estate Agents a Commodity?

7042 Powderhorn Ct Park City-small-004-DSC 1043-666x445-72dpi

With Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and other home search sites easily available, what value does a real estate professional bring?  


Clients don’t need me to find properties for them.  The truth is, most of my buyer clients send me lists of the homes they want to see.  However, a list of properties for sale is essentially useless without a deeper understanding.  My clients know that the neighborhood knowledge, understanding, insider information, analysis, and negotiation skills that I bring to the table are how I provide value.




A great real estate agent will help clients understand the differences between properties, values and neighborhoods.  We can help our clients win in multiple offer situations.  We can write contracts that protect our clients from buying a home full of structural problems or getting sued.  We can make sure our clients’ earnest money is not at risk during the inevitable bumps in the lending process.  


True real estate professionals provide tremendous value.  Searching a list of homes for sale requires minimal skills.  Navigating the complexities of a home purchase in the best interest of our clients is where we really shine.

The Status of Foreclosures in Park City


Summit County Distressed Sales ComparisonAbout a year and a half ago, I wrote a post title “Bye, Bye Foreclosures”

What is the picture like today?

The opportunity to buy short sales and foreclosures continues to decline. Distressed properties accounted for less than 2% of all listings and less than 3.5% of sales in the Greater Park City area during the last quarter of 2013. The average discounted price was only 2% off retail.

Nationally, distressed sales accounted for 25% of all sales last December, with an average discount price of 18% off retail.

This is great news for the Park City real estate market. Buyers should feel confident that although they missed the bottom of the market, the absence of distressed property means our market has recovered. It’s good news for sellers, too. They no longer have to price against distressed properties or worry about bank owned sales that will skew appraised values.

Summit County Distressed Sales Q4 2013

10 Ways to Sabotage Your Home Sale & Sochi Olympic insider Update

Park City, UT is the home to 35 Sochi Winter Olympians.  It’s amazing that three of them have parents affiliated with Summit Sotheby’s International Realty. Scott Webber, one of our owners, is married to Julia Mancuso’s mother.  Steve Kotsenburg and Bill Ligety, both real estate agents, are the fathers of Sage Kotsenburg and Ted Ligety, respectively.  Julia won the bronze yesterday for the Super Combined, Sage won the gold for men’s Slopestyle snowboarding and Ted is favored to medal later this week.  Sage Kotsenburg is pictured below.

Sage KotsenburgRead more to hear Scott Webber’s inside account of Sochi and learn the 10 Ways to Sabotage Your Home Sale.  You will laugh at the 10 ways, but I must tell you that I see these every day.   I can’t make this stuff up!

What it’s really like at Sochi from someone who is there!  Scott Webber, one of the owners of Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, sent us this insider’s account.


Greetings from Sochi!

I can’t begin to thank everyone enough for the many messages from yesterday’s huge Olympic success with Julia in Sochi.  Needless to say, it was an incredible day.  She smoked everyone (by .43 second) in the downhill portion of the Super Combined and then skied a good enough slalom run to win the bronze medal.  This is her 4th Olympic medal, second in Super Combined.  We went to the medal presentation in the Olympic park and spent some time with her after in the United States Olympic Team hospitality house…….. Peaking at the perfect time during the World Cup season.

Sochi and Russia are very cool.  We feel very welcome and safe.  Security is like nothing we have ever seen……everywhere.  We probably went through 5-6 security checks to get to the race venue. The Russian people are super friendly, polite and humble………..R. Scott Webber.

Scott is pictured below with his wife and Julia Mancuso. Mancuso Wins Bronze


10 Ways to Sabotage Your Home Sale 


Real Estate Broker with The Momentum Group

Keller Williams Realty, Northern Virginia

If you really don’t want to sell your home, here are 10 things that you can do to sabotage the sale (based on my real world experience working with buyers).

  1. Make it difficult to see your home. If you really want to turn off the buyer, agree to a time and then  don’t show up (no lockbox, obviously).
  2. Don’t clean off the front walkway and front porch. This is especially a deterrent if it has been snowy or icy.
  3. Keep your Holiday decorations up all year round.
  4. Don’t remove the dead trees and shrubs on your property.
  5. Put a key that doesn’t work well in your lock in the lockbox. Using a deadbolt and then not providing a key in the lockbox works well, too.
  6. Put lots of plug-in air fresheners in your house. A lot of them!
  7. Don’t get too caught up in vacuuming or keeping the kitchens and bathrooms clean.
  8. Leave the dogs out and about…especially if they bark at the door when someone rings the bell.
  9. Agree to a showing time and have people asleep in different bedrooms so that they can’t be seen.
  10. Keep a lot of trash around the yard; old appliances, recycling and broken bikes work really well for this.

It is a lot of work to sell your home. Many buyers try to overlook some of the things that sellers opt not to do before their home is listed, but at some point, it is very difficult to pay attention to the house when there are so many non-essential things vying for a buyer’s attention.

Do the heavy lifting (literally!) prior to listing your home. Your home will look good, buyers will be impressed and, hopefully, it will go under contract quickly and for a good price. After all, isn’t that your ultimate goal?

Park City Real Estate Secrets – What you Don’t Know Can Hurt You


401 Silver King Dr 81 Park-small-033-401SilverKing-666x444-72dpiStatistics from the last quarter of 2013 were just released by the Park City Board of Realtors and the overriding message is that there is no message for our market.  Yes, inventory is down, demand is strong and prices are up.  This is consistent with most of the U.S.

Park City Median Price TrendsThe scary truth of the matter is that Park City’s market is becoming highly segmented.  There are some areas that are flaming hot and others that are stone cold.   It is impossible to look at a graph like the one above and have any idea what is happening in the neighborhood where you want to buy or sell a home.

For example, the ski in/out neighborhood of Deer Crest in Deer Valley has a 5 year inventory of single family homes.  At the current rate of sales, it will take 5 years to sell all the homes currently on the market in Deer Crest.  In contrast, condominiums in Park Meadows have less than 2 months of inventory.  The primary resident areas of Silver Springs, Trailside, Jeremy Ranch, and Summit Park have less than 3 months of inventory, while there is an almost 2-year inventory of homes at Promontory.

If you are looking to buy or sell a property in Park City, your strategy is going to be dictated by the neighborhood.  Deer Crest buyers can be very aggressive; Silver Springs buyers can not.

Why do you think Park City’s real estate market is becoming more segmented?  Leave your thoughts below.

Zillow, Trulia & Realtor.com-What’s the Difference?

Graph Source: NAR
Graph Source: NAR

These are generally regarded as the top 3 real estate search sites in terms of the number of property views.   All of my listings are syndicated to each of these sites and many others.  But does quantity of views measure up to quality of views?  I looked at data collected by my brokerage, Summit Sotheby’s International Realty, to take a closer look.

We measured the number of property views and the number of email inquiries.  While Zillow had the most property views (more than double Trulia and Realtor.com combined), it had the least number of email inquires.  The Sotheby’s International Realty Website, came in at number 4 in terms of number of views, just slightly behind Trulia and Realtor.com; but it had more than twice the number of inquiries as each of those sites and more than 4 times the number of inquiries as Zillow.   Our local brokerage website, came in 5th for property views, but third for number of inquires, with almost twice as many inquiries as Zillow.

What conclusions can we make from this data?  Quantity does not always equal quality.  While it’s nice that hundreds of thousands of people are looking at my listings, the people I care about are the ones who will actually turn into buyers. These are the people who are making email inquiries.  The Sotheby’s International Realty website and our local brokerage site are attracting more serious buyers.

Where do Park City buyers come from?  It turns out that the number one state for searches was Utah, followed by California, Texas, New York, and Florida.  This is no surprise to me, as these states make up the majority of where my clients live.  There is no question that it is important for properties to be syndicated to real estate websites, as 92% of buyers use the internet to search for homes.  It is even more important for properties to be syndicated to the right real estate websites.

What do you think?  Which websites do you use to search for property?