The growth of vacation and home-sharing sites is still going strong as people choose these online options over traditional hotels. It can be tempting to buy a property just to put it on one of the vacation sites to earn more money than you might get by turning the property into a regular rental. Which option you go with, though, depends on local laws, the type of income you want, and how you want the home to fit in with the neighborhood.
Local Laws and HOAs
Plain and simple: Many areas, from cities to homeowner's associations, do not allow short-term rentals of the type you find on home-sharing sites. If that's the case where you're buying property, you won't have a choice. But if there are no laws, or the laws allow vacation rentals under certain conditions that you're willing to meet, that's another story.
Tight Rental Markets
Ask yourself if you're buying the place because you want the high incomes you see other vacation and shared-home landlords get, or because you want steady side income. An issue with the vacation sites is that they are not guaranteed, and many people stay short-term. So you could have a month where no one stays in the house, and you get no money. Compare that to renting the house to actual tenants, who would be there long term. Those tenants might not pay as much as you'd get on a vacation site, but they'd pay steadily. You would also be providing housing to local renters who need shelter, and if you're buying in a city with a tight rental market, that could give you a better reputation if views of the vacation sites aren't too friendly.
Depending on how many people you're allowing in the home, you have varying levels of safety issues to consider. One is the safety of the house's neighbors. While these sites try to vet their users, you don't know exactly who is really staying in the house. There have been numerous problems with people arranging housing for someone who hasn't been vetted by the site, too, as well as having more people show up than were agreed to during booking.
At the same time, the majority of the people on these sites are true travelers and subletters who just need a place to stay, and they are not likely to cause issues. If you do buy a property with the intent to rent it out on a vacation site, deal only with those people who have been approved by the company, be specific in your rules about how many people can stay and whether extra people are allowed other than those who booked, and either meet the people yourself when they arrive, or have a representative meet them.
If you rent the home to actual long-term renters, though, you could get tenants who are more consistent in their behavior, willing to obey local rules, and who have more verifiable histories. Long-term tenants are also more likely to help take care of the house and forge civil, or even friendly, relationships with the neighbors.
As you're looking for a property, talk to the real estate agent who is helping you and see what he or she has noticed in terms of vacation rental availability in the area, safety concerns, neighbor complaints, and so on. You can also see if the agent works with people looking to rent properties, too. You'll get a better idea of which types of rentals have worked best in your area.Share