Vacation Property Investment: Your Step-by-Step Guide Toward Success


One of the best ways to generate income from real estate right away is through vacation property investment. You can buy a vacation rental, advertise it online, and start earning money from it immediately. But as simple as it sounds, there are certain things you need to do in order to ensure success in this type of business. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Step 1: Get Your Financing in Order

Before anything else, you need to have your financing in order. This is important because vacation rental properties are not cheap. They can cost anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars to a couple of million dollars, depending on the location and the size of the property.

If you don’t have enough cash on hand to buy a vacation rental outright, you’ll need to get a loan. You can apply for a mortgage from a bank or a private lender. Here are your options.

1. Conventional Mortgage

This type of home loan is not insured or guaranteed by the government. This is the most common type of mortgage for vacation rental properties.

To qualify for a conventional mortgage, you’ll need good credit and a down payment of at least 20% of the purchase price of the property, which in turn will give you a better interest rate on your loan. You may also be able to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is an extra monthly fee that borrowers with less than 20% equity have to pay.

2. Government-Backed Loans

If you don’t have the down payment or the credit score required to qualify for a conventional mortgage, you can apply for a government-backed loan. These loans are insured by the government and have more lenient qualification requirements. The most popular government-backed home loan programs for vacation rental properties are the following.

FHA Loans

These loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and can be used to purchase vacation homes with as little as a 3.50% down payment. However, you might have to pay for mortgage insurance with an FHA loan, which will add to your monthly payment.

VA Loans

If you’re a veteran or active-duty service member, you may be eligible for a VA loan to purchase a vacation home. These loans are guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and can be used to finance up to 100% of the purchase price of the property. There is no down payment required and no mortgage insurance premium, making them a great option for those who qualify.

USDA Loans

Backed by the Department of Agriculture, these loans have relaxed credit requirements and can also be used to finance vacation homes with no money down. This is a viable option if you are planning to purchase a vacation rental property in a rural area.

3. Jumbo Loans

This loan is designed for investors who are buying more expensive properties. Generally speaking, it can be used to finance vacation rental properties with price tags of more than $484,350. They typically have higher interest rates and require a larger down payment than conventional mortgages, but this will depend on the lender.

With your financing in order, it will be easier for you to know how much you can afford to spend on a vacation rental property.

Step 2: Determine the Best Location to Invest In

When you are buying a vacation rental, you would want to generate the highest return on your investment. This means that you have to carefully select its location.

There are a few things you should consider when choosing the location for your vacation rental property.

Popularity as a Destination

The most important factor you should consider when choosing a location for your vacation rental is its popularity as a destination. This will have a direct impact on the occupancy rate of your property, which in turn will affect your bottom line.

Some popular vacation destinations tend to be fully booked months in advance, while others only fill up during peak seasons. If you’re looking for a vacation rental that will generate income all year round, you might want to consider the following cities.

  • Honolulu, Hawaii
  • San Diego, California
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Maui, Hawaii
  • Las Vegas, Nevada

Proximity to Attractions and Amenities

When you own a vacation rental property that is close to attractions and amenities, it will be more appealing to potential guests, as they will have easy access to things to do and see while on vacation. So, if you’re looking for a property in a particular city, try to find one that is close to the following.

  • Beaches
  • Ski Slopes
  • Natural Reserves
  • National Parks
  • Theme Parks
  • Downtown Areas
  • Restaurants and Bars
  • Shopping Centers

Apart from these, it would also be good if your property is nearby public transportation hubs. This will make it easier for your guests to get around, even if they don’t have a car.

Rental Rates

Of course, you would also want to consider the rental rates in the area when choosing a location for your vacation rental property. You don’t want to overspend on the purchase price of your vacation rental, only to find out that you can’t charge enough rent to cover your mortgage payments and other expenses.

So, do some research on vacation rentals in the area that you’re interested in and see what kind of rates they are charging. This will give you an idea of how much rent you can realistically expect to generate once you own the property.

Neighborhood Safety

No matter which type of guests you receive—solo travelers, families, young couples, business travelers, etc.—it is important that they always feel safe while staying at your vacation rental. So, make sure to do some research on the crime rates in the area before making a decision.

Choosing the Perfect Vacation Rental Property

As for the property itself, there are also factors that you need to consider, such as the following.

Cap Rate

The first thing you need to look at is the property’s cap rate. This will give you an idea of how much return on investment you can expect to generate from the vacation rental. To calculate the cap rate, you can use this simple formula: Net Operating Income ÷ Purchase Price = Cap Rate.

For example, if a property has a purchase price of $600,000 and is currently generating a net operating income of $50,000 per year, then its cap rate is 0.08 or 8%.

So, what is a good cap rate for vacation rentals?

A good cap rate is anywhere from 8% to 12%. Remember that properties with very low cap rates may not be a wise investment, as they may require a lot of work and may not generate enough income to cover all your expenses. Meanwhile, those with very cap rates come with a higher level of risk.

Condition of the Property

When investing in vacation rentals, you don’t want to end up with a property that needs a lot of repairs, as this will eat into your profits. Ideally, you should choose one that is in good condition and doesn’t require any major renovations.

Size of the Property

The size of the vacation rental property is also an important consideration, as it will determine how many guests you can accommodate. If you’re looking to generate income from corporate events or large groups, then you might want to consider renting out a larger property, such as a mansion or an estate. On the other hand, if you’re targeting solo travelers or couples, then a smaller vacation rental, such as a studio apartment or a condo, would be ideal.

To gather more information on how to pick the right vacation rental market and properties, you can visit this page:

Step 3: Hire a Real Estate Agent

buy a vacation rental outright, you'll need to get a loan. You can apply for a mortgage from a bank or a private lender. Here are your options.

With a budget in hand and a location in mind, it’s time to hire a real estate agent to help you with your property search. A good agent will be your best ally when investing in a vacation property. They are familiar with the rental market in your chosen location and can help you find a property that meets your investment criteria. They will also be able to negotiate on your behalf and help you get the best possible price for the property.

To find a reputable real estate agent, you can search online for local agents who specialize in vacation rental properties in the area you are interested in. Or, you can ask for recommendations from friends or family who have purchased vacation rentals in the past.
When vetting potential agents, here are the qualities that you should look for.

  • Extensive knowledge of vacation rentals
  • Good track record of helping previous clients find profitable vacation rental properties
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Outstanding negotiation skills

Once you’ve found a real estate agent that you can trust, it’s time to start looking at the properties!

Step 4: View Potential Vacation Rental Properties

Along with your real estate agent, you can start viewing potential vacation rental properties that fit your investment criteria. During this step, it’s important to remember that you’re not just buying a property—you’re also buying a business. So, in addition to finding a property that meets your budget and is located in a desirable area, you also need to find one that has the potential to generate enough income to cover all your expenses and make a profit.

During open houses, you should also inspect the property to see if it needs any repairs or renovations. If it does, you should factor in these costs when making an offer.

You can also ask your real estate agent to provide you with a market analysis report for the property. This will give you an idea of how much rent you can charge for the property and how profitable it is likely to be.

Step 5: Make an Offer

Making a fair offer is essential in vacation property investment. If you offer too low, the seller may reject your offer outright. On the other hand, if you offer too much, you could end up overpaying for the property. Your real estate agent will be able to help you come up with a fair and competitive offer based on their knowledge of the vacation rental market in the area.

You can also compare similar properties in your chosen location to know the median prices of vacation rentals. This will give you an idea of how much you should offer for the vacation rental property.

If the seller rejects your offer, don’t be discouraged. This is all part of the negotiation process. With the help of your real estate agent, you can continue to negotiate until you reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties.

Once they accept it, you can now close on the deal. And, congratulations! You have become an owner of a vacation rental property!

Step 6: Promote and Manage Your Vacation Rental

Your success in owning vacation rentals does not end after you have closed on a property. You also need to promote your vacation rental to attract guests.

There are many ways to market vacation rentals. For one, you can list your property on vacation rental booking sites, like Airbnb, Vrbo, and HomeAway. You can also create a website for your vacation rental and use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to ensure that it appears on the first pages of Google’s search results. Moreover, you can use social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, to spread the word about your business. Whichever platform you use, make sure to post high-quality photos and videos of your property to make it more appealing to potential guests.

When it comes to management, you can choose to do it yourself or hire a vacation rental property management company. If you decide to manage the vacation rental yourself, then you should be prepared to deal with everything, from marketing and promoting the property to cleaning and maintaining it. On the other hand, if you hire a vacation rental property manager, then they will be the ones responsible for all these tasks. But of course, this will come at an additional cost.

Remember, success in vacation rental investments greatly depends on how you promote and manage your property. So, make sure to put in the time and effort to do it right!


Now that you know how to go about vacation property investment, what are you waiting for? Start looking for properties that fit your budget and investment criteria today! With the help of a trusted real estate agent and a bit of research, you’re sure to find the perfect vacation rental in no time!

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