VRBO Vail: How to Run a Wildly Successful Colorado Vacation Rental

Owning a VRBO in Vail

Everything you need to know

Maybe you recently stayed at a Vail VRBO and thought, “Why don’t I buy a Vail vacation rental?” Afterall, on average, 89% of Vail home buyers are renters first. If this is the case for you, you’re far from alone.

Data from the Land Title Guarantee Co. show that in the first half of 2018, 30 percent of second-home purchases in Eagle County came from out-of-state buyers. This comes as more and more luxury homeowners are using vacation property management companies to rent out their high-end home when it’s not in use, for both the additional revenue and the peace of mind that their second-most valuable asset is well taken care of.

If you’re just starting out your Vail VRBO journey, read through this guide, and you’ll learn:

  • The biggest factors that will influence your annual revenue
  • The best websites to list your Vail vacation rental 
  • Vacation rental marketing tips 
  • The difference between vacation property management companies
  • All about vacation rental management fees
  • How to hire the right vacation rental manager

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How much do Vail vacation rentals make?

One of the biggest things to remember about owning a vacation rental in an area like Vail is that your rental income is heavily dependent on seasonal activity. While the shoulder seasons of late spring and early fall may be slow, you can more than makeup for this lag in bookings during the peak periods of Christmas, New Year’s, President’s Day, and Spring Break - if you’re marketing your home correctly.

Let’s look at one home we manage in Beaver Creek. They joined InvitedHome in November 2017, and by February 2018, already had 71 nights booked, resulting in $82,000 in revenue. This is what can happen when everything lines up - a beautiful home, strong marketing, a desirable location, and responsive guest services.

However, there are a number of variables that can affect how much rental money you can earn.

Here are just a few:

  • Is the property ski-in, ski-out? Adding the phrase “ski-in, ski-out” to the headline will generate more clicks, and in turn ensure a higher placement on the largest online travel sites like Airbnb and VRBO (more on that later). 
  • A private hot tub is an enormous guest magnet in every destination, but it’s almost essential in mountain resort towns. You can also increase your nightly rate by roughly $10 to offset the cost of ownership of a hot tub. Just be sure to run preventative maintenance at regular intervals, as hot tubs tend to have a knack for breaking down at extremely inopportune times.
  • Taxes and regulations. While Vail is currently a great environment for vacation rentals in this regard, there is legislature brewing that could result in new taxes on items you have in your home that you use to market it as a vacation rental. Think fine art, kitchen amenities, billiards tables, etc. 
  • Maintenance, wear, and tear. Destinations like Vail tend to go through periods of heavy usage, followed by down periods. Plan to perform scheduled maintenance at regular intervals, in addition to inspecting the home after peak rental periods. It’s always more cost-effective to maintain and inspect than it is to pay for an emergency fix while a guest is in-stay. 

For a deeper look at how much vacation rentals can make, take a look at our post on the subject here.

Which vacation rental website is best for owners?

When it comes to marketing your Vail vacation rental, there are plenty of options. However, many of these sites are charging increasingly higher guest fees, resulting in a backlash in the travel community. Many are shunning a few of these sites altogether, opting to support the #bookdirect movement in the world of vacation rentals. However, the jury is still out on the long-term consequences of this emerging issue.

Here are three great resources on the subject:

  • 13 Sites like Airbnb. Here we detail various places where vacation rental owners can list their second home, and the advantages/disadvantages of all of them. 
  • Which Vacation Rental Listing Site is Best? This takes a deeper look at a few of the biggest online travel agencies, discussing both the homeowner and guest experiences. 
  • Airbnb vs VRBO. These are two of the most commonly used online travel agencies. See what makes them different. 

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Vacation rental marketing tips

For a deep dive into vacation rental marketing, take a look at our 18 Ways to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings and Profits. For now, we’ll look at a few tips that are especially pertinent to the Vail vacation rental market.

  • Make sure your listing is always up to date. This means adjusting it seasonally to highlight what makes it such a perfect winter property, and why it’s also an ideal summer getaway.
  • Use photos correctly. To enhance your photos, consider learning about composite lighting techniques, which highlight views through the window, as well as the interior. Also, when organizing your photos on a listing, arrange them in a way that moves viewers through the home the way they naturally would.
  • Focus on adding true value to support a higher nightly rate, rather than trying to undercut a neighbor’s price. Luxury travelers outspend the rest by more than 600% and take twice as many vacations. By focusing on the luxury traveler, you’ll get bookings from not just any guest, but the right guest. In Vail’s vacation rental by owner climate, this is especially important. 
  • Make a plan for how you’ll handle peak periods. In Vail/Beaver Creek, you can make a mint in a short period (like our previously referenced Beaver Creek owner) if you’re willing to rent out your home over the holidays. If you’d rather spend the holidays in your home, you’ll need to adjust your strategy to bring in more guests throughout ski season and even during shoulder seasons. You can accomplish this by marketing your home as a home base to explore the entire region, rather than just a holiday or ski retreat. 

Difference between Vail vacation management companies

In a market like Vail, one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is whether you’ll use a local or national vacation management company.

With a national company, you’ll often receive exceptional marketing services. These companies use their resources and broad reach to target and bring in guests in various ways. Some will also be able to offer superior guest services throughout a guest’s stay.

Local companies will provide extreme care and attention to you and your home, which may be missing from national companies. As an owner, you’ll be entwined in the community, and often will have better insight into the goings on of the neighborhood, especially when it comes to sentiments toward vacation rentals. However, local companies’ limited resources often result in less-than-stellar marketing and minimal guest services.

Here are a few more articles that discuss how to hire a vacation rental manager, the questions you should ask, owner and guest fee FAQs, and more.

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Owning a VRBO in Vail, Colorado: It can be a reality. Whether you’d use it primarily as a quiet retreat for your family and friends or solely as an investment vehicle, InvitedHome can help you put together an asset management and financial plan, as well as provide the white glove care you and your home deserve. Check out our Vail vacation rental management services here

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