The couple who make us laugh as they transform a home (that would in most cases not get a second look) into a show stopper have captured our hearts. They’re delightful interactions with each other, Chip’s crazy antics, their farm, shop and now their Vacation Rental make us sit back in awe as they tackle all of this, a young family and host a TV show~
So, while we (my husband, Bruce and I) are no Chip and Joanna, we do enjoy the hospitality business and thought for those of you who ever considered owning a vacation rental, we would share how it has worked for us as we begin our 6th year as hosts! (not TV of course)
We married young some would say…21. We didn’t have much except a dream that someday we would buy an old Victorian and run a Bed and Breakfast. We hung on to that dream for years even bought antiques and some Victorian Furnishings as time went on.
When we were financially able to start staying at B&Bs we fell in love with their hospitality. It is so much more personal than a hotel. They go out of their way to make your stay romantic, comfortable and more. One of our favorites here…The Garth Mansion of Hannibal, MO…home to Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn.
What we also discovered was we were not the type of people who want to be tied down to a home every weekend, let alone rise super early to make these magnificent breakfasts.
We readjusted and put that dream to bed.
Eventually when we were vacationing in Florida we ended up getting a vacation rental quite by accident. I think it was the kind that people owned the condo but you contacted a resort and they booked as they would any type of lodging. I was so surprised at how wonderful it was to have a home with a kitchen for our growing family. So much easier to manage than a hotel room with two queen beds.
The next big trip to Florida was at Seaside. WoW! Now that will always be one of my most favorite places to visit. The first house we stayed in was “Sunnyside Up” a bright yellow home with a widows watch, a screened in front porch with bicycles for us to ride around the little town in. From that stay on we were hooked. It is rare for us to stay in anything but rental vacation homes by owners. In fact this Tuesday we are off to Steamboat Springs to stay in a lodge that we have stayed in before. 3 floors, roaring fireplace, games, hot tub kitchen…perfect.
Time passed and our boys went to college. When they eventually ended up at the same out of town University, we found it would be less expensive for us to purchase a brand new 3 bedroom home, than for them to live on campus and so we did.
At the time I was a conference speaker about every three months and would look forward to my time visiting our boys so I could use it as a writing retreat. I had tried to make a writing retreat at our home for several years but it just didn’t work out, everyone needs Mom or I need to do laundry.
Once the boys graduated and we sold the house, we had the funds to purchase a vacation home. We thought that we would use it ourselves to enjoy vacationing not too far away from home and it would be a writer’s retreat for me and maybe we would rent it out as a vacation home! Win, Win, Win.
A New Dream
We did our homework and research on owning a second home and renting it out. If you are interested, I can recommend some books. I found the place I wanted to buy. It was a little cottage in Branson, MO. Actually we built it.
Once it was finished, 8 years ago, all furnished with brand new everything…dishes, furniture, towels, everything…I just couldn’t rent it out. I had never had a new home with everything in it all new in my life and I just wanted to keep it for myself. Honestly this house was furnished and decorated far better than my home was!
However, once you get the hospitality business passion in your blood there is no letting go of it or else it of you…not sure which on that. Every single weekend we were at the house alone all we could do was dream of renting it out. Eventually we determined that some life insurance we had paid into all of these years was at a peak and was going to begin to eat itself up until it was worth nothing…don’t ask me, I’m no financier. We decided to pay a penalty and cash it out and use the funds to build another home that we could rent out.
About 3 months into the build we were walking on the trails behind our homes and I told my husband that I was over it and was ready to rent them both out. So right out of the gate we were going to run two vacation rental businesses.
As I mentioned earlier, we are beginning our 6th year. For the most part I absolutely love it. There are probably only 3 complaints that I have.
- I’m always on call. If there are guests at the home, I have a phone glued to me and am ready to answer and act. So, that means if I am on vacation and someone is in my home, I’m not completely on vacation. I have twice handed my business over to one of my adult children and once there were no issues, the other time there were and while I was lounging with a good book on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world in Turks and Caicos I got a call that our air conditioner was not working and it was in the upper 90s there. I should have ordered another margarita, but I just start worrying as I began to problem solve.
- Cleaning people are everything to your business. If they don’t do a good job, you will get a bad review and down goes your reservations and income. They can literally put you out of business. I had someone for 4 years that always showed up and had done a great job until the last year. She started complaining about her work load as she kept taking more and more on and let me know that if I ever sold my homes…she didn’t go with them. I knew that my days with her were numbered. So last fall I gave her her freedom and I didn’t sell. In fact I spent time training new people and found that I loved cleaning them myself. Unfortunately I live 4 hours away and could not do it all of the time. I found a couple of good replacements but I have also had a couple who last minute cancel or when I go in after they clean, I find that they have disregarded my practices and did things in a way that would not please me or my guests. So basically relying on others can be very difficult.
- Problem Solving. Not the same as one. One was just the fact that I am always on call. In fact, I have to answer email a couple of times a day, every single day, no days off. But back to problem solving. You are going to get calls. They can’t get the internet to work. That is a simple fix. A TV has gone out…that is a bit more difficult. There are lots of TVs in the home, but I want everything perfect. The air-conditioning is not cooling the home. These are frustrating problems because I am no HVAC genius so I make a call. The drain is plugged up. The worst ever was the fridge broke. When the appliance repair guy came he did not have the $50 part and it would not arrive for 4 days. Thankfully I was in town at the time. Me and my big van. I thought they could deliver. Nope. Not for 4 days. Hmmm a see a trend appearing. Can we put it in my van? Nope. So I went for a smaller fridge, I thought for sure it would make it in. Nope. Next I rent a UHaul. Well as long as I am going to have a truck I’ll get the big fridge too. Now I will always have a back up at the house. One on the main floor. One on the lower level. The weird part was I had to hire a man. I mean I can’t move a fridge all by myself. That was one long hot July day that I don’t ever want to repeat.
So, other than that, it is a wonderful business. We love our guests. They love us. We have lots of returning guests every year. It brings in a nice income and gives me the kind of job that I like. I can work from home most of the time and because it is my job if I am needed, I get in the van and go. We have since bought a third home that we can’t rent out and the other two homes pay for it. We determined that we were losing income by using the cottages for ourselves during peak season and we could never leave our own things in the drawers or pantry or fridge.
As I write this, I am cozied up on the sofa with my pups at our lake house. Because tomorrow guests arrive and I need to stock up on supplies for them.
If you are interested in more information on the specifics of running a vacation rental, just let me know. I used to blog on it and love to share.
What do you think? Would you be a good B&B owner, ever dreamed of it? Or would you be better suited to the Vacation Rental Owner style? Love Chip and Joanna?
While we aren’t Chip and Joanna, we love much of the same things they do…we just aren’t as talented to be sure. So we’ll continue to live through them as we watch their show Fixer Upper.
I will give tours of each of our homes in the coming weeks. Can’t wait to share them with you.