Area vacation rental market fueled by renovations

Special to the Packet and the GazetteJuly 7, 2013 

As anyone travelling the roads or eating in the restaurants of Beaufort County knows, the summer tourism season in the Lowcountry is off to a great start. According to the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, occupancy for vacation rental homes and villas is up strongly year to date on the island, outperforming national averages. The some 7,000 properties that rent short-term on Hilton Head are seeing the benefits of an improving national economy, rising consumer confidence and manageable gasoline and travel prices.

Homeowners are getting on board and choosing to ride the wave of renovation momentum sweeping Hilton Head. They are improving their rental properties to keep pace with area hotels and resorts that are investing tens of millions of dollars of capital on upgrades. By doing so, these hotels, resorts and property owners are showing their bullishness about the future of Hilton Head travel and tourism.

Now is the perfect time to get in the game and purchase a vacation rental property and renovate it. Buyers that have recently purchased outdated properties are seeing almost immediate appreciation with renovations to the kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms. This also helps owners gain a competitive advantage on rental revenues as today's visitors are looking to rent these upgraded properties.

Your personal goals and objectives for purchasing a vacation rental property are the first things to consider. Make a list of your priorities, including your desired location, the ideal size, budget for purchase and for renovations, rental income expectations, how often you intend to use the property and whether you will retire there or eventually sell it. Be sure to choose a local Realtor who is experienced with vacation rental properties.

Next, be sure to consult your accountant and lawyer so that you fully understand the tax and insurance requirements, tax benefits, how to structure your mortgage loan, whether or not to set up an LLC and even if it might make sense for you to purchase a property out of your IRA. Getting these details worked out at the beginning of the vacation rental purchase process will make things much easier as you look for the perfect property.

Consult with a vacation rental expert early in the process. The expert can help with rental projections and great ideas for upgrades and renovations that will pay for themselves over time. Choose a professional rental management company that offers 24 hour reservation service and that can market your property effectively on the internet using social, local and mobile platforms. Your rental manager should employ housekeepers and maintenance technicians that are consistently assigned to your property for the best quality service.

Your management company should be partnered with local merchants and activities in order to give special discounts and deals exclusive to its' owners and guests. Working with a local Realtor experienced with vacation rentals and employing a good rental manager can make vacation home ownership easy, allowing you and your family to enjoy the benefits for years to come.

Robert Stenhammer has been a resort executive for more than 15 years. He is the president of Hilton Head Accommodations.

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