Why Vacation Rentals and Full-Time RVing are a Perfect Match
When it comes to short-term vacation rentals, we’re not experts. So far, we only have a single rental, available to just the KYD Community—which means it’s not even listed on the typical short-term rental sites. Still, we’ve had such a successful and positive experience renting the KYD Cabin that we thought we’d share some of the things we’ve learned.
If you’re interested in utilizing short-term rentals to support extended RV travel (or other life goals, for that matter), this post is for you.
Should full-time RVers buy and rent a “home base”?
Hitting the road full-time isn’t for everyone. It’s only natural to get the urge to do something you can’t do in an RV, like host a holiday dinner for a large family or simply stay put and take long, hot showers for a while.
In our case, we originally set out for a six-month trip around the United States that somehow turned into “KYD.” We extended our adventure into Mexico, Canada, and Alaska for another year and a half before we started yearning for a place to return to for the holidays. Every RVer understands the appeal of a place where you can host family and friends without tripping over each other!
This desire was amplified when we spent time living in our RV in our hometown. Stationary living in an RV isn’t really the fun family adventure we had in mind. What makes RVing great is the adventure, travel, and constantly changing scenery. When we’re stationary for too long, we feel limited. (Of course, that’s just our experience; everyone is different!)
We do get a little nervous when receiving emails from subscribers that say, “We’re selling everything and going full-time!” Everything? We just hope people put as much thought into how they will exit from RV life as they do into how to get started. We love hearing that people are right-sizing for their new stage of life and taking some time to travel.
Having a place to go back to, even if you don’t make it back very often, can make tough travel days more tolerable. And yes, you will have tough travel days—sometimes, even tough weeks! After all, full-time RV living isn’t like a vacation. Whatever responsibilities you had at home are coming along with you in the RV, but you don’t have the same resources available to handle them.
To be clear: this is not meant to discourage anyone. There are wonderful benefits to full-time RV living! But for us, those benefits are even more enjoyable when we have a stable place to return to when we’re weary of the road. This is exactly why we decided to buy the KYD Cabin—a piece of real estate we could call a home base for visiting family and a way to fund our travels when we’re away from Arizona.
Caution when renting your primary residence
After our last episode about vacation rentals, a subscriber who happens to be an accountant emailed us to educate us on the potential drawbacks of converting your primary residence into a rental. It’s important to do your own research, but if you earn enough money through rental income on your home, you could lose your capital gains deduction when it comes time to sell. Depending on the circumstances, this could far outweigh any rental income you would make. The lesson here is to talk to your accountant about your situation before making any real estate decisions. It could make more sense to sell your primary residence first and then find a new home more suitable for renting.
Why we don’t use a property management company
When the KYD Cabin was finally ready to put on the short-term rental market, we interviewed a couple of property management companies. We assumed that with our travel schedule, there was no way we could do it ourselves. When the property management company came to the cabin to take a look, it quickly became obvious that they were not focused on providing our guests with a great experience. They were only interested in making the property as simple for them to manage as possible.
In full transparency, our guests know us through watching KYD. We understand that in some cases, staying at the cabin is something people look forward to, so we want the experience to live up to those expectations. The cabin was remodeled to be our home, with the things we enjoy, and we wanted to share it in that spirit. In other words, we didn’t buy a property and stock it with only the bare essentials just to rent it out and make money.
For instance, as we were walking the property, the property manager said, “Okay, when you run out of firewood, we’ll update the listing to say that guests must bring their own firewood.” We promptly said, “No—when we run out of firewood, we’ll order more.” Countless exchanges like this one told us that they were not focused on the guests, only on the management of the property, so we knew we needed to be involved.
We quickly discovered that managing it ourselves from the road is not that difficult! The key is to have a reliable cleaner who knows the property well. Granted, that’s easier said than done! We’re very lucky to have found such a house cleaner. It’s also nice to have a reliable handyman, but we haven’t found one just yet. As a result, we do our best to visit the cabin every 90 days to check on the details ourselves.
Of course, we also have extensive help from Dean, who helps us keep track of dates, notify guests, and communicate with the cleaner. Okay, perhaps this could be considered a “property manager,” but it’s beyond our capability to do this on our own. We have a system to keep track of guests and dates. At the very least, doing it yourself to understand how it works prior to hiring someone can be helpful. If you want to outsource entirely, there are companies such as Vacasa that can do it for you, but they take roughly 25% of the rental income.
Probably the biggest reason we manage the cabin ourselves is that we get to know our guests through correspondence. After communicating with hundreds of guests, the potential “problem guests” tend to stick out. As much as property management companies claim that they “qualify” guests, they really don’t—but we can.
On the other hand, for long-term rentals, a professional management company is essential for the single reason that it nearly eliminates having a “professional renter” as a tenant. A professional renter is someone who can work the legal system to stay in your home for free for months! They tend to avoid rentals that are professionally managed because their tricks are not as effective. Plus, a professional management company creates a buffer between you and the tenant, so you don’t have to be as involved with repairs. Short-term property rentals aren’t subject to the same threats, so note that the considerations are different..
Will rental guests ruin your home?
One of the biggest concerns we hear about renting your home is that guests will destroy it. Candidly, these stories tend to be shared secondhand, with no consideration for how the homeowner managed the property. If a home is not deliberately set up for a short-term rental, the guest is not set up for success. We feel that homeowners who aren’t prepared to consider the guest experience really shouldn’t be in the business.
About ten years ago, we rented a home in Del Mar, California. We were the first guests to stay in this new vacation rental, so lots of things were brand new. The grill, for instance, had never been used. Upon checking out, the owner said they were not giving our security deposit back. When we asked why, they said we didn’t clean the grill and we left sand all over the parking spot. I’m sure they loved how spotless their grill was when brand new—but like all grills, after it’s used once, it pretty much looks like a grill. And yes, we did bang off the sand from the boogie boards before putting them in our truck. The real point here is that this homeowner thought we “ruined” their home, and these perspectives are shared secondhand making it seem guests are wreckless when in many cases, some homeowners may be a bit overprotective of their property with unrealistic expectations.
This isn’t to say that bad rental situations don’t happen. Guest will break things and rearrange the furniture, among other things, leaving you to wonder … Why? Our advice is to keep the big picture in mind. We talk to a lot of people that shared why they sold a property due to the emotional fatigue in the moment, but really wish they still owned that property today… and the corresponding appreciation. At the end of the day, we tend to be harder on the cabin than our guests, and most things can be easily fixed. The cabin is an incredible retirement asset, and in that context, these problems (which rarely occur) aren’t that big a deal. Even if they seem like a big deal when they happen.
We’ve also learned that there are things you can do to prompt your guests to take better care of your home. The first is buying quality products. A guest knows when a rental is stocked with the bare essentials and cheap products. You’ve seen them—the leftover appliances, dull knives that don’t cut, and pans that stick. This doesn’t inspire the guest to do their part to keep the home nice. It might seem like a lost cause.
So don’t skimp on your rental property. We stay at many vacation rentals, and crappy mattresses always leave us disappointed. In this day and age, a quality memory foam mattress simply isn’t cost prohibitive. We bought mattresses for the cabin from Costco, so while they were not expensive, they are a delight to sleep on!
Decorating with personal items or pictures is another way to prompt guests to remember they are in your home. This isn’t to say you should have pictures of grandkids lining the halls or your personal items everywhere, but you can find the right balance between sharing your home and being a corporate rental with no real personality.
Making your home smart
This episode goes into detail about how we manage our home remotely, including the Ring flood light camera, Moen Flo device, Schlege Encode door lock, and Nest thermostat. There are endless options to make a home “smart” these days, but these four devices help us stay more connected to the home, adding security and convenience from thousands of miles away.
All in all, we couldn’t be happier with sharing the cabin. We strongly believe that investing in real estate is a wonderful way to supplement our travel and our retirement plans. We have gotten so much from the experience, not only in income from the rental but also in our appreciation of the property itself. Sharing that joy is all part of the journey for us!
Come stay at the KYD Cabin!
If you’ve wanted to see Sedona or the Grand Canyon, come stay with us! Flagstaff is the perfect place to visit and on the way to so many incredible destinations in the west. We love sharing the cabin and a little bit of our home state. You can check availability here.