Mom Dives Into Beach Rental Game

Lauren Davis took empty nesting to the extreme and now owns and manages 14 Tybee Island beach rentals.

Photo by: Matt Hobbs, Taproot Photography Located right on the Atlantic, "My Ocean Villa" is a beach condo located at the northern tip of the island and sleeps seven. 

It began as many beach weekends do: just two girlfriends on a Tybee Island mini break with a blender and beach blankets. They both loved the laid back attitude of the tiny island, its proximity to historic Savannah and its eclectic shops. But instead of buying shells with googly eyes glued on them, Lauren Davis and her pal returned with a deed to their very own beach house.

After a few years of sharing the home amongst their two families, it became obvious that they needed more space; so, they bought another one. Next thing she knew, Davis owned a rental property as well as the vacation property for her family.

“My last child went off to college and buying a beach house as an investment with the intention of renting it seemed like a good excuse to go to the beach,” Davis explained.

It didn’t take long and suddenly she was the owner of four rental properties and managing 10 others under the moniker My Beach House. Davis, however, soon found out that it was not all Low Country Boils and cold brews. It was hard work maintaining the properties and competing with unlicensed rental owners and owners who do not pay lodging tax.

“This makes it very difficult to compete rate-wise,” said Davis.  

So, she joined TIARA (Tybee Island Association of Rental Agents), which is a group of professionally managed vacation rental companies.

“We do try to get the word out that professionally managed means on-site help, local staff and secure payment for a safe rental experience,” she explained. “This has helped tremendously.”

After years of ups and downs, Davis, whose office is a beach chair on the Georgia Coast, feels that she has finally struck a comfortable balance and has learned (almost) everything about the vacation rental game via trial by bonfire.

Here are Davis’ words of wisdom if you are considering getting in the game.

  • Expect managing and owning a vacation rental property to be a full-time job.
  • It takes patience. Do you enjoy talking with people at all times of the day and night and hearing about their grandchildren and pets?
  • Be prepared with lots of knowledge about the area so you can pass it along to the guests.
  • Make sure you thoroughly research the area you are interested in investing in and contact the city hall to find out how many vacation rentals are operating now in that area to determine how competitive the market will be, remembering the unlicensed ones. Are city administrators aggressively trying to find illegal rentals?
  • Get a feel for the community's attitude towards vacation rentals.  Some communities ban vacation rentals or are heading in that direction, and some require a minimum of 30 day rentals which sometimes makes it more difficult to fill your dates.
  • Accept pets if possible. Pet people are the best!
  • A successful rental is up to date with the latest amenities.  It used to be offering Wi-Fi was special but now it is the norm and guests expect to have it -- for free.
  • Make sure you choose an insurance company that covers vacation/short-term rentals.  Don't risk your claim being denied because you were not up front with the insurance company or mistakenly thought regular homeowner insurance would do. 
  • To reduce liability risk, make sure your property is safe.  Especially consider steps, stairs, decks, etc.

 

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