Second Home Rental Conversions Could be Remodel Opportunity~

With the national economy in the tank, one surprising bright spot is an industry that figures big for coastal contractors: vacation home rentals. According to a December 5, 2008, story in USA Today, one company built on vacation rentals, Austin, Texas-based HomeAway, boosted sales 58% in 2008. HomeAway lists 300,000 private homes in the US and Europe for rent by travelers as an alternative to hotel rooms. According to company CEO Brian Sharples, says the paper, "Given the housing meltdown and high gas prices, many homeowners can't sell their vacation homes or they're not using them as much, so they're renting the properties to make extra money."

USA Today may not be an objective source on HomeAway: the two companies are business partners in a deal to promote HomeAway's rental properties through USA Today classified ads.

Still, Sharples' idea is reasonable on its face. Market research firm PhoCusWright estimates that vacation rentals are a $24 billion annual industry. And according to Alfred Glossbrenner, whose company, FullyBookedRentals.com, is based on homeowner-operated second-home rentals, contractors who build second homes should keep that fact in mind.

Even if someone building a second home has no plans to rent the house out, says Glossbrenner, studies indicate that "many owners who initially did not plan to rent end up doing so by year five." And, he points out, " whether this owner rents or not, the next owner may plan to do so." Based on his experience coordinating second-home rentals, Glossbrenner argues for a "vacation home package" to make a home more desirable. Specifics? "For example, install a keyless lock on at least one door. It should be of the type that allows at least three changable codes: one for the owner, one for the cleaning person, and one for the paying guest. Installing a hotel-style safe for guests to use for their watches and wallets when going down to the beach is also a good idea. And don't forget the 'owner's closet,' the place where the owner can lock up personal items and valuables."