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Is it a Good Idea to Own a Vacation Rental?

by Liz Nitz

I suppose the answer to this is complicated and really depends on one’s goals with the vacation rental, how much work one wants to put into the rental process and the cost/benefit analysis of purchase price and rental income.

I will use my vacation rental as an example.  We own a vacation rental on the Big Island of Hawaii at the upscale Mauna Lani resort.  We purchased it in 2014 when prices were still somewhat depressed from the great recession.  We put down 30% and have a second home mortgage with rate less than 4% for the rest.  We have large HOA (about 1400 per month) due to the fact that in Hawaii the HOA takes care of all exterior elements including landscaping, exterior paint, roofing, common areas such as fitness center, pool, beach club etc.  But considering we are not on the island for 10 months of the year, we are happy to pay someone to manage all of that for us.

We advertise our home on Vrbo and Airbnb.  Those websites have changed a lot over the years and charge the renter more than they used to but people are still using them.  I have seen a huge shift in the past few years away from Vrbo and much more to Airbnb.  A general rule of thumb is that foreigners will use Airbnb as will younger (millennials and younger) Americans but baby boomers and some genX will use Vrbo.    It has been fascinating to watch this evolution.  We also do have quite a few return renters that will just contact me directly after their first year.

The big question that one has to answer which will directly affect if you lose money on the vacation rental itself or break even (assuming you have a mortgage), is how involved do you want to be with the management of your rental?  First thing you need to look at is the IRS code – https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc415 and then discuss with your accountant.  You must take the rules of this very seriously.  There are a few more issues to discuss with your accountant as enumerated here: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/own-a-vacation-home-heres-how-the-new-tax-law-affects-you-2018-12-03  How much you can write off on your taxes and the passive activity loss is directly affected by your activity.

So what that means is that for the best tax benefit, you need to actively manage your vacation rental – that means taking the bookings, communicating with guests, keeping a maintenance log, and doing as much of the work yourself at least to get up to the 750 hours per year.  If you have a booking agency deal with your guests, you are not actively managing your property and while you may have some tax advantage, it is nowhere near where it would be if you did it yourself.

Another large factor is just income vs expenses.   Before purchasing a vacation rental, I would check occupancy rates pretty carefully.  Can the home be rented all year long?   Are there seasonal adjustments in rates and what are the rates?  Does the number of nights rented per year times rate cover your expected expenses? What about the weather?  We picked our location on the Big Island partly because of its very strong rental history and the consistent weather.  It is always in demand as there is no rainy season, no mud season, etc.  We are also rarely affected by flight delays as there is no snow coming this way.  As a result, we enjoy high rates of occupancy.

But to be in demand as a vacation rental, one has to maintain your home carefully.  Things cannot be broken, everything should be sparkling clean, it should be well equipped.  We regularly upgrade and repair elements in our home so it is pristine.  As someone who manages her own rental, I watch the reviews carefully and strive for perfect reviews every time.  The only way to achieve that is to pay attention and make sure you visit your place.  In my opinion, anyone who is self-managing needs to visit once a quarter at least.

Let’s take money out of the equation though.  What do you get for a vacation rental?  For us, we are happy to meet up with our family members who live apart from us in a place that has years of happy memories.  Even though we enjoy traveling to new places too, there is something special about everyone knowing we are going to a favorite place that is stress-free – knowing what to expect has a lot to do with the lack of stress.

In the end, everyone needs to take a look at the cost-benefit analysis and weigh the work against financial impact versus your happiness that you get from enjoying your second home.

Check out this website https://buyvacationrentals.net/ for more vacation rental purchase information!

 

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Rental Investment Property in Bozeman

Vacation Rental Investment Property in Bozeman

A few years ago, Bozeman redid the city zoning map. In an attempt to control and steer growth, and to keep home prices affordable, Vacation Rental Investment Property were curtailed and limited to very specific areas.  Any grandfathered vacation rentals could not keep that status

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Bozeman’s Growth Plan for the Future

Bozeman’s Growth Plan for the Future

Bozeman in the summer of 2020 saw an influx of out-of-town buyers who helped the median home price jump more than $88,000 from July to August. And the Gallatin Association of Realtors Market Watch is predicting the market to stay hot during the typically slower winter months. All this

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2316 Gallatin Green Boulevard 17, Bozeman, Montana 59718

2316 Gallatin Green Boulevard 17, Bozeman, Montana 59718

3Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
1,530Sqft
Beautiful 3 bed 2.5 bath 1530 square foot condo with an attached 2 car garage. This unit features gray cabinets, white hard surface countertops, stainless steel appliances for a great modern feel. Wonderful location close to walking trails, parks, gym, Costco, Target, etc. 3rd bedroom does not have a closet but seller with work with buyer and show them options. AC is an available upgrade.
$445,000

2316 Gallatin Green Boulevard 16, Bozeman, Montana 59718

2316 Gallatin Green Boulevard 16, Bozeman, Montana 59718

3Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
1,581Sqft
Great modern condo in a prime Bozeman location. Condo is 3 bed 2.5 bath with 1580 square feet with a two car attached garage. Property features gray cabinets, white hard surface countertops, and stainless steel appliances. This is the only unit in the complex that has a bedroom on the main floor. It sits on the south corner with great natural light.
$449,000

3271 Warbler Way A, Bozeman, Montana 59718

3271 Warbler Way A, Bozeman, Montana 59718

3Bedroom(s)
1Bathroom(s)
2,614Sqft
Introducing Skyline Vista, a luxury condo community located on the park in Cattail Creek. With over 2600 +/- sq. feet of living space these 3 bedroom condos live large with a long list of premium upgrades. First floor family room provides a great multi purpose room or office.
$775,000

TBD E Peach Street 12, Bozeman, Montana 59715

TBD E Peach Street 12, Bozeman, Montana 59715

3Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
2,500Sqft
Wildlands is a celebration of mountain modern architecture and design, nestled into one of the most authentic and vibrant neighborhoods in Bozeman, Montana. With an exceptional wrap-around covered deck, enjoy your oasis at Wildlands.
$2,750,000

289 Heights Circle, Bozeman, Montana 59718

289 Heights Circle, Bozeman, Montana 59718

3Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
0.61Acre
2,011Sqft
Custom Home with Additional Income Apartment and a Separate Office Space on .61-acres across from a 5-acre park! This home, built by Dan Jones, has a vaulted ceiling with alder stained trim and door package. The extra-large kitchen has quartz countertops, ceramic tile backsplash, and stainless-steel appliances. The living room features large windows and a beautiful rock fireplace.
$990,000

2938 Warbler Way 16, Bozeman, Montana 59718

2938 Warbler Way 16, Bozeman, Montana 59718

3Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
1,392Sqft
Elkhorn Condos are designed by Locati Architects. This is an end-unit 3 bedroom condo located near shopping and public transportation, trails, ponds, playgrounds. All bedrooms are located upstairs. There is a one-car attached garage. The main level includes a galley kitchen that opens to the dining and living room.
$445,000

102 N Chouteau Avenue, Bozeman, Montana 59718

102 N Chouteau Avenue, Bozeman, Montana 59718

3Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
0.23Acre
1,920Sqft
This home is calling you! It's centrally located with great access to all things 'Bozeman'. This is where neighbors come over for a 'backyard movie night' and sidewalks are filled with chalk drawings and people chatting. The outside has very nice curb appeal. The lot has plenty of mature trees and garden boxes. AND, how about your own water well for lawn and garden irrigation.
$699,000

TBD E Peach Street 1, Bozeman, Montana 59715

TBD E Peach Street 1, Bozeman, Montana 59715

2Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
2,172Sqft
Wildlands is a celebration of mountain modern architecture and design, nestled into one of the most authentic and vibrant neighborhoods in Bozeman, Montana. This 2 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom western facing loft unit features natural light from a skylight that spans the office and flex room. Enjoy 12 ft. ceilings with exposed steel rafter giving you some urban character.
$2,325,000

3124 Augusta Drive, Bozeman, Montana 59715

3124 Augusta Drive, Bozeman, Montana 59715

3Bedroom(s)
2Bathroom(s)
0.25Acre
1,948Sqft
Located between downtown and the Bridger Mountains across the street from the Bridger Creek golf course, this single level home backing up to open space boasts an open floor plan and vaulted ceilings. The spacious living room features a gas fireplace and large slider out to your back deck to enjoy the views.
$850,000
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Range Properties

135 E Main St.

Bozeman, MT 59715

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