Vacation rental upgrades and renovation tips

What to know before updating your rental property

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You’ve likely seen them while researching where to stay on your own vacations or while checking out your competition—those old, aging vacation rentals in desperate need of a revamp. Maybe all they needed was a fresh coat of paint and a few new pieces of furniture. Or, perhaps a full overhaul. Either way, if the owners of those homes continue to ignore the signs (and their bad reviews), eventually they’ll lose out on bookings and rental income to newer, more up-to-date vacation rentals.

Now, think of your own vacation home. Is it time to make some upgrades? The good news is that upgrading and renovating do not have to be daunting. Here are some tips to keep the process as stress-free as possible.

large kitchen with double oven inside vacation home in Anacortes, WA

Why should you renovate your vacation rental?

There’s plenty at stake if you don’t upgrade your vacation rental property over time. The more serious issue is losing bookings and rental income to your competitors. But, why should you invest the time and energy into renovating? Turns out, renovations can reap some big benefits, including:

Increased bookings

Most travelers would agree. They would sooner book a vacation rental with an up-to-date aesthetic and newer amenities over an older property with fluorescent lighting, ratty carpets, and a box TV. Upgrades and renovations really come down to keeping up with the preferences of today’s travelers so you can remain competitive.

More rental income per night

Not only can an upgraded vacation home attract more guests, but it can also command a higher rate—helping you reach your full rental potential. Guests are generally willing to pay more to stay in a vacation home with a kitchen outfitted with granite countertops, shiny new appliances, and a new chrome faucet over one with poor lighting, dingy old counters, and linoleum flooring.

Better reviews

Details matter. Yes, guests will notice how uncomfortable your 15-year-old sofa is. How moldy your shower head looks. And, how the coffee maker has seen better days. What’s worse—they’ll be quick to comment on those things in their review. Keep a close eye on any vacation rental repairs or upgrades that need to be done to get 5-star reviews on Airbnb and Vrbo.

When is a good time to renovate your vacation rental?

Does your vacation home only need small, simple improvements? You can easily fit those in without disturbing guests. For bigger renovations, your home will likely have to remain vacant to get everything done. Schedule those large upgrades during your slow season, when you get the least amount of bookings.

(Once you’re done making your improvements, here are tips to getting more bookings during that low season).

What should you consider before you upgrade?

The possibilities for vacation rental upgrades are endless. Should you rip out the carpet, then install heated flooring? Or, simply get new area rugs? Convert your current tub into a walk-in shower or just replace your bathroom faucets and showerhead? To help you narrow down your options, here are some things to think about.

Your budget

One thing is certain—renovations and upgrades can be a significant investment. Set a budget ahead of time so you can veto pricey options immediately. Don’t forget—oftentimes small changes can still make an impact, like repainting cabinets a new color and replacing metal hardware. The key is being smart with the money you have and getting the most out of every dollar.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the least I can do, but still has a lot of impact?
  • Do I want to pay a professional to do the work or do it myself?
  • What are the top priorities? What can wait?

Durability

Your vacation home will host guests of all ages (and perhaps even pets, if you allow it). So stick to furniture, fixtures, and materials that can hold up well to wear and tear and don’t have to be replaced as often. For instance, the Vacasa interior design team recommends hardwood frames, Sunbrella® upholstery for couches and sofas, and POLYWOOD® lumber for outdoor furniture.

Your housekeepers

Think about how new additions will have to be cleaned after each stay. For instance, high-pile or shag rugs are more difficult to run vacuums through, while hardwood flooring (along with machine-washable rugs) would be much easier and more efficient to clean.

Your guests

Who is booking your home the most? Families who travel with children and dog in tow? Couples looking for some privacy and relaxation? Think of the improvements that can help you get even more bookings from these types of guests and help you stand out from the competition.

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What should you upgrade?

Renovations and upgrades don’t have to be big. You can start small, with one room even, and go from there. It could help to first map out which areas of your vacation home need improving the most. Need help deciding? In general, vacation rental bathrooms and kitchens are where you’re likely to see the best return on investment.

Let’s break down some of the more common upgrades and renovations that can help add value to your vacation home, boost bookings, and inspire 5-star reviews:

Kitchen upgrades

Today’s guests appreciate a state-of-the-art kitchen. If you’re going to update room-by-room, start with this one.

  • Swap out appliances: Look for newer, stainless steel appliances or ones that are energy efficient. Generally speaking, the older appliances get, the likelier they are to break down.
  • Update metal hardware: Even metals can look outdated. Replace knobs, handles, and pulls with more modern matte aluminum, brushed gold, and copper for an inexpensive update.
  • Replace flooring: Traditional linoleum or rolled vinyl flooring were a staple of kitchens in the past. Swap out with more modern and resilient materials, such as stone, wood, slate, or ceramic.
  • Install a new countertop: Ditch the older cheap vinyl and tiles for granite, marble, soapstone, wood, or quartz.
  • Get new cabinets: If installing new cabinetry isn’t within your budget, paint the existing boxes and doors instead. From paint glazes to wood stains to bright pops of color, simply painting your cabinets can transform your entire kitchen.
  • Buy new light fixtures: Lighting can set the ambiance (and is essential for cooking and safety). Swap out the glaring overhead fluorescent lights for pendant lighting, chandeliers, and cabinet lighting to illuminate cooking prep areas.

Bathroom upgrades

Making your bathroom feel like a spa experience doesn’t necessarily require a complete, expensive overhaul. Here are some simple moves you can make to transform your bathroom from feeling blasé to brand new.

  • Replace the showerhead: An easy DIY project, installing a stronger and wider showerhead (hello rain showers) is a signature spa move. A shower head with a handheld sprayer can also make your housekeeper’s job easier.
  • Upgrade your faucet and metal hardware: From towel bars to drawer pulls, these small details can instantly give your bathroom an updated look. Look for metals in brass, chrome, or even matte black.
  • Install new lights: Most older bathrooms have stark overhead lights or lights above the mirror. Give guests a more flattering glow by replacing bulbs with LEDs and installing wall sconces.
  • Hang art: Art can change the mood of your vacation home bathroom. Plus, art can make the space feel more luxe and offers a focal point.
  • Paint your walls or apply peel-and-stick wallpaper: Anchoring a modern color scheme can have a massive impact on your space.
  • Add more storage: Towels, clothes, makeup bags. Guests need more than just a single towel bar to organize their belongings. Install plenty of shelves and hooks to keep things off counters and the floor.
  • Upgrade your towels: Fluffy white bath towels are synonymous with luxury, plus they match everything and are simple to clean. With the Vacasa Linen Program, we’ll stock your home with always-plush, hotel-quality towels (and bed sheets!)—plus launder them, change them between guests, and replace them when needed.

Bedroom upgrades

It takes more than just a bed to turn a bedroom into a luxe retreat worth booking. Even the smallest of details matter. Here are some ways to revamp your bedroom experience for your guests:

  • Replace the mattress: When your mattress goes past its 5 to 10-year lifespan, a modern mattress will provide higher-quality materials and support.
  • Add textural elements: Textures like nubby knits, brushed velvet, and sherpa fleece can instantly bring a cozy dimension to your room.
  • Bring in ambient lighting: Soft warm lights—whether from a small desk lamp or floor lamp—can help create a serene ambiance in a way that overhead lighting can’t.
  • Add a desk: More and more of your guests are traveling with their laptop in tow. Give them a place for their Zoom meetings and late-night emails.
  • Get new bedsheets: Take a cue from hotels, where they outfit beds with crisp, all-white, high-thread-count and 100 percent cotton sheets. Vacasa homeowners can take advantage of the Vacasa Linen Program, which gives them new hotel-quality linens each year (2 sets for each bed).
  • Add a headboard: This adds warmth and texture to the bedroom, making the bed feel like its own sanctuary.
  • Install window treatments: Floor-length curtains or shades can add some glamour and softness to the space.
  • Replace your hardware: Whether it’s your door knobs or drawer pulls, select metals that align with your aesthetic. Industrial looks are best with rustic metals, while sleek metals like gold and chrome fit in with a minimalist vibe.

Living room upgrades

Your living room is your vacation home’s centerpiece that ties your entire home together. Making these improvements can help elevate your guest experience:

  • Replace old TVs with a smart TV: Box TVs are relics. Today’s travelers expect smart TVs or streaming devices so they can watch their favorite shows and movies.
  • Add a statement rug: A stylish area rug can center the aesthetic, while also taking some wear and tear off your floors.
  • Replace an old couch: When sofas or couches look past their prime, they can date the entire room. Look for more modern styles made of performance fabrics and hardwood frames.
  • Get faster Wifi: Your guests travel with multiple devices, so invest in high internet speed and updated hardware that can handle playing videos and online gaming from every room in the house.

    At many Vacasa-managed homes, we provide a powerful WiFi connection that guests can access with just one click. In addition to easy, instant internet access, these WiFi devices continuously monitor connectivity, alerting us of any service interruptions—often before guests (and our vacation rental owners) are inconvenienced.

To consistently boost your bookings and stand out from your competition, you’ll need to keep your vacation rental—and its amenities and appliances—up-to-date. Set your budget, then use these tips to make improvements in your vacation home, whether it’s a full home renovation or just a single room.

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