Well-Stocked Vacation Rentals Get Far Better Reviews

If you think it doesn’t matter what size or type of bar soap you stock your vacation rental with you might want to think again. In today’s market everyone is posting reviews on sites like Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp! among others. You can’t afford to give them any reason to post anything less than a stellar review.
Well-Stocked Vacation Rentals Get Far Better Reviews

Quality Matters

Don’t think your vacationers won’t notice the dollar store brands you may be stocking your place with. If you want to get top dollar for your vacation rental then you have to treat your guests like royalty:

~ Consider buying only top-of-the-line brand name items.
~ Stock with full size bottles of soaps, hair products, and toothpaste.
~ Show your guests that you’ve gone the extra distance for them and they’ll repay you tenfold.

Well-Stocked Vacation Rentals Get Far Better Reviews

Luxury Counts

Throw away those cheap thread-worn towels and washcloths and invest in some thick, luxurious ones from a nice department store. Get at least a half dozen sets of matching bath towel, hand towel and washcloth. Providing inexpensive sleep masks and slippers can make your guests feel like a million bucks and you can be sure they’ll come back to stay again!
Well-Stocked Vacation Rentals Get Far Better Reviews


If you furnish your rental with second hand pots and pans from a consignment shop consider replacing them with a new matching set. It’s a small thing that doesn’t cost a lot and will make a big difference. Besides, pots and pans last forever!
Well-Stocked Vacation Rentals Get Far Better Reviews

Cutlery and Utensils

Change out that mismatched assortment of silverware for a nice matched set that isn’t half rusted. Invest in a good basic set of spatulas, spoons, steak knives and measuring spoons and cups, while you’re at it. Make meal prep a good experience in your vacation rental and not a treasure hunt.
Well-Stocked Vacation Rentals Get Far Better Reviews

Beds and Linens

An often neglected part of vacation rentals are the mattresses. If you wouldn’t sleep on it then you shouldn’t expect your guests to. Don’t use your vacation rental as a dumping ground for your used items. A mattress that is sagging in the middle or along the sides should be replaced. A new mattress can last you 15-20 years so whatever you pay you’ll get your money’s worth and along the way you’ll get great reviews!
Well-Stocked Vacation Rentals Get Far Better Reviews

Over and Above

If you really want to make a difference go over and above what other vacation rentals supply. Have some inexpensive bicycles, kayaks, and/or canoes on hand for your guests to use.

Basically, provide your guests with a fabulous stay and they’ll tell everyone. Give them less than they expected (or paid for) and, you guessed it, they’ll tell everyone.



Upgrade Your Vacation Rental to Maximize ROI

Upgrading your vacation rental can lead to a long list of benefits, among those being maximizing your ROI. In addition to increasing the value of your property, vacationing guests will appreciate the upgrades and leave great reviews online. Upgrading your vacation rental may also allow you to charge a higher rate, depending on your upgrades. Vacationers are willing to pay more for a superior experience.
The following tips will increase the overall value of your home, delight guests, and ultimately increase your profits.
How to Upgrade Your Vacation Rental to Maximize ROI
1. Upgraded outdoor living space.
When asked which features motivated them to book a vacation home, 82 percent of travelers responded that stunning views were a key attraction, according to Trip Advisor’s 2016 Vacation Rental Survey. . A private pool, outdoor grilling area and a hot tub were among the top five responses.
Adding a deck can give guests a comfortable place to enjoy the scenery and relax outdoors. If you already have a deck, be sure to have it pressure washed and re-stained every year to have it looking its best. Consider adding additional features such as a gazebo, outdoor kitchen, custom roof, or landscape lighting for evening entertainment.
How to Upgrade Your Vacation Rental to Maximize ROI
2. High speed internet matters.
If the internet connection to your place tends to be slow, check options available and upgrade the Wi-Fi to something lightning fast. Providing a fast continuous connection will leave a positive impression with guests. You’ll also be able to mention this feature when renting the space and attract guests who want to stay connected to family and friends during their stay as well as business travelers.
How to Upgrade Your Vacation Rental to Maximize ROI
3. Kitchen upgrades make a big difference.
Even a minor kitchen remodel has a high ROI, according to Remodeling Magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report.. At a minimum, start by repainting or replacing cabinets and making sure countertops are in top-notch condition to make a big difference.
“Upgrading to a gourmet’s delight restaurant-style kitchen is a sure-fire way to ensure your vacation rental remains full – even if the guests aren’t big on cooking they’ll appreciate the aesthetics,” explains luxury design expert Charmaine Wynter.
How to Upgrade Your Vacation Rental to Maximize ROI
4. Turn a bathroom into a luxurious spa.
A bathroom remodel can bring a return of 65.7 percent, according to Remodeling Magazine.
To entice guests and create a new level of comfort, consider putting in a spa bath, suggests Wynter. This could involve a simple shower with a rain head, hand-held shower and four body jets. If you’re willing to invest even more then consider a shower system complete with a sauna, steam room and hot tub.
How to Upgrade Your Vacation Rental to Maximize ROI
5. Add touches of luxury to your rental.
Small touches can make a huge difference when it comes to luxury. Choose an espresso maker over a standard coffee pot. Invest in top quality pillows for the beds. Have ceiling fixtures updated to something modern while making sure there are ceiling fans with lights in every room. Invest a bit more when upgrading furniture and it will make a difference both in your guest’s stay as well as how long and how well the furniture lasts.
Making regular upgrades can lead to guests who return again and again to enjoy the comforts they find at your place. Don’t let your vacation rental property show neglect and you’ll never have to worry about having vacancies.

4 Surefire Ways to Make Your Vacation Rental Stand Out Online

Many owners of vacation rental properties wonder how to compete with all the other vacation homes in the area. How do you make your rental shine amongst hundreds of other rental properties? Below are some tried and true methods for having your vacation rental really stand out heads above all the others.
4 Surefire Ways to Make Your Vacation Rental Stand Out Online

Pictures Speak Volumes

Great photographs of your property – inside and out – are the best way to make a good impression. It’s what people see first and if they don’t like what they see they won’t go any further. Large, beautiful images rather than tiny iPhone photos will go a long way to promoting your vacation rental faster. It’s the difference between “What about this place?” and “You’ve got to see this place!”. If you’re not a great photographer, or don’t even own a “real” camera, consider hiring a professional photographer that specializes in real estate photos. It will be money well spent.
4 Surefire Ways to Make Your Vacation Rental Stand Out Online

Choose the Best Photo

You’ll need to choose one photo from among all the others to promote your property. Sell the destination with a stock photography image. Or purchase a great photo of the surroundings where you live to include in your images. The destination is a huge part of the reason that vacationers come here.
4 Surefire Ways to Make Your Vacation Rental Stand Out Online

Weave a Tale

Just as a headline is the intro to a story, the description should be the actual story or tale. Express not only facts but emotions too into the listing description. Emotion is a key component in a purchase decision. People don’t buy based on details alone; many people take action based on their emotions. Does your rental sound like somewhere you would want to stay? Does the list of amenities make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth? If not, try re-writing; instead of listing amenities, try listing the benefits that people will get from them. “Private deck” could be changed to “Make unforgettable memories sharing gorgeous views with the family on our private deck.” If you’re not comfortable writing stellar copy, hire a copywriter to do it for you.
4 Surefire Ways to Make Your Vacation Rental Stand Out Online

Go Over and Above

Vacationers appreciate knowing what the basic amenities are, but tell them the benefits of living like a local and you’ll win them over, for sure. Guests want more than photos of a property and a list of amenities. Tell them what there is to see and do, make recommendations, offer discount tickets on area events, and your vacation rental will stand out from among all the others. When you care, it shows.

How to Keep Track of Your Rental Business Expenses

If you’re the owner of vacation rental property you probably already know how much paperwork can be generated. You don’t want to lose track of a single expense or receipt because at tax time they’re the difference between owing a lot and not.
With the tax season behind us, it’s a great time to evaluate how you track your rental business expenses and try to streamline and improve them for next year. There are several technological solutions available that can easily help you keep track of all your vacation rental expenses without any hassle. There are also several tricks of the trade that you can implement now.
How to Keep Track of Your Rental Business Expenses

Don’t complicate it. Keeping track of your expenses doesn’t have to be complicated. Many property owners advocate setting aside a dedicated period of time each week to update your records. Find what works for you and set up your own routine.
Use just one credit card. Stick with one credit card and know that every item purchased with this credit card is a vacation rental expense. It’s an easy way to assign purchases to the category they belong in such as cleaning, maintenance and advertising, etc.
Get your head in the cloud. If you’re not using a cloud-based accounting software system such as Quickbooks Online or Xero, consider the benefits of doing so for the next tax year. Because the software is hosted online, you can access it and record your expenses from anywhere. Link your credit card and bank account, too, so that expenses automatically feed into your account, and when you are ready to create expense reports, it’s a simple task.
How to Keep Track of Your Rental Business Expenses

Keep that paper trail. When possible, jot down relevant notes on the backs of your receipts so that you know exactly which expenses they are related to — meals and entertainment, travel, vehicle and home office expenses are among the main expense categories. If you have a receipt for a meal, write down who was present and the purpose of the meeting. This kind of paper trail is important, as it will help support your case in the event of a tax audit.
Receipts everywhere. Do you have an ever growing stack of receipts and bills? Check out a cloud-based app such as HubDoc and make your life easier. Using your phone, take photos of paperwork and forward email invoices right from your inbox. This works well if you are using an accountant or bookkeeper, as they can access your bills and receipts through the cloud as well.
Track your expenses. There are several great programs available for tracking expenses. Mint and Billguard are two examples. Link up your expense card with these apps and all of your purchasing data will be instantly available on your phone and can be accessed from anywhere.
Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. If you want help with your vacation rental property, give Topsail Realty a call at 800-526-6432. Our singular focus is on protecting your hard earned asset, while maximizing its income and occupancy potential. We offer a turnkey, end to end solution that gives you peace of mind knowing your home is being cared for and marketed by local professionals.


Swing Bridge Foundation Submits Alternative Plan for Surf City Bridge

April 1, 2017: Surf City, NC:  In an earlier surprise announcement today, local Real Estate company Lewis Realty announced they were planning to buy the Surf City Swing Bridge, effective 2018. In response to this announcement, that has been on the table since beginning of 2015, Topsail Realty Vacations President and Owner, Mike Harrington, said “We are excited that the Swing Bridge will be protected moving forward. It’s an iconic piece of Topsail Island history and we feel it would be a shame for it to completely go away”.

Surf City Swing Bridge

However, as of 1:00 pm, Harrington and his private foundation focused on historic preservation submitted an upset bid to NCDOT and Surf City arguing a bridge of such historic significance should not be sold to private individuals and is the property of all who have visited and live on Topsail Island. Harrington added, “Unfortunately preserving such an old bridge is going to require many millions of dollars moving forward. Our foundation can work with Chris on this project together, and provide funds moving forward, but only if the original character of the bridge is maintained.”

“The Swing Bridge Foundation”, a 501(c)(3) headquarter in Surf City, proposes to provide multi-year grants in order to maintain the character and operation of the original Swing Bridge, provide access to ALL who wish to use it instead of the new high rise bridge, and hire a full time bridge tender at 1.5 times the salary that NCDOT was paying.  “We respect Chris and Lewis for this endeavor, and we feel “The Swing Bridge Foundation” is the best alternative. We even have a seat on the Foundation’s board for Chris is he desires”, added Harrington.

About “The Swing Bridge Foundation”: A registered 501(c)(3) located in Surf City, North Carolina, The Swing Bridge Foundation sole purpose is to preserve the original character and operation of the iconic Swing Bridge that connects Topsail Island to the mainland of Surf City.  Founded by Mike Harrington, President and Owner of Topsail Realty Vacations, as well as other preservation minded philanthropists, The Swing Bridge Foundation aims to protect public access rights to a historical treasure for Topsail Island.  To learn more, visit:  www.SwingBridgeFoundation.org

Learn more about Topsail Realty Vacations.

FYI:  We’d love for this to be true, but, April Fools!


How to Make Your Vacation Rental More Profitable

If you want to improve profitability on your vacation rental you should take full advantage of all tax write-offs that are available to you. Whether this is your first vacation rental property or you’ve been at this for years, we have five suggestions to make your vacation rental more profitable by helping you maximize your deductions during tax season.

How to Make Your Vacation Rental More Profitable

Vacation Rental Depreciation

The depreciation on your vacation rental home can be a significant tax benefit that you can begin writing off the first year you start renting out your property. But the type of property you own plays a big role in how much you can deduct because land doesn’t depreciate.
“In a condo, you don’t have land so it’s all going to be depreciable,” says Bob Wheeler, CPA and author of The Money Nerve: Navigating the Emotions of Money. “But if you have a property with very valuable land and a house that isn’t worth much, you won’t see much depreciation,” he notes.

Improvement Depreciation

Don’t be caught off guard when you have to depreciate certain purchases and improvements over a longer period of time than you had anticipated.
“If you have a business and you spend $5,000 on equipment, you can take an immediate write-off,” says Wheeler. But rental properties are different. If you buy a $5,000 washer and dryer for your vacation home you would have to depreciate that cost over 5 to 7 years, Wheeler points out. And if you added a room to the home, you’d depreciate that cost over 27.5 years.

How to Make Your Vacation Rental More ProfitableSo how does this affect you during tax season? You may not be able to write off the entire cost of any property improvement or renovation during the year you paid for it.
Consult with a tax professional to find out how a costly home improvement could affect your taxes. The rules surrounding different types of write-offs are complicated and change from time to time. It’s a tax professional’s job to stay current with these changes.

Personal and Rental Items

Wheeler also states that rental property owners sometimes neglect to deduct items that they use for both personal and rental purposes. Items like toilet paper, towels and soap can add up to a significant total expense over the course of a year.
But how do you keep track of exactly how much you’ve spent and who is using it? Wheeler notes that it’s not necessary to get quite so detailed with your record-keeping. “If you’re staying at the property about 10% of the time and you’re renting it out about 90% of the time, you can create a reasonable estimate,” he says.

How to Make Your Vacation Rental More Profitable

Fees and Insurance

Be sure to deduct all fees you incur throughout the year and insurance costs on your taxes. Fees may include HOA fees, legal fees, landlord insurance, homeowners insurance flood insurance and more. You can only deduct the cost of any insurance for the applicable tax year.

Small Expenses Add Up

The smaller expenses don’t seem like much to worry about but when you put them all together they can add up to a significant amount. Expenses may include the cost of advertising, travel, lawn services, cable, internet, utilities, laundering, and pool services. To be safe, save all your vacation home receipts throughout the year and your tax professional will know what can and can’t be used.
Keep these five suggestions in mind when it’s time to do your taxes and you should see more profitability on your vacation home rental.

4 Ways To Maximize your Beach Time on Topsail Island

Topsail Island Vacation PlanningYou’ve booked that perfect Topsail Island Vacation Rental with Topsail Realty after weeks of planning.  Now what?

For first time and even returning guests, we get questions all the time about things to do, where to get groceries, and which are the best restaurants on Topsail Island.  While our local team is very knowledgeable about all things Topsail, we felt there was a need to have a more hands-on approach to a more holistic vacation planning experience.

For this reason, for 2017 we have partnered with Metros Other Women, a great local concierge and event planning company.  Topsail Realty Vacations provides all of our guests with direct access to Metros’s concierge team at no additional cost.  If you can dream it, they can find a solution.  The most common services provided for our vacation rental guests are:

  1. GROCERY ORDERING & DELIVERY – Who loves going to the grocery store and stocking up for the entire week on your first day of vacation?  That’s right, no one!  That’s where we come in- Metro’s Other Women will go to the store for you and fill the pantry while you enjoy the view. How’s that for kickstarting your vacation?
  2. EQUIPMENT & BEACH RENTALS – Part of a good vacation is trying new things and there is nothing better while on Topsail Island than learning how to stand-up paddle board or surf! Or maybe your idea is beach chairs and a tent for the week, and as little activity as possible. Nor problem, we got you covered! We know all the local suppliers and can find exactly what you are looking for. Leave it to us!
  3. AREA RECOMMENDATIONS & RESERVATIONS – From a nice dinner out, to golf tee-times, to boat rental and fishing excursions, we are your one-stop shop for it all. Think of us as your personal assistant while on vacation. We might even recommend a local secret spot or two!
  4. DAY TRIP EXCURSIONS AND PLANNING – While Topsail Island is a perfect destination by itself, there still is plenty to do within a very short drive in Southeastern North Carolina. Would you like private transportation for a shopping trip to Wilmington? Or tickets to go see the Battleship downtown? Contact us and we’ll help!

We know how precious your vacation time is.  Most of us only get 1 cherished week a year to spend with our family and unwind.  Let Topsail Realty and Metro’s Other Women plan your entire trip experience and maximize those seconds on the beach and with family!

Amenities That Provide Maximum Return for Your Vacation Rental

When it comes to what prospective vacationing families are looking for in a vacation rental, at the top of the list is a sweet amenities package that doesn’t cost extra. They want the “most bang for the buck” as they say. You may have already added some amenities that weren’t previously provided in your rental, but is it enough? For amenities that drive maximum profit for your vacation rental, read the following background stats on what really matters most.

Amenities That Provide Maximum Return for Your Vacation Rental

A recent survey provided us with data from 10 cities in the U.S. to get a better understanding of what amenities are important. In general, a hot tub and welcoming outdoor space, conducive of al fresco dining, add the most value per night (per room).

Amenity $ Value Add
Hot Tub $31.00
Outdoor Space $29.00
Kitchen $25.00
Climate Control $24.00
Pool $22.00

Amenities That Provide Maximum Return for Your Vacation Rental

Why These Amenities?

“Kitchen” refers to having their own private kitchen, which is a huge selling point. Travelers often choose to book a vacation rental instead of a hotel just so they have a kitchen. It’s a mandatory feature and saves vacationers a bundle.

In addition to a kitchen, guests seek more square footage for the money and amenities that help them relax. They see outdoor space, pools, and hot tubs as providing just that.

Amenities that matter most are going to be those that keep comfort in mind. Whether it be the latest and most comfortable beds around or simply having the ability to control the climate within their vacation rental, things matter when it comes to comfort.

Proximity To Beach

Which Amenity is the Best?

Ultimately, property owners need to determine what will drive the connection between guests to your location and to your home. This varies depending on where you live in the country because ski bums are looking for something completely different than beach goers. It’s up to you to figure out which amenities provide the comfort and enhance the overall experience your guests are seeking. Is it free towels and beach supplies? Baby gear and puppy sitting? Or discounts on area events, entertainment and golf?

Where to Find Answers

You can answer this by researching what your competitors offer in your local market then determine how close you come to matching that. Is there something different you can offer to set you apart from the others? Instead of choosing an amenity because it seems like a cool idea, think of such additions as an investment that should support your overall business strategy to get the highest return.

Things to Know About Insuring Your Vacation Rental

One of the top requirements of owning a vacation rental is having adequate home insurance coverage. Any number of things could go wrong that you need to protect yourself against including damage and theft.

Be sure to call a few different places for price estimates to find the coverage you need at a price you can afford. Below are some of the main points to remember when it comes to insuring your vacation rental so you can make an informed decision on your coverage.
Things to Know About Insuring Your Vacation Rental

Understanding insurance laws

If you regularly rent out your home, a homeowner’s policy will likely not cover theft or damage associated with your guests. Instead, invest in a separate insurance policy to cover renters. If you don’t and the insurance company determines that you’ve been operating a business, any future claims can be denied.
Municipalities have different rules and restrictions when it comes to vacation rentals, so read up on the ones where your home is located. Some communities do not allow long term rentals while   others may prohibit rentals of any kind.
If you are renting out your home through a property management company like Topsail Realty, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the rules regarding any minimum requirements for insurance.


Types of insurance coverage

Commercial insurance policies have two key components of coverage — property and liability. Property insurance coverage protects the physical structure and belongings in the event of a fire or other damage. Liability insurance coverage protects you in case a renter or guest incurs and injury and sues for damages.


Your policy should include the following coverage:

  • Replacement cost for the structure and your personal property.
  • Personal liability coverage.
  • Loss of income coverage.
  • Supplemental coverage for pets, liquor liability and any damage caused by a tenant, including theft of the owner’s personal property.
  • Umbrella policy. A personal umbrella policy (PUP) gives you additional liability insurance beyond your existing coverage.
  • If there is a swimming pool or hot tub on your rental property, be sure to ask if additional coverage is required.
  • Purchase flood, wind damage, and hurricane insurance if your rental is in an area prone to these disasters.


How to find an insurance agent

Check around for the right commercial insurance agent by asking friends and family for recommendations. You could save yourself money and aggravation down the road. Try to find an agent that specializes in insuring vacation rentals.


When you compare policies, be sure to compare prices based on equal coverage limits. The financial strength and stability of an insurance company matters as well. Check the company’s rating from one of the four independent agencies: A.M. Best, Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s before making your final decision.


Deductible Expenses for Vacation Rental Owners

As a vacation rental owner, finding and deducting the expenses that are related to the operation of your vacation rental business can offer significant tax savings. Many rental owners fail to take advantage of all the deductions they are eligible for. Be sure to keep track of your expenses throughout the year so that when it’s time to prepare your taxes you have everything you need at hand.

Deductible Expenses for Vacation Rental Owners
Here are the expenses that you can deduct to save money on your taxes.

1. Rent. If you rent your home, your rental expenses are a tax deductible expense and can offer you one of the greatest opportunities for tax savings.

2. Utilities. Utilities, such as electricity, cable TV and internet, water and sewer, are tax deductible expenses.

3. Cleaning Fees. When you hire a professional cleaning service or purchase cleaning supplies to keep the rental clean for guests, deduct these expenses on your taxes.

4. Vacation Rental Commission Fees. You should obtain a statement of your earnings from the vacation rental company so that you have a record of the commission fees that were deducted from your earnings. These commission fees that are charged by the vacation rental platform are a tax deductible expense.

The tax man cometh.
5. Membership Fees. If you are a member of an organization that exists solely for educational purposes, such as VRMA, you can deduct the membership fees on your taxes.

6. Furniture. If you purchased furniture for your guests, you can deduct these costs. Special rules apply to deductions for furniture so consult a tax professional.

7. Amenities. If you provide food, toiletries or other amenities exclusively for use by your guests, these expenses are considered as an ordinary and necessary part of running your vacation rental business. Make sure that you keep track of the items that are used exclusively for your business separately from any personal items.

This list of deductions is designed to apply to the most common vacation rental host situations. It is not a comprehensive list. Consult a tax professional if you are a real estate professional, or if you also use the home for your own personal purposes.

Reprinted from Shared Economy CPA