Smoky Mountain Vacation Homes CAN Still Pay for Themselves!

After selling real estate here in the Gatlinburg area for almost 18 years, I have often been frustrated that very few owners actually make a profit with their vacation homes. There are many reasons but the chief cause of their failure to make a profit is a lack of commitment to the project. It is not enough to buy a nice cabin or chalet here and then completely forget about it. There are several routes to success but they all have in common the requirement that the owners stay involved and committed to their success. Earlier this month, I received the following email from a client of ours:

Mike and I bought this lovely cabin from your company March of 2011. We spent the next 12 weeks completely upgrading the interior and exterior, even creating a private "Grill Garden" just behind the cabin for an extra pop. June of 2011 "Take Me Away" was finally ready for guests and handed over to a property management company. Having very high expectations, we learned early on that it was better for us to personally oversee the details of running this business called Take Me Away. From June 2011 to March of this year, the cabin had created a wonderful reputation for itself, so we took a leap of faith and converted to VRBO. Wow, were we impressed with the bookings right away. Not only were we able to fully personalize the reservation process for our guests the way we wanted to, we no longer had to give up 40% of the revenue. I can't say enought about the exposure VRBO and HomeAway brought to our vacation rental. We were so confident about VRBO, that 2 weeks later we purchased a beach house in Mexico Beach Florida (30 miles east of Panama City Beach) and placed this beautiful property on their site as well. As expected, "Daydream Believer" is doing fantastic. A bit of advice; take time selecting a vacation property, know what your customer likes and dislikes, take some amazing photos for your VRBO listing and last ensure your property description flows, detailing the visual awaiting your guest as well as the experience. 

VRBO listing for our cabin: (Take Me Away - Gatlinburg, TN)

VRBO listing for our beach house: (Daydream Believer - Mexico Beach, FL)

We first wrote about this cabin about a year ago when it was managed by a local rental management company. Our clients since chose the do-it-yourself route and that isn't for everyone. Owners that use or similar sites must be willing to take phone calls at odd hours from potential guests. They also have to manage a cleaning person or company as well as a handyman for the occasional repairs that all houses need. Still, if you are willing to do all of this, the results can be spectacular. Check out the availability calendar for Take Me Away and note how few days are actually still open.

These owners bought a foreclosure property that needed a LOT of updates and made it into a showplace. Although they have no interest in selling, the property would sell for MUCH more than their combined initial and remodeling investments. If you are looking for a great place to get away, I highly recommend staying at Take Me Away, and if you want to own your own Smoky Mountain vacation getaway real estate property, please contact us!


Collin Hays said…
Jeff, I applaud these owners for taking on the task of marketing, minding, and managing their own property. However, like real estate companies, not all property management companies are created equal.

As an example, my property management company offers owners what I feel is the best of the two worlds:

- We place each of our owner's properties on VRBO at our own expense
- We design a custom, proprietary website for each of our owner properties and host it at our expense
- We pay several hundred dollars per property for professional photography
- We only charge 32% of sales for our services
- We don't require long term contracts - homeowners can leave any time, though remarkably, after two years of operations, we haven't ever lost a client.

So if there folks out there who are unhappy with the performance of their investment property, it could be that they are with an inferior property management company.

Collin Hays
Smoky Mountain Falls

You are exactly right! Your plan does take into account the changed reality that the internet has created. I appreciate your comments and your approach to property management. As I mentioned in my article, the DIY choice is certainly not for everyone and it sounds like you have a great marketing package to offer to people. Please contact me offline as I would really like to learn more about what you are doing. My office number is 865-436-2849.

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