If you’ve been dreaming of a lake home you might have considered it as a second home option if you could rent it out on a short term basis to help pay the mortgage. Vacation rentals are huge, especially for waterfront homes, but you may have a few obstacles to figure out if you want to explore this option. Here are the major things you will need to consider.

Budget and Demand

Of course you’ve considered your own budget, probably a million times by now, but you also need to consider the budget of the people that would rent your home, and the likely demand. Living in Virginia we still have four seasons, so if the area doesn’t have four season water amenities it will be harder to rent it during the fall and winter months. You might get interest if there is a ski resort nearby, or the occasional rental for someone that just wants some quiet time, but it’s probably not going to rent every single week. Look up similar homes on VRBO, AirBNB and other vacation rental sites to see what going rates are, and take a peek at their calendars to see how booked up they are to give you an idea. Most homes will probably only rent 20-25 weeks out of the year if you have great marketing or a really incredible property. But what would happen to your budget if it only rented 10 weeks, or 5? Take a look at the worst case scenarios so you can make sure you can still afford the mortgage.

You will also need to budget for additional things like appropriate furniture, supplies, cleanings, property management, etc. Vacation renters expect a certain quality and attention, and your ability to keep your bookings up will depend on your reviews a lot, so providing somethings you might not have expected could knock your budget out of whack quickly.

Loans and Insurance

There are different loan products, different loan rates and difference insurance levels that will be needed based on how the home will be used. A primary residence is completely different than an investment property, rental or second home. Make sure you explore the different rates so your budget is accurate.

HOA Rules

This is often the deal killer in Virginia. Most lakes are run by HOAs and there are rules and procedures that may limit or squash your hopes of using your lake home as a vacation rental altogether. Of course, some people try to get around these rules anyway, but if you decide to do that you will want to find out what consequences you could face. For instance, if you lived in a gated community and the guard determined your guests were short term renters could they stop them from coming in altogether? This could affect not only you but your poor guests that would have nowhere to go! Many HOAs have minimal rental lengths of 6 months, so it’s best to check this out first with your agent.

Local Laws

The rise of AirBNB has forced many towns into action around the country. Even outside that though, rentals often come with additional fees, inspections and registrations that must be done to insure they are safe. Checking local community, city, and county rules should be on your list.

Renter Access

Okay, so you’ve run the budget, you’re up to date on all of the rules, now how will your renters get access to your home if you don’t live nearby? In the past this was all done through property management companies, and the majority of owners still use them, especially in destination cities. There are other options now though with electronic access locks that can be controlled from anywhere. With the right local team members in place for cleanings and such, you could run your vacation rental from anywhere.


Of course guests expect a clean home, actually they expect a perfect home. Your cleaning crew will make or break the success of your lake vacation rental home, I’m not even kidding a little bit. Finding the right person or company is paramount, and having a backup for emergencies isn’t a bad idea. If you are renting only by the week it might be easier than if you also allow shorter rentals, but could limit your bookings depending on location. Having a cleaning crew with multiple staff members to coordinate with your bookings will help.

Repairs, Emergencies, and Questions

In the service world there are always emergencies. A broken toilet is bad enough in your own home, on vacation it’s worse, and trying to deal with it from 3 hrs or 3 days away just adds to the drama. You need a solid team with people you trust that can respond to anything you can imagine happening. Smaller things can also affect your guests though, like how to turn on the TV, running the pool cleaner accidentally, any number of questions will come up throughout renters stay, so you will need a plan for being available to help at all hours of the day. A lot of these things can be included in a rental book filled with information and who to contact concerning different issues, etc, but it will all need to be planned to be effective!