Vacation rentals are likely my most discussed topic while showing property to potential buyers. “How much could this generate annually?” “What are the restrictions?” “Do I need a hot tub?” “What is the best vacation rental area?” . Here in Big Bear, 80% of the homes sold are second ones and a majority of those will take advantage of the short term rental market. So what makes a great vacation rental? Let’s dive in…
Where should I buy? Location is a big factor (if not the biggest) when you are on your quest to find the perfect investment. Based on my conversations with local companies, their most popular places are ones that are close to the slopes or along the lake’s shores. Guests want to be in close proximity to the ski resorts, Village and lake access and they will pay extra for that convenience. That being said, there are rentals all over the valley (Sugarloaf and Big Bear City do have quite a few). But if you are looking to maximize your rental potential – location is key.
What else should I look for? Guest occupancy is a big one and will be determined based on the size of the home and where it is located. The Big Bear Valley has two different jurisdictions – city and county. If your home has a 92315 zip code you fall under the City of Big Bear Lake. All other zip codes are operated by the County of San Bernardino. The City is pretty straight forward – 1 guest per 200 square feet. The County will measure sleeping areas to determine the amount of guests you can have. Generally speaking, the more guests the better. If you can accommodate at least 6, that is ideal. Max occupancy is 16 guests in the City and 20 in the County.
Another big factor is the style of the home. The properties that have a unique and updated look will always do the best. The traditional cabin look is a bit of a dying trend. Rustic modern and unique will help you stand out in the crowd.
In addition to those two big factors – easy access (EG minimal stairs, level access, flat parking), views, game rooms/tables and a mountainous setting are all pluses.
Hot Tubs. They’re a must. Here’s the thing, the “hot tub” filter is on every rental site and most vacationers opt to have one. Additionally, you can get up to $50 extra a night if you offer the amenity. It will call for some extra maintenance, but worth it in the long run. Most local companies will charge around $100 a month to service which is essential if you want to keep it running properly.
Bedrooms and Baths… the more the better. The 3 bed 2 bath market is by far the most saturated. So in order to stand out, those home owners are doing extensive remodels to help with their vacancies. So if a 4 (or more!) bedroom is in your price range – it will without a doubt be more desirable than the 3. Same goes for baths… if guests can avoid sharing a bathroom, they will.
Can I manage my property myself? What if I don’t want to? Good news, both options are a possibility. You can manage your property on your own and if you don’t have the time or ability, there are some great local companies that can do it for you. Destination Big Bear, Big Bear Vacations and Cool Cabins are a few of the larger companies that can handle everything from advertising and bookings to check-ins and cleanings. Most larger companies will charge around 30%. If you opt for the Airbnb route, it will be a bit more hands on. You’ll need to hire a cleaner, someone to do check ins (if you’re located in the City) and to be on call should your guests need assistance during their stay.
So what are the rules? Both City and County have their own rental ordinances. You’ll register with one depending on the location of the property. From there an inspection will be conducted to be sure that your home is to current safety code as well as to determine your occupancy and car count. If you are interested in diving in to the specifics you can find all rules and regulations for the City here and for the County here.
All in all, there are some very successful rentals in the Big Bear Valley if you know what to look for. Evan Engle, President and General Manager of Destination Big Bear created a great article that highlights more specifics of the rental market that you can find here. He also has included links to some of their most successful homes and the income they are producing. It’s a good idea to contact a local company like Destination Big Bear during your search so they can give you income projections based on your property search. Or if you have a proactive Realtor, they will likely do that for you. Happy hunting!