First Person: Renting Out Your Vacation Home

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Several years ago a friend of mine bought a lake house a few hours from her home. The first couple of years she stayed at the lake house at least one weekend a month, but lately she hasn't had time to visit. The house sits vacant most of the year so she decided to rent it out. I've worked in real estate for years, so I helped her find a tenant and become a landlord. The process wasn't as easy as we thought, but these tips can help it go smoother for you when you rent out your own vacation home.

Decide on a Lease Term

If you don't plan on spending any time at your vacation home, you can easily rent the spot out for the entire year without worry. However, my friend wasn't sure if she wanted to give up her vacation spot entirely, so we decided on a shorter lease. She is currently renting her lake house for six months. When the lease is up, she'll decide whether to rent it out for another six months, or to take over the property again.

Before you start looking for tenants, decide on a length of the lease. If you aren't sure what your future plans will be, look for tenants that want a shorter lease such as three or six months.

Talk to the Homeowner's Association

Many homeowner's and condo associations have rules about tenants, pets and the type of property that the owner can have. For example, my friend's vacation home is in a neighborhood that doesn't allow any yard decorations. They also require that all homeowner's mow the lawn biweekly. If she doesn't follow the rules, she could get a fine. Since we knew about this ahead of time, we were able to warn the tenants so they wouldn't unknowingly cause a fine.

Talk to the homeowner's association in your area before you rent out your vacation home. Make sure you include any special rules, such as no large dogs or no street parking, in your lease agreement.

Hire a Maintenance Worker

One of the biggest problems my friend faced was how to handle maintenance problems for her future tenants. Since she lived several hours away, she couldn't run over in the middle of the night if the water heater burst. Rather than leave the tenants without help, she hired a maintenance worker. He won't work at the property full time, but the tenants can call him if they need any repairs made.

Make sure you take care of this step ahead of time. It will save you money and time in the long run.

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