Sky High Inspirations

Vacation Rentals have been a passion project of mine for a long time – so much so that I not only own and operate multiple, I even created my very own Vacation Rental Management Company as I began to see a need for it in my community.

Our first Vacation Rental, Villa Bella Mermaid, served as my introduction and first few lessons learned (check out my book for details) to Vacation Rental Management Companies (VRMC). Because it was so far from home, there was no way for us to be able to do the turnovers or provide customer service for guests ourselves – making a VRMC a must.

As we built our Vacation Rental Portfolio back home and I was looking into the other Vacation Rentals in the area, I had a lightbulb moment – with such a wide variety of Vacation Rentals in the area and more being added all the time, along with the fact that I had so many people reaching out to me with questions about how to buy and manage Vacation Rentals, I decided that maybe I should be the person to create the first one since I was already a Real Estate Broker and legally able to do so!

And MVR Vacation Rentals, Inc. was born.

As a serial entrepreneur with a habit for monetizing my hobbies, this was the perfect next step for me. It gave me an opportunity to help promote the Vacation Rental Industry even more in my community, as well as help out fellow entrepreneurs looking to start their own vacation rental businesses.

I had already started to find ways to share my expertise on the subject with my book, Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide, where I share my professional experiences, trials, and errors as a comprehensive roadmap for the exact steps to beginning your vacation rental business. AND Vacation Rental Academy, designed to teach you everything you need to know to start and scale successful vacation rental businesses.

This next step was the perfect continuation of everything I had been working on and in 2021 we officially started listing properties. A couple of my own are in the catalog, but we have had a steady flow of onboarding properties since the inception of the business. We are rated SuperHosts with AirBNB and Premier Hosts with VRBO already, and I am excited to see how this business grows.

We definitely saw with the Sky High Chalet how important time was to build up year-round consistency for bookings, recently even being ranked 3rd Best Pine Creek Gorge Vacation Rental! We are excited to see how this trend continues with not only the Sky High Chalet, but the rest of our rentals and MVR Vacation Rentals, Inc – maybe some day soon we’ll see even more of our properties with similar rankings!

Million Dollar Advice & Video Tour of the Sky High Chalet!

I truly want you all to live vibrant, abundant lives and if you head down this road sooner rather than later, that is all the more wealth and freedom that you can create and grow!

The contents of this video and the Vacation Rental Academy course can literally lead you on your way to wealth and long term abundance, regardless of where you currently are and your experience!

Becoming a wealthy individual, or even a millionaire is much closer than you think! You can start small and accomplish anything – YOU JUST HAVE TO START!

This video was originally recorded in May of 2020, during the shut down for COVID. I watch it and see an innocent version of myself. This was pre-book, course, issues with our town and vacation rentals, but every part of it is solid info and advice present day! Our world hit its tipping point shortly thereafter it was recorded and has grown like a weed in all directions. Real estate and vacation rentals have given my family more income, more fun, more memories, more experiences and networks, it helps other businesses, creates jobs and who doesn’t want that? 

I truly want you all to live vibrant, abundant lives and if you head down this road sooner rather than later, that is all the more wealth and freedom that you can create and grow!

Single Family Vs. Short Term Rentals

Variety in your investment portfolio is a must! But how do you decide what that variety should be?

Variety in your investment portfolio is a must! But how do you decide what that variety should be?

There is such a difference in income with traditional rentals compared to vacation rentals. I’ll use one of our current Vacation Rentals, Cabin on the Flats, as an example. If I was to rent this out as a traditional rental, I could probably get around a thousand dollars a month for it. It’s not very big; it’s about 1200 square feet, three-bedroom, two-bath.

So using round numbers, we’ll stick with a thousand bucks a month. So that’s twelve thousand dollars a year gross rent, that’s before any taxes, any insurance, any mortgage or anything. Or any maintenance or God forbid something breaks in it throughout the year.

$12,000 a year whittled down after all of that potentially might not leave us with very much. If this is your first time investing, traditional rentals might be your route, just like it was my route, and you get your foot in the door, and you can eventually upsize, modify and change your portfolio, and that’s great.

But for us, this very same property, same 1200 square feet, same utility costs potentially and same maintenance and all the same expenses, taxes, insurance and mortgage as a vacation rental, we could make five thousand dollars a month, which is sixty thousand dollars a year, which leaves a lot more additional income left over at the end of the year.

So for us, this is an eye-opening opportunity of traditional rentals compared to vacation rentals. Every market and every area is going to be different, and depending on how seasonal it is or how expensive it is to get into that vacation rental property market, that all changes and varies, but it can be life-changing money. Then you have great success. There’s always the possibility to add another one or two, or who knows. Or you can upsize them and have a nicer one, somewhere where you want to vacation to.

It’s okay to start small, you could be that same person like I was when I was 22 and buy the cheap house that needs some work, and then gradually you can upsize it, or you can sell it even. The safe thing about real estate is generally as long as you don’t get in over your head from the get-go, you do build equity and God willing, it’ll appreciate and, depending on the market, maybe more than you expect.

With vacation rentals, literally, it could be something as small as an extra bedroom that you have, that could be you starting small to build revenue and equity, and then take that additional income and maybe then buy a property that you can convert into either a traditional rental or a vacation rental.

Ultimately, there is no wrong answer. It all depends on your tolerance for risk and the specifics on whatever property you are looking at. But if you want to Live Limitless, Real Estate Investing in both of these directions is your key to abundance and wealth.

Make sure to follow me on social and subscribe to the blog to stay up to date on all things Limitless!

Autumn Is Here – Time to Check in on those Safety Items & Prep for Winter!

It is important to check in with your vacation rentals from time to time to see what does need some attention. I know you will lose revenue from a few nights here and there, but like the gutters above it is better than waiting till there is a BIG problem or a bad review.

Autumn Is Here – Time to Check in on those Safety Items & Prep for Winter!

It’s that that time of the year again already. It is one of my favorite seasons, especially at the Sky-High Chalet! The views of the leaves changing for many miles, the crisp evenings and the warm days. We may even have a night here or there to go and use ourselves. It is a great time of the year at all of our vacation rentals for different reasons, but I talk about the Chalet a lot because it is the closest to our home. 

This week, we started our fall cleanup outside, with trimming the shrubs and perennials back and raking any leaves or debris from the yard. It is also a great time of the year to clean your gutters! I know it’s a pain, but well worth taking the time to do it rather than having ice dam up and leak into your home this winter.

The summer is the busy season here, so we also have been going through and swapping out any worn items, like throw blankets, pillows, bedding, towels etc, for new fresh ones. We are making plans with our housekeepers about scheduling time for a deep clean and also to replace any worn carpets and touch minor dings up around the place. 

It is important to check in with your vacation rentals from time to time to see what does need some attention. I know you will lose revenue from a few nights here and there, but like the gutters above it is better than waiting till there is a BIG problem or a bad review. There will be wear and tear in your properties, even if you ask folks to take their shoes off inside, so annually I would recommend doing the little fixes.

In Florida the off season was summer, so that would be when we would drain the pool and do a good once over, along with any repairs to hot tub, docks, AC maintenance and of course any interior things that needed attention.

The biggest things that we are checking on this time of the year for our Northern Properties are:

  • Heating system servicing
  • Fill and propane/oil tanks
  • Chimneys cleaned
  • Check smoke detectors and replace batteries
  • Service or replace fire extinguishers
  • Double check on plowing/snow removal plans
  • Clean gutters/flower beds
  • Put away patio furniture or cover if not using during winter months
  • Cover or put away BBQ grills if not using during winter months
  • Do a deep clean of interior
  • Replace any damaged or broken items (for example, all of my wine glasses at one of my rentals are mix matched now, so I am replacing with a new set)
  • You also want to check in from time to time to your Welcome Book, so that you don’t run out of space in it for guests to share their experiences in it
  • Make sure paths to enter properties are well lit

All of these things are essential to keep your vacation rental running at top notch. The goal always is to offer a product in excellence, so that you get great reviews, make more money and keep them coming back!

For more tips check out my Vacation Rental Academy Coursemy Book and sign up below to get updates on new Blog posts!

Enjoy!

Chris

PS – Connect with me on social! IG @christinavandergriftFB MsChristinaVanDergrift, and LinkedIn

The First One is the Hardest!

Doesn’t that always seem to be the truth with all things in life? Whether it be your first home, kid, heartbreak, business, investment property…the list goes on and on. Why is that?

Doesn’t that always seem to be the truth with all things in life? Whether it be your first home, kid, heartbreak, business, investment property…the list goes on and on. Why is that?

“The first step is always the hardest” (proverb) says that beginning a project is the hardest part; it gets easier once you have already started.

From my experience it is because you have to invent the wheel, work the kinks out as you go, try to stay motivated, and face a LOT of unknowns, all while not knowing if you will have to go it alone, or if you will have help along the way. It can feel like stepping off of a cliff and having faith that there is ground underneath that next step.

I feel like I talk a lot fear in my writing and day to day, but that is because there always will be those fears and doubts. I face them every single day! It is then up to me to decide if I take that next step anyway, sink or swim…

When I decided that we should move forward and purchase our first rental, I was BEYOND scared. First of all, I had to talk Jeremy into it. He was totally against it at first and didn’t want to have to deal with the possible headaches, expense and “aggravation” since we were already both busy with our careers already, an 8-year-old (my stepson Luke) and a 6-month-old (Jaxon) at that point in 2012. We already had my previous home rented out and that was enough for him.

At this point I was a realtor and considered an Independent Contractor, so basically my income was commission-only. For those that are not familiar with how that works, when we sell a house we get our portion of the commission, and no taxes are taken out. We get our check and then we are supposed to be smart and set aside some for taxes and live off of the rest. That sounds great, but that also means that you do not have the opportunity for a 401(k) or a typical retirement plan for when you get older and want to collect and not work quite so hard. Since I had no future retirement fund or actual goal, my goal was use equity in any investment properties to upsize and eventually sell them someday to put money into the bank, or build a new house or whatever.

For those of you who know me or my stories, you know that I don’t take NO for an answer and that I am not afraid to do some persuading. This was one of those times. I always tell people that if I had taken the first “no” from Jeremy, I would have never gotten into rentals, had my son Jefferson, gotten chickens or a pool, and the list goes on… so, I didn’t settle for a “no” this time either (it makes me laugh typing this because I tell him this all the time).

I told him my top reasons for why I thought we should buy it. The main ones were: 

  1. I did not have a retirement plan and someday, when this was bought and paid for, whatever the value is, we could sell it for and get all of the money.
  2. If it was completely paid for, with a little work monthly, it would be straight monthly income to add to whatever else we had.
  3. There are a ton of tax advantages with owning real estate investments like depreciation and tax write-offs, just to name a couple, and I know that no one wants to pay more taxes than they have to (always consult with a tax professional to see yours). 
  4. The icing on the cake for me, as scary as it was to think of going into debt and fearing I could not find a tenant, was that the price point was low and affordable if God forbid, I couldn’t find a tenant.
  5. I could ask for a seller’s assist to pay our closing costs if we bought it.

After a lot of persuading, he was in! He was scared to death, but he was on board. Between you and I, as you get into owning rentals and vacation rentals, the fear of buying the first one is much worse than any after, especially as you gain confidence in how it all works, and keeping them full with income flowing in.

We were able to reap all of the rewards of owning a traditional rental, from tax write offs, tenants paying down our mortgage while gaining equity, and appreciation as the value went up over time. So that $120,000 house would eventually be paid for it we kept it for the long haul with whatever rent we had coming in to be straight income, eventually. And then we could sell it and use that money for whatever we would choose to. That isn’t what we ended doing and for those that have read my book Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide, you know part of this story and have figured out that I am talking about our Central Avenue home, which was featured in my book, both Chapters 9 & Chapter 11. 

I highlight this part of the story in hopes that My Resources allow you to ease MOST of those fears when it comes to investing in real estate and vacation rentals. Whether it be my VRA coursemy book or coaching, let me ease your mind and show you that the ground is there, when you take that next first step!!!

This story doesn’t end here. This definitely is a “To Be Continued…” stayed tuned for the rest of the story and pictures, from house fire to public humiliation and then ultimately being able to reflect on the big picture and see why things worked out the way they did and why we have transitioned most into vacation rentals or sold our traditional rentals. It has all offered so much equity, experience and abundance for our family and we are so grateful that we took that first step. And ***side note, Jeremy is a LOT easier to convince now!

Here is our first rental, 65 Central Ave, Wellsboro. Please stay tuned for the “rest of the story”.  And make sure you sign up below to connect and be in the “know”.

Chris

P.S. Follow me on Instagram @christinavandergrift  or on your other favorite social media apps! 

Beach or Mountains…oh where should I have a vacation rental?

There are so many amazing destinations to choose from for a vacation rental! Florida tends to be the most popular state for them overall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the most profitable!

There are so many amazing destinations to choose from for a vacation rental! Florida tends to be the most popular state for them overall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the most profitable!

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Florida! That is why we owned one there (our very first one) but realized over time that we could buy other properties, at sometimes half of the price and make double the money! Yes, double the money or more even, with half of the expense, from the initial down payment to monthly overhead to keep. For example, our Florida property was a $430k property when we purchased it and did have an in-ground pool, canal access and was in great condition, but only grossed between $30k-$40k/year. That doesn’t leave much left over at year’s end for a net income (which is partially why we sold it, and mostly because the prices went up so high).

I do think that beach area vacation rentals are a great buy but would highly recommend that you are sure of your projections, especially in very seasonal areas, so that you are not in over your head. So many folks in the beach areas use them primarily as second homes, and if that is the case, that is awesome because any extra income is just icing on top. If that is the sole reason that you are buying one there, do your due diligence and possibly try to find an area that has year-round vacationers so that you can sustain the annual steady flow of guests. I also do know that there are properties that are VERY profitable and that make a ton of money, but for newbies, those properties may not be attainable, depending on your finances and willingness to take risk.

Our Florida home had a steady flow year-round, but the nightly rate was dramatically different. Winter months, we could charge $300+ a night, while in the “off-season” summer months we were down into the $100’s/night. That is a HUGE difference when it comes to the monthly breakdown. The summer was also tough because of it being so warm and the electric bill being so high from the air conditioning. I LOVE the beach and do plan on an ocean front property someday, but for those starting out, it’s ok if that isn’t for you!

The mountains on the other hand offer an entirely different angle of potential expense, income, and seasons. They can be very “seasonal” also, especially if it’s in an area that doesn’t offer winter sports like skiing, snowmobiling, or isn’t close to attractions. Our properties in more rural, mountainous areas have blown the others out of the water. The area and average list price of the properties still do play a factor into it all of course. In our area for an example, you can pay anywhere from $200k-$400k for a great mountain home/cabin with seclusion and possible views and expect for it to gross anywhere from $45k-$90k/year depending on amenities, location, views, access etc. The same goes for our cabin in Gatlinburg, Tn. Both areas offer year-round opportunities for guests and a steadier flow of monthly income.

Now to circle back around, I am not saying that you must do either to start. You can start very small and wherever you are (if they are allowed there) and scale up over time. I do offer a module in my Vacation Rental Academy Course that teaches you how to find the perfect property, so if you haven’t taken that yet, please make sure that you do! It will offer you valuable insight regardless of what area you happen to choose, from location, to features, attractions, and so much more. Make sure that it is affordable and that the projections will be profitable, so that it can be a long-term fun investment! My course will give you all of the tips from how to buy, where to buy, how to furnish, market, customer service, how to find a property manager, and how to grow it so that you can have more eventually!

For more tips and insight on all things vacation rentals, motivation, and abundance, make sure to continue to follow my blog, and connect with me on Instagram (@christinavandergrift) and FB (@MsChristinaVanDergrift).

Chris

P.S. If you haven’t signed up yet to stay in the loop, please do so below!

Self-Management vs. Hiring a Property Manager

What should I do?… Should I just try to save money and do it myself? What does a property manager even do anyway?… Maybe I should try for a while myself and then go with one if it doesn’t work out… Maybe I should go with one and then try to do it myself…

I get this question ALL the time! Should I try to manage my vacation rental myself, or should I hire someone to do it for me?

What should I do?… Should I just try to save money and do it myself? What does a property manager even do anyway?… Maybe I should try for a while myself and then go with one if it doesn’t work out… Maybe I should go with one and then try to do it myself…

This blog post isn’t going to spell out how you do it yourself or to hire one (you can find this in my book Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide or in my VRA Course), but this will help you decide which direction what is right for you!

We hired a property manager for our first one since it was 1000 miles away from our home (Villa Bella Mermaid). They handled everything – pictures, marketing, communication with all guests for problems or access, coordination with the maintenance and cleaning companies, etc. We just had to keep our bills paid and property maintained, and they sent us money every month. For our second one, (Sky High Chalet) we started from scratch ourselves and managed it ourselves – everything.

 Before you choose either, I want you to think for a minute…

  1. What do you currently have on your plate with your job, family, schedule, etc?
  2. Can you be readily available for guest calls? (Bookings, requests, maintenance, and sometimes emergencies)
  3. How close do you live to your desired location?
  4. Are there VR property managers available in your desired location?
  5. Can you consistently make time to manage it?
  • Clean/schedule with cleaning company?
  • Schedule turnovers for maintenance?
  • Market it?
  • Strategically price it?
  • Network to local organizations to link your VR to

I always say – Time is Money! And if your time is worth money, can your property be promoted better if you have someone else handle the less glamorous side of owning and operating vacation rentals, or should you really be the one to manage it?

After self-managing the Chalet, I realized that for me to scale and add more, I needed to change my plan. We own and operate multiple businesses and there are only so many hours in a day. For me to really enjoy the best perks of owning VR’s I needed to work smarter, or I would hold us back with my schedule and time to be able to dedicate to it all. That is when I decided to have any future ones that I own locally be managed by the new company that I had created. We also, of course, use property managers for all other areas around the country too.

I am NOT saying to just go hire a property manager, and I am definitely not saying to start an entire company, but I am saying that it is good to be realistic with what your individual needs and availability are.

If you could have someone to do the more tedious jobs for a percentage and you get to reap all the rewards, would you? Or do you truly have the time to dedicate to this amazing endeavor 100%?

Refer to my book and course for more in-depth information on both options and please share this on social and connect with me on there, if you get a chance! Don’t ever hesitate to message me if you ever have a topic that you want more info or clarity on.

Chris

P.S. Make sure that you sign up below for future blog posts and to stay up to date on all things happening at Vacation Rental Academy. Would love to connect with you! Facebook MsChristinaVanDergrift and Instagram christinavandergrift 

Zoning/Codes

You asked and I have listened!

I have received several questions about zoning/codes and how to figure out what is allowed where you want to create and operate a vacation rental.

I talked about it in my book and course more in depth from how to make an offer contingent on it, to “the why” behind it and wanted to break it down by offering some quick incite.

I will stress this till I go blue in the face – MAKE SURE that you do your due diligence before you spend a penny on buying a new property to make sure what you are allowed or not allowed to do!

How to find out if your area allows them:

  • Call twp/town/municipality that your desired area is. Normally you can find their contact info or for the specific committee on their website, or if you live in a rural area like me, in the phone book (Haha! Yes, some areas still use the phone book).
  • Find a realtor or attorney to do so that may have experience in doing this if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself. A lot of times, Realtors do this for other zoning questions and would probably be more than willing to help if you are looking to buying a property in that area.
  • You can also reach out to local vacation rental property managers for this info, as they must know it to be able to manage in that area. I will be talking about how to find vacation/short-term rental property managers in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned!
  • Depending on where you are looking to create them, they may have a specific process to follow to get the proper permit etc.
  • Some areas still don’t have zoning for it so you may be able to create one without having to go through the hoops to do so.
  • Some areas may make you get a variance to create one because you may be reinventing the wheel and need special approval for your use.

And again, MAKE SURE that you do your due diligence before you spend a penny on buying a new property to make sure what you are allowed or not allowed to do! It only takes making that mistake once and then being stuck with a lot of expense, aggravation and embarrassment. 

If your desired area doesn’t allow them, you may have to look elsewhere for now. Zoning in different areas changes over time for better or worse, so don’t lose hope. You might just have to change gears and try someplace else, or even try to fight for it. Locally we have municipalities changing their zoning to attract them since some others don’t allow them currently.

Make sure you check out my course for the step-by-step process and possible outcomes. I also breakdown how to get financing, find the right Realtor, create a business plan, launch, operate etc. It’s a must-have investment for your new possible endeavor.

Chris

My Comprehensive, Cutting-Edge Guide to Buying and Managing Vacation Rentals

Drawing from her experience as a self-made real estate broker and entrepreneur, the book serves as a comprehensive resource for all aspects of owning and operating a vacation rental, including buying, managing, dressing, pricing, and maintaining the property.

WELLSBORO, PA. — After a year of canceled vacation plans and weekends spent lounging around at home, travelers are eager to get back out in the world. As they make their summer plans, a significant amount will opt for the privacy, comfort, affordability, and unique experience of a vacation rental, adding to the growth of this highly lucrative and equitable industry and creating a window of opportunity for those looking to invest.

To help curious newcomers and traditional rental owners better understand this flourishing market, Christina VanDergrift has released “Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide: My Wealth-Creating Secrets with Little to No Money Down!.” Drawing from her experience as a self-made real estate broker and entrepreneur, the book serves as a comprehensive resource for all aspects of owning and operating a vacation rental, including buying, managing, dressing, pricing, and maintaining the property.

VanDergrift begins by taking readers through the story of her first vacation rental, humorously recounting the lessons learned along the way. Afterward, she provides digestible, concrete steps on how to get off the ground with shopping, selecting, and preparing the perfect space. Through candidly sharing her path to success, she hopes to empower readers with the message that real estate investing, particularly vacation rentals, is more attainable than it may appear.

“I started out with no formal education and a family that didn’t invest in anything,” said VanDergrift. “Investing in real estate and vacation rentals has changed our entire world and created lots of memories and long-term abundance.”

“This book made me excited to look into vacation rentals,” wrote an Amazon reviewer. “Christina’s honesty, humor, and personal experiences confirm that the process may not be easy and there will be bumps, but with hard work and determination, one can reach their financial goals.”

Educational, engaging, and easy-to-read, “Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide” demonstrates that regardless of budget, education, or experience, anyone can own, enjoy and generate wealth from a vacation rental property.

“Vacation Rentals: The Ultimate Guide: My Wealth-Creating Secrets with Little to No Money Down!”
By Christina VanDergrift
ISBN: 9781982262105 (softcover); 9781982262129 (hardcover); 9781982262112(electronic)
Available from AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Balboa Press

About the author
Christina VanDergrift understands the challenge of having big dreams but little money or experience to take the steps toward attaining them. Through her work, she strives to use her unwavering motivation and lessons learned to educate, inspire and empower people who are interested in getting into the vacation rental industry, real estate, or business in general but don’t know where or how to begin. Starting with only grit, determination, and a willingness to learn and put in the work, she is now a real estate broker and entrepreneur with multiple businesses under her belt, including a car wash, vacation rental management company, and settlement company. VanDergrift was recognized as Realtor of the Year in 2019 by the North Central Penn Board of Realtors and made Pennsylvania Business Central’s list of Top 100 People in 2020. She currently resides in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three boys.

VanDergrift has also launched her virtual Vacation Rental Academy to provide educational resources to individuals ready to take the next step in becoming vacation rental owners. For more information, please visit christina-vandergrift.com, orconnect with her on Facebook (@MsChristinaVanDergrift), Twitter (@CRCVanDergrift), and Instagram (@christinavandergrift).