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Vacation Homes/Vacation rental ownership calculator

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Question
My wife and I are looking to purchase a vacation rental property on the big island of Hawaii.  I would like to compare the listings we receive from our agent with some sort of financial calculator that could lay out all of our costs to consider as well as provide a vacancy rate break even point.  Do you know where I could find such a tool?  As we are not residents, we see that there are potential property management fees and probably HOA fees and we want to make the smartest choice.  Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Tom & sally

Answer
Hi, Tom and Sally,

Congratulations in advance on your pending purchase! You pose a good question, and one that buyers of vacation rental property everywhere should ask.  I don't know of a tool that has been designed to do what you ask.  We can, however, do it from scratch (I have actually done it many times for myself and my clients!).  The costs you should consider will vary from location to location, and even from property to property.  But here is a fairly comprehensive list:  
gas, electricity, water, sewer service, gardening, cable television/satellite service, telephone service (if you want a land line), trash collection, housekeeping (may be levied against guests or owner as per local custom), window washing, property management fees, advertising (if not provided by property manager), HOA fees, insurance, property taxes, and mortgage payment (if any). You will also want to consider an allowance for maintenance.  This amount will vary, depending on the age and condition of the property you purchase, but every property will need things like light bulbs, touch-up paint, vacuum cleaner bags, etc. on a regular basis.  You will also need to budget for the replacement of linens, dishes/glasses, and small appliances on a regular basis.  Linens must be replaced before they get faded and worn, glasses get broken, and the toaster will quit working at some point.  

Once you calculate what your costs will be, you will then want to estimate the rent and occupancy rates.  Ask at least three property managers (not real estate sales agents, unless they are also in the rental biz) who have been in the rental business for ten years or longer for their opinions.  Be suspicious of any manager whose estimates seem extraordinarily high by comparison.  Sometimes managers (especially young, inexperienced ones) will give you a high estimate in an effort to get your business.  They have not figured out that you may ask them to produce the results they have promised!  :-)  You can also look at websites, such as www.VRBO.com and www.HomeAway.com to see what comparable homes seem to be asking.  Just keep in mind that advertised prices are asking prices; they may or may not be "getting" prices.  

Once you have accumulated estimates for the costs and projected income for each property you are considering, it is a simple math problem to calculate whether your projected income will cover your expenses.

Good luck, and please let me know if I have not completely provided the information you need, or if you have additional questions.

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Jan Leasure

Expertise

I can answer questions about the ins and outs of vacation home ownership and the rental of vacation homes. I have managed residential rental property since 1983, both for myself and for others. I have taught property management and provided seminars and training at the local, state and national levels.

Experience

I am a licensed real estate broker in California. I have managed vacation homes for myself and for others for over 25 years. I currently am the managing broker at Monterey Bay Property Management.

Organizations
I am a member of the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Residential Property Managers, and the Vacation Rental Managers' Association, among others.

Publications
Articles I have written currently appear at www.CaliforniaLandlordSolutions.com and have appeared in a number of real estate and property management publications.

Education/Credentials
Bachelor's degree, two masters' degrees, and most importantly, the School of Hard Knocks!

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