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The Top 5 Mistakes That New Rental Property Owners Make -- And How To Avoid Them

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

So you’ve just bought your first rental property. Congratulations! Now is the time for you to set it up, furnish it, and create the peaceful and enjoyable environment your guests want to experience.


With that being said, first-time rental-owning comes with its fair share of design mistakes… but not on my watch! Because I’ve seen it all, I’m walking you through the 5 biggest design mistakes first-time rental owners make, along with some tips for avoiding them like the plague.


Let’s go!


Mistake #1: Using Hand-Me-Down Furniture Exclusively

I have seen this time and time again. Many first-time rental owners use their own leftover items and hand-me-downs to fully furnish their property. This is a big design mistake because you end up with a chaotic, disjointed interior that doesn’t reflect that peaceful and enjoyable environment we were talking about. Not to mention that your space will probably look dated.


You see, the market is highly competitive, and consumers are much more demanding now than even 1 year ago. I understand that using leftover furnishings saves money, but if those savings are coupled with lower revenue than you could have had with a more current-looking space… well, that means lower ROI over the long run. The right pieces pay off.


How to avoid this mistake: Well, you don’t necessarily need to buy all new items, the key is to buy the right ones. You need to source the design elements that will have the most impact on your rental property’s value.


Mistake #2: Uncomfortable Pillows and Bedding

It’s amazing how much of a difference good pillows and linens make. We’ve all had that one nightmarish experience of staying at a VRBO (or Airbnb) where the bedding was atrocious. And you don’t want that. Nothing will ruin a guest’s experience faster than a terrible night’s sleep. As a matter of fact, feedback on sleeping conditions is one of the most common complaints on VRBO websites! Don’t let that be your property.


How to avoid this mistake: Invest in hospitality grade linens, plain and simple. DO NOT go cheap! There are many quality brands worth the investment that wash well and are durable. If you’re not sure which brands are quality, reach out to me and I’d be happy to share several fail-safe recommendations, like the JDuce line!


Mistake #3: Not Understanding “Controlled Chaos”



If you know me, you’ve heard me use the term “controlled chaos” before. If you haven’t, pay close attention because this is more relevant to you than you might think.


Controlling the chaos means creating a natural flow in your rental that has dedicated zones for potential messes, spills, kids, and games. That’s right… designing for chaos will limit the destruction to one or a few areas of the house so that you don’t have to do damage control everywhere.


How to avoid this mistake: There are several approaches to controlling the chaos instead of letting the entire house be a free for all. For example, you can create a kids’ zone where the flooring is easier to maintain. Instead of keeping the games on the shelf in the carpeted living room, put them decoratively where you would prefer them to be used.


You could do the same to create easy-to-use areas for drinking, eating, and playing that accommodate each activity specifically. It’s true that this strategy might not work 100% of the time, but even if it works 50% of the time, it will mean less wear and tear on other areas of the home.


Mistake #4: Weak Guest Book

Before you roll your eyes at me, just hear me out.


Guests are looking for nothing else but experience, so that should be your main point of focus. The first chance you have at this is the guest book. I know it sounds small, but if the guest book is a flop, your guests are already off to a lackluster experience. No bueno!


How to avoid this mistake: What can you do in your guest book to make it great? Explain the property in detail. What makes it special? How does it take care of the guests? Talk about your favorite local spots and provide links or numbers, share a few fun guest stories, and make them authentic, helpful, and very personal. This is what they are looking for and will remember!


Design Mistake #5: Bad Photography


You do know what actually sells your rental property right? It’s the photos! No matter how detailed and meticulous you are in your website description, people are not going to take your word for it — they need to see and love what you’re offering.


It might be hard to believe, but I have seen some bad rental pictures with dishes on the counter, unmade beds, and dark and spooky spaces that are not flattering at all. Bad photos will have your potential guests clicking away to another rental faster than you can say, WAIT!


How to avoid this mistake: No, please don’t take nonsense pictures with your phone. You need to sell the experience and give them a glimpse of what they can look forward to. This means hiring a photographer and having them take professional shots for you to use. Many photographers specialize in interior design and real estate photography. And if you’re concerned about the cost, don’t be! I can tell you from more than 15 years of experience — the investment is worth every penny.


Pro Tip: People love to talk about that great find they discovered while on vacation. You don’t even have to ask them — they will gladly brag about the amazing experience they had. YOU have to make that feeling last for them. A great way to do that? A simple gift with your branding will be remembered when they arrive.


While food is common, you share something they will use (a deck of cards, a coozie, a notepad, a hat, etc.) with your branding they will not forget where they went and the name of your location! That’s free advertising right there. Do right, and do it right the first time.


If you’re still not sure where to start, we are more than happy to help you. Let’s get in touch!


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