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Century 21 Nosara, Costa Rica

Vacation Rental Homes

Nosara is a tourism based economy. As you probably know, many of the homes in Playa Guiones and Playa Pelada are rented out weekly to tourists coming from all over the world, but primarily from the US, Canada and Europe. While full time residents have certainly made a splash in Nosara over recent years, there are still many people buying/building/renovating vacation homes. If you’re in this category… here’s what you need to know:

Location- The best rentals are those closest to the beach. The beach, after all, is why most people choose Nosara. Sure, yoga is another big reason why people end up here, but the surf, beach walks and spectacular sunsets are what keeps them coming back. The houses that demand the highest weekly/nightly rates are a short walk to the beach. What do we consider a short walk? The consensus is 7-8 minutes or less. That isn’t to say that houses that are a little further back don’t rent at all, it’s just that most surfers who live in urban environments fantasize about walking to the beach barefoot, so when they are searching rentals online they’ll pay a premium to be as close as possible. There are also some houses with great views that command top dollar. These are generally gorgeous homes with crazy views. While some renters may have to drive 5-15 minutes to the beach, they have the benefit of watching the sunset from their pool/patio with cocktail in hand and usually enjoy a more private setting. Playa Guiones rentals are generally quite a bit more costly than Playa Pelada rentals because Guiones has the surf; however, home/lot prices there are higher so you’ll have to spend more to make more.

Layout- Besides some of the obvious boxes you’ll want to check like AC and a pool, you should strongly consider other features that make some houses more desirable than others. For starters, your outdoor covered patio is the most important “room” in the house. It is where your guests will dine, hang out and create memories. The ideal space should be large enough for a large dining table and some outdoor chairs or couches. This space should be adjacent to an open kitchen so the banter can flow from room to room as the pitchers of margaritas pass seamlessly. There are a few different strategies for the bedroom layouts. Some good rentals will have more than one master bedroom (king beds/private bathrooms) so they can accommodate two families or perhaps grandparents. The other bedroom(s) can have multiple single beds or even bunk-beds. This will allow for maximum capacity and smart utilization of space. The kids never mind doubling up as they’ll be worn out after a day of sun/surf/sand. Some ways to save money on a new build or remodel include: smaller closests (no winter clothes storage necessary…), smaller bathrooms (double sinks aren’t necessary as nobody will be hustling to get to work, and few on vacation bother shaving anyway), and smaller family rooms (the gang will be hanging out on your oversized covered patio which costs less to build). Your pools don’t have to be massive either. Just enough room for the kids to play and for adults to dip. Large pools are less en vogue as they take up a lot of space and water, which is a precious commodity here (remember we’re in a dry forest with no rain from January-April).

Style Points Count- In the age of the Internet, clear, colorful photos that advertise your rental are important. Rental clients tend to book the more aesthetically pleasing houses no matter what the style. The “Modern Tropical” houses (modern design, straight lines, high windows, with a mix of concrete, wood and stone) have been all the rage in recent years. Of course these homes tend to be newer, which is plain to see from their advertised photos. Style won’t necessarily trump location, but in a competitive market you’ll want to shoot for both.

Property Management- Boots on the ground is a must if you own a home in a country where you don’t reside. Property managers are a vital part of the team. From bill pay (water/electric/Internet/TV, maid/gardener/pool guy, and taxes) to maintenance and managing renters, a good property manager is key to having a good rental and getting repeat customers. Property managers are the unsung heroes and they earn their money. Renters can prove challenging and sometimes comical with such complaints as “there are ants in the yard”. “Well yes sir/ma’am, we are in the jungle and there is no shortage of insects in the tropics.” Nobody loves the 7:00 am call to hear the toilet is clogged… but somebody must come to the rescue. Managers also check in/out clients which often happens at inconvenient hours. A good property manager can improve the experience of the renters by helping them prepare for the trip, recommend great restaurants, stock the house with food prior to arrival and book activities (surf lessons, canopy tour, fishing, etc). Most property managers charge $125-$150/month for their services plus a percentage of the rental fee (which can vary depending on who booked the rental). Most will charge a 20% commission if they have booked the rental, and 10% if the homeowner arranged the booking.

Renting- There are a few options in how you rent your home. Some homeowners rely on their property managers to handle everything, from soup-to-nuts. That is, they manage the home, advertise the rental, manage bookings and the clients when they come. Others will manage the bookings themselves on websites like VRBO, HomeAway or AirBnB. They’ll do all the communications with the renters and usually receive payment electronically. A large percentage of homeowners do both. If the homeowner books the rental, they’ll pay the 10% commission to the property manager and if the property manager books the date, they’ll receive a 20% commission. This is fairly standard across the board in Nosara.

Preparing Renters-  To ensure the best possible stay for your rental clients, it is necessary to have open and often communication with them on the most important things before they arrive. For starters, advising them on security is a must. When crime does happen in tourist areas, it is usually tourists who are targeted… Travelers tend to have desired goodies like: cash, camaras, laptops, iThis and iThat. You can best protect your renters by installing good security systems and cameras. The technology is available and eliminates the need for traditional bars all over the exterior of your house. Telling clients to be wary is important along with reminding them of some basic precautionary steps like: don’t leave valuables in their car or in plain site in the house when they’re not there, be aware of who you tell what (e.g., don’t tell a random person in a bar where you’re staying and/or when you’ll be out of the house). Most of these points are obvious, but your visitors will be grateful and a gentle nudge reminder can’t hurt. After all, would you leave your laptop bag and luggage in your car in Miami? Neither would I…!

If your renters are coming down during busy weeks like Christmas/Easter, they’ll want to make reservations ahead of time for certain restaurants, fishing trips, etc. Hopefully they can book those activities early to avoid disappointment during their stay . Certain restaurants, like La Luna in Playa Pelada now need dinner reservations most of the year. The easiest way to handle these communications is to email a standard letter to the renters once they book. Another tip would be to have a plastic binder in the house filled with tips like how to contact emergency assistance, local medical/pharmacy information, what to do when the power goes out, etc. You won’t find the ‘Yellow Pages’ in Nosara.Following the above steps will help you have a successful income producing property and will help you avoid unnecessary headaches. Rental homes have been proven investments for those who treat it like a business, and doing so will add additional value to your home when/if you decide to sell.

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