Guide to Virginia Beach Winter Rentals
Updated: May 7
Are you wondering how to maximize revenue for your Virginia Beach vacation rental home during the off-season? Should you continue to market your property for rent on a short-term basis or winterize the property until next summer? If you find yourself asking these questions, you are not alone. Explore how Virginia Beach is a unique vacation destination that provides a steady stream of income to owners of fully-furnished rental properties year-round.
Virginia Beach’s incredible demand for fully-furnished rentals near the beach available long term during the winter months is one of many reasons the city is uniquely suited for residential real estate investment. Managers of Airbnb/VRBO properties and vacation rental owners should consider the benefits of long-term winter rentals during the off-season in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
CGP Real Estate Consulting, based in Hampton Roads, is committed to empowering local real estate owners and investors. Our team of consultants has created a complete guide to winter rentals in Virginia Beach (and greater Hampton Roads) to assist property owners like you in exploring the benefits of a two-season rental strategy to maximize revenue.
What is a winter rental?
Our consultants define a winter rental as a fully-furnished beach vacation home that is rented on a long-term basis during the off-season. Winter rentals in Virginia Beach are a unique alternative to the year-round short-term rental strategy. They provide investment property owners with decreased risk by generating guaranteed revenue during the slower months, reduced traffic through the property, lower overhead costs (i.e., cleaning, linens, utilities), and allow for increased time to market and prepare for the following peak season.
What is considered the off-season or “winter” in Virginia Beach?
In Virginia Beach, the winter rental season typically starts after Labor Day and ends on Memorial Day of the following year. Historically, during this time of year, Virginia Beach sees a major dip in tourism and demand for short-term rentals.
Why are winter rentals uniquely viable in Virginia Beach?
The seasonality of vacation rental markets can have a significant effect on an owner's overall revenue. In many coastal towns, vacation rental owners must close up their properties for the winter months as there is simply not enough business to justify keeping the utilities on.
However, Virginia Beach winter rentals are distinctly feasible as Virginia Beach is extremely transient and populous year-round. As the largest city in Virginia, Virginia Beach supports many other industries outside of tourism, enjoys moderate winter weather, and is home to the largest naval base in the world as well as the highest concentration of military personnel outside of the Pentagon. This unique set of factors makes winter rentals a viable option for vacation property owners in Virginia Beach.
Who wants winter rentals in Virginia Beach?
Many newcomers to the area prefer three- to eight-month leases so as to get to know Hampton Roads better before buying a home or settling into a more substantial lease. Transient visitors do not need a long-term lease and typically are not traveling with furniture. Potential winter tenants may include:
Families and individuals (including many military) relocating to the area
Military in the area for 3-6 months of training
Short-term contractors (The thriving industries in Hampton Roads often welcome engineers, traveling nurses, temporary managers, and new trainees for a few months at a time.)
Insurance claimants (Fire, flood, and other natural disasters are a part of life. Flexible fully furnished rentals are a great fit for those displaced from home unexpectedly.)
Snowbirds (Many people habitually lease a winter rental in a beach town and travel throughout the summer.)
Marketing and Leasing Your Winter Rental
OK, you’ve made the decision to list your property as a winter rental. Here are a few next steps to consider:
Setting Winter Rental Rates
In Virginia Beach, the typical monthly rent for a fully-furnished winter rental is roughly equivalent to the property’s base rent for one week during the peak vacation rental season. For example, if a property has a base rent of $275/night or $1,925/week during peak season, an owner can estimate the market rent for the property will be between $1,800-2,000 per month in the offseason.
With that said, there are several additional factors that go into setting rates for a winter rental:
Location (Distance from the beach, neighborhood safety ratings, etc.)
Amenities (Outdoor showers, high-end kitchen, fireplaces, etc.)
Comparable properties (Exploring rates of similar homes near yours is a great place to start when setting a price.)
How utilities will be covered (See Utilities section below.)
Fees for long-term lease needs (A pet fee might not be vital for one week, but six months of a dog living in your rental could mean some pricey cleaning right before peak season.)
The condition of your property (Does it provide the necessary comforts for winter?)
Having difficulties deciding on an appropriate rent for your listing? CGP’s consultants give owners like you confidence by providing tailored vacation rental analysis and marketing strategies to ensure marketability.
Winter Rental Utilities
It’s important for property owners to consider utilities when deciding the list price of their winter rental. Will utilities be included in the rent? Should the tenant put the utilities in their name? When it comes to marketing your winter rental in Virginia Beach, utilities are a key pricing tool to drive initial traffic.
CGP Real Estate Consulting has found that it is best to add fixed utilities (i.e. WiFi, cable, or HOA fees) in the listed rent, and to have the tenants reimburse the landlord for variable utilities like water and electric. In our experience, this strategy helps keep the listed rent price reasonable while also protecting the owner from utility negligence. Tenants are typically sent a bill that has been paid for by the owner and subsequently reimburse the owner when paying the following month’s rent. If a tenant prefers to have the heat run all winter with the windows wide open, they’ll be on the hook for the cost!
A similarly effective strategy is to market the property as all utilities included in the rent and place a cap on monthly utility usage. Any month a tenant goes over the cap, they are contractually bound to reimburse the owner for the overage when paying the following month's rent. This strategy can make it more difficult to drive traffic for showings if the higher list price adds up to more than the market average. This strategy is great for leases that are for one to two months, but can get trickier with shorter contracts as more communication is involved.
Winter Rental Lease Terms
A typical winter rental property is leased for one to eight months at a time, September through May. This wide range of rental terms allows the owner to focus on the personal goals they have for the property, rather than be driven by the demand and market. Property owners who are looking to maximize their annual revenue and decrease annual vacancies often seek longer-term winter leases. Other property owners schedule their rentals for personal use in the warmer spring and fall months (September and May specifically) and rent for a shorter period of time during the winter. However, if you are looking to maximize your rental income, consider renting for the full eight months, September through May.
Where to List Your Winter Rental
Once you are convinced that going the winter rental route is right for you, where should you list your property to secure a tenant? Whether you are a real estate professional or first-time investor, there are a multitude of opportunities to get your property out in front of the right people.
A few options to explore:
Contact your local property manager who has access to a wide range of marketing channels and potential winter tenants.
Hire a consultant and licensed realtor to list your property on the MLS for a flat fee.
While the immediate monetary appeal of winter rentals may be diminished due to lower rates, there are definite perks to this source of steady income during the winter months. Owners of winter rentals can guarantee that there are eyes on their property during the harsher months, therefore reducing the likelihood of a surprise leak or electrical issue right before peak season.
To minimize the risk of having a property sit vacant or incur unexpectedly high utility bills due to short term guests in the winter months, savvy vacation rental owners often rent for a longer period (such as 6 months) to guarantee income with reduced stress.
While there is still potential for the hustling AirBnB owner to succeed through short-term winter contracts, conventional wisdom suggests renting long term over winter months reduces risk and allocates resources to where they are needed--preparing for an even better summer season than the one before!
Exclusive Bonus Winter Rental Tips
Make sure your rates match the location and condition of comparable winter rentals.
Pet friendly? Lots of people move with their pets during winter. Marketing your property as “dog friendly” opens you up to a much larger market!
Bill the variable utilities and include the fixed. People love when something is included and understand they should pay for utility usage they are in control of.
Stay informed of short-term rental laws in the area to make sure your property is up-to-scratch.
Time your leases well: a 3-month lease starting in September leaves the property vacant in mid-December, which is typically the slowest time of year.
Be ready to be flexible and negotiable with the right tenant. If a solid tenant wants to rent for all 8 winter months but asks for $200 off the listed rent, go for it! If the property were to sit vacant just one of those 8 months, you have already lost money by not taking that potential lease.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Do you manage your own AirBnB or VRBO? Are you looking to find a winter tenant but don’t know how to get in front of them? Reach out to CGP Real Estate Consulting to strategize!
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