The Perils and Pitfalls of Renting from a Distance

P1090672 Years ago when we purchased our first property in Canada, we were still living in UK. Romanced by the idea of owning an idyllic waterfront cottage that we could vacation in when we wanted, and rent it out at all other times, we gave little thought to the logistics of managing a vacation rental from afar. That could come later, we optimistically agreed.

In fact, we were lucky. Buying the cottage in the late fall and having to renovate parts of it, there was no potential for renting it until the following summer. Our next door neighbor was a building contractor and also ran a small resort, so in the winter when the snow piled up dangerously high on the roof; the water line froze and a pipe in the bathroom burst, he was on hand to quickly take care of it. Added to that, on our frequent trips out to enjoy the new acquisition, the heating was turned up, there was beer in the fridge and a friendly welcome soon after we arrived. When it came time to rent the place out, it was an easy decision to ask our neighbor and his wife to take care of the changeovers, maintenance and emergency management, and it was an arrangement that worked very well until we moved permanently to Ontario.

I firmly believe that your vacation rental success can only be as good as the property management you provide – or hire. No matter how wonderful, idyllic or outfitted the property is, unless it is well maintained, and your guests have someone to call on in an emergency, there will always be a risk of complaint or at worst, negative reviews.

At the moment, I’m vacationing with family in Costa Rica and as always when we are doing this, my mind turns to the idea of purchasing a property and renting it out. It has a huge attraction given the notion of being able to scoot down here when the winter begins to grind us down, and to still get a return on the investment by renting . On this occasion, sense will prevail not least of which is because of the language barrier since we don’t speak any Spanish, but primarily because of the property management issue. The owners here are fortunate in having a thoroughly delightful couple taking care of the place in their absence and managing all the changeovers, maintenance and caretaking. They own their own rental villas and just like our Ontario managers, are familiar with the needs and wants of rental guests. This is so important and should drive any decision making on a rental property, in whatever country you may think of purchasing.

Finally, if and when you consider buying a property and renting from a distance consider the following key attributes of a property manager. They should:

1. Be familiar with the rental business and have a strong customer service ethic

2. Have good local knowledge of customs, trades people and services (and language as appropriate)

3. Be able to deliver concierge services if required

4. Have the ability to react promptly in an emergency

5. Be reliable, competent, consistent and trustworthy

If anyone knows of someone down here in Costa Rica that could fit the bill, we may be hiring.

Sharon Simms

You didn’t mention which part of Costa Rica. We own a vacation rental in Playas del Coco and as a Florida real estate agent I’ve checked out several property managers in Costa Rica. If you’re looking for someone in the Papagayo region of Guanacaste: Playa del Coco, Ocotal, Playa Hermosa or Playa Panama, please email me directly and I’ll share my research and recommendations.

kalli sorensen

I have owned a beach front condo in the Pacific North West of Costa Rica for 8 years. I handle all bookings from home in San Diego CA. I do have a property manager in our area that covers the key areas you mentioned. Communication is the biggest challenge. But overall I have had great success, very pleased guests and no regrets with international vacation rentals.

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