How to Sell a Vacation Rental and Protect Your Renters
This has been a bittersweet week for us at St. George Island Beach Vacations. In April, we decided to sell our beloved Sand Dollar, and we closed on that sale yesterday. Sand Dollar was the first home we bought on St. George Island. It was 2011 and the St. George Island real estate market had been in 6-7 years of free fall. Sand Dollar was a foreclosure that had been sitting idle for several years, but it was in great shape. It desperately needed new pool equipment (and a good cleaning!) a few kitchen cabinet doors/drawers and refinished wood floors. Other than those things, it was a fantastic, beautiful home. Sand Dollar has always been “our baby” and for that reason has always been our favorite home that we owned. We have had hundreds and hundreds of guests, some of which have stayed with us for six or seven years in a row. However, due to fact that we needed to take some stress out of our lives (owning and self-managing vacation homes is a lot of work and stress!) and Jonathan starting a new business, we decided to sell.
If you follow the St. George Island Facebook page with its ~44,000 members, you’ve noticed that there has been a significant increase in the number of people that have seen their vacations cancelled often at the last minute, even those vacations that have been booked for 9 months or more! This has upset a lot of people (and we believe rightly so!). When we spoke with our attorney that helped with the closing of Sand Dollar yesterday, she told us that she has never been so busy with closings…not even during the housing bubble on SGI in 2003-2005. To us at SGI Beach Vacations, the canceling of these vacations is disappointing and, to be honest, unacceptable. This opinion is not going to “win any friends,” especially with our fellow owners, but we’re hoping to “influence people.”
The purchase and sale of vacation rental homes is a natural part of the vacation rental business. People buy and sell all the time. However, not everyone is interested in protecting their guests and their vacations. There is more focus on maximizing the sale price than there is on protecting guests. The cancelling of vacations due to the sale of home is unacceptable in our view (and most homeowners aren’t going to be happy with us saying this).
When we chose to sell Sand Dollar we were extremely careful to protect our guests. We did this in 3 ways:
We would only sell Sand Dollar to someone that was going to continue to rent the home.
That person must honor all of our bookings that we had on our calendar.
That person must also honor all of the rental rates for those future guests.
These three requirements were built into the sales contract and left no room for interpretation. The way that it works is the buyer of the home assumes all rentals, and we (the seller) turn over the deposits that we’ve received for those rental weeks to the new owner. We’ve reached out to the future guests at Sand Dollar to ensure that the process works as smoothly as possible (this isn’t always a perfect process) and to ensure that they and their vacations are taken care of.
The house did move to a management company, but they have honored all of those requirements. If they would not have done that, then we would not have to sold to that individual. We believe that the responsibility for canceling people’s vacations lies solely with the seller of the home. As we said, that is not a popular opinion, but that is the truth. There are ways to protect people’s vacations, and we have done that.
The canceling of vacations following a sale can happen if the seller of the home self-manages the home, as we do, or if they use a property management company. Our personal opinion (again, this isn’t going to be a popular one) is that a seller of a vacation rental is more likely to think about their guests’ vacations if they self-manage than if they are using a property management company. The property manager acts as a buffer between the homeowner and the renter and therefore the “emotional impact” of canceling someone’s vacation simply isn’t there (and just because a home is listed on VRBO doesn’t mean it’s actually managed by the owner – most VRBO listings on SGI are management by property managers). We believe that this connection with our guests is one of the main reasons that we have people continuing to come back to us to rent our homes year after year.
If you are interested in continuing to rent Sand Dollar, the name has been changed to Reel Memories and you can check it out on the Resort Vacation Properties website. However, if you’d like to continue to rent from us at St. George Island Beach Vacations where we will continue to take care of our guests, you can check out our website at https://www.sgibeachvacations.com/. While we can’t always guarantee that everything about your stay will be perfect, we will always strive to do everything in our power to make sure our guests have a great time at our homes on St. George Island.