We just bought our first PNW vacation rental property and I can’t wait to tell you how we found it and my tips for finding the right vacation home for your family. Scroll for my essential tips to buy your first rental property!
As crazy as 2020 has been so far, we decided to make it even crazier by buying a second home! It’s actually still pretty surreal and I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.
Everything has moved pretty quickly, but we’re super excited for this new adventure (especially since all our other adventures have been canceled this year.)
I’m going to be updating you all every month or so on our progress as we do a bit of remodeling, lots of redecorating, and transforming our vacation home into a vacation rental property.
But, before I get too ahead of myself, I want to share our reasons for getting a vacation home, what we plan on doing with it, and how you can figure out the best vacation rental home for your family.
Why We Bought a Vacation Rental in the Pacific Northwest
This quarantine has really changed the way our family thinks about most things. And we’re definitely not the same people that we were earlier this year. Our priorities are different and we’ve turned 180 degrees on things we never expected.
Need for Social Distancing
When we moved to our current home, we were ecstatic to find are area with the coolest neighbors and so many kids! We’ve done a bunch of awesome neighborhood events and our bus stops are always filled with laughter.
However, during lockdown, we were honestly shocked how many people weren’t following basic social distancing. And so many neighbors were hosting large play dates or young kids were spending all day playing together in the park.
It made me feel like such a mean mom when I had to break the news to my kids every single day that yes, we were still in the middle of a pandemic. And no, they could not play with the other kids. My heart broke every time because I could see how crushed they were.
So we wanted to find a place we could go and not have to worry about that.
Need for a Larger Yard
I absolutely hate yard work. When I was growing up, we had to pull 5 gallon buckets of weeds as punishment and so I totally associate yard work with being a horrible chore.
That’s one of the reasons we bought our current home. The yard is small but it’s across the street from our neighborhood park. All the benefits of a yard without having to take care of it!
However, it’s hard to follow social distancing at our park and our kids really only have our driveway to play in. Because of that, they’ve been choosing to spend most of their time inside.
So, we wanted to find a vacation home that had a large enough yard where they could ride their bikes, run around in the grass, play lawn games, kick a soccer ball, etc.
Need to Get Away
While we truly love our current home, after being in it for the past 3 months straight, we’re feeling a bit stir crazy. We know we’re not going to be doing our normal summer or fall vacations. And we’re probably canceling our Winter Break trip.
We want a safe place to go where we can feel like we’re on vacation without worrying about the safety.
How Did We Choose the Location for our PNW Vacation Rental?
It’s actually kind of funny. My mother-in-law has been talking about buying a vacation rental home up in Samish Island for the past 15 years. I’ve even gone up to look at several houses with her throughout the years.
She finally decided that she was “too old” to buy a vacation home (her words) and was going to let that dream go. That made us feel sad because we really love that area and were hoping on spending time up there as a family.
That’s when it hit us: WE could buy a vacation home in Samish Island instead of them.
There are many reasons why Samish Island is a good fit for our family:
We already have our favorite bakery up there (it’s Breadfarm and we were driving up there just to stock up on baked goods!)
Plus, there is a blueberry store that sells homemade blueberry sauce and some of the best blueberry ice cream I’ve ever tasted!
It’s also super close to our favorite seafood distributor (also important as we love oysters and mussels) and the area is great for crabbing. Hmmmm, that’s all food-related.
Semi-Close to Home
It’s also only about 90 minutes from our home. That means we can easily pop up there for the weekend and not spend hours and hours in the car.
And while it’s an island, it doesn’t require a ferry, which saves time and money.
Small Town Life
My husband and I have primarily lived in larger cities (except for college, where we both lived in small college towns), and there’s something attractive about small town life these days.
The town that is closest is Edison, WA and they are known as the “kindness town.” I love that! Each time we’ve gone into town to grab food, every single person has been wearing a mask.
Plus, everyone we’ve met has been so friendly and genuine.
Why We Picked This PNW Vacation Rental House
Once we narrowed down the location, we started looking to see which homes were for sale. There were just a couple available on Samish Island.
As soon as we drove up to this home, our jaws dropped. The house itself is beautiful and the yard is large and has lots of cool features.
Here’s what sold it for us:
Once we walked into the house, we realized that it has an unobstructed, 180 degree view of the water. It’s breathtaking!
And the house is laid out in a way that most rooms are oriented to feature the view through huge windows. You can see it from bedrooms, the living room, the TV room, the kitchen, the dining room, and the library.
This vacation rental home has 3 bedrooms in the main house and one in the detached garage. Each of the main bedrooms are actually suites with large bathrooms attached.
The Master bedroom has a gorgeous view of the water, huge walk in closet, a private deck, and a sizeable bathroom.
The “kids room” is actually large enough for a queen bed and a set of bunk beds, making it ideal for a family of four to stay in together. Plus there are a couple of private decks.
There’s also a bedroom on the main floor that has it’s own entrance and it’s great for couples who don’t want to deal with stairs.
My husband’s favorite room is the library. It’s an octagon-shaped room upstairs with floor to ceiling windows that really showcase the view.
We’re calling it the “lighthouse room” because it makes us feel like we’re in a lighthouse! Actually, this is probably my favorite room in the house, too. I feel so calm and relaxed here!
There’s also a bonus room upstairs. Not only is this a great space to put a TV, Xbox, couches, and play sets for kids, but we can also put a pull-out bed to be able to sleep a couple more people.
We love versatile spaces! And we can change it after a few years if we want.
It’s quite handy in large homes to have a front and back staircase. It’s super easy for the kids to get from their room to the TV room. It’s also nice to have a straight shot to the Master bedroom from the entry way.
Plus, the kids can run laps around the house!
This house has a really cool 2-car garage attached to the house. The entire thing is painted bright white and it’s almost too pretty to park a car in.
It would be cool to turn half of it into a game room. Like with table top shuffle board or a ping pong table or something.
Plus, it will a great place to store lawn games.
There’s also a detached 3-car garage that has a small apartment unit. There’s a small bedroom, bathroom, and extra room. And it has it’s own porch and entrance.
There’s a lot of potential with this space! It can be fixed up a little as a place for teens to stay. Or, it could be completely renovated and use as a separate rental unit.
The yard is amazing! There’s quite a lot of lawn as you drive in with a cute trellis and a few places to sit.
There’s a cute courtyard near the entrance that feels like an English garden. We can easily picture a little table and chair set and more flowers (or possibly grapes) in the background.
The driveway is also super long and will be perfect for the kids to ride bikes/trikes without leaving the property.
The backyard has a 2-tiered deck with bench seating around the perimeter. Then, there’s a large patch of grass with a built in fire pit (perfect for roasting marshmallows!)
And there are both stairs and a gravel ramp that takes you all the way down to the water (where there are clams, mussels, geoduck, and crab!)
What is Our Plan for this PNW Vacation Rental Home?
Our plan is to spend most of the summer and fall staying at the house as we fix it up a bit and get it rental-ready.
Right now, the home has a lot of desert colors and has a couple of different themes going. We want to give it a more coastal theme (think Cape Cod or Nantucket but with a PNW twist.)
Here’s what we plan on doing:
The interior is a bit too beige-y for our taste. It has a 90s feel and we think painting it in grey tones will update it a bit and work with the coastal vibe.
But, in the “lighthouse room,” we’re thinking about painting the whole thing white to give it a “wow” factor and to highlight the incredible view.
We’re also going to paint the exterior of the house, as recommended by our inspector. We love the current colors and still want to keep the beachy color palette because it works so well with the house.
The fence around the courtyard also needs to be repainted. Right now, there are some green posts and I think we’re going to just paint everything white.
The fake rock fireplaces have a lot of pink and orange tones. In fact, they look identical to the one my grandparents had in their home they built in the mid-90s.
We’re thinking about using concrete stain to change them to grey/blue tones. We’ve never done this before, so we’re curious how it will turn out!
Because the rocks aren’t real, we aren’t sure how it will react to the stain, so we’ll need to be really careful when we test it out. The same rocks are also outside the house, so that might make a good test area.
Re-Carpeting our PNW Vacation Rental
This house has green, embossed carpet on the main floor and beige carpet upstairs. The green doesn’t really go with our coastal theme, so we’re going to pull it up and put beige carpet downstairs, as well. Or, we might re-carpet the whole house to stay consistent.
Right now, there is green carpet up the staircases, too.
For the entry staircase, we’re thinking we’ll pull up the carpet and leave the stairs wooden. For the back staircase, we’ll use the beige carpet.
Removing Wood Stove
In the TV room, there’s a big rock raised platform with a wood stove. It’s not our style and we’re planning on removing as much of the rock as we can and then dry walling over it.
That’s where we want to hang a big screen TV and make it into more of a home theater. We’ll probably also need to put in blackout drapes in case we want to watch movies during the summer when it can stay light until 10pm.
What’s interesting about this house is that each of the bathrooms are different. They use different tiles and color palate. And they are pretty dated.
Originally, we were going to re-do all the bathrooms as a top priority. However, the bathrooms are still functional and there are a few simple things we can do decoration-wise to update them.
The guest shower downstairs has a bunch of puffy tile we don’t like. But, we don’t think many people would even use the shower since each bedroom has their own. So, we’ll probably just pull out the shower door and hide it with a large shower curtain.
The kids bathroom upstairs has a weird layout for the bathroom sinks. One sink is directly behind the door and it seems like they could be shifted down a couple of feet.
The Master bathroom is probably where we’ll put the most money. It’s got a gorgeous view and the updates should be fairly easy. We want to replace the shower door, replace the vanity, and probably replace the tile around the tub.
We still need to figure out what to do about window treatments in some of the rooms. The view is stunning and we don’t want to hide it. But, it’s going to get bright in the mornings, so we’ll need black-out curtains in the bedrooms.
Many of the windows are unusual shapes, so we’re not sure if we should just leave them or try to figure out a window treatment. It’s quite bright in the mornings.
Coastal Decor for our PNW Vacation Rental
The most fun part about this project is getting to decorate! But, it’s also pretty overwhelming for us to outfit a whole new house.
To save money, we’re using Facebook Marketplace and local buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook. We’re also using Buy Nothing for a few items.
We’re also taking advantage of sales on Birch Lane, Wayfair, Overstock, and Joss & Main for furniture, bedding, and decor.
As businesses start opening back up, we’ll start checking out thrift shops and antique stores.
5 Essential Tips on Buying a PNW Vacation Rental Home
1. Find a Place Where YOU Want to Stay
Personally, I think the most important thing to remember when finding your perfect vacation rental property is that it’s somewhere you actually want to stay.
It can be easy to be swayed by a lower priced home that doesn’t have everything you want. Maybe there’s not enough bedrooms, or the yard is too big (or too small.) Or it’s right next door to loud businesses.
Really think about if it’s a place you were personally book if you found it online. You want a place that makes you feel like you’re on vacation the second you step inside.
And think about it as an investment in the quality of your family’s life. Does everyone like the area? Is it going to be hard to drag your kids up there? Or will they be begging to go up every weekend?
2. Choose the Right Area in PNW
You might find the perfect home but it’s not in an ideal location. This could mean that it’s too far away from your current home and you might not want to make the drive very often.
Or it’s not exactly what you had envisioned. Maybe it’s in the mountains, but you kind of wanted something on the water. Or it’s in the country, and you’d be more comfortable near more action/excitement.
There’s not an ultimate vacation home area. It really depends on your family. What is ideal for one family might not be ideal for your family.
3. Is your PNW Vacation Rental an Investment Property?
Another thing to keep in mind is whether you are buying it as an investment property. If so, you’ll want to take a look at the area and see if homes have steadily increased in value.
4. What Improvements Do You Need to Make to your PNW vacation rental?
And something that is easy to overlook is the fact that some homes will require some additional investment. After your inspection, you might realize you need to replace the roof, or do extensive repairs on the property.
Or maybe you’d like to renovate the outdated bathrooms or remodel the kitchen to make it more functional.
Make sure you are factoring that in as you think about your complete vacation rental budget.
5. How Often Will You Be Using it?
Another thing to keep in mind is how often your family will be using this vacation home. And be realistic.
Are you picturing your family going up every weekend? Once a month? On school breaks? Just during the summer? If your plan involves other people, make sure to ASK them for realistic estimates on how often they will want to go.
And decide if you want to rent it out during high season or use it yourself. That will affect your income, but it might also be the best time to enjoy it yourself.