Best Places To Buy A Vacation Rental

Instead of purchasing tenant properties, many real estate investors are turning to the short-term rental market instead. According to Travel + Leisure, a good vacation rental host is one that is engaged with their guests, going out of their way to take care of guests' every need. More importantly, think about these needs in advance. "We try to furnish our house with things we would want if we were to come into the space," interior designer and vacation rental owner Michelle Prentice told the magazine. "I like to drink out of nice glasses, so we provide good quality wine glasses and make sure there are decent knives in the kitchen drawer."

However, before you do any of these things, there is still one bigger thing to address: where to purchase your first vacation rental. The answer can change depending on your budget, as well as whether you want to manage your properties remotely or be on site to oversee anything. Here are a variety of locations with high tourism numbers, but vastly different vibes and price points.

Orlando, Florida

Because of all the tourist attractions in the Orlando area, purchasing a vacation rental in the area means an almost never-ending customer base. Major theme parks are always busy, meaning your property could be booked all year round. According to Disney Park Nerds, almost 60,000 people visit the Magic Kingdom every day, with approximately 30,000 each visiting EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. These massive numbers of daily guests don't include those at Universal Orlando properties, Disney Springs, and SeaWorld.

While many guests prefer to stay on park property, thousands of others search for off-resort accommodations. This could be particularly true of guests whose time in Orlando is part of a larger Florida vacation, or who are visiting family in the area in addition to enjoying the usual tourist attractions. Because of the temperate, tropical weather in Florida, there doesn't tend to be an off-season in Orlando. While certain times of year (like when children are in school) might be a little less busy, things never die down completely.

Barry County, Missouri

Barry County, Missouri is nestled in the far southwest of the state, touching the border with Arkansas and not too far away from Oklahoma, too. It's a popular tourist destination because this area is home to a great American getaway: Table Rock Lake. The summer season around the lake is especially busy, as families from all over the American midwest come to spend their vacations on the water. If your vacation home has a boat slip, even better, because many visitors bring their boats to enjoy fishing, water skiing, and simply cruising around. There is even a Pizza Hut with a boat dock, so you can coast right on up to it from the water.

According to the Columbia Missourian, local Roaring River State Park, also in the county, is the number one most visited park in the entire state. While some people come to fish and hike, others come to camp and enjoy nature. For others still, they would prefer a home to enjoy at the end of the day, instead of a campsite. That's where you come in! If you purchase in this area, May through September would be your busiest season.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is the perfect place to experience the Land of Enchantment, as New Mexico is called. It's also the perfect place to own a vacation home. According to Tourism Santa Fe, over 2 million people visit the town each year. The busiest months for visitors are July and August, but the city is still bustling with activity from April through October.

Santa Fe was founded in 1610, making it the second oldest city in the entire USA. Tourists are drawn to the area because of the desert vistas, winding streets with adobe buildings, and vibrant art scene. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is in Santa Fe, boasting a collection of thousands of the artist's beautiful paintings inspired by the local landscape and the feminine form. The opportunities for boutique dining in the area are also endless (via Frommer's). By purchasing a vacation rental here, you would be catering to families enjoying local hiking, couples on romantic getaways, and even single artistic types looking for a studio to create in.

The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a popular (and expensive) tourist destination, netting good returns for rental owners. According to Monroe County, the area relies heavily on tourism dollars to support its bottom line. In 2018, the tourism industry created 26,500 jobs within the county and generated $943 million in income between those jobs. By purchasing a vacation rental, you could be included in future income reports.

The idyllic islands are perfect for those who want to enjoy a lazy day on the beach swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing while spending their evenings at exquisite, exclusive restaurants. Depending on where you purchase, the price points and overall demographics of the tourists you cater to can vary wildly. Key West is in Monroe county, but it is almost 100 miles to the beginning of the Keys, Key Largo. Before purchasing, speak with local realtors to decide which area is truly best for your needs, as you might want to spend a few weeks a year enjoying your vacation rental yourself in such an idyllic location.

Rapid City, South Dakota

According to Visit South Dakota, about 13.5 million people visit the state every year and spend about $4.4 billion while they are there. Rapid City is in the far west part of the state and is the largest city near attractions like the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. These are very popular with tourists, especially domestic tourists.

"We have just got so many things for people to see and do," Julie Schmitz Jensen, President of Visit Rapid City, told Dakota News Now. "And, the people in Rapid City really appreciate visitors, so they're treated well." There is plenty to do in and around the city, too. For example, each of the USA's Presidents is cast in bronze and placed in the "Parade of Presidents" for visitors to interact with and enjoy. The summertime, from May through September, is the most popular time of year for visitors to the area. Winters in South Dakota are harsh and cold, which tends to deter visitors. However, the revenue from the bustling summer months could easily offset the slower months if you market your vacation rental appropriately.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Even outside of the Indy 500, millions of people visit Indianapolis each year. According to the Indy Star, almost 300,000 people visit the capital of Indiana each year around Memorial Day to enjoy one of the most famous events in car racing. There is just one catch: the city of Indianapolis only has about 33,000 hotel rooms. So, where are all of these excess people supposed to stay? Some might choose to stay out of town and drive in, but others have been known to offer residents thousands of dollars a night to just crash on their couch.

"If you want to make $500, $600 a night for your place, go ahead and list it," Ian McHenry, the president of Beyond Pricing, a firm that helps people set vacation rental rates, told the newspaper. However, the closer it gets to race day, the more desperate people tend to become, so prices continue to rise.

Burlington, Vermont

According to the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, 1 in every 10 jobs in Vermont is in the tourism sector, meaning owning a vacation rental in the state has the potential to be a very lucrative venture. If that much of the workforce is in tourism, it follows that there would be substantial demand for a well-kept vacation rental in a nice area.

In a study by researchers at the University of Vermont, the data also shows another promising statistic: most of Vermont's visitors come to the state more than once a year. Vermont has great ski resorts, so these numbers can be busy New Yorkers escaping the city for some fun on the slopes, or even Canadians enjoying the resorts without having to fly clear across their own country to the Canadian Rocky Mountains.  When purchasing a vacation rental in Vermont, also keep in mind the popularity of the area in the fall for those wishing to take in the beautiful fall foliage. It would be in your best interest to either purchase a property with deciduous trees, or plant them in anticipation of great photo opportunities for years to come.

Bar Harbor, Maine

So many people visit Acadia National Park and nearby Bar Harbor that the area often doesn't have enough accommodation to go around, meaning a new vacation rental would always be booked out. According to WABI5, each summer, the once sleepy Maine town sets a new tourism record. Local cafe owner Tim Rich told the news station that although things are always busy, the local business owners appreciate the tourists. "We also all have a lot of gratitude to the people who come here, and the love of the island and the love of Acadia National Park that they have," he said.

Acadia National Park is one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the United States, with about 3.5 million visitors each year (via MaineBiz). Some attractions, like the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, generate so much interest that parking is full and competitive, leading the National Parks Service to seek alternate arrangements. The area's busiest tourist season is when the weather is best, from May through to September. Maine winters are long and extremely cold, so tourism drops down during these times. However, if priced correctly, vacation rentals could easily hit their yearly budget with only a few months of occupancy during peak times.

Cedar City, Utah

When some people visit popular tourist destinations like Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park in Utah, they prefer to camp. However, there are also plenty of the millions of people who visit the two parks each year who prefer a hot shower and a comfy bed after a long day of hiking. This makes Cedar City, Utah (the town closest to the parks) a perfect location to purchase a vacation rental property. With the rise of the parks' popularity on social media, tourism in Iron County only continues to grow.

In fact, according to The Spectrum, Cedar City often goes by the moniker "Festival City" because of how often there is something fun going on in town. Those in the area are even adjusting their businesses to target more out-of-town guests. "They want to attract people with discretionary income," explained local Tourism Bureau Executive Director Maria Twitchell. "Visitors bring new dollars into the community. You don't want to just circulate existing dollars."

Maui, Hawaii

The Hawaiian islands in general are a great place to own a vacation rental, as the state is consistently overflowing with tourists. When selecting a specific island to purchase land, however, Maui is often touted as the best location in Hawaii. According to Maui News, roughly 3 million people visit the island each year and these visitors spend about $4 billion between them.

Named after the popular demi-god from Polynesian mythology, the island has some of the best tourist attractions in the state. These include historical points of interest like the Haleki'i-Pihana State Monument, The Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum, as well as the Lahaina Historic Trail. If you are looking for a place to purchase your vacation rental, consider looking near Ka'anapali Beach on the western side of the island, as it has some of the softest sand and best snorkeling in the world (via The Old Wailuku Inn). Many lodging options on Maui operate a bit like a bed and breakfast, so if you were interested in the possibility of living on-site at your vacation rental and assisting your guests, it may just be the perfect place for you.

New Orleans, Louisiana

A popular place for bachelorette parties and family getaways alike, New Orleans is always full of tourists. According to NOLA, the city is the biggest tourism draw in the state of Louisiana. This checks out, as well over 10 million people descend on the city each year to party on Bourbon Street, take a jazz cruise down the Mississippi, and enjoy a beignet at Cafe Du Monde. Visitors contribute billions of dollars to the state's economy each year. As a vacation rental owner, a portion of those dollars could be going into your pocket as well.

The French Quarter is the city's most popular tourist destination, so interested parties should look for homes as close to this area as possible. If not within walking distance, take public transportation into account and consider whether one of the city's famous streetcars could get your guests to their destination quickly and safely. Although New Orleans has many great hotels, one of the benefits of being a vacation rental owner is that the large groups who visit the city often want to stay in one place together. Instead of renting multiple hotel rooms and worrying about sleeping arrangements or noise, they would rather rent out a house to enjoy themselves (via New Orleans).

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is one of the most popular domestic tourist destinations for Americans. According to LIVE5 WCSC, tourism numbers in the area grew through the COVID-19 pandemic and just keep getting larger. Local tourism directors report that the numbers in November 2021 were 129% more than the same time in 2020, and 225% larger than in 2019. There are a number of conventions and events in the area that draw in tourists, as well as the historic downtown area. The classic painted houses of Charleston are particularly popular on social media. Add in a healthy dose of southern charm, and it's a destination that can't be beat. Because of the town's immense popularity, even being featured on Bravo's hit show "Southern Charm," vacation rental owners in the area can count on consistent bookings throughout the year.

Not only that, but if you buy a vacation rental in Charleston, you are also likely to see some tax benefits if you also live locally. "We know from tourism dollars, it saves local taxpayers as much as $1,500 a year on local and state taxes. And that they save that much money from their own pocketbook, because tourists come here," said Mark Stevens, a local tourism director.

Austin, Texas

Home of Sixth Street, the Austin City Limits music festival, and South by Southwest, there is always something going on in Austin. According to Visit Austin, more than 30 million Americans visit the city each year, and countless more international visitors. It's the southern version of the city that never sleeps and is even home to some of the biggest sporting events in the USA, like the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix race.

Austin has long been a place for a quick getaway but is growing rapidly as a place to live and work as well. Luckily, there are still plenty of great places to live in Austin, as well, if you prefer to manage your rental properties on-site. The city launched an ambitious new marketing plan in 2019 to further cement Austin's status as the #1 domestic destination. The city is rapidly adding new hotel rooms, with 12,000 alone in the downtown Austin area (via Visit Austin). As a vacation rental, you could be sure to have consistent bookings, as well as extremely competitive pricing during annual Austin events.

Pigeon Forge, Tennesse

Buying a vacation rental near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is a great way to nearly guarantee you're going to have steady bookings. According to the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism, only about 6,000 people actually live in the town. However, more than 10 million people pass through every year, and 2 million stay overnight. That means that each and every night, over 5,000 people need a place to sleep. Due to the great influx of temporary residents, the town maintains the utilities for a town of about 50,000 — almost 10 times its size. The city's main economic focus is tourism, as it brings in billions of dollars annually to the area.

The reason Pigeon Forge is so popular is because the town is nestled near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is a popular overnight point for tourists in the area. More importantly, it's also the home of Dollywood, Dolly Parton's 140-acre amusement park that attracts more than 2 million people a year all on its own (via PA Times).