Keeping Your Smoky Mountain Vacation Rental Property Competitive and Marketable

Staying Marketable in a Competitive Market

There are well over 25,000 overnight accommodations for vacationers in the Smoky Mountain region of East Tennessee. There are hotels and motels, resorts, condos and time-shares, campgrounds, and of course...short-term rental properties like cabins and chalets.

It’s no secret: the short-term vacation rental marketplace is hyper-competitive!

Moving forward, what threats in this market will impact YOUR vacation property’s revenue potential?

  • New property construction
  • Demographic and generational changes
  • Marquis brand hotels and resorts (Marriott, Hilton, etc.)
  • Having an outdated property

Let’s look at these in detail…

New Property Construction

Since the 2016 fires, we have seen a HUGE number of owners building new properties, in the fire areas and beyond. This new construction brings properties with NEW everything, from furniture to flooring to appliances and more. People like new, and new sells...and rents. 

While these are more expensive than an older rental property, today’s consumer is more likely to pay MORE for new amenities and spaces. 

Do you think your property can compete with a brand new property? If not – why not?

Demographic and Generational Changes

Today’s traveler is significantly different from the families and couples who visited here 20, 15, or even just 10 years ago. They have many more choices and so many destinations competing for their vacation dollars. Many are members of travel and hospitality groups like Hilton Honor and Marriott Bonvoy. They have more discerning tastes and expect more for their overnight accommodations. 

Do you think your vacation property appeals to Generation Xers and Millennials? Will they like the décor? The amenities? The bedding and mattresses?

Marquis-Brand Hotels and Resorts 

20 to 25 years ago, the only hotels and motels here were locally owned, private inns. You might find a small Holiday Inn or Howard Johnson, but you didn’t see a lot of the major chains here. Over the past 5-10 years, that has changed. Now we see Marriott Fairfield, Ramada, La Quinta, Marriott Residence Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hyatt. Add specialty resorts like Margaritaville and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort, and that adds a lot of competition for your rental property. 

Why? Travelers today like hotel points, on-site amenities, and convenience. They also like the standardization of the in-room experience. Simply put, there are no surprises. They know what they are getting. 

It’s also rumored that soon we’ll see a full-service Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton here. 

Having an Outdated Property 

This is probably the biggest factor that’s keeping your overnight vacation rental property from reaching its full revenue potential! Many of the cabins in the area were built between the late ‘70s and the late ‘90s, and there have been several building lulls since then due to economic issues, lending problems, and market crashes. What was current and acceptable then (carpet, white builder-grade appliances, linoleum, wallpaper, etc.) is frankly not so acceptable now. 

When was the last time you updated your vacation rental property? If it’s been some time, or if you haven’t made any upgrades at all, please consider making some changes to make and keep your cabin competitive and marketable based on what travelers want in their vacation experience today. Here are a few items to consider replacing/upgrading: 

  • Carpet - Real hardwood isn’t your only choice; there are some nice high-end vinyl flooring options available today. They look great, are less expensive than hardwood, and are VERY DURABLE and WATERPROOF!

  • Old/outdated appliances - The white builder-grade appliances only have a lifespan of about 10 – 12 years, and when they break are too expensive to repair. It’s cheaper to replace, but you should have matching appliances -- preferably modern black or stainless steel. 
  • Kitchen and bathroom countertops - Nothing screams outdated like Formica. Do your property a favor and replace it with natural stone counters. Granite is appropriate and quite affordable now.
  • TVs  - This goes without saying, but if you still have tube style TVs in your cabin, don’t wait to replace them! TVs are very inexpensive, and bigger is better. We suggest at least a 42” in the living area, a 32” in the bedrooms, and a 50” for a game room/movie room. Guests will love it! 
  • Living and dining room furniture - Guests today like leather or faux leather living room furniture and sturdy and modern dining tables and chairs. If your living room furniture consists of a futon and old rocking chair, RUN  -- don’t walk -- to the nearest furniture store.
  • Sleeper sofas - If you have one, when was the last time you replaced the sleeper’s mattress? Ever? There are some comfortable, quality replacement sleeper sofa mattresses available. Want repeat guests? Make them comfortable!

  • Wallpaper and borders - Get rid of it as soon as possible! Remove it, paint over it (if you can), cover it with tongue and groove wood...just don’t keep it on the walls!

  • Drywall - If you are able, consider covering with some type of wood paneling or tongue and groove siding. Visitors to the Smokies want that classic wood interior. If you can’t replace it with wood, be sure you paint (and patch) on a regular basis. Stay away from creams and whites; stick with dark tans, taupes, or light greys for a modern look. 
  • Light fixtures and ceiling fans - There are some very nice, modern fixtures that will help update your cabin for a reasonable cost. Are your ceiling fan blades warped? Are the light kits old-fashioned? If so, replace them! 
  • Bedroom furniture - Bedroom furniture should match and be free from wear and tear. If it looks like it came from a consignment store, guests probably won’t give your cabin good reviews. And don’t neglect the mattresses! Their lifespan is about 5-6 years, depending on the quality. 
  • Games and amenities - If you have them, be sure they are updated and in GREAT working order. Re-cover pool tables and replace bumpers, add arcade games if you have space, and be sure your game room has an inviting atmosphere and good seating and tables for drinks.
  • Outdoor furniture, hot tub & grill - If these items are uncomfortable or worn out, replace them with the highest quality you can. Guests love a hot tub, and a sure way to get complaints is by having a shell full of calcium and hard-water deposits, broken jets, or a broken or cracked skirt. If you wouldn’t cook on your grill, neither will guests. The average grill life is about 2 summer seasons. 
  • Knick-knacks and extra stuff - The adage “less is more” applies to cabin rentals. Lots of decor on shelves, walls, dressers, or the floor make a cabin look messy. Consider decluttering because it won’t earn you more income! 
  • Outdoor living space - If your property has some flat space or has areas you can “wall and back-fill,” consider adding a high-end patio/firepit area! Guests today LOVE quality outdoor spaces where they can have a fire, grill out, and enjoy nature without actually camping. 

If you’re really serious about...

your vacation rental property

maximizing your rental income

getting your share of today’s market

...then consider bringing your property up to today’s standards! 

Our offer is simple: If you would like us to tour your cabin and provide an honest assessment of its conditions, and you’re open to suggestions, give us a call! It would be our pleasure to help make your property as profitable, competitive, and marketable as possible!