Rental my property
"I probably got many personalities living in my head and they all have to pay rent, OK?" - Shangela
For the last few years when someone from North America, especially from the USA, said to me the words
"I want to be an investment home that produces a good income" I would have promptly replied with a completely straight face and an honest answer,
"Then you are looking in the wrong place. Your government is practically providing you free money with fixed mortgage rates under 4% some as low as 2%. Go home and find an apartment complex or a place in a high rental market. A place where the rent is 2 to 3 times what your mortgage cost is and hold onto it."
There has never been a better time to buy property in the USA than in the last few years. Prices were also rising so you were gaining capital appreciation. My final statement was Roatan is a lifestyle choice. If you are not buying to live here a good percentage of the year or making sure that you have a place set for your retirement then there are plenty of NFT/bitcoin opportunities elsewhere in the world.
Roatan is not a place to buy for rental income unless you want to own a hotel, build a group of cabanas on the beach, etc. In other words, you are bringing capital and just want to live here with an income stream. The pricing has been pretty static over the last decade since the "great recession" with only people who bought after that period gaining real capital appreciation. Renting property is real on-the-spot work. Property needs constant attention as do your guests. Tourism has slow seasons. These do not add up to a reliable income in most cases. I say most cases because of course there are exceptions which I will get to soon.
Roatan is a place you purchase for a lifestyle choice. If you are a snowbird and want to avoid the Canadian winter months then it makes a wonderful alternative to winter life up north and if you rent your place during the summer months and make enough to cover your ongoing costs then that is great. Some people avoid staying in their own homes during the high season here from December until after Easter and make enough in that period to cover their stay the rest of the year when rental income would be low to negligible. There are many situations where rentals work but unless you are doing at a hotel/resort business then it is a lifestyle choice.
There are three types of rentals in Roatan. Tourists, short-term and long-term.
Tourists are your AirBNB, your one-week visitors for who you can charge premium dollars each night, especially in the high season. Short-term are your snowbirds who may want a place for a few weeks to 6 months. Long-term are residents, people who are working legally or illegally and are keeping the economy of Roatan moving.
Residents provide you with stability but a lot lower incomes. Generally, rents are offered as rent plus utilities. This is simply because of the high cost of power and someone using it stupidly can pay more for electricity than they do for rent.
What makes for a good rental property? All you have to do is forget it is your place and think about what the majority of people want when they go on vacation. As always I am going to state what seems like the obvious but surprisingly is not.
Somewhere overlooking the sea or a place you can sit on the deck surrounded by beautiful flowers whilst enjoying the sunset.
You can enjoy a pool or swimming area without the associated noise of people nearby.
Close to entertainment
If you can walk to bars and restaurants and with the more choices the better.
Close to the beach
If you are on the beach or can be there in a short walk. A personal choice as I know those that want to step out of their vacation spot onto the beach and those that like to be a little distance from all the people.
Being close to entertainment is great as long as it does not keep you up at night.
Nothing puts people off more than a place that is not kept up or seems dirty.
Depending on the location and type of rental. Everything from just a water dispenser to a stove and fridge might be considered useful if not essential.
Everyone wants peace of mind when they are on vacation.
The quality of the furnishings, bedding, artwork
Is it beautiful surroundings be it the sea, beach or gardens people want beautiful spots to relax and enjoy their vacations
This is not a sacrosanct list, for instance, many successful rentals are far from the beach but in a beautiful location, and the type of renters that it attracts always rent cars so they have no concerns about its location. It is, however, a very good guide to how rentable your property is in general the fewer you have on this list the less likely you are to get consistent occupancy and that is the real key to making money renting. Consistent occupancy.
I have seen buyers of property pull up an AirBNB in front of me. Choose what they believe is an equivalent property, look at the overnight price of $90, and say something along the lines of
"Assuming 80% occupancy we have 365days*80%*$90 so that is over 30K in revenue I can be receiving."
There are so many unfounded or better yet unresearched assumptions in that one sentence I often do not know where to start.
As I so often write in my articles, ask an expert and in this case, an expert is someone who already owns a unit like the one you want and is NOT trying to sell it to or a service they provide. The real experts are the property managers which is why it would be good to meet several to listen to each one's feedback about the place you own. The best, of course, is years of rental history but for a myriad of reasons that are not available or in my opinion only to be trusted when done by one of the rental management firms on the island and not the owner of the property themselves.
Let's deconstruct the sentence bit by bit. I live in West Bay, a great rental area. I am familiar with several rentals close to the beach and some make good money. Using an imaginary example that is based on an actual property I am familiar with. It cost the owner a few years back about 200K USD. It is a 2 bedroom with AC, not too far from the beach. It has kitchen facilities and is appointed with comfortable furnishings. It does not have much ambiance but it is close to entertainment and is very secure. There is no pool but again the beach is very close.
Now they are booked solid pretty much every high season from mid-November to the end of Easter generating about 20K in revenue for 5-6 months. For the rest of the year, it is too unreliable to predict with the owner being happy just to cover their HOA fees and maintenance costs from the rest of the year. The HOA is about 2K a year and the electricity costs with renters is about $400 a month. Remember electricity is expensive here and a lot of rental places require a refundable deposit on the electricity bill in case you can't switch off the AC while you are at the beach. Their costs per month from the HOA and electricity average about 600 but can go as high as 800 with occupancy
Their income is now about 17K for the period. They will need a rental agency as they are not on the island while it is rented so they will lose 20-30% of revenue just in commission. So now their revenue is $12K before costs. What costs? Well if you have owned a home you know what it costs. Everything from wall paint to toilet paper. Taxes to the internet. Replacement ACs to plumbing emergencies. So now you have a 200K unit that might give 10K in revenue. That's an ROIU of 5%. Though honestly, I think I am being generous. In my experience, the top rental returns give an ROI of about 5-6% but if you know differently please tell me as I am always willing to learn.
Did I mention there is a 19% tax on all rental revenues? No? well, you are supposed to pay 19% on all monies earned via rent and lots of management companies will enforce that as they wish to stay legal. Lots of owner-operators of course do not.
Roatan is a lifestyle choice
Let me pitch the same unit to you in a completely different way. Say you lived somewhere in the USA where you enjoyed the winter but not the summer. Where Winter weather was perfect but summer was too hot and too crowded. You could buy a unit for 200K here. Rent it out when you like to live in your hometown and then come down for the rest of the year when the unit is rarely rented. Suddenly you have a place to stay that saves you a lot of outgoing rental money that you would spend as a visiting tourist and when you were not here the unit makes a healthy income stream. This is why I often tell people it is a lifestyle choice.
You don't come here to make money, you come here to enjoy your money!
Another point of contention is the management agencies. When people start a conversation with the words
"Do I need one?"
A strange blank stare comes over my face.
"No of course not I say", followed a little later by, "as long as you live here and want to work for a living."
What does a rental agency do?
They do a lot. First, a good one is helping you book the place. So they take photos, and they have the marketing and systems in place to market, book, and take monies on your behalf. Honestly, that is the easy bit but they have probably spent years mastering marketing.
Then depending on the agency:
They arrange for the client to be picked up,
They check them in they check them out
Explain how the location works
Maybe give them a local cell phone with lists of emergency numbers including their own!
They have the place cleaned after the last guest trashed the place.
They chase the last guest for damages
They monitor electricity usage.
Gardening and pool maintenance
They pay your bills, internet, electricity, water, HOA, property taxes,
They employ exterminators for termites and other pesky bugs>
They check your property regularly to see if it is OK or has issues.
If there are issues or emergencies they handle them.
They have maintenance crews and cleaning crews so minor issues can be taken care of quickly.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you have many different unknown people going through your property i.e. your guests and each person has to be individually treated with respect and courtesy.
The managers also itemize everything they spend on maintaining the place from toilet paper, and cleaning products to AC repairs or emergency plumbers as you are still responsible for all costs and every cost that is needed to be spent to maintain the property.
So how much do they charge you?
The cost varies!
I love comprehensive and meaningless answers.
There are several good well-established agencies on the island and as I have said multiple times, do your research and ask around to get as much feedback as possible. Interview them yourself to see how comfortable you feel working with them and for them to tell you if your place is even rentable. Some places won't take places they do not think will rent. Others don't care as they charge a monthly fee regardless. I can not give you anyone's actual costs as that would be way too complex but here are just some of the different ways you may be charged.
First, assume you will pay for every expense of the house separate from what I am about to say. So that goes from cleaning, plumbing, painting, electrical, and any kind of service your property needs. Also that you will be responsible for all utilities at the end of the day. Some services may collect them for you etc but they will still be in your name. Lastly, anything that needs replacing is charged to you sometimes with a shopping surcharge.
Now having said that the costs you are likely to incur depend on the type of rental and may go as low as 15% commission for long-term tenants from 6 months to a year or as much as 30% for overnight stayers. In addition, a lot of places charge you a monthly service fee. This covers them in the months where you do not have any renters but the place still needs to be checked on and maintained ready for any renter that may come along.
As you can see it is extremely difficult for anyone to tell you how much return a place will produce unless they have the actual figures from that place or a similar condo or house nearby. Renting is also a bit of an art as you need to respond quickly to price changes to maximize your profits and keep occupancy high by lowering the price sometimes.
Where do I find property managers?
Below is a list in no particular order of some property managers on the island; they are just the prominent ones. There are more I am sure and if they wish to be listed please as always contact me.
+1 (970) 300-4078
+504 9445 6139
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