When it comes to furnishing a rental home, you have a nearly blank slate. So how do you narrow your focus when you can do anything with a space?

Keeping these two factors in mind as you plan ahead can give you a helpful framework when it comes to making decisions about furniture, decor, and other accessories:

  • It’s ultimately not about you—it’s about your guests and what they’ll need to have a great stay. Prioritize their comfort rather than your personal preferences.
  • Your guests are on vacation; even the most price-conscious traveler will still want their getaway to feel special.

This doesn’t mean you need to blow your budget to have a well-furnished property. In this post, we’ll look at how you can start the process and be strategic when you start shopping.

Start by identifying your ideal guest

Do you know who your ideal guest is? Finding a niche should be part of your marketing strategy - and if you are going to furnish your rental property in a way that meets their needs, you need to be clear on who “they” are. For example:

  • Is your space appropriate for families with kids?
  • Can you accommodate people with mobility issues?
  • What’s the local environment: Urban? On the beach? In the mountains?
  • What activities will people do while they’re there?

Each of your answers will help you choose photos that reflect your target market, write property descriptions that resonate, and choose furniture that reflect your guests’ needs.

Another important aspect to consider: How you’ve positioned your short-term rental in the marketplace. Your property description, photos, and features make an impression. Your decor is what brings that image to life. Cutting corners can create a gap between what your customers expect and what you deliver, which then puts your reputation and your brand at risk.

Set a budget for furnishing a rental property

Rental property budgets can vary significantly - and so can the cost of furniture. However, there are a few best practices to keep in mind before you go shopping.

Include a buffer. It isn’t hard to underestimate what it will cost to get a rental property set up. Even with your list of vacation rental basics, you’re bound to miss something. Leave room in your budget for extras.

Know when to splurge. Some things are worth the extra money - especially when it comes to buying quality items to help minimize wear and tear. But you don’t need to splurge on everything. Consider these questions:

  • Will an item be used a lot (e.g. dining table)?
  • How visible will it be (e.g. couch)?
  • Will guests notice the quality (e.g. mattress)?

Your guests may not notice a couple extra inches on a TV, but an uncomfortable bed - or poor quality sheets - could drag down their entire vacation.

Plan for extras. If something is in regular use—such as sheets, towels, dishes, glassware—have a few extras on hand so that as they break, stain, or otherwise wear out you’ll have new ones to quickly swap in. For example, the designers at 1 Chic Retreat recommend three sets of bedsheets: One in use, one in the wash, and one in the closet.

Focus on design and detailed touches

Identifying a theme and color scheme for your vacation rental will make the decision-making process significantly easier. Remember your ideal guest? This is another decision that taps into who they are, what they’ll expect, and what you can do to go beyond their expectations.

Let’s say your vacation rental home is near a theme park and practically guaranteed to get families in the door. What will they need for their vacation to run smoothly? Providing a crib, high chair, child-sized chairs, kid-friendly dishes, a few dress-up costumes, and a well-stocked first aid kit may not be essential, but if it makes life easier it will leave a good impression. And that helps build your business over the long term.

What sort of theme will be a good fit? Your property may already lean toward a particular style - the airy vibe of whites and blues may serve a beach house well - but if not, pick one that seems a good fit for your ideal guests.

Design magazines, websites like Pinterest and Houzz, and shows such as Netflix’s “Stay Here” can be great sources of inspiration.

DIY or hire a pro?

To put together a comprehensive shopping list, step into your guests’ shoes. Start from the front door, consider the property room by room, and make a list of everything that comes to mind. Also consider:

  • How will the list change through different seasons or different types of weather?
  • How will the list change for different types of guests with varying needs?

If you have the flexibility, consider hiring a pro instead of the hands-on DIY approach. Many designers cater to the vacation rental industry and can give you the scoop on smart choices - and suppliers - for the local area. And if you aren’t ready or able to hire a designer, keep in mind that your competitors might! Another alternative: Get one-off design advice through sites like Swatchpop.

Where to buy your vacation rental furniture
Auctions, estate sales, and garage sale sites like Craigslist often surface high-end items at an affordable price. Another popular option for furnishing a rental property? Online retailers. In the U.S., Overstock and Amazon are popular choices for their competitive pricing and broad selection. Outside the U.S., there are many other retailers to choose from.

Ready to get started? When you know how to furnish a vacation rental home wisely, you end up with smart, good-quality pieces that will last longer, function well, and help your guests have a truly memorable visit.