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Attention Vacation Rental Owners (and Potential Owners)!

April 21, 2021

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This Bonnemead Condo is the perfect example of a Santa Barbara home that would make a great vacation rental

In the words of David Bowie and Mick Jagger, “the summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the streets!” That sentiment couldn’t be truer right now for vacation rental owners in Santa Barbara and Montecito.

If you bought my Extensively Renovated Turnkey Bonnymede Condo pictured above and were planning to use it as a vacation home rental, you’d be setting yourself up for success. That’s because rentals in the popular vacation markets of Santa Barbara and Montecito are seeing record-high demand due to low inventory right now. In fact, this is the prime time for local landlords and those in other popular vacation spots to command a premium and set their own terms. It all has to do with COVID-19.

READ: Buying a Second Home? You Are Not Alone.

As the pandemic-related restrictions are lifted and more people in the U.S. receive their vaccinations, housing trends that have dominated the past year have remained intact. That demand has spilled over to the rental sector too. Simply put, demand in popular vacation areas is soaring, while inventory hovers near-record lows for both sales and rentals.

Putting International Travel On Hold

Many wealthy Americans have put their international travel plans on hold this summer due to the pandemic. That has created a major uptick for rentals in vacation markets like Montecito and Santa Barbara. Those owning a second home within driving distance of major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco are experiencing unprecedented demand.

READ: Buying a Santa Barbara Home During a Pandemic

This demand stems from a confluence of factors that are currently shrinking rental inventory. That includes the high number of would-be rental homes that have been snapped up for personal use by buyers over the course of the pandemic.

As a result, U.S. vacation markets like ours are experiencing the strongest price growth in the nation. This summer, vacation homeowners face limited options for their own summer travel plans. All of which means that owners who may not have previously considered renting out their properties are reassessing the idea, as they’re likely to command significant premiums and strike deals on their own terms. If there was ever a time to rent out your vacation home, now is that time, especially in the luxury sector.

The sundeck of a condo in Santa Barbara County with lounge and table looking out to the beach

Rentals Command Higher Prices, Longer Leases

For owners who once considered renting out their properties to be more trouble than it’s worth, this year, the cost-benefit calculus may skew in the other direction. And there is a very simple reason for the good news: vacation rental prices have increased.

READ: Ocean View Homes are Good for Our Health

In addition to shelling out for higher prices, affluent vacation home renters are often looking for longer-than-usual stays, meaning that in many cases, owners can set a minimum length of rental that they’ll consider, and have their terms met. Renter willingness to extend stays through the spring and fall season also creates further opportunity for vacation rental owners to max out the value of theirs this year.

The rush to lock down summer rentals resulted in the current high demand, even in areas that aren't typically as busy, creating a moment of opportunity for homeowners who may not have previously sought out summer tenants for their properties. Faced with a lack of options, many renters are now unusually willing to compromise on both location and amenities.

A beautiful tree next to a home covered with lush bougainvillea that sits right on the beach with the sparling ocean in the backround

Tips To Successfully Rent Your Home as a Vacation Rental

Anyone with the qualifications can buy a home intending to rent it year-round. There so many factors that go into making the decision to rent out your home. The fact that in-between rentals, you can block off the few weeks you want to use it is just one of the benefits to keep in mind. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your homework. Whether you want to rent your home out for a few weeks a year, or all year long, the fact is you need to attract the right guests. So how do you do that? Here are some tips to follow:

  • List With the Most Popular Vacation Rental Websites
    If you want guests, you need to get your home in front of people looking to rent a luxury vacation rental in your area. This means listing with the most popular sites. They are:
    Vacation Home Rentals

READ: Passive Income: 10 Ideas for Building Wealth While Sitting on the Beach

  • Use Professional Photographs of Your Home
    When listing their home, vacation rental owners need to put on their marketing hats. After all, there is a lot of competition out there. You need your vacation rental to stand out. That’s why I recommend you hire a professional. I would be happy to make some recommendations of the professionals I work with for any of my upscale clients.
  • Write a Captivating Property Descriptions to Attract Your Ideal Guests
    After the photos, the property description is your best sales tool. Frame the write-up so that your property appeals to your preferred guests. Feel free to get ideas from listings similar to yours on the websites above.
  • How Much to Charge
    In this climate, the sky’s the limit…within reason. But remember, the price you set at the beginning can always change. Here’s a good rule of thumb: once you have six to ten positive reviews, increase the price a little. Continue increasing the price for every six to ten positive reviews
  • How to Get the All-Important Positive Review
    A certain way to generate reviews is to ask for them. It’s simple. When guests leave, email them with a thank you and ask them to leave a review. Be sure to make it easy by including the link so they don’t have to search on their own. This is important because prospective guests read reviews carefully. Therefore, all else being equal, properties with positive reviews will enjoy higher demand.
  • Turning Inquiries Into Sales
    Respond quickly with a personal touch. Always be polite and professional.
  • How to Avoid Nightmare Guests
    If someone’s inquiry is rude or you get a hunch they aren’t a good fit, politely decline the offer. You are not obligated to rent your home to everyone who asks. You can decline an offer.

If all of the above sounds like too much work, vacation rental owners frequently hire local Vacation Property Managers. They’ll help you in everything from setting the right price and marketing your property to the right audience, to managing the property and being on call 24/7.

Rules for Vacation Rentals in Santa Barbara

While becoming a vacation home landlord isn’t a responsibility to stumble into without performing one’s due diligence, vacation rental owners should consider factors including local taxes on rental income, how tenants plan to use their home, and any local restrictions on short-term rentals. The city is broken into certain zones and some require review and approval.

There are different rules in surrounding communities so be sure to check them out. Meantime, the following requirements apply to the operation of all vacation rentals along the American Rivera:

Those who live in surrounding communities will also find info on the SBAOR regarding short-term rentals. Keep in mind, each community has different rules so be sure to check them out.

For instance, there are several hoops a potential landlord must jump through in the bedroom community of Goleta. These rules pertaining to the blossoming vacation rental industry take the owner of the property, the short-term vacationer, and the neighbors into consideration. Here is what you need to keep in mind should you have a property in the college town and are considering applying for a short term vacation rental permit:

  • Nuisance Response Plan
  • Transient Occupancy Tax Application for Certificate Registration
  • Surety bond in the amount of $1,500
  • Permit Application fee of $75.00
  • Declaration of Notification (as proof that all properties within 200 feet have been mailed the Public Notice of Short-Term Vacation Rental Application)
  • General Business License Application. If a business license has already been obtained, the business license number needs to be provided on the permit application.

Carpinteria (or Carp)
Meantime, the City of Carpinteria, known as Carp to locals and recognized for its small-town feel and relaxed ambiance, has well-defined geographic boundaries in its Short-Term Rental Ordinance. That is designed to retain the community’s sophisticated charm. There’s also a quantitative cap created to limit the location and number of short-term rentals there. Every vacation rental license in Carp is considered personal to the applicant/owner. That means the permit automatically expires upon sale or transfer of the premises or residential unit.

Here are the minimum vacation rental requirements in Carp pulled directly from the website:

  1. The owner or property manager must live or work within thirty (30) miles of the premises and be able to respond to tenant and/or public concerns about the vacation rental at all times during which a residential unit is being rented as such.
  2. All advertisements for the vacation rental shall list the City's vacation rental license number and the current transient occupancy tax rate which applies to the rental of the unit.
  3. The owner shall maintain adequate and appropriate, including and not limited to fire, hazard and liability insurance.
  4. The property shall be provided with adequate waste collection facilities at all times. Waste bins and refuse shall not be left within public view, except in proper containers for the purpose of collection on the scheduled collection day(s). The waste collection schedule and information about recycling and green waste separation and disposal shall be included in the rental agreement and posted conspicuously in the rental unit.
  5. The residential unit shall not be rented or used for events, such as weddings, commercial activities or sales events.
  6. Occupants of the vacation rental shall be prohibited from creating unreasonable noise or disturbances, engaging in disorderly conduct or violating provisions of federal, state or local law.
  7. At all times a unit is in use as a vacation rental, the owner's or property manager's contact information shall be posted on the outside wall near the entrance of the unit, in a format provided by the City.
  8. At all times a unit is in use as a vacation rental, a notice shall be posted on the interior of the front door of the vacation rental, in a form approved by the City, which notes the vacation rental license number, transient occupancy tax rate, property owner or property manager contact information, and any additional information as required by the City as a part of the vacation rental license.
  9. The owner shall maintain an active business license, transient occupancy tax certificate and any other applicable licenses and permits, in addition to the vacation rental license, pursuant to Carpinteria Municipal Code, at all times that the residential unit is used or advertised as a vacation rental. A copy of the business license shall be posted on the interior of the front door of the residential unit.
  10. The maximum occupancy of a vacation rental shall be determined by the City and not exceed two occupants per unit, plus two occupants per bedroom. A bedroom is a room that is designed to be used as a sleeping room and for no other primary purpose and must meet the requirements of the Carpinteria Municipal Code for such. The vacation rental license shall specify the maximum number of occupants allowed at the vacation rental.
  11. The owner shall by written agreement, limit the number of vehicles of occupants to the number designated in the vacation rental license issued by the City; the number of vehicles shall be determined by the City at the time of application, taking into consideration the number of available parking spaces on the site.
  12. A home occupation may not be conducted in any residential unit for which a license has been issued to use the residential unit as a vacation rental.
  13. The owner shall ensure that the vacation rental complies with all applicable codes regarding fire, building and safety, and all other relevant federal, state and local laws and ordinances.
  14. Availability of the rental unit to the public shall not be advertised on the premises.
  15. The City Manager shall have the authority to impose additional operating standards, applicable to all vacation rentals, as necessary, to achieve the objectives of this title. A list of all additional standards shall be maintained and on file in the Office of the City Clerk and such offices as the City Manager designates.
  16. Upon reasonable notice, each owner and agent or representative of any owner shall provide access to each vacation rental and any records related to the use and occupancy of the vacation rental to the City Manager at any time during normal business hours, for the purpose of inspection or audit to determine that the objectives and conditions of this chapter are being fulfilled.”

Surrounding Unincorporated Communities in Santa Barbara County
In Santa Barbara County, there are no current rules affecting short-term vacation rental owners within the unincorporated areas of the County. Homeowners need a business license for a short-term vacation rental. The County is currently working on creating an ordinance that addresses the topic.

READ: Considering Buying a Vacation Home? Read This First!

If you are looking to buy a home in this area to use as a vacation rental, I have many options to show you. Representing the highest level of clientele and specializing in the sale and acquisition of extraordinary estates and land in Montecito, Santa Barbara and Hope Ranch, I urge all my clients who own second homes here to take advantage of the current market. Give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at

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Client Reviews

“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

“Cristal is a pleasure to work with! Her knowledge of the local real estate market coupled with her amazing listening skills resulted in her showing us an array of homes that were all excellent choices. Her low-pressure patient attitude made us feel extremely comfortable with the whole process. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

- M.F.

“Cristal Clarke is #1 in her field - and you don't become #1 by luck. Cristal works harder, and longer, and with more charm and patience than any real estate agent I have ever worked with in the past; her calendar has no weekend, her days have no clocks, her only concern is selling your property as soon as possible and for the best price on the market. Am I a fan? You bet!”

- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch