As the pandemic lingers into the summer months, real estate investors are carefully examining their portfolios and identifying growth opportunities. While single-family or multifamily rentals may not be as lucrative as rents decline, rental management site Rented Inc.’s said investors might find their golden egg in Florida’s vacation rental market.

According to Rented’s latest market report with Weiss Analytics, published on Monday, vacation properties along the Florida Panhandle offer the best return on investment, due to a relatively low cost of ownership and acquisition cost matched with healthy short-term revenue potential, annual home value appreciation and future asset value gains.

The top 20 markets for vacation rentals. Credit: Rented, Inc.

The Florida Panhandle, which includes Tallahassee and Pensacola, received a score of 98.7 out of 100, which reflects the robust return on investment for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family home.

The South Jersey Shore (93.4), the Pennsylvania Poconos (93.0), the Smoky Mountains (77.8), and Central Texas (77.7) round out the top five best places to invest, while the Idaho Panhandle (33.8), St. Simons, Georgia (32.6); Killington, Vermont (31.5); Summit County, Colorado (29.4); and El Paso, Texas (13.9) ranked at the bottom.

“Our findings uncover the most lucrative locations to buy real estate where the cost of ownership is outweighed by the returns vacation rentals provide,” Rented, Inc. CEO Andrew McConnell explained in a prepared statement. “Hospitality is still front and center, but it’s become clear that there is more to vacation rental investment management than finding a property and someone to keep things clean.”

To stay competitive, the report said investors must invest in smart home technology to accommodate renters who are working during extended stays. Furthermore, investors must be able to offer a seamless, totally digital experience, as travelers aim to reduce in-person contact during the pandemic, it added.

“Our bustling global economy came to a screeching halt with the travel industry at the center of near collapse,” the report read. “What we’re seeing now is two years of innovation happening in a quarter. Remote work, video conferencing, longer stays, and no-contact check-ins, once optional, are now essential.”

Looking forward, McConnell said the markets included in this list are expected to thrive, despite the coronavirus.

“The list is designed to be an initial guide for sellers, buyers, and owners of short-term and long-term vacation rental properties,” he noted. “Over the longterm, Rented is expecting most trends that were already occurring to accelerate: the slowing of the lease-arbitrage trend, more cautious [venture capitalist] investments, the increasing ability for remote work and broad adoption of US travelers using private accommodation.”

“This year’s projections include an 18-month COVID impact,” he added. “Fly-to and urban markets have taken the most substantial revenue hit, but these are short term and might provide more negotiating power in real estate purchases.”

Email Marian McPherson

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