A look at the business of vacation rentals in Oceanside

A look at the business of vacation rentals in Oceanside
For some residents, homeowners associations play a more restrictive role than the city does when it comes to regulating short-term vacation rentals. Courtesy photo

OCEANSIDE — As the city continues to mull over how it will regulate short-term vacation rentals moving forward, The Coast News decided to take a look at how various people are doing business within that realm and how proposed regulations might affect them.

Longtime Oceanside resident Bill Batchelor owned and operated a vacation-rental business called Steps 2 the Sand that, at its peak, had 16 properties in the area. But he recently decided to merge with a much bigger player, Vacasa, which is the largest vacation-rental management company in North America.

Batchelor was drawn to the technology and resources that Vacasa, which manages about 11,000 properties worldwide, could bring to the table. For instance, he said that Vacasa is capable of coordinating bookings across 30-plus websites. As a smaller operator, he couldn’t pull off that level of advertising without running the risk of a disastrous double booking.

“Vacasa’s large support system helps me run my business on another scale, yet it still feels very local,” Batchelor said. He no longer has to dash over to a property at 9 p.m. to fix a leaking faucet, a perk he enjoys after being acquired by a corporation that supplies maintenance, management and cleaning staff.

This Oceanside vacation home can be rented via Vacasa, which manages more than 11,000 properties worldwide. Vacasa recently partnered with Oceanside businessman Bill Batchelor, acquiring his company called Steps 2 the Sand. Photo courtesy of Vacasa

For the most part, Batchelor, whose managed properties are a mixture of high-end and mid-priced vacation rentals, seemed unfazed by Oceanside’s plans to introduce new regulations. New rules might include a minimum stay of three or five days, additional permitting fees and a cap on occupants — with two allowed per bedroom plus two more per unit maximum. He said, “As the ways that people travel and vacation change, cities have to make sure that they’re also evolving to fit their own communities’ needs.”

Tracy Anderson, public relations manager for Vacasa, said California’s regulations on a city-by-city basis can be “tricky” to navigate, but she said Vacasa was dedicated to being “good partners” with the cities, like Oceanside, where it does business.

On a smaller scale, attorney Alexandra McIntosh owns one vacation rental: a two-bedroom, one-bath, 1940s bungalow that is a five-minute walk to the beach. McIntosh said the proposed minimum stay would hit her hard. Many of her clients from Los Angeles, for example, just want to stay for a weekend.

The three- or five-day minimum would be “unfair” to homeowners like McIntosh, she said, and would “have a dramatic negative impact on Oceanside” financially. The city collects a 10 percent Transient Occupancy Tax on vacation rentals as well as a 1.5 percent Oceanside Tourism Marketing District fee. “The city should be careful about what it regulates,” McIntosh noted.

She’s already had frustrating experiences with the city regarding her property, as previously reported by The Coast News. McIntosh accused Oceanside’s then-Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery of abusing the powers of his office to expedite a slew of complaints Lowery had filed against her vacation-rental home and others in the neighborhood where he lives.

Unlike the properties that Batchelor and Vacasa manage, which have occupancy rates around 80 percent, McIntosh’s vacation rental is full about 50 percent of the time. She estimates that the revenue covers roughly half of the home’s overhead, such as the mortgage and property tax. McIntosh eventually plans to move into the home when she retires and sells her larger primary home in Carlsbad.

For some residents, homeowners associations play a more restrictive role than the city. The Vista Montana Homeowners Association that oversees 22 homes in the Sea Mesa neighborhood of Oceanside, for instance, imposes a 30-day minimum stay. That limits vacation-rental options but ensures a certain community character.

One homeowner there, Taya Lazootin, who was once the board president of the HOA, said, “Short-term vacation rentals are obviously great for homeowners because they provide an excellent way to make money, but on the flip side, as a member of the community I might not like all the traffic coming and going from the cul-de-sac.”

Lazootin said the “quiet, private feel” of the neighborhood is what made her want to purchase a home there in the first place. As such, she supports the HOA’s position.

She is considering renting her second bedroom through Furnished Finder, a site that specializes in rentals for traveling professionals, such as nurses, who need a place to live for a few months. Lazootin, a community college professor, explained, “I’m looking for a way to supplement my income while having the option to no longer have a roommate when I don’t want or need one again.”

One aspect Lazootin, McIntosh and Batchelor have in common is they are monetizing properties in ways that favor the temporary over the permanent. For while they want to hold on to their homes, or the ones they manage, on a long-term basis, they’re happy to see their clients come and go.

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