Nicki & Karen

What Are STRs in Real Estate?

Nicki and Karen » January 15, 2024

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Shot of a garage door on a new home in Agoura Hills

In recent years, real estate investment has witnessed a significant surge in the popularity of Short-Term Rental (STR) properties. More individuals are turning to spare rooms, entire properties, or even unique accommodations to become lucrative assets for travelers fueled by the advent of platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO. This article delves into the intricacies of STR real estate, exploring its definition, advantages, and considerations that make it an attractive option for both seasoned investors and those entering the real estate landscape for the first time.

Understanding the dynamics of STR investments becomes paramount as the travel landscape evolves and the demand for unique and personalized accommodations rises. From the flexibility it affords property owners to the potential pitfalls in a highly competitive market, this exploration provides a comprehensive guide for investors looking to navigate the nuances of Short-Term Rental real estate. Whether you’re a seasoned investor evaluating a new strategy or a novice exploring your first foray into real estate, this article aims to equip you with the insights needed to make informed decisions in the dynamic world of STR investments.

Understanding STR Investments

A Short-Term Rental (STR) investment involves renting out a property for a short period, typically less than 30 days. The rise of online platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO has facilitated the ease with which property owners can list and rent their homes to travelers. This strategy, often called vacation rentals, is gaining popularity due to its flexibility and potential for higher profits.

Key Features of STR Properties

Short-term rental (STR) properties exhibit distinctive characteristics that set them apart in real estate. These properties typically accommodate stays of less than 30 days, making them ideal for travelers seeking temporary lodging. Facilitated by prominent platforms such as Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO, STRs encompass various property types, ranging from spare rooms in private residences to entire vacation properties. The hallmark of these rentals lies in their homey atmosphere, often boasting fully-equipped kitchens and other amenities that contribute to a comfortable stay.

STR vs LTR Investment: Which Is Better for First-Time Investors?

For individuals embarking on their maiden voyage into real estate investment, understanding the disparity between Short-Term Rentals (STRs) and Long-Term Rentals (LTRs) is paramount. This comprehension forms the foundation for informed decision-making in the dynamic realm of real estate.

Long-term rentals (LTRs) entail lease durations typically spanning six months or longer. This investment avenue offers investors a steady and predictable income stream facilitated by tenants committing to leases for specific periods. The allure of LTRs lies in the reduced turnover, as tenants commit to longer-term arrangements, minimizing the need for constant marketing efforts.

On the other hand, Short-Term Rentals (STRs) have shorter lease durations, often less than 30 days. While these rentals present the potential for higher returns, the income is susceptible to fluctuations due to demand variations. The dynamic nature of STRs demands increased marketing efforts to maintain a consistent influx of guests.

Pros and Cons of LTR Investments

Long-term rentals (LTRs) have advantages and disadvantages, shaping the landscape for potential investors.

Pros of LTR Investments:

  1. Steady Cash Flow: LTRs offer a reliable and predictable monthly rent, ensuring a consistent income stream.
  2. Home Value Appreciation: Over time, properties in lucrative markets have the potential to appreciate, contributing to a profitable return on investment.
  3. Less Turnover: Longer lease commitments reduce turnover, translating to lower operational costs.
  4. Fewer Operating Costs: Tenants often shoulder utility expenses, minimizing the financial burden on property owners.

Cons of LTR Investments:

  1. Property Management: Managing LTRs demands a significant investment of time and effort, encompassing tenant screening, rent collection, and property maintenance.
  2. Vacancy Risk: The risk of a property remaining vacant for a period poses a potential financial setback.
  3. Problematic Tenants: Dealing with challenging tenants can lead to stress and financial losses.
  4. Legal Issues: To avoid legal consequences, comply with various laws and regulations, including fair housing laws and local building codes.

Pros and Cons of STR Investments

Short-term rentals (STRs) offer distinct advantages and disadvantages, presenting a unique investment landscape.

Pros of STR Investments:

  1. Higher Rental Income: STRs have the potential for higher returns, especially in sought-after destinations with high demand.
  2. Flexibility: Property owners enjoy greater flexibility in using their property for personal purposes or renting it out on short notice.
  3. High Rental Demand: Vacation-friendly markets often experience robust demand for STRs.
  4. Tax Benefits: Similar to LTRs, STRs offer tax benefits, allowing property owners to leverage deductions for various expenses.

Cons of STR Investments:

  1. Seasonality: Fluctuations in demand throughout the year can challenge maintaining a consistent income.
  2. Increased Risk: STRs carry a higher risk of property damage by guests, necessitating thorough vetting of prospective renters.
  3. Higher Expenses: While STRs can yield higher rental income, they also entail increased expenses for cleaning, amenities, and aesthetic enhancements.
  4. Highly Competitive: The lucrative nature of the STR market contributes to intense competition among property owners, requiring unique offerings and exceptional service to stand out.

Understanding these aspects sets the foundation for evaluating which investment strategy aligns with specific goals, risk tolerance, and market conditions. We’ll explore how to find and analyze the right STR investment opportunities as we explore further.

toy house with keys on table

Advantages and Disadvantages of STR Investments

Short-term rental (STR) investments have advantages and disadvantages that potential investors must consider carefully. Evaluating these aspects is essential for making informed decisions and ensuring the success of an STR venture.

Advantages of STR Investments

  1. Higher Rental Income: Short-term rentals can generate higher rental income than long-term rentals, especially in sought-after vacation destinations or areas with high demand for Airbnb.
  2. Flexibility: As an STR property owner, you enjoy greater flexibility with your property, like personal vacations or renting out on short notice to generate income when not in use. Owners can choose when to accept guests.
  3. High Rental Demand: The rise of platforms like Airbnb has led to a significant preference for vacation rentals over hotels—STRs, generally more affordable and offering unique amenities, experience high demand in favorable markets.
  4. Tax Benefits: Similar to long-term rentals, STRs offer tax benefits since they operate as a business. Owners can take advantage of expense deductions, including mortgage interest, property taxes, insurance, repairs, and maintenance.

Disadvantages of STR Investments

  1. Seasonality: One of the challenges of STR investments is their highly seasonal nature. Demand can fluctuate throughout the year, making it challenging to maintain a consistent income. Location choice becomes crucial to mitigate the impact of off-peak seasons.
  2. Increased Risk: STRs come with increased risk, including potential property damage by guests and liability for accidents or injuries on the property. Relying on reviews from other hosts becomes crucial to assessing guest responsibility.
  3. Higher Expenses: STRs can generate higher rental income but involve higher expenses. Cleaning between guests, providing amenities, and maintaining an appealing property aesthetic contribute to operational costs.
  4. Highly Competitive: The lucrative nature of STRs has led to a highly competitive market. With hundreds of thousands of active hosts, standing out requires offering unique amenities and exceptional service. Location choice plays a crucial role in sustaining high demand.

Understanding these advantages and disadvantages empowers investors to make strategic choices based on their financial goals, risk tolerance, and the specific dynamics of the real estate market they are entering. These considerations will guide the decision-making process as we delve into finding a profitable STR investment.

Comparison: STR vs. LTR Investments

When venturing into real estate, one crucial decision is choosing between Short-Term Rentals (STRs) and Long-Term Rentals (LTRs). Each investment type comes with distinct characteristics, offering unique advantages and challenges. Let’s delve into a detailed comparison to help investors make an informed choice.

Income Stream Predictability

The pros of STR investments: STRs present several advantages regarding income potential and flexibility. One of the notable benefits is the higher potential income, particularly in prime locations and during peak seasons. Owners also enjoy the flexibility to adjust pricing and property usage based on demand and personal preferences. Additionally, with guests typically staying for a few days, STRs allow for a more dynamic income stream.

The cons of STR investments: However, the income from STRs can be variable due to factors like seasonality, competition, and average daily rates. This inconsistency challenges property owners seeking a steady and predictable income stream.

The pros of LTR investments: In contrast, Long-Term Rentals (LTRs) offer a more predictable income stream with tenants leasing for extended periods, often around 12 months. The stability derived from longer lease terms reduces the need for constant marketing and minimizes tenant turnover.

The cons of LTR investments: While LTRs provide stability, the income generated is generally lower compared to the potential of STRs. The extended commitment from tenants may limit the flexibility in adjusting rental rates based on market conditions.

Tenant Turnover

The pros of STR investments: Shorter stays in STRs lead to more frequent tenant turnover, creating opportunities for increased occupancy, which can benefit property owners looking to maximize income through a higher turnover rate.

The cons of STR investments: On the downside, the frequent turnover necessitates consistent marketing efforts to attract new guests and maintain a steady income. The continuous need for marketing can be demanding for property owners.

The pros of LTR investments: In LTRs, tenants usually commit to longer lease terms, resulting in a more stable tenancy, which reduces the turnover frequency and provides a sense of security for property owners.

The cons of LTR investments: However, the extended turnover periods, while less frequent, can involve longer vacancy periods between leases, potentially impacting the overall income stream.

Operating Expenses

STRs and LTRs share everyday operating expenses such as property management, taxes, insurance, and mortgage payments. However, due to the shorter stays, STRs may incur additional costs for frequent cleaning, property maintenance, and restocking amenities.

Similarly, LTRs involve everyday expenses, but utilities are often handled directly by tenants or included in monthly rents. With less frequent turnover, maintenance and repair costs are relatively stable in LTRs, providing property owners with a more predictable financial outlook.

Financing Options

Challenges in traditional financing for STRs arise due to income variability. Alternative options include asset-based loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), and cash-out refinancing, providing property owners diverse financing avenues.

In contrast, LTRs usually qualify for traditional financing with competitive interest rates and a standard down payment. This accessibility in conventional funding enhances the appeal of LTR investments, particularly for those seeking stability in their financing arrangements.

Understanding these key factors is crucial for investors to align their investment strategy with their financial goals, risk tolerance, and preferences. As we explore investing in STR real estate, this comparison lays the foundation for a well-informed decision-making process.

Aerial view of Conejo Valley homes

Choosing the Right Investment Strategy

Selecting the ideal investment strategy in the real estate landscape requires a thoughtful evaluation of your goals, risk tolerance, and personal preferences. When deciding between Short-Term Rentals (STRs) and Long-Term Rentals (LTRs), consider the following factors to make an informed choice tailored to your unique circumstances.

Investment Goals

If your priority is high-income potential, especially in popular tourist destinations or areas with consistent demand throughout the year, Short-Term Rentals (STRs) are a suitable choice. The flexibility to use the property personally, adjust pricing dynamically, and respond promptly to market changes makes STRs attractive.

For those seeking a stable and predictable income stream, Long-Term Rentals (LTRs) with longer lease terms may align better with financial objectives. LTRs often involve lower operational risks due to longer tenant stays, making them suitable for risk-averse investors.

Risk Tolerance

Investors comfortable with income variability influenced by seasonality and market fluctuations may find STRs suitable. Adapting to changing market conditions, competition, and varying guest preferences is essential for successful STR investments.

Investors preferring stability and a consistent income stream may find LTRs appealing. LTRs offer lower risk and are less susceptible to short-term market dynamics, making them suitable for those with a lower risk tolerance. LTR investors must be comfortable with longer lease commitments and less frequent tenant turnover.

Time Commitment

Active property management, marketing, and guest communication involvement is crucial for STRs. This investment is ideal for those willing to invest time in optimizing short-term stays and actively managing their properties.

In contrast, LTRs typically involve less frequent turnover, requiring less active management. LTR investments suit investors seeking a more hands-off approach and a less intensive time commitment.

Property Location

Invest in STRs if your property is in tourist hotspots with year-round appeal. Considerations such as proximity to attractions, safety, and entertainment options are crucial for the success of STR investments.

LTRs thrive in residential areas near schools, medical services, and business centers. This investment strategy is ideal for attracting long-term tenants, such as families and new residents needing stable residential arrangements.

Legal Considerations

Due to the dynamic nature of short-term rental regulations, investors must stay informed about local laws and restrictions. Ensuring compliance is crucial to avoid legal issues associated with STR investments.

LTR investors should be well-versed in landlord-tenant laws and fair housing regulations applicable in their location. Understanding and complying with these legal considerations are essential for a successful and legally sound LTR investment strategy.

Carefully weighing these factors will guide you toward choosing the investment strategy that aligns with your financial goals and preferences. Whether you opt for the dynamic returns of STRs or the stability of LTRs, a well-informed decision ensures a rewarding real estate investment journey.

How to Find Your First Profitable STR Investment

Embarking on your journey into Short-Term Rental (STR) investments requires strategic planning and meticulous research. To ensure your first venture into this lucrative market is a success, follow these essential steps:

1. Identify the Perfect STR Market

Safety should be a top priority when considering a location for Short-Term Rentals (STRs). Research crime rates and overall neighborhood security to ensure the well-being of both guests and your property. Opt for areas near popular attractions to guarantee a steady influx of potential guests. Additionally, locations with diverse recreational activities and proximity to entertainment venues can add significant appeal to your property.

Choose locations with consistent demand throughout the year to minimize seasonal income fluctuations. Assess peak seasons and ensure they align with your property’sproperty’s potential for higher occupancy and income. Understanding the seasonal patterns of your chosen market is crucial for making informed decisions about when and how to maximize your property’s profitability.

2. Understand Local STR Rules and Regulations

Familiarize yourself with the specific STR regulations in your chosen market. Researching local laws is essential for ensuring regulatory compliance and a smooth operation. Aim for markets with positive or neutral STR regulations to avoid potential challenges and legal issues that may arise in more restrictive areas.

3. Conduct a Comprehensive STR Analysis

Leverage tools like Mashvisor’s Property Finder and Airbnb calculator for a data-driven analysis of potential properties. Evaluate critical metrics such as cash flow, occupancy rate, cap rate, and cash-on-cash return to gauge the property’s profitability. Utilizing Airbnb data analysis tools provides valuable insights that can guide your decision-making process and enhance the overall success of your investment.

4. Check STR Comparables

Perform a rental comps analysis by comparing your property against similar ones in terms of type, size, and features. This assessment helps gauge the earning potential of your property in comparison to others in the market. Conduct competitor analysis to understand how other properties perform and strategically position your property to stand out in the competitive landscape.

5. Compare and Choose the Best Property

Prioritize properties with high occupancy rates, cap rates, and cash-on-cash returns when comparing. Evaluate expenses to ensure potential income outweighs costs, guaranteeing a profitable investment. Additionally, carefully assess the condition of the property to avoid potential issues with major repairs that could lead to significant expenses down the line. Making informed decisions at this stage is crucial for the long-term success of your STR investment.

By diligently following these steps, you can confidently navigate the process of finding your first profitable STR investment. Remember, informed decision-making is critical to success in the dynamic world of short-term rentals.


In conclusion, venturing into Short-Term Rental (STR) investments presents many opportunities for both seasoned and novice investors. As we’ve explored throughout this guide, understanding the intricacies of STR investments is crucial for making informed decisions and maximizing returns.

Armed with the knowledge gained from this comprehensive guide, you’re well-equipped to embark on your journey into the world of STR investments. Remember, real estate success requires strategic decision-making, market understanding, and ongoing adaptation to industry dynamics. Whether you’re a first-time investor or expanding your portfolio, may your ventures into short-term rentals be both lucrative and fulfilling. Happy investing!

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