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Making Your Smith Mountain Lake Rental Pet-Friendly

As one of the most popular holiday destinations in tourism-rich Virginia, Smith Mountain Lake offers fantastic real estate investment opportunities.

While there are a number of hotels here, vacation rentals are highly in demand. They are preferred by many holidayers for the privacy and exclusivity they provide, the relatively more affordable costs especially for big groups, and the greater freedom to come and go as they please.

When investing in a rental property in Smith Mountain Lake, it’s important to choose the right property with great access to the beautiful lake and the other attractions in the area.

You can also enhance your rental’s desirability by offering features that can make your customers’ stay more pleasant and enjoyable. One of the features that can bring in more guests is pet-friendliness.

To many pet owners, their furry friends are important members of the family, and that means taking them along on family vacations. When they do, they want to make sure Fido or Tabby has a comfortable and enjoyable stay along with everyone else.

Table of Contents:

  • Smith Mountain Lake is a pet-friendly destination
  • The benefits of making your rental property pet friendly
  • The disadvantages of a pet-friendly rental property
  • Adding a pet policy to your rental agreement
  • Pet-proofing your SML vacation rental
  • Find the perfect Smith Mountain Lake property to invest in

Smith Mountain Lake is a pet-friendly destination

Smith Mountain Lake is the perfect getaway for pets and their humans. Dogs are welcome to play in the water and on the beach, or go on long hikes with their owners on the area’s scenic trails. All state parks in Virginia, including the highly popular Smith Mountain Lake State Park, are open to pets. There are also many restaurants in the area that welcome four-legged guests, especially lakeside establishments with outdoor seating.

Many hotels and vacation rentals in SML are pet-welcoming, so if you want to attract a good chunk of the market, making your property pet-friendly is a sound decision. To give you the added edge, you can even offer services that will make Fido or Tabby extra happy, and with that, make their humans happy too.

The benefits of making your rental pet friendly

1. You’ll attract a wider pool of renters

Pet ownership in the United States has always been high and has been rising in the past few years. Moreover, pet owners have been spending more and more on their animals, including in pets’ travel and accommodations. By making your rental pet-friendly, you can take advantage of this growing trend and attract renters who are willing to spend more to travel with their animal friends.

A 2018 study by Pawlicy.com found that around 57% of households in the country include at least one pet, with dogs as the most popular household animal, followed by cats.

In a 2018 study conducted by the American Pet Products Association, it was found that Americans spent $62 billion on their pets, including $6.2 billion on services like pet grooming and accommodations. The same study found that about 37% of pet owners take their pets with them when they travel.

As a result, the number of hotels allowing pets has been increasing, along with pet-friendly listings in short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo.
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Virginia is a pet loving state with around 55.5% of households having pets.
Its next door neighbor, West Virginia, leads the pack of states with the highest pet ownership, with around 70.7% of households owning a pet.

Other neighboring states, such as North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland also registered high pet ownership rates. Since residents in nearby areas are more likely to travel to SML for a quick getaway, making your rental pet friendly gives you a competitive edge in this large market segment.

2. You can earn additional income

A pet-welcoming policy offers the potential for additional income. Many pet-friendly rentals charge a pet deposit, a part of which may not be refunded. The deposits can help you pay for the cost of any damages caused by four legged guests, but any unused non-refundable amount can be extra income for you.

In many properties, guests who bring their pets are charged a higher rate. Alternatively, the pet may be charged as an extra guest, especially if it’s a large animal.

Many pet owners understand and are willing to pay these extra costs, particularly since leaving their pets with a sitter or a boarding place will likely cost them more. Several studies have also shown that pet owners are generally wealthier so they have the means and the motivation to pay more for pet-friendly lodging.

3. You can earn loyal customers

Pet lovers appreciate hosts and rental owners who welcome their fur babies. Since it can be difficult to find pet-friendly accommodations, they tend to book the same property in their next visits to the area, especially when they’re satisfied with their experience the first time around. Many are more than happy to leave a good review, which can help boost your reputation and influence other renters to choose your property.

4. You can potentially get more bookings during off seasons

According to several studies, both demographics are more likely to own pets and bring their furry families along on vacations. Making your rental pet friendly will increase your chances of getting booked by these off-season travelers.

The disadvantages of a pet-friendly rental property

While welcoming pets into your vacation rental has a ton of potential benefits, it also has its disadvantages.

1. You may have to spend more on repairs and maintenance

A pet-friendly policy can potentially give you more income, but it can also add to your expenses. It’s not always possible to keep pets from damaging the property, such as scratching the walls or floors, breaking appliances and decors, or staining the carpets. You may need to spend extra on repairs, and certainly need to spend more in cleaning and sanitizing the property to deodorize, remove pet dander and pet hairs, and ensure it’s free from tick and flea infestation.

This is why it’s important to ask for a pet deposit or charge more for pet accommodation. Come up with a reasonable figure that will cover the additional expenses and any likely damage – and throw in a little extra for the value-added service. You’ll be happy to know that most pet owners are responsible individuals who hold themselves accountable for their furry family members and their behavior.

2. A pet welcoming policy may turn away non-pet guests

Even when you keep your property spotless and well-maintained, non-pet guests may have a different idea of what a pet-friendly vacation home is like. They might think pet odor, scratches on surfaces everywhere, pet hairs, and other unappealing images. People with allergies to pet dander – about 15% of the population – will also likely stay away from a pet-friendly rental.

Perhaps there’s little you can do to change the mind of those who are determined to avoid pet-friendly properties. But to many non-pet owners, a pet-welcoming policy does not factor that much — if it does at all — into their choice of rentals.

The important thing to remember is to advertise your property as pet-friendly to avoid complaints or conflicts with non-pet guests who may not be happy about booking a pet-friendly home without knowing it from the start.

3. Neighbors might complain

It can’t be helped — pets, especially dogs, can create noise that may annoy the neighbors. Or they might get into the neighbor’s property and cause some damage.

If you can, put a fence around your property to keep pets from trespassing into the neighbors’. You can also include guest policies that will ask pet owners to keep their furry babies indoors at night to keep their barking from disturbing the homes next door.

It will also help to choose a property that’s separated from the neighbors with plenty of space in between.

Adding a pet policy to your rental agreement

Having a pet-friendly policy does come with some risks. To protect you and your investment, it’s important to have a clear-cut agreement with renters that spell out their responsibilities and yours. This will also help avoid any misunderstanding and conflicts that can escalate into something truly unpleasant and burdensome.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when adding a pet policy to your rental agreement:

1. Be specific with the types of pets allowed in the property

If you welcome dogs but not cats or other types of animals, you should clearly state that in your pet policy.

Many rental owners welcome other domestic pets, such as birds, fish, hamsters, and rabbits, but are not comfortable with having exotic animals like snakes and lizards. It’s up to you to decide which types of animal to welcome in your rental, but you might want to consider the potential risk and damage a type of pet can cause.

2. Spell out any restrictions on the type of animal to allow

While you welcome dogs in your property, you might want to exclude certain breeds that are considered “dangerous.” Whether or not any breed is actually dangerous is subject to debate, but as the property owner, you have the right to ban those that you think might pose greater risks. Some insurance companies will also not cover liability arising from “dangerous dog breeds.”

Size is another factor to consider. Instead of banning certain breeds, you can screen pet guests based on their height or weight. For example, you can state that only pets weighing no more than 20 pounds or are no more than 3 feet high are allowed.

3. Define the number of pets allowed

Most vacation rental owners allow only one pet at a time, but you can welcome more if you want. Just make sure to state the maximum number of pets your guests are allowed to bring.

4. Define other pet requirements

Legal requirements, such as tags and licenses with vaccination information, are non-negotiable and are required at all times. Vaccines for rabies, for example, are mandatory anywhere in the US. These requirements and the proofs you need have to be spelled out in your rental agreement.

You may also want to include other health, sanitation, and safety policies that are not legally required but can give you – and the pet owner – better peace of mind, such as:

  • Requiring a flea and tick repellant treatment before the visit
  • Allowing only spayed or neutered dogs
  • Allowing only dogs of a certain age
  • Banning dogs that have been trained for fights or have a history of violence

5. Spell out pet owners’ responsibilities

Your guests should be accountable for their pets’ actions and behavior while staying in your property. In your rental agreement, you must clearly state pet owners’ responsibilities, as well as your house rules pertaining to pets.

These are a few of the most common issues to cover:

  • Pet waste
    Add a clause requiring pet owners to clean up after their pets and dispose of pet waste promptly and properly
  • Leash
    Many neighborhoods and areas in Smith Mountain Lake require dogs to be leashed at all times when they’re outside the house. Include a clause in your agreement stating that pet owners must comply with these rules and ordinances. In addition, you might want to include your own requirement to keep a pet leashed when outdoors — except in designated places — to keep them from disturbing the neighbors and other guests.
  • Cages
    For other pets, such as birds and hamsters, consider adding a clause stating the animals must be caged at all times to avoid damages to your property
  • Off-limit areas
    If you want to keep pets away from certain parts of the home, such as the bedroom or the furniture, you must state this clearly on the agreement
  • HOA rules
    If your property is in a neighborhood with an HOA, you must provide renters with a copy of HOA rules, including those relating to pets, and add a clause in your agreement that the renter agrees to abide by these rules
  • Supervision
    Clearly state that pet owners must never leave their furry friends unattended whether inside or outside the property

5. Pet deposits and other pet fees

Your agreement must detail any required pet deposit or pet fee, and if all or a part of it may be refunded. State the conditions and situations where the pet deposit may be used, and if any unused amount will be returned to the guest.

The agreement must also say that pet owners are responsible for any damage or disturbance their furry companions might cause, and that they are liable for the costs of these damages in excess of a required pet deposit.

Pet proofing your SML vacation rental

While an agreement can cover damages a pet might cause on your property, you can take steps and adopt measures to minimize these damages, and ensure your property remains (largely) intact after a pet owning guest has checked out.

Here are some pet-proofing ideas:

  • Select flooring and other surface materials that are scratch resistant, and if possible, stain proof
  • Select durable furniture that will not get easily damaged by a playful pet
  • Add a thick covering to your sofas
  • Remove fragile items or decors, or place them in areas that are out of reach of your animal guests
  • Remove plants that may be toxic to dogs and other animals
  • Provide your guests with the things they might need to keep pets under control and to minimize damages, such as leashes, house cleaning materials, stain removers, pet litter disposal bags, and dog towels
  • Consider adding indoor gates to keep pets away from restricted areas around the home
  • Put up fences to make sure your four legged guests don’t wander off into the neighbor’s
  • Provide an outdoor washing area and equipment for pets so they don’t need to be washed in bathrooms inside the house
  • Provide your guests with a guidebook that contains your house rules regarding pets, as well as pet-friendly places to visit in Smith Mountain Lake

Find the perfect Smith Mountain Lake property to invest in

Pet-friendly Smith Mountain Lake is the perfect vacation spot for animal lovers. With the right property and preparations, a pet-welcoming vacation rental in our piece of paradise can be a highly profitable investment.

I have over 33 years of experience in Smith Mountain Lake real estate, and know the area and the local market by heart. I can help you find the right investment property that will attract high quality renters and customers, and I will be happy to guide you in turning it into a profitable pet friendly business.

Get in touch with me today at 540.493.1690 or drop me a note here to get started.