Jul 04, 2010 (Star Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Thanks to the recession, more second home owners have discovered that renting out their cabins, lake homes, condos and town homes can make a second mortgage pay for itself -- at least in the summer months. Where non-owners used to have to cozy up to cabin owners in hopes of an invitation, the glut of homes and owners looking for rental income means anyone looking for an "up north" experience can experience it firsthand.
Here's how to go about it. Take a look at websites devoted to vacation rentals. VRBO.com, for example, has 33 rental properties listed for Bemidji, 50 for Cross Lake, 20 for Detroit Lakes, 35 for Ely, 31 for Lutsen and 22 for Park Rapids. More than 130 areas in Minnesota have listings. Other websites to check include www.homeaway.com, www.greatrentals.com, www.vacationrentals.com and www.vacationrentals411.com.
Most of the rentals are for a week (starting at about $1,000), but many will rent for one, two or three days (starting at about $100 per night). Most of the sites are organized by area and city.
Once you narrow down the area, e-mail or call the owner with questions. Christine Karpinski of Homeaway.com suggests the following questions to ensure that you're getting what you want:
1. Are you the owner? Owners listing their properties are usually hands-on.
2. How close is the house to the water? Is the water at the shoreline deep or shallow? Can I bring a boat or water scooter? Is the lake good for swimming? Fishing?
3. How close are the neighbors? If you want total privacy, this is important.
4. What's nearby? Ask about restaurants, grocery stores, golf courses and kids activities. Specify what is important to you.
5. What are the sleeping accommodations? Size of beds? Cots? Are linens and pillows included?
6. How rustic/modern is it?
7. Is there a screened-in porch?
8. Is there a phone? What is cell phone reception like in the area?
Nearly all homes list prices, but there is room to negotiate. Since many include calendars, too, you can ask for a lower price if a property has a lot of open space or if you're willing to take a slot that's only a week or two away. If you don't like haggling by phone, ask by e-mail if the owner is willing to accept less. But a 30 to 50 percent reduction is unlikely. Prime time for rentals in Minnesota is mid-June through mid-August, which usually means less price flexibility.
Some of the listings have online reviews, but you should also ask for several references. An unwillingness to provide references is usually not a good sign.
John Ewoldt --612-673-7633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you spot a deal, share it at www.startribune.com/blogs/dealspotter.
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