STR managers enter summer with COVID-19 in mind
With short-term rentals reopening in Grand County, some operators are adapting to regulations for the summer while other are reconsidering their investments.
After nearly two months with short-term rentals on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism is ramping back up and short-term lodging along with it. Gary Koldyke remains hopeful his rental property will see a good season.
This summer is Koldyke’s first renting out his Grand Lake cabin, and the coronavirus has meant making some major changes. Specifically, he’s putting a huge emphasis on cleaning at his property.
“We’ve had our cleaning lady do a deep clean,” he said. “Top to bottom, nuts and bolts, the lamp shades, everything. That will continue to be stressed.”
The county has an extensive list of requirements for short-term lodging managers that includes keeping customers’ information for 30 days in case contact tracing is necessary, deep cleaning after each visitor and a recommended 24-hour rest period between bookings.
Koldyke expressed his hope that Grand Lake’s visitors would still be able to enjoy the restaurants, shopping and outdoor recreation they’ve come to expect from the town. To help visitors get to Rocky Mountain National Park, Koldyke is adding a flyer to his guest book on how to navigate the new reservation system.
While Koldyke’s cabin has seen a few bookings fall through, a new reservation usually follows within the week. He said that right now, almost every week through August has at least one visit reserved.
“We were surprised that there weren’t more cancellations, which is good,” Koldyke said. “We’re glad there weren’t.”
However, for Charles Phanumphai, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic meant he chose to convert his STR at the base of Granby Ranch to a long-term rental.
“It’s complicated not knowing what the rules tomorrow will be,” Phanumphai said. “Making the best decision today is almost impossible because you’re constantly thinking, ‘What’s going to change?’”
While reservations were still coming in for his property, many upcoming visits were being canceled. Though understandable, cancellations were a double whammy because he’d lose the money from that visit, and it’d be to short of a notice for a new booking for that same time period.
“Pretty much every week that a new booking came in, two were canceled that were closer to the date,” Phanumphai said. “It was like one step forward, two steps back.”
Current health guidelines encourage STR managers to schedule at least 24 hours between stays to ensure time for proper cleaning and disinfecting. Phanumphai said those gaps would also hurt profit margins.
Phanumphai already has a few long-term rental properties in the county, but he said his STR was — in normal times — two to three times more profitable than a long-term rental.
As much as he wanted to rent to visitors this summer, the insecurity during the pandemic, coupled with the past couple months of turbulence at Granby Ranch, meant that keeping the rental short-term didn’t make fiscal sense.
Some of his business partners are like Koldyke and willing to gamble on the profitability of their STRs for the summer, but Phanumphai isn’t so sure.
Working in health care, he said he feels like a second wave of COVID-19 is inevitable. So even if the property were to stay open with the new requirements, he thinks he’d probably end up having to shut it down again.
“We’re going to wait it out a year for customers and guests to build confidence and to see what the first and second wave will look like,” Phanumphai explained.
He added that it will be interesting to see if the decrease in out-of-state visitors will be met by the increase of Front Range tourists wanting to travel without getting on a plane. In Phanumphai’s experience, less tourism will also mean a surplus of supply in STRs, making the landscape extremely competitive for rental managers.
While the summer remains uncertain, Koldyke encouraged STR managers to continue emphasizing cleanliness because a limited number of COVID-19 cases benefits everyone in Grand County.
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Grand County’s real estate transactions April 4-10 were worth more than $20 million combined.