Vacation Rental Staging Guide General Advice

Welcome to Seachange Vacation Rentals’ annual Vacation Rental Staging Guide General Advice to Property Owners. Each year we review our guides for updates and make available to our property owners.

This particular guide is our general advice on how best to ready your property for vacation rental for 2021. This advice is based on our experience and detailed research. We’ve scanned thousands of reviews of live guests in vacation rentals. We look for consistency in feedback: positive and negative. This builds a very clear picture of what guests look for in a vacation rental property. Follow this guide in order to maximize rental income and occupancy.

We also produce and review annually the following Guides:

Property Owners are also encouraged to follow us in social media. Many of our post are geared towards Owner needs:

It may seem like a lot of money to get your property ready. However, remember that your vacation rental property is a business and should be treated as such! There are costs of doing business that are worth the upfront investment and will more than pay off in guest satisfaction, guest reviews, optimal rates, occupancy, and revenue.

Please do not stress out over this! We’re here to help you with the benefit of our experience. We’re also your eyes, ears, and feet on the ground locally. Not everything needs to be done at once during the first season of rental. We will work with you to set a budget for setup and future upgrades. As the property is upgraded according to an agreed plan that we can manage for you, then we will be able to incrementally increase rates accordingly. We will work with you to set a plan that is appropriate for your property, needs, and budget. If you don’t like shopping, or don’t have the time, then our experienced Interior Design and Project Management team specialist can do it for you according to a budget that you set.

High Level Advice

Decorating versus Design

Decorating is personal taste. Design is purposeful. When you stage your property for vacation rental Guests remember to purposefully design the interior and exterior spaces with the needs of vacationing Guests paramount. Guest needs must take priority over your own personal tastes in order to maximize your vacation rental income, and Guest satisfaction.

Seachange Vacation Rentals offers our Property Owners complementary Interior Design Services. When you avail yourself of these services, our Design Specialist is not decorating your beach house. Instead they are using their precise knowledge of the vacation rental industry and what photographs well in order to position your property for maximum revenue, occupancy and Guest satisfaction. We call this, “Revenue by Design.”


When considering renting out your home it might be wise to consider a home inspection first. For around $400 you’re going to get a good idea on your property’s electrical, plumbing. water heater, HVAC, deck, foundation, walkways, roof, and so on. It’s worth the money to find out if anything needs attention and fixing before Guests are in the property.

Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire extinguishers some need to be in the property by law, others should be in the property.

Power cord extensions – if you do not have an outlet in a convenient location to plug in items, then please, call a licensed electrician in and get an outlet installed. Do not run power strip cables across rooms. This is a potential electrical hazard as well as a trip hazard.

Rugs – make sure they’re secured on a non-slip backing with no bumps or curled up edges. Do not put rugs on carpets, they always curl up causing a trip hazard.


Guests are visiting a property that they are unfamiliar with. Invest in an inexpensive label maker such as this one, and make small, discrete labels for important items in the property. We recommend labeling the following:

  • All light switches.
  • Important electrical items that must not be unplugged.
  • TVs with room identifier and the remotes associated with them.
  • HVAC control instructions.
  • The insides of kitchen cabinets with a description of the contents. For example, “Serving Dishes, Baking Equipment, Indoor Glasses, Outdoor Plastic Ware” etc.

Welcome Books

Many Property Owners like to leave a Welcome Book containing information on the property and local area information. This is fine. However, do not include a guest comment section. This deters guests from leaving online reviews which other guests can benefit from.

Guest Signature/Review Books

Please do not leave these at your property. Experience has shown that guests who leave comments in an Owner Book do not go online and write an online review. We need the guests to provide online reviews that reach other potential guests.

Property Walk Through Ahead of Rental

Your Agent will walk the property with you or in correspondence with you to take advice on location of items such as circuit breakers, water shut offs, operating instructions for appliances, etc. However, a written set of notes is also appreciated.

Furniture, Artwork, and Display Ornaments

Keep to a minimum; avoid risqué pieces; no real candles (battery are fine); best remove any items of personal/sentimental value or significant monetary value (period antiques for example). If period antiques or items of significant monetary value are present, we will put an addendum in Lodging Agreements to remind guests of their responsibilities for due care and diligence.

Less is more – consider allocating your budget on a few well-placed items of better, more resilient quality over cramming lots of furniture in every room. Keep the big picture in mind. Thrift stores and consignment/resale stores are perfect for furnishing second homes, beach homes, and investment properties – but keep an overall design aesthetic in mind for your property so that each piece works well with others. Consider the practicality of your Agents checking the property after guests for theft and damage. Too many pieces become more challenging to track. Consider the practicality for cleaning companies. Too many pieces will drive up the cost of cleaning between guests.


There can never be enough! There’s two sides to a bed. Put two bed side tables with a lamp on each!

Color Schemes, and Décor

Part of the appeal of staying in vacation rentals over a hotel is the uniqueness of each vacation rental property. If the property is your second home, then by all means let your personality and tastes show in your property. Remember, however, that you’re renting the property for income and the property needs to appeal to your demographic of renters. Balance personal taste with Guest appeal and don’t over personalize so that Guests feel like they’re staying in someone else’s home and they’re still in residence! If the property is purely an investment property that you will not personally use, then your decorating decisions are much easier and should be catered entirely to guest appeal.

Consider neutral colors for walls and flooring and reserve splashes of color for accessories such as artwork, throw blankets, pillows, area rugs. Popular contemporary wall and tile colors are neutral shades of grey, whites, and sandy browns, and light blues. These wall colors also photograph much better and Guests book off of the photographs.

Avoid beach excess in décor. A few well-placed beach items are lovely, but don’t overwhelm your guests.

Ceiling Fans, and Window/Door Screens

An enthusiastic, “Yes!” Add wherever the property structure allows.

A Guest Perspective

Look at your property through the eyes of an occasional guest. Guests will need empty drawers, closets, cupboards and surfaces to store and place their personal belongings. Don’t fill every kitchen cupboard. Leave some space for Guest items.

Don’t forget clothes hangers in all closets!

Glass Tables

We do not recommend any glass table tops of any kind – dining, coffee, or patio. For interior spaces glass table tops (unless used as a topper over a wood table) are extremely difficult to see causing Guests to walk into, or stumble over them. External glass top patio tables are weakened by our mid-Atlantic icy winters and frequently shatter in the brutal heat and strong sun of our mid-Atlantic summers.

Washer and Dryer

A must have if at all possible.

Outdoor Shower

If at all possible, provide in the order of preference: enclosed outdoor shower; non-enclosed outdoor shower; outdoor spigot to wash off sand.

Personal Items

Remove or relocate to a locked owner closet any personal toiletries, medications, towels, non-perishable food pantry items, alcoholic beverages. Anything that is seen by the guest is assumed usable by the guest.

Entry Points

Door Mat

Include one for each external door (inside and outside the door). Replace annually as they age quickly!

Furniture and Lighting

It is a lovely welcome and hospitality comfort feature, if space allows, to add a bench and small table with cubbies, or storage baskets, and wall hooks. This allows guests to sit and put shoes on/off, store dog leashes, store parking permits, coats, umbrellas, and keys.

Dining Room

Dining Table

It is very important to have your dining table capacity to match the sleeping capacity of the property. Guests want to seat the entire group around the dining table.

Provide place mats and coasters.

If the table is valuable or of personal importance, have a piece of protective glass cut to fit over your table to avoid scratches, burn marks, dents and dings.


Surveys show that vacation rental guests cook, a lot! This room is so important to guest satisfaction that we publish a separate guide just for kitchens. Refer to our Kitchen Guide for specific item information on setting up your kitchen.


General Items

  • Small trash can.
  • Soap dish.
  • Mirror.
  • If shower curtains are necessary then provide two fabric style white shower curtain liners per shower, plus one shower curtain.
  • Towel holder: large for bath towel; medium for hand towel.
  • Bathroom Tissue holder.
  • Toilet brush in holder.
  • In adult rooms – one hairdryer.
  • Bath mats – recommend NO bathmats – they get dirty each week and are costly to maintain and launder. If bath mats are absolutely necessary, recommend non rubber backed white bath mats that can be laundered, bleached, and dried. Two sets. One in use. One in linen closet (service fee applies for cleaning company to launder bath mats).
  • Consider at least one bathroom (preferable first floor if property allows) with grab bars and ADA Compliant amenities for wheelchairs. This is not required, but if considering property renovations and budget allows – is a great amenity to offer.
  • Do not include towels. We contract with a linen supply company at Guest cost.

Living Room

General Items

  • Large size flat screen TV.
  • At minimum basic cable. Guests appreciate HD and premium cable packages especially if the weather is inclement. Consider upgraded cable packages (lock down On Demand with an access code).
  • High speed wireless (Wi-Fi) internet service that is password protected with a secure, yet simple to remember and type password. Do not use the service provider default password – it is too long and complicated for the guests to use.
  • Furniture: comfortable arm chairs and love seats to match sleeping capacity of property.
  • A reading chair with lamp.
  • Side tables and coffee tables (no glass) placed for guest convenience.
  • Coasters.
  • Enough lamps to give adequate lighting for the room.
  • Neutral area rugs that can be cleaned by a carpet cleaner at the property without sending out to a commercial facility. Wool rugs, for example are tough to get cleaned in house, and are best avoided, especially in white/beige.



When choosing bed sizes, have at least one King Size bed at the property if your room sizes allow. Then offer at least one queen size bed at the property if room sizes allow. Have one bedroom that caters for children (family groups are the greatest percentage of bookings).

Kid rooms. Best avoid bunk beds, day beds and trundle beds as regular bed options if at all possible. It is hard to make bunk beds, day beds, and twin beds look freshly made. Need more information on why we dislike bunk beds? Seachange Andy wrote this fun blog entry on the subject! Twin beds are fine but limit the age ranges for occupants. If room size allows better to put in two queen beds or two full beds in a kids’ room. Avoid dormitory style rooms with more than two beds.

Bed Alternatives

Seachange Vacation Rentals describes properties based on overnight sleeping capacity – beds in bedrooms. It is great to offer bed alternatives such as sleeper sofas and day beds/trundles – in bedrooms and in living areas if space is a premium. Your Agent will work with guests to ensure that they are aware if any sleep choices are not in regular beds and not in closed bedrooms. Consult your Agent for advice on occupancy. Consider the bathroom availability when planning sleep capacity. Children do not grumble sharing bathrooms, adults prefer a private bath; teens demand a private bath!

General Furniture

  • Side tables with lamps for all beds except bunks. For full, queen, and king beds that sit in a bedroom with one bed, then put a side table and lamp on each side of the bed.
  • Dressers – guests prefer plenty of storage even if walk in closets are present.
  • Reading chairs with lamps if space allows.
  • Flat screen TV in each bedroom. Does not have to be large screen. Preferably wall mounted.
  • Full length mirror in all adult rooms and a smaller mirror in kid bedrooms.


This is critical in the time of COVID-19 and the requirements in place will likely stay around after COVID-19.

Permanent Bedding Items that Remain at a Property Between Guests

The only ‘permanent’ items that remain on the bed between Guests are:

  • A zip up bed bug mattress cover.
  • Pillows. Pillows are very personal to each guest preference. Suggest two pillows per person per bed (one firm pillow and one soft pillow). Suggest a hypo-allergenic down alternative fill. Pillows are inspected by Seachange Property Inspectors between Guests and replaced with new as needed.
  • Bed topper (duvet inserts, comforters, coverlets) – properties listing with Seachange for the first time: Seachange requires the Owner to purchase a commercial grade duvet insert purchased at cost through Seachange. The bed toppers will be inserted into the removable commercial grade duvet covers described below. Bed toppers are inspected by Seachange Property Inspectors between Guests and replaced with new as needed.
  • Bed topper (duvet inserts, comforters, coverlets) – properties currently listed with Seachange: Seachange can work with whatever bed topper the Owner currently has on the bed. The bed toppers will be inserted into the removable commercial grade duvet covers described below. As the existing bed toppers wear out, Seachange will require the Owner to replace with a commercial grade duvet insert purchased at cost through Seachange.

Temporary Bedding Items that Come and Go With Each Guest Stay

Seachange guarantees Guests that anything that touches a Guest body directly is removed at each check out, commercially disinfected and laundered, and delivered fresh for each subsequent Guest check in. These items are:

  • Removable commercial grade zip up cotton/poly blend pillow covers. Owner purchases at cost from Seachange and Seachange coordinates commercial disinfectant and laundry at Guest cost. Pillow covers are removed for commercial disinfecting and launder after each Guest stay and replaced with clean. Laundry costs are paid by Guests.
  • Removable commercial grade cotton/poly blend duvet covers inside which the permanent bed topper currently on the bed (existing properties) will be inserted by Seachange Property Inspectors. Owner purchases at cost from Seachange. Duvet covers are removed for commercial disinfecting and launder after each Guest stay and replaced with clean. Laundry costs are paid by Guests.
  • Sheets and pillow cases. Rented from and disinfected and laundered with a local linen supplier at Guest cost.

Outdoor Spaces


Outdoor furniture is generally an afterthought after budget has already been spent on the interior. Vacation rentals are all about gathering spaces, outdoor spaces including. Please do not treat your outdoor spaces as an afterthought, include in your budget. It is that important. Go with heavy, durable, high quality outdoor furniture that will not rust, crack, or color fade under our brutal mid-Atlantic summers.

Patio table and chairs to sit at least four, preferably six adults. Ensure table has an umbrella and stand. Many brands of outdoor furniture are comfortable enough that they do not require cushions. Seachange recommends the Seaside Casual line of outdoor furniture available locally from Oceanside Casual Furniture, Midway, Rehoboth Beach.

Seachange no longer recommends glass topped outdoor patio tables (see above section on glass topped tables).

Propane Grill, With Spare Tank, and BBQ Tools

Seachange sub-contracts for a propane fill up service at Owner cost. A reminder that spare tanks cannot be stored indoors and grills need to be at least 10 feet from the property. Some HOAs/Condo Associations may only allow electric grills, or none at all. Consult your association.

Trash and recycle cans

Guests generate a lot of trash and recycle. We recommend two trash and two recycle cans some municipalities will provide recycle cans). Cans should be of the large, wheeled kind. We see them at Lowes and Home Depot for $99 each.


  • Spigots and hose.
  • Enclosed outdoor shower if possible.

Cleaning Supplies and Laundry

Guests will bring or purchase their own paper products (paper towels, bath tissue, coffee filters etc.), and trash bags to last the duration of their stay.

Owners should provide a vacuum cleaner, broom, mop, Swiffer, dust brush and pan, one plunger, and a toilet brush with holder (one per bathroom).
One Iron and Ironing Board.

Nice To Have

While the following are certainly not required, Owners should consider providing in order to set their property above the competition, add warmth and a hospitable experience for the guests, and by default encourage repeat bookings. Nice to haves will also tie into rates and occupancy. These are worth the upfront investment.

  • Bicycles (shop the thrift stores, consignment and resale stores). Preferably two adult and two child bicycles. If providing bicycles then also provide a front and back light, and lock per bicycle. Provide a back rack or secure area at the property for guests to lock up. Agent will have the guest sign an addendum to the Lodging Agreement to waive liability for the Owner for use. Guest will be responsible for loss and damage.
  • Two scooters and/or a golf cart. Agent will have the guest sign an addendum to the Lodging Agreement to waive liability for the Owner for use. Guest will be responsible for loss and damage and for gas.
  • Salt and Pepper.
  • Emergency kit containing: flash light; batteries; battery powered radio; first aid kit.
  • Basic tool kit containing: one flat head screwdriver; one Phillips screwdriver; claw hammer; measuring tape; cordless drill.
  • Kitchen sized step ladder.
  • Games and playing cards.
  • Books with a take one leave one policy.
  • DVD player with selection of movies.
  • Starter kit of lightbulbs. Especially important if your property has fixtures with parts that cannot be purchase locally by the Agency.
  • Set of four beach chairs.
  • One beach umbrella.
  • A portable cooler.

Pet Friendly Properties

Don’t forget Fido when staging your property. Add the following:

  • A floor mat to place under bowls.
  • Dog bowls for drinking and food.
  • Plastic bags for waste pickup.
  • A couple of spare leashes in case the guest forgets/loses, breaks their own.
  • A lint brush to remove dog hair from furniture for those pets who cannot read and jump on the furniture anyway!

If you have any suggestions, comments, or feedback that we may use to improve this guide, then please contact us below.

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