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 2019. 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 update a specific Guide to Staging a Kitchen for Vacation Rental.

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


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!

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 shine 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. 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 browns.

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

Ceiling Fans, and Window/Door Screen

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 forget clothes hangers in all closets!

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, and read below for general advice.

The following list is an overview, please refer to our specific Guide to Staging a Kitchen for Vacation Rental for more detailed advice on setting up your kitchen.


Recommended double the sleeping occupancy of house. Guests do not want to have to do dishes each use. For example, if the property sleeps 8, then the recommended number of each item is 16.

  • Dinner knives.
  • Dinner forks.
  • Dessert spoons.
  • Tea spoons.
  • Steak knives.


Enough to match sleeping occupancy of house plus half the amount again. Guests do not want to have to do dishes each use. For example, if the property sleeps 10, then the recommended number of each item is 15.

  • Dinner plates.
  • Side plates.
  • Bowls.

Drinking Items (indoor and outdoor – regular and plastic)

  • Wine glasses.
  • Large glasses suitable for soda/beer/water.
  • Cocktail glasses.
  • Coffee mugs.

Cooking and Serving Utensils

  • Can opener.
  • Corkscrew and bottle opener.
  • 2 ladles.
  • 2 spatulas.
  • 6 serving spoons.
  • 6 serving forks.
  • Balloon whisk.
  • Scissors.
  • Good quality set of sharp kitchen knives.
  • Set of serving bowls (2 of each: large, medium, small).
  • Colander.
  • Cheese grater.
  • Vegetable peeler.
  • Pizza cutter wheel.
  • Large sieve.
  • Baking measuring cups and spoon set.

General Items

  • Dish drying rack for quick hand wash of dishes.
  • 2 cutting boards: large and medium.
  • Paper Towel holder.
  • Basic salt and pepper set filled.
  • Two pitchers (recommend plastic so that they can be used outdoors also).
  • Cooking pans: 1 large pasta pan; set of saucepans (large, medium, small); 2 frying pans/skillets; set of baking sheets (2 large, 2 medium); set of baking trays suitable for meat/vegetable roasting (2 large, 2 medium); 6-hole muffin baking tin; 12-hole cupcake baking tin.
  • Set of airtight storage containers (such as Tupperware): at least 3 of each (large, medium, small).
  • Appliances, at minimum: Microwave; Dishwasher; Oven with cooktop; refrigerator/freezer; Pop Up Toaster; blender; mixer/food processor; coffee maker (regular drip and/or Keurig); tea kettle.
  • Placemats.
  • Set of at least two white (no patterns, no colors) dish towels; oven mitts/gloves; pan holders (can double up as trivets for heat protection on counters/tables). Why white? The cleaning company Agent can take soiled/stained items and launder with bleach (service fee applies for launder).
  • Standard size (13 gallon) kitchen garbage can (two). If not kept under kitchen counter inside a cabinet then make sure kitchen garbage cans have lids.
  • Stationery drawer containing: tape; scissors; post it notes; pens; note pads.
  • Recommend that owner leaves at least two kitchen cabinets empty for guests to store groceries and items they bring.
  • No food or pantry items left for guest use (perishable and non-perishable). Guests do not know how long the items have been at the property and the liability if the guest becomes sick is not worth the hospitality intention of leaving food items.
  • Nice to have: recipe books; notice board with reminders on the 911 address of house, land line number (if applicable), trash and recycle days, local police number; Beebe Hospital Number, restaurant menus. Note: your Agent also sends out a Welcome Letter before arrival to the guest. This document contains this information.


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.
  • Guests will bring their own towels.

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.
  • Throw blankets are great, please choose neutral colors that are easy to launder.
  • Enough lamps to give adequate lighting for the room.
  • Neutral area rugs that can be cleaned 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). Best avoid bunk beds, day beds and trundle beds as regular bed options if at all possible. Twin beds are better – they are more flexible for guest needs and always look better. It is hard to make bunk beds, day beds, and twin beds look freshly made. 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.
  • 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 adult rooms.


Either Seachange Vacation Rentals will coordinate linens locally for Guests, or the Guests will bring their own sheets and pillow cases. Avoid thick bulky comforters and blankets. Instead provide two of each of neutral coverlets, pillow shams, and light blankets. One can be on the bed and one clean and laundered in a linen closet to swap out by the cleaning company (service fee applies for laundering).

Pillows are very personal to each guest preference. Suggest two medium (not too firm or high) pillows per person per bed. Non-allergenic.

Pillow covers and mattress covers. Recommend double bagging pillows and mattresses. The first layer should be a bed bug sealed non-allergenic breathable vinyl type cover which will remain on the bed (one per bed is fine). The second layer should be a breathable, washable soft material cover (two per bed so that one can be on the bed and one clean and laundered in a linen closet to swap out by the cleaning company (service fee applies for laundering).

Outdoor Spaces


Patio table and chairs to sit at least four, preferably six adults. Make sure table has an umbrella and stand. Consider providing removable weather-proof pillow chair pads. Consider providing at least two sun loungers with removable weather-proof pillow pads.

Propane Grill, With Spare Tank, and BBQ Tools

We will keep the tanks filled 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

Two of each (the City provides recycle cans).


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

Cleaning Supplies and Laundry

We recommend that Owners give us a budget to purchase and place starter packs of basic cleaning supplies, paper products, dish detergents, and trash bags at the property for each arrival.
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. However we recommend including a starter pack for arrival (See above).
Owner 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.

Contact Us


Seachange Vacation Rentals
Rental Office: 20 Baltimore Avenue, Unit 1
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971, USA
Rental Office Telephone: (302) 727-5566