The Goldilocks Syndrome: Dealing with the Fear of Renter Damage (Part 1)

    The late, great comedian George Carlin used to do a monologue about “Stuff.” (You can find it on YouTube.) His premise was that accumulating, storing, and protecting your “stuff” was the true meaning of life. We wouldn’t go that far, of course. But there was certainly more than a grain of truth in his bit. And Carlin could easily have been talking about the “stuff” we all have in our vacation-rental properties. Will renters damage or even steal it? Will they be careful with our second homes?

    This concern is undoubtedly one of the major reasons owners hesitate to offer their properties as vacation rentals. We call it the “Goldilocks Syndrome,” as in “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?”

    The fact is, there are ways to minimize even the possibility of renter damage at your vacation property. That’s what we’d like to address in this two-part post. [Part two will appear in two weeks.]

    Here’s what we recommend:

    1.    Start with a change in mindset. Realize that this is your second home, not your main nest. Its role is to offer two things: First and foremost, income to help pay expenses (mortgage, taxes, maintenance, etc.), and second, a place for you and your family and friends to stay when you’re on vacation. You may disagree with this order of priorities, but it’s hard to deny the significance of $25,000 or more per year in extra income, not to mention the tax benefits available when you offer your second home as a vacation rental.

    2.    Furnish your second home with renters in mind. Think wood and washables, quality and durability. A glass-topped coffee table is probably not a good idea, for example. And why select upholstered dining-room chairs when you can opt instead for perfectly comfortable ones with contoured wooden seats and washable cushions? Furnish defensively, in other words, by doing your best to anticipate problems (breakage, stains, damage). But be aware that there will be normal wear and tear.

    3.    Establish a locked owners’ closet. This is the place to store all the “stuff” you cannot live without when you and your family are in residence: your best kitchen-counter appliances, cherished quilts and antiques, favorite CDs and DVDs. For example, there may be a wall in your living room where you like to display a valuable painting. Well, hang it when you’re there and swap it out for a pleasing print when you’re not.

    In the second part of this two-part post, we’ll look at the things you can do to establish a bond with your guests—so they realize that they are renting from a real, live human being and not some anonymous corporate entity. Meantime....

    Happy Renting,

    Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner


    Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner are the authors of the book/CD package How to Make Your Vacation Property Work for You! and the founders of FullyBookedRentals (, a website focused on helping new and experienced VR owners advertise, market, manage, and make money from their second homes.