The real estate professionals at Kiawah Island Getaways break down the ideal timeline for purchasing and preparing your vacation rental investment property.  

When it comes to entering the Kiawah Island vacation rental market, it pays to think about timing. The sooner you’re able to get your ducks in a row with planning, permitting and necessary renovations, the more likely that you’ll be able to take full advantage of the summer peak season! 

In this post, we’ll detail the entire process—starting with the purchase and moving all the way through marketing your completed property—so you can begin your investment journey on the right foot. 

One very important note to keep in mind: Most Kiawah Island properties for sale will require renovations in order to find long-term success in the vacation rental market. Most properties are dated and have layouts that are not particularly guest-friendly. This is essential to factor in when mapping your first year of vacation rental ownership. 

At Kiawah Island Getaways, we have a thorough checklist for owners who are interested in entering our rental program. For more information about what makes a rental successful in our market, check out our companion blog post, Tips for Buying an Investment Property on Kiawah Island

If you’d like to join us, or have any questions about investing in Kiawah Island, please feel free to contact us at 843.343.7215

Winter / Early Spring: Purchase Your Property

We recommend purchasing your property in winter or early spring. This way, you can begin to rent your property on the market in time for spring and summer rentals. Even if your property requires renovations (and as we said above, it likely will), you can enter the market at a lower nightly rate to begin to earn while you apply for the appropriate permits and develop your architectural plans, with renovations to be completed during the slower late fall and winter seasons. 

That depends on several factors. First do you want a house, cottage or a villa? Are you looking for oceanfront, or wooded views? The cost of houses also vary greatly based on the number of bedrooms, proximity to the beach, neighborhood and level of luxury. You can see current properties on the market here.

Depending on the proximity to the beach, a 1-bedroom villa (in 2024) may be roughly $400k, on up to a 4-bedroom wooded view villa/cottage of around $1.2m.  Oceanfront, 1-bedroom villas will cost roughly $800-$1m; oceanfront 2-bedrooms around $1.4-$1.6m; oceanfront 3-bedrooms around $2.2-$2.8m, etc. There are no oceanfront cottages. 

Rentals on Kiawah Island were extremely profitable during the pandemic, and since then the real estate prices have increased. Properties that used to gross $40k/year pre-pandemic now gross $65-70k/year. Our 3-bedroom oceanfront, the Penthouse at Windswept, pre-pandemic grossed $135/year, and now in 2024 is grossing $200-225k/year.  Rates vary based on location, number of bedrooms, the views from the property and just how lux the property is decorated.  Shawn and Jeanette, 843.343.7215, can help you determine what to expect as far as rental income.

Spring: Draw Up Architectural Plans, Contact Decorator and Contractors

Now that you’ve secured your investment property, it’s time to begin the renovation process, which requires finding the right architectural firm to execute your vision. 

When you join our rental program at Kiawah Island Getaways, we are ready to help you find the right architectural firm to draw up your renovation plans. Then, we work alongside you and your architect to ensure the plans are perfectly tailored for the unique requirements of a luxury vacation rental.

With these architectural plans, you can then get contractor estimates and apply for the appropriate permits from the Kiawah Island Architectural Review Board and/or your building regime. This is a key moment to keep your timeline on-track, so that you’re ready to maximize your earning potential with peak season bookings. This could equal many thousands of dollars, so it’s best to start early!

After you have your plans, it’s time to find the contractors to begin the renovation work, and a skilled interior decorator to put the icing on the cake. We help with this step, too! Our local’s knowledge and two decades in the business mean that we have relationships with various trusted companies on the island. We’ll help you find the right contractors and decorators, and work with them to further bring the vision to life and meet the high standards of our rental program. 

Summer: Get Appropriate Permits 

Next, you and your contractor must apply with your cottage or building regime for the appropriate permits on your renovations. The approval process may take 2 months alone! To meet your target timeline, the goal will be to have everything approved and ready to go for renovation to begin by October 1. This way, you’ll have time to complete your demo and renovation by Easter (certain villa and cottage regimes impose hefty fines if renovations are not approved in advance or if a renovation extends past Easter).

Throughout the renovation process, you and your contractor will need to work closely with the regimes to make sure that you are in compliance with regulations. 

Autumn: Renovations Commence! 

It’s worth saying again how important it is that you get your renovations started in October, so you can be sure you’re ready to go for a spring entry into the market, and the start of peak season. 

Kiawah Island Getaways can help here, too! As long-time Kiawah Island residents, we have a curated list of Kiawah design professionals who know how to create the signature look and feel required by our rental program. This step is what separates the “meh” properties from the “wow!” properties, and that is what attracts our higher-end clientele. We work closely with the team to make sure all of the right items are included in the renovation process – everything from overhead ceiling fans and lights in the bedrooms, to plenty of kitchen storage, to lots of light and lovely décor.

How much should you plan to spend on renovations? For a full-scale renovation, our 2021 guesstimate is that you should plan to spend approximately $75k-$100k for a 1-bedroom, $150-$200k for a 2-bedroom, $250-350k for a 3-bedroom and $350-$500k for a 4-bedroom.

Late Spring: Marketing 

As winter shifts to spring and your renovations are wrapped up, it’s time to start thinking about your marketing. If you are working with us at Kiawah Island Getaways, your rental will get its inaugural photoshoot after renovations, decor and staging are complete. Then we’ll create listings on the major platforms (and our own well-trafficked website) to introduce your property to the market in time to start gathering those coveted summer bookings. 

Get in touch with Kiawah Island Getaways Real Estate & Property Management

But before all of the steps we outlined above, there’s an important first step to take: get in touch with Kiawah Island Getaways to begin your vacation rental journey with trusted professionals at your side! 

Jeanette and Shawn Lawson, 843.343.7215, have been successfully managing properties on Kiawah Island since 2001 and have maintained a small, close-knit, knowledgeable team who care as much for your investment as you do. Please reach out to Claire or Joe Porter, 843.224.1269, for more information about purchasing a property on Kiawah Island and preparing it for success within our vacation rental program. 

Picture of Jeanette and Shawn

Jeanette and Shawn

Founders of Kiawah Island Getaways, a luxury vacation rental company with over 20 years of experience serving guests on Kiawah. See our 5 star reviews here and our availability here. Book your rental today!

The Ocean Blue at Seascape

Upscale Kiawah Island Vacation Rentals

Kiawah Island Getaways offers you a boutique collection of the most comfortable, fully-vetted rentals on Kiawah Island.

Guarantee a relaxing and comfortable vacation by staying with Kiawah Island Getaways!

Each of our properties have been vetted and are top-of-the line in decor, comfort and cleanliness to meet our high standards and yours.

You’ll be delighted with the unexpected items we provide. You can expect fully stocked kitchens, entertainment options and much more!

The special touches will make your entire family smile – fresh flowers, a personalized welcome note and eggs from our own back-yard family coop when you arrive.

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