Short Term Rental Success in Bear Lake

If you are thinking about buying or building a property in Bear Lake and using it as a short-term rental, then this guide is for you. Bear Lake is growing and there is more and more demand for great vacation homes for large family reunions and weekend getaways. If you have a question that is not answered here feel free to contact us and we'd be happy to help.

Where

What areas rent better?

Subdivisions that have amenities like pools and tennis courts have a higher demand. This includes the following areas:

  • The Reserve
  • Harbor Village
  • Sweetwater Golf Course & Omega HOA area
Size

What size rents best?

As of 2018 the properties that are in the highest demand and lowest supply are either those with 1-3 bedrooms or those with 7 or more bedrooms. We see a lot of multi-generation family reunions and many family vacations with 1 or 2 children.

Where

What areas allow rentals?

Major subdivisions that do allow short-term rentals are:

  • Harbor Village (located across from the main state park marina; has amenities like pool, hot tub, tennis courts)
  • The Golf Course & Omega HOA (located on the lower part of Sweetwater Hill; you have the option to purchase Ideal Beach access which has private beaches, pools, tennis, pickleball, and more)
  • The Reserve (located in Idaho between Fish Haven and St Charles; has pool, splashpad, hot tub, sports court, private beach access)
  • Snow Meadows (located in Garden City 1.5 miles south of Raspberry Square on Hwy 30)
  • Buttercup (located in Garden City 1 mile south of Raspberry Square on Hwy 30)
  • Shundahai (located in Garden City 2.5 miles west of Raspberry Square up Logan Canyon Road)
  • Hillside Estates (located in Garden City 1 mile west of Raspberry Square up Logan Canyon Road near the Bear Lake Dance Place)
  • Most properties outside of an established subdivision do not have HOAs and allow rentals

Major subdivisions that do NOT allow short-term rentals are:

  • Bridgerland (located west of Shundahai)
  • Sweetwater Park HOA (located on the upper part of Sweetwater Hill)
  • Swan Creek (located north of Harbor Village)
  • The Cottages (located just west and north of Blue Water & Ideal Beach)
  • Bear Lake West (located in Idaho next to the Utah state line)
Permits

What permits do I need?

Bear Lake County, Idaho - as of 2018 there are no permits or licenses required anywhere in Bear Lake County for short-term rental properties.

Town of Garden City, Utah - you will need a short-term rental license issued by the town. The application is available here. The cost is $230 the first year and $80 in subsequent years.

You'll want to plan on about 30 days for the approval. The application can be turned in at the town office or emailed to "[email protected]" and then will go to the town council for approval.

Unincorporated parts of Rich County, Utah - you will need a short-term rental license issue by the county. The application is available here. The cost is $250 the first year and $150 in subsequent years.

If your property is lake front you will also need a conditional use permit. The application is available here. The cost is a one time $200 fee.

The application(s) can be emailed to "[email protected]" and will first go to the Rich County Planning Commission, if approved it will then go to the Rich County Commissioners. You'll want to plan on about 45 days for the approval process.

Inspected

What inspections do I need?

Bear Lake County, Idaho - as of 2018 there are no inspections required anywhere in Bear Lake County for short-term rental properties.

Town of Garden City and Unincorporated parts of Rich County, Utah - as part of the short-term rental license application you will need to get a inspection by two people:

  1. Building Inspector - he will determine the occupancy and make sure things are up to code by checking things like grippable railings on stairs, GFI outlets in kitchens & bathrooms, etc. You will also need to label the following: water shutoff, electrical shutoff, propane shutoff. This inspection is only done once.
  2. Local Fire Chief - he will inspect for fire hazards and check items such as interconnected smoke alarms in each bedroom and open area, check that there is a CO alarm on each level and check that there is an A-B-C rated fire extinguisher (must have a metal nozzle) that has been certified within a year. This inspection is done annually.
Sleeps

Calculations for occupancy?

In the Rich County/Garden City rental ordinance it states “the number of guests shall not exceed two (2) persons per 100 square feet of sleeping area” and is calculated by adding up the sq. ft. of all bedrooms and dividing it by 100 and multiplying it by 2, and then any living rooms with a sofa sleeper will let you add two more per sofa sleeper to your sleeping max.

Usually the more your unit sleeps the better the rental rate. We recommend putting a twin-over-queen bunkbed in some bedrooms as this allows the room to be used easily by either children or an adult couple.

Laws

What laws am I subject to?

Bear Lake County, Idaho - as of 2018 neither Idaho or Bear Lake County have laws that directly affect the way a short-term rental is operated.

Town of Garden City, Utah - you can read the full Short-Term Rental ordinance here. The following are some important highlights:

  • You will need a "15-minute contact" which is someone able to go to the property within 15 minutes of being notified about a complaint. This person must be willing to go to the property 24 hours a day.
  • You need one parking space for every five occupants. No parking on the roads.

Unincorporated parts of Rich County, Utah - you can read the full Short-Term Rental ordinance here. The following are some important highlights:

  • You will need a "1-hour contact" which is someone able to go to the property within one hour of being notified about a complaint. This person must be willing to go to the property 24 hours a day.
  • You need one parking space for every six occupants. No parking on the roads.
Taxes

What taxes need collecting?

Bear Lake County, Idaho - as of June 2018 you will need to charge and remit two taxes:

  1. Idaho Sales Tax of 6% (more info)
  2. Idaho Travel & Convention Tax of 2% (more info)

Town of Garden City, Utah - as of June 2018 you will need to charge and remit three taxes:

  1. Utah Sales tax of 6.2%
  2. Utah Transient Room Tax of 3.32%
  3. Garden City Resort Community Tax of 1.6%

Unincorporated parts of Rich County, Utah -

as of June 2018 you will need to charge and remit two taxes:

  1. Utah Sales tax of 6.2%
  2. Utah Transient Room Tax of 3.32%
Tech

Using technology to help

There are great new technologies coming out all the time that can your short-term rental in Bear Lake to be more successful. Below are a few of our favorites:

  • GuestComment - easily communicate with your guests through text message and collect reviews in a streamlined way.
  • Home Automation - control thermostats, door locks and more with integrated systems such as Parakeet. This can reduce energy costs and maintain security.
  • Reservation systems  - these systems can help track reservations, automate communications with guests like check-in emails, and help you manage cleaners. There are too many options to list but are easily found with a google search.
  • 360° Virtual Tours - these tours give someone the ability to virtually walk through your home so they know exactly what they are getting. See examples here.
Good

10 things to help you rent more

The following are things we have found guests enjoy the most and makes your property more likely to rent more often. These are listed in order of potential positive impact they can have on your occupancy.

  1. Location - the closer to the lake, lake access, marina, or trailheads the better. People want to be on the lake or the trails and they don't want to drive forever to get to them.
  2. Amenities - guest access to a private or public sports court, pool, or hot tub is wonderful for your rental. After someone gets off the lake or trails they want someone to do.
  3. WiFi - internet access is huge. You will receive complaints and notes saying they will not rent with you again because you didn't have internet access in the property. With that said be prepared for the expensive cost for internet in Bear Lake because it is rural.
  4. Indoor games - foosball, ping pong, billiards, board games, XBOX/Playstation, etc. If the weather is bad guests want to have an option of something to do indoors.
  5. Theater room or large TV - preferably with satellite and/or access to streaming services and also a blu-ray player. I know you wouldn't think someone would go on vacation to watch TV but they do.
  6. Unique features - having themed bedrooms or an indoor treehouse or indoor slide will give your guests something to talk about to their friends, especially if the features are geared towards children.
  7. Pet-friendly - there is a lot of demand for pet-friendly units especially since there are no close options for pet boarding.
  8. Vouchers - giving a guest a voucher for something they are going to do creates a win-win-win situation for everyone. Vouchers for things like water or snow equipment rentals or restaurants are all things anyone would want.
  9. Reviews - collecting and disseminating good reviews will help potential guests know they have found a property that is being managed properly. Use technology to collect this information efficiently.
  10. Clean & well maintained - no one likes to arrive at a rental property to find it dirty or in disrepair. Making sure the property is taken care of by a professional will help you to get the good reviews and get repeat guests.

Determining the best nightly rates can be difficult. We have created a formula to find what the best rates would be based on factors such as location, amenities, bedrooms, and max occupancy. Fill out this form to get a custom rates quote for your property.

To get a general idea take a look at this potential income report which is broken down by sq. ft. and bedrooms. If you want a specific potential income report fill out the form here.

  • Aggressively advertise your property
  • Manage reservations and guest transactions
  • Collect and remit sales taxes
  • Paying credit card processing fees
  • Cleaning the property after guest use
  • Restocking consumable supplies after guest use
  • Cleaning the property after owner use (if desired)
  • 24-hour emergency maintenance services
  • Washing towels & linens
  • Enforcing rental rules
  • Check-in and check-out guests
  • Providing monthly income statements and deposit funds to the owner

Learn more

  • Pay mortgage, home insurance, utilities, and property tax
  • Upkeep on wear and tear items (i.e painting walls, replacing worn out pans, etc.)
  • Arrange for maintenance of the exterior such as landscaping or snow removal

Learn more

Please note, the material located on this page is for informational purposes only, is general in nature, and is not intended to and should not be relied upon or construed as a legal opinion or legal advice regarding any specific issue or factual circumstance.

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