Mimosas are lovely. However, in Fiji we don’t have oranges, at least not in the little town where my vacation rental is. So, the maids and I concocted and sampled the Starfish Blue version- a sumptuous balance of two ingredients – freshly cut and blended pineapple juice and white sparkling wine.

I took my champagne flute full of goodness out to the hanging bed, overlooking the sea and the three islands in the near distance. This is truly living the good life, listening to the palms above me sway and rustle, seeing an occasional fish jump in the healthy, clear water, and waving at a boat laden down with locals on their morning commute.

I slip into to the water to do a few laps before getting my book. Another lazy day in paradise.

While I’m considered an expert in making money from vacation rentals, my entry into the field was more like falling down a hole. I bought land and built a home a 24 hour journey from my home in Asheville, NC. I made a verbal agreement with the owner of the adjacent resort for them to rent it out for me. Easy peasy.

Then, the resort was sold while I was having my dream home built, and I found myself bewildered, in a new marriage with a 7 year old daughter with what had become a ball and chain on the other side of the planet.

I wish there had been something like Profitable Vacation Rentals Abroad available when I was starting out. In fact, writing it was cathartic for me- as there are so many potential pitfalls- ways you can overspend by $10,000 here or not market properly and lose $10,000 there. It’s a fairly straightforward business, but if you don’t use best practices and give travelers what they want, you won’t be able to charge as much as you could and book as often as you like.

With the exception of one spectacularly bad politically year (a coup!) and last year, when the second largest monster storm ever to make landfall did so directly over my house, I’ve generally brought in enough to cover all of my expenses, including a mortgage and a staff of 4, and have about $2000 excess in my pocket every month. My business runs on about 5 hours a month, once I trained the staff (an ongoing process) and set up all of my marketing. Now, I simply answer emails, accept bookings, and tweak things.

That was not the case my first year- when I started in June and made a whopping $11,000 in 6 months.

I urge you to learn from my mistakes. There’s money in this advice!

Buy Low, Rent High

International Living introduces you to lots of low cost, high value locales. But buying low is only half of the battle. You have to be able to rent high. Choose well- this is your most important purchase.

First- choose a second home that would appeal to people vacationing. The top three things that people are looking for are water of some sort- ocean front or lake front are top. As you get a bit further back, the second things people look for are views. So, if your house is not on the beach or the lake, but has a great view, play that up. It could also be a glittering view of a skyline or a well lit façade of an historic church.

The third thing that people are looking for is experiences. Can you bring in a massage table? You can find them for $200 on Amazon. I provide snorkel gear in Fiji for my guests- I just splashed out on high tech ones with the snorkel on top and no need for a mouthpiece. My daughter, a reluctant snorkeler even in her 20’s, finally had a great experience with the new gear.