For travelers wanting the convenience and warmth of a kitchen, a backyard, a comfy couch and plenty of space for a group, a short-term home rental is an increasingly popular alternative to hotel stays. Abilene may not seem like a hub for such travelers but a quick search of the area on vrbo.com or airbnb.com might surprise you. Rentals in all sizes, styles and price ranges are available right here in Abilene and the surrounding area.
What does that mean for the homeowners? The demands and rewards of using your family home as a vacation rental property are unique and varied. Scene ventured into three unique properties nearby to see the available home offerings and get behind-the-Scene info on what vacation home-renting entails.
12 minutes outside of Abilene
4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and sleeps 11
Photography courtesy of LakeKover Photography
Kathy Hawk loves travel and hoped to have vacation homes in other locations, so she decided to use her own home in Clyde, Texas, to fund that venture.
“I never dreamed that Clyde, Texas was such a destination point,” she said. “Even though we are in Clyde we are so accessible to all the fun things going on in Abilene. After we did a study of demographics of the area, we were pleasantly surprised about the number of people that come into Abilene every year and how many events were held here.
“We thought if we rented our home two days a month that would be good. In 2017, our home was rented around 60 times. Which shouldn’t have been big surprise considering how many events are held in Abilene, but that did catch us off guard.”
The Hawks list their home on several vacation rental websites and created its own website, lilcalifornia.com. Kathy said she has always loved entertaining, so in some ways, this was a natural extension.
“My children use to say, ‘Most people bring animals home, but you bring people!’ I love creating an atmosphere that everyone feels comfortable in. I call it approachable luxury. I feel like most of the people become new friends, and one group of renters has been getting together every two years since they graduated in 1956. Stories like that inspire me to rent my home.”
Kathy and her husband take the opportunity to travel and visit children and grandchildren in Florida and California when their home is occupied by renters.
“It’s so fun to go and visit and get paid while we are gone!” Kathy said.
“The description and pictures, although beautiful, did not do justice to this stunningly beautiful property. There are so many places inside and outside to land: by the pool, on the back patio, underneath the cabana/pool house by the fully outfitted outdoor kitchen, in the game room or family room, in the roomy, thoroughly equipped kitchen, on the basketball court. The beds were so comfortable! We can’t wait to stay here again.”
Near the Expo Center, Abilene Zoo, and Shotwell Stadium
3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sleeps 6
Photography by Beth Dukes
Brandon Thomas’ work as executive producer at Pink Goose Media inspired him to look into the Abilene vacation rental marker. Pink Goose is filming a pilot for a reality show about vacation rental owners.
“The more I researched it, I began wondering if it was a viable thing in Abilene,” he said. “So, I took a chance and put it out there. It was booked for the available dates in the summer within two weeks. There is definitely a market for this in Abilene!”
Like Hawk, Thomas lists his home on vacation rental websites such as vrbo.com and airbnb.com.
The several times each month that his home is rented, he uses the time to travel or stay with family nearby.
This new venture has provided challenges and new rewards for his family.
“Keeping it clean is a challenge but a great one,” he said “I’ve found that doing this is really a wonderful thing for our family because we stay on top of keep the house looking nice, and it affords us the opportunity to use the funds to improve the house or go on adventures together.”
“Wonderful stay with every detail thought of. Everything was perfect, decor was exceptional and there was plenty of room. Location was ideal and it was such a wonderful stay.”
Within walking distance from ACU
Required 2-night stay
$90 cleaning fee
5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, sleeps 7
Photography courtesy of Asia Edison, photobyjoy.
Chris and Rachel Riley’s renovated farmhouse-style home surrounded by open space, large trees and Cedar Creek is a sought-out wedding venue, particularly for Abilene Christian University students. Chris is the vice president for student life at ACU, and Rachel teaches in the Department of Psychology.
“Our home is an extension of our work at ACU and we host about 3,000 students a year through various events,” Rachel said. “We began to receive requests from students to host their weddings. We decided that would be a good way to test the waters of creating a bed-and-breakfast-style venue, so we rented our home to a beautiful couple, the Garzas, in November 2016.”
The Acre offers a unique combination of outdoor wedding venue with on-site lodging. Currently, the Rileys rent their home about eight times per year but plan to increase the number as the begin marketing it through their website theacreabilene.com and word of mouth. The Rileys, parents to a 12-year-old and 10-year-old, stay with family in town when the home is being rented. The process of offering their home to renters has been a family affair that led to creating some policies and routines to balance family life with home renting.
“We make it a goal to clearly communicate our expectations with each other about rental availability and prepping and cleaning for a rental,” Chris said. “Everyone, including our children, has a job to do when preparing to host a family that will stay in our home. Rachel sets specific times, usually when the kids are in school, for appointments to show The Acre and relegates the tours to the lower level and outdoor only. We explain to touring couples that we ‘live’ upstairs. It would be unfair to ask our family, especially our children, to always have the house in perfect order.”
“We wanted a place where our entire bridal party could stay and hang out before the wedding. The Acre made that happen for us! The house is so cozy but still has plenty of room for everyone to sleep comfortably. It was a dream seeing our friends chatting on the porch, tossing a football in the yard, and spread out playing card games and eating snacks in the kitchen. We kept joking that we felt like we were in a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot!”