Being in the vacation rental business for over ten years it is inevitable that one of our clients will ask about staying for a month. By law after 30 days, a vacation rental becomes a short term lease. When you add a few more months during the ski season, it is affectionately call a "ski lease" as the length on the lease is usually five to six months, the exact length that a ski resort like Mammoth Mountain is open.
A ski lease is very similar to a long term lease which offers amazing conveniences especially for season pass holders. The popularity of ski leases has grown over the last few years as skiing is on the rise and gaining popularity to its status that it had in the 80's. The spurt in growth is driving the scarcity of properties up as skiing and snowboarding have become the new "in thing". While not as popular as AYSO, families who don't live in ski country, such as Los Angeles, put their kids on ski teams and like other sports, there are practices or matches every weekend. Since the closest resort to Los Angeles with teams is Mammoth, they are in the car on Friday after school headed to the mountains and need a place to go that is warm and comfortable. They'll turn around on Sunday, blast home and then do it all over again next weekend. A ski lease fits the bill.
The #1 advantage to having a seasonal short term rental is convenience. Consistently getting a condo rental or staying in a hotel becomes a chore when you have to pack, and unpack every Friday and Sunday coupled with the drive after work or school it all becomes tiresome. When you're making these kinds of "bullet runs" up to the mountains, you pull into the driveway and you're done. Home to home. No need to be a pack mule, no need to check in or retrieve keys. It saves time and effort and all your belongings; your stuff is waiting for you. No need to lug crates of food, clothes, the skis, nada!
The properties available for a season are townhomes, homes or condos, but even apartments can be on a ski lease. Budget is going to be one of the items that have both advantages and disadvantages. The size of the place you rent is going to determine the budget. If you use the place just for the weekends, the return on investment is lower, but the moment you start staying in the mountains longer than a weekend, say two weeks at Christmas, Easter, or 3 day weekends, the value increases. If you have the flexibility to work from your second home costs get amortized even better and having a ski lease becomes a bargain.
The costs involved for any lease are negotiable, however you can expect to pay the same costs you would on a regular long term lease, first /last month's rent, security deposit and some or all the utilities including cable TV and Internet. You may even need to pay for snow removal, although most owners include this so they have a sense of security against giant roof collapsing snow storms. Since this is a supply and demand market some resorts such as Lake Tahoe have more flexibility on price. Unfortunately Mammoth does not as these rentals currently are at a premium.
Space is another big
reason seasonal rentals make sense. You'll get more bang for your buck when you have a rental home or townhome rather than a small one bedroom condo. This is especially true if you're sharing the lease with some friends or plan to have friends join you on occasional visits.
There are a few disadvantages to spending 5 or 6 months in the mountains. If you're not flexible on the work schedule, you may not get enough days in to make it worthwhile. You have to take care of the place which means doing laundry, cleaning or hiring someone to do it for you. The utility bills can be high during cold months, so you must be eco conscious. The #1 disadvantage is that on a powder day, you won't want to go to work. Seriously, they are hard to resist and you may suddenly need to call in sick. A novel idea when you live in Southern California.
There are some key points to look out for when talking with an agent or homeowner. Be sure to ask which utilities are included. You've got electricity, gas or propane, snow removal, cable TV, and Internet to think about. Sometimes the owner may just want to bill you for the utilities. Make sure you get copies. This whole thing may end up being tax deductible if you can work from home. In most cases there will be an agent commission on the entire lease. The commission can be paid by the owner, or by the tenant. Sometimes the agent will offer a discount if they are paid by the tenant upfront, which would save money. Also, you should ask about the inventory of the home. Does it include cookware, towels and linens (although most people choose to bring their own), a vacuum, and of course you should expect basic furniture including a TV.
In some cases a home might go on a ski lease because it is up for sale. Ask the question; is this house on the market to be sold? If the answer is yes, you will be required to allow an agent in to show the house. And you should expect to have it clean. However, you can also request in your lease that they won't close escrow until your lease is over, so you won't be inconvenienced halfway through. It is a fair trade off.
For these second homeowners the advantages of having a ski lease at a big resort like Mammoth means their bills and mortgage are covered during the more expensive months of the year. They can earn income while the home is for sale, or while they wait for their neighborhood to become the hot one. There is also a lot less wear and tear with a steady tenant than putting the home on a vacation rental program. The money from the lease is guaranteed and the vacation rentals are not. The biggest disadvantage of putting a home on a ski lease is that the homeowner is giving up possession. Once the deal is done, they can't change their mind without some consequences.
Mammoth and Lake Tahoe are two of the resorts where ski leases are gaining in popularity. In our years of experience we find that once a client does a ski lease, they want to do the every year after that. The only thing that changes is eventually, they too will become a second homeowner.