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Seven Secrets of a Profitable Rental Cabin in the Smoky Mountains

Seven Secrets of a Profitable Rental Cabin in the Smoky Mountains

A profitable rental cabin can be amazing and such a blessing to your family and friends. But if your cabin is not bringing in an income, it can be a disastrous drain and burden.

One of the questions I am frequently asked is if it is possible to own a cabin as a second home and let renters pay for it? The answer is, “Yes! If you do it right. No, if you don’t do it right.”

So how in the world do you do it right? First of all, not all cabins are built alike or have the same potential for income. They all require different amounts of maintenance. They have different cost amounts for expenses, such as insurance premiums and HOA fees. So you must become a student of the cabin buying process, patiently navigating and analyzing the moving parts.

The essentials of a profitable rental cabin:

  1. Location. Your cabin must be within easy driving distance, not on curvy, crazy roads, and cannot be over 20 minutes away from a wonderful meal or a night of entertainment!
  2. Size. This doesn’t matter for the most part. Any size is going to work and most budgets can work as well. Yay! However, here’s a crazy secret: 1 and 2 bedrooms bring in about the same rental income; 3’s and 4’s the same; and 5’s and 6’s the same. So keep that in mind while shopping.
  3. Amenities. The key to earning high rental income is to have fantastic amenities in your cabin. Most likely you are going to need to prepare to add amenities to your cabin or replace ones that are outdated. If they were outfitted perfectly and income is high they probably wouldn’t be selling it! Or if they are selling it, then you are going to pay top dollar. So I help my buyers look for cabins we can improve with the purchase of new flat screen TV’s. Out with the old, in with the new! We might need to add a hot tub, a pool table, or an arcade game. Those items can make the difference between having the rental income cover the mortgage payment and you having to pay it. Here’s another hint: renters love fire pits! Can we add one? Think about what you love and you will be on the right track.
  4. Buy quality. Buy as high a quality cabin as you can afford. This helps on maintenance. Higher quality materials will last longer and cost you less to maintain. Replace carpet with commercial laminate that looks like hardwood, if your budget allows. Hardwood holds up to the rigors of renters.
  5. Decide whether you want resort or non-resort. It’s not that important. Some renters like privacy and some like a resort pool. The numbers are about equal, so go with what you and your family likes.
  6. Views! Try to get a mountain view, or a stream or meandering creek, but at least a pristine wooded setting that looks like the national park. You don’t want to have a view of a trailer park because your renters are looking to “get away” to nature. Of course, I don’t think that you would want that in a cabin either. Watch when you are looking for where the leaves are on the trees and the car salvage yard is hidden. The winter leaf drop reveals all!
  7. Take your time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Poke around. Stay in cabins to see what you like. You want to own a profitable rental cabin that your renters will come back to and write great reviews about to attract other guests!

About Deborah Korlin

I am the broker-co-owner of Century 21 MVP in Sevierville, TN, and I specialize in East Tennessee property in the Greater Knoxville area and in the Great Smoky Mountains. I am very familiar with the real estate in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, Knoxville, and many great communities you have not heard of, but are just waiting for you to discover. CENTURY 21 MVP, 209 East Main Street, Sevierville, TN 37862 Office: 865-429-2121 Cell: 865-765-6157


  1. I have been looking at properties,I’m very interested in any helpful info

    • Candice Fitzgibbons

      Hi Tammy, call Deborah Korlin at 865-429-2121. She is the author of this article and I am sure she can help you achieve your cabin investment goals.