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john and thereseHailing from Elk Grove, Calif. near Sacramento, John and Therese Kingsbury found success early in life and were able to retire at age 50.  Living 'the dream,' they bought a yacht and sailed for several years in and around Washington's San Juan islands, when they decided they wanted a more permanent home in this lush and scenic region.

They put their active real estate licenses and experience to work researching islands that might match their needs. In the process, John and Therese settled on Whidbey Island and learned enough to build a thriving real estate business specializing in Island/Skagit Counties vacation homes.

The Kingsburys encourage their clients to buy vacation homes as getaways, future retirement homes, investments, and active businesses, while guiding them through careful research. Here are some of their top tips for buyers and, in turn, other brokers who might want to enter this segment of the real estate business:


  1. Investigate the destination before you buy – be Informed! Each island has its own personality, advantages, and disadvantages. For example, how willing are you to be tied to a ferry schedule?  Subscribe to the local newspaper, check the Chamber of Commerce, join Facebook groups in that area, and attend different churches. Island communities are small towns - make certain your neighbors are like-minded.  Find out if it's a charitable community, as that can say a lot about the people. 
  2. Consider buying the home to use as a short-term rental. Many people do this to cover the taxes, and the property gets cleaned regularly forcing owners to keep it in good shape, especially if it would have only been used a few weeks out of the year otherwise.
  3. Find out the typical vacation rental fee for the destination. It may seem high, but people often vacation with other couples or families and split the cost.  It can pay off for clients to buy much more house and reap the future benefits as it appreciates.  
  4. Before creating a short-term rental, it's important to know whether the location is unincorporated. Some cities have laws that restrict your ability to host paying guests for short periods. These laws are often part of a city's zoning or administrative codes. In many cities, you must register, get a permit, or obtain a license before you list your property or accept guests. Certain types of short-term bookings may be prohibited altogether. Local governments vary greatly in how they enforce these laws.


For realtors interested in selling vacation homes, in addition to the tips above, John and Therese recommend getting to know your market. Consider access to beach and water views. Find out about local non-profits.  Not only do they offer satisfying participation in community, but they also offer access to potential clients. Help clients get creative in financing to manage rising interest rates. They're still very low, especially for those who are more financially secure.

Be a problem solver. Get to know local landscapers, plumbers, electricians and movers, house cleaners for vacation homes. Make sure you can be of maximum service to clients and help ensure their vacation rental is an asset, not an anchor for them.

John and Therese Kingsbury know from experience how a vacation home purchase can be a happy ending. They ended up on Whidbey Island living on a vast estate which they continue to groom with sculptures and nearly 100 Rhododendron species. Both are involved with local charities. They went from knowing no one, to being major players in their community.


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