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Put the Land in Landlord: How to Turn Vacant Land Into Rentable Campsites

Apr 02, 2021 by Kevin Vandenboss
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Camping has been making a comeback in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has helped that along as people started looking for alternatives to hotels and resorts. However, campgrounds and state land aren’t the only options for camping anymore. More and more campers are paying individual property owners to set up camp on their vacant land.

While some land owners invest a significant amount of money into their campsites to offer amenities like running water and electricity, many campers are happy to rough it. However, even if you want to offer just a bare piece of land, there are some things you’ll still have to do and consider. We’ll go over what you need to know to turn a piece of vacant land into an income-generating campsite.

Have the right land

Obviously, not every piece of vacant land is well-suited to be a campsite. You’ll want to consider whether a camper would enjoy themselves on the property, if it’s safe, if it will cause issues with the neighbors, or if camping is even allowed under the local zoning.

Typically, any piece of land in a populated area will be tough to work with, so try to stay out of the city. Rural land that offers privacy is the best bet. Having neighbors close by and within sight can make your guests feel uncomfortable and can even lead to problems with your neighbors.

You also need to be sure the land would actually work as a campsite. While you don’t necessarily need to have a cleared, level lot, you also can’t get away with using swampland. You’ll at least need enough area that’s high and dry for campers to park a vehicle and set up a comfortable camping site.

Of course, the better the scenery, the more popular your campsite will be. However, don’t be discouraged if your land doesn’t offer beautiful views of nature or have a river flowing through it. While sites like that can generate more income per night, many people are just looking for a safe, quiet place to park their van or RV for the night. If you’re located near a major interstate, chances are you can do well just hosting people looking for a place to sleep while traveling somewhere else.

Also, check your local zoning ordinances. While most rural places don’t have any rules preventing you from allowing guests to camp on your land, some places have clear restrictions on camping. Whether it’s not allowed at all or only for a certain number of nights per month, make sure you’re compliant.

Many people even set up campsites on a section of the land they live on. If you have extra acreage that isn’t used, you can easily turn it into extra income. It also becomes a lot easier to look after the place that way.

Make the property camper-friendly

There are a number of things you can do to make your campsite more appealing, but the most important thing to remember is that everybody poops. While you don’t need to provide a bathhouse with running water and heated toilet seats, there needs to be some sanitary option.

One option is to only allow RVs so people will use their own bathroom and dump it somewhere else. Another simple option is to buy or rent a portable toilet and have it pumped periodically. More cost-effective options include outhouses and composting toilets. However, if you go with one of these, you need to make sure it’s set up properly to avoid sanitary problems and odors.

If you already have a well on-site or other access to running water, you could also make the investment into installing a septic system and bathroom.

Another important consideration is how people are going to access the property. If you need a four-wheel-drive truck to get in and out, you’ll limit the number of people who can camp on your land. Having a clear, solid path in and out is essential. It’s also a good idea to make sure it’s clearly marked so guests can find it easily in the dark.

Aside from these essential improvements, there are many simple things you can do to add value to your campsite. Some inexpensive and simple things you can do include:

  • Dig a fire pit.
  • Provide picnic tables, benches, or chairs.
  • Clear and level a spot for tents.
  • Set up solar lights.
  • Offer a charcoal grill.

Market the campsite

Once you have your campsite set up, the next step is to find people who want to camp on your land. Luckily, there are websites and apps for that. Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB) is an excellent option for marketing your campsite. The site actually has a category for campsites, and this is how most people search for private campsites like yours.

Another popular site specific just to camping is called Hipcamp. This site is essentially the same concept as Airbnb, except it’s limited to campsites, cabins, and tiny houses. You can also find online forums where people post listings for private campsites.

Before you set up the listing for your campsite, do some research to see what other people are charging per night for similar sites. Pay close attention to the amenities each offers when deciding how to price your site.

Upkeep of the campsite

Campsites require very little maintenance compared to a rental property or vacation rental. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t require some upkeep.

For one, it’s likely some campers will leave some trash behind occasionally, so making sure it stays clean is important. You may want to consider providing some sort of trash bin to make it easier for campers to clean up and more likely they will throw their garbage away.

While outhouses and compost toilets don’t have any mechanical parts to worry about, you still need to make sure they’re clean and that the natural process of composting or breaking down waste is working. If you’re using a compost toilet, the bin will have to be emptied occasionally.

Overall, just make sure the campsite is clean, safe, and as presentable as possible for your guests.

The Millionacres bottom line

Renting out your vacant land as a campsite is an excellent way to generate income from land that would otherwise be going unused. In fact, some people are able to generate a significant amount of revenue from renting out campsites and make a business out of it. Just make sure the land makes sense as a campsite, and ask yourself if you would sleep in a tent there. Also, be sure to follow zoning ordinances, and enforce any burning bans or rules on moving firewood. If you follow these simple steps, you can create a new income stream with minimal effort.

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Kevin Vandenboss has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Airbnb, Inc. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.