by Liz Lizama
Ranked among the top 10 beaches in the world and the best in Central America, according to TripAdvisor, West Bay Beach in Roatan, Honduras, draws many scuba diving enthusiasts like Falls Church realtor Stacy Hennessey and her son, Ryan. The two travelled to the island to learn how to scuba dive and ended up falling in love with the beautiful beaches and friendly locals. As a realtor, Stacy was immediately interested in purchasing investment property, so the “House Hunters International” film crew followed her along for the journey.
“I’m in real estate, so I constantly look at prices,” said Stacy of her decision to search for a vacation home while in Roatan. She connected with an agent in the area who showed her and Ryan homes in West Bay Beach. “I told myself if one comes up in the market within our price range, we’ll do it.”
While the first trip proved unsuccessful, Stacy scored a deal when she returned to Roatan for the second time. “They dropped it $100,000 – this one unit,” said Stacy. “It was a no-brainer to be honest because it was affordable. I knew what the rents were per week and that I could make money off it.”
Stacy primarily rents the 1,500-square-foot two-bedroom waterfront condo on VRBO.com, a popular vacation rental site, but also works with an on-site management company. In the last few months, she refurnished the home, painted and replaced the countertops.
“I think if you’re going to use it as an investment property, you really need to find a good property manager and go that route,” said Stacy. “For me, I was lucky because I worked with a property manager to find the rental. That way you really learn the market.”
She advised prospective buyers to visit VRBO’s website to check on rental prices and calendars to see how often similar units are booked. In addition, she recommended checking on flight schedules and routings. “You have to find out how easy it is to get there, like how many flights are going to the island, because if it’s not many flights, you are going to have a hard time booking your property,” said Stacy.
“Put yourself in the shoes of the renter, and it’s all about location,” she added.
Noting the high cost of electricity on Roatan Island and a nearby well to supply water to her unit, Stacy also stressed the importance of becoming familiar with the property’s utility sources.
Though laws differ in every country, Stacy said Americans can own property in Roatan but cannot take out a mortgage, so purchases must be in cash.
Stacy relies on her management company to handle regular cleaning and maintenance of her unit but urges owners not to rely solely on management companies to handle the marketing.
“Your pictures – it’s worth spending money on a professional photographer and market it yourself through VRBO,” she said. “You can Airbnb too, it’s popular now.”
Stacy and Ryan admitted being nervous to see themselves on television when it airs Mar. 16 on HGTV, but the mom and son duo very much enjoyed the 22 hours of filming for House Hunters International.
“It was really fun, and they were incredibly professional,” said Stacy of the HGTV crew. “It was great spending time with Ryan too and doing something completely different.”
For Ryan’s part, he was initially less interested with the real estate, but more with scuba diving. “I was enjoying the island for what it was, and when she brought up that she was seriously interested in a place, of course I supported,” he said. “Anyone would be supportive of that. Of course I would love to come back here a million times.”
The episode begins in Falls Church where Stacy’s daughters, Rebecca and Taylor, are also featured.
Stacy, who recently purchased a four-unit property in Annapolis, Maryland, with plans to rent out for almost double the mortgage, will return to Roatan in the next few weeks to vacation with friends.