What you need to know about Vacation Rentals in Big Bear

There is a lot to consider when choosing your Big Bear Vacation Rental. Typically, we would like to learn more about a home owners goals, look at a specific Big Bear property, and base our projections on comparable homes. We would love to be able to hand you a rubric that states general potential revenue based on the qualities of a home but this is very hard. Every home is different. Different locations and many elements can impact potential revenue. A lot of the revenue potential also depend on the home owners expectations of usage, nightly rates, wear and tear, etc….

When we speak with a potential buyer or owner we always ask for their goals and why they are buying the Big Bear home. Are you looking to maximize revenue because this is a 100% investment property? Are you trying to offset costs with vacation rentals and use the home when you can? Are you looking for a lot of personal usage? Do you want to rent seasonally only? Do you hold your Big Bear vacation home close to your heart because its the family cabin? What is your budget? Are you working with a Big Bear Realtor? Now we can draw comparisons based on the homeowners goals and scenario with similar homes and homeowner goals within our inventory.

Location, location, location….one of real estates greatest sayings. This does ring true in the Vacation Rental World as well. Location can have an impact on how people book, experience, and review your home. The most popular locations for a Big Bear Vacation Rental are Moonridge, near Bear Mountain, Snow Summit area, near Village, near Lake, Fox Farm, Castle Glen, and Boulder Bay areas. There are definitely other areas in Big Bear to consider and you can find success renting in Fawnskin, Big Bear City, Sugarloaf, etc….But if your truly seeking to maximize rents I would consider staying as close to the slopes, Village, and Lake as possible. Your looking for easy access, easy parking, and a great experience for your guests. Remember, 70% of your rental income is available from Thanksgiving through March. This should help drive your decision on location.

Vacation Rental Ordinance

It’s important to understand the rental rules in Big Bear when considering your vacation home. There are two sets of ordinance in Big Bear based on location of the property. An ordinance set by The City of Big Bear Lake (92315 zip code) and an ordinance set by The County of San Bernardino (92314 zip code and others). Each governing body strictly enforces their codes so be prepared to follow the rules or face evictions, fines, upset neighbors, and/or loss of rental permit. Maximum occupancy is also a very large factor when calculating potential revenue with a Big Bear Cabin.

Big Bear Lake Code Enforcement allows one person per 200 sq/ft in a home with a maximum occupancy of 16 guests in any home. 1200 square feet sleeps 6, 1400 sleeps 7, 1600 sleeps 8, 2400 sleeps 12 guests, and so on… They will typically round up to the nearest hundred so if a home has 1101 square feet they usually pass the home for sleeping 6, 1099 square feet would sleep 5. The City of Big Bear Lake performs annual inspections and rental permits are required (currently $235 annual permit application fee). These occupancy rules apply to homes in the 92315 zip code.

The County of San Bernardino has different occupancy ordinance. County homes are subject to an interior inspection where they will measure the bedrooms or sleeping areas, look at your parking spaces, and consider your parcel/lot size. A little more difficult to calculate your max occupancy in the County. These occupancy rules apply to homes in the 92314 zip code and others. Big Bear City, Fawnskin, Sugarloaf, Baldwin Lake, Erwin Lake, are all included in the County of SB ordnance. County homes are inspected every 2 years and permit is required (currently $599 for a two year shor-term rental permit).

The County of San Bernardino bases their maximum occupancy on:

Square Footage

Homes 800 square feet or less max occupancy is 6.

Homes 1200 square feet or less max occupancy is 8.

70 square feet in a room to sleep 1 person and 50 additional square feet for every additional person in a room.

Per room/Sleeping area including pull out sofas in living rooms, lofts, etc…as long as it’s a legal sleeping area.

70 square feet = 1

120 square feet = 2

170 square feet = 3

220 square feet = 4….


1 car = 4 guests

2 cars = 8 guests

3 cars = 12….

Parcel/Lot Sizes

On parcels smaller than one-quarter acre the maximum occupancy is 10 guests.

On parcels smaller than one-half acre the maximum occupancy is 12 guests.

On parcels one-half acre to one acre the maximum occupancy is 15 guests.

On parcels one acre or greater the max occupancy is 20 guests.

Qualities of a Top Performing Vacation Rental in Big Bear:

Just as important as occupancy and location, there are also unique qualities in a home to consider when looking for your Big Bear vacation rental. Generally, the qualities of our top producing homes are open floor plans, high cathedral style ceilings, enough bathrooms to support number of guest, views, amenities such as theater rooms, spa, game rooms/game tables, pet friendly, good sleeping arrangements, up to date, nicely designed with quality furnishings, etc…Most guests have a vision of getting their whole family in a home where they can all enjoy group activities and stay close together. Big open floor plans are very popular.

Here are a few examples of our most popular rentals. Take a close look at the floor plan, layout, design, and what these homes have to offer.

       Grand Views – This home rents 220 nights per year and is our most popular home.
Big Sky – New build for the purpose of Vacation Rental. This home has become extremely popular.
Lone Wolf Lodge – This home rents 180 – 190 nights per year.
Summit Creek Pines – This home rents 180 – 190 nights per year.

General Revenue Info:

We would love to give you a standard rubric for revenue potential. If we where to give you a general idea of potential revenue per category of home it would look something like this. The disclaimers will probably shine light on why we need to look at each individual home. Always best to look at the characteristics of each individual home and home owner to identify a good estimate of potential revenue.

2 bedrooms sleeping 6 – 8: $15K – $25K gross annually. Disclaimer…we do have 2 bedroom lakefront condos, and unique mountain cabins grossing $30K.

3 bedrooms sleeping 6 – 8: $18K – $30K gross annually. Disclaimer….we do have really nice 3 bedrooms sleeping 8 that gross $40K+ annually.

3 bedrooms sleeping 8 – 10: $25K – $40K gross annually. Disclaimer…we do have really nice 3 bedrooms sleeping 9-10 grossing $50K – $60K annually.

4 bedrooms sleeping 8 – 11: $30K – $45K gross annually. Disclaimer…we do have really nice 4 bedrooms sleeping 10-11 grossing $50K – $60K annually.

4 bedrooms sleeping 12 – 14: $35K – $55K gross annually. Disclaimer…we do have really nice 4 bedrooms sleeping 14 that gross $75K – $80K annually.

4 bedrooms sleeping 14 – 16: $40K – $80K gross annually. Big Spread in this category. Castle Glen 4 bedroom sleeping 16 with great views could bring $80K+ gross annually.

5 – 6 bedrooms sleeping 14 – 16: $50K – $148K gross annually. Giant spread in this category. Occupancy, big homes, big properties, theater rooms, great views, walking distance to the village, lakefront…..all have an impact.

7 – 8 bedrooms sleeping 16: $75K – $230K gross annually. Similar to the 5-6 bedrooms….very big spread in potential revenue based on the home and what it has to offer.

Top Producing Homes by Category:

Here are examples of our top producing rental homes per category. You will notice most of these homes have a lot in common. Open floor plan, high ceilings, nice and up to date, game rooms, spas, good central locations. If your looking for ideas to take a home to the next level….these are definitely Big Bear Vacation Homes to consider.

Top Producing 2 bedrooms:

The Tree House – Grossing over $30K annually. Unique home with modern rustic design.
4 Seasons Cabin – Grossing $28K – $30K annually. Tastefully furnished with good amenities.
Mary’s Lake Cabin – Grossing $28K – $30K annually. Newly remodeled, views, and good amenities.

Top Producing 3 bedrooms:

Lone Wolf Lodge – About 2000 square feet. Grossing $60K in past 365 days with 190 nights rented.
Dew Drop Inn – Home grossing $48K even with owners blocking off the entire Summer. Does not include potential June – August rental income.
Summit Creek Pines – Grossing $45K annually. Newly remodeled. Modern contemporary mountain home design.

Top Producing 4 bedrooms:

Summit Lodge – Grossing $85K annually. Nice log style lodge, good central location, walk to Snow Summit.
Luxury in the Woods – Grossing $80K – $82K annually. Great open floor plan, all the amenities mountain goers are looking for.
Big Sky – Grossing $80K annually. Built with Vacation Rentals in mind, amazing great room, very well designed.

Top Producing 5 bedrooms:

Grand Cameron Estate – Grossing $148K annually. Large property, views overlooking Village and Lake, theater room, and other great amenities.
Waters Edge – Grossing $97K annually. Fun lakefront home near Village.
Franksfort – Grossing $96K annually. Owner continues to grow this property into a very special place. This home will soon be an 8 bedroom 5.5 bath…All the features large groups are looking for inside and out.

Top Producing 6 bedrooms:

Mountain Masterpiece – Grossing $137K annually. Large home, lots of privacy, amazing views of lake and Village.
Eagle Ridge – Grossing $95K – $112K annually. Castle glen location, great open floor plan, great amenities.
7th Heaven – Grossing $90K – $95K annually. Awesome location in the Village. Walk to marinas, restaurants, lake, etc…

Top Producing 7 – 8 bedrooms:

Grand Views – Grossing $220K – $230K annually. Amazing home, amazing views, theater room, fantastic amenities, great location, very popular home.
Grand Lakefront Retreat – Grossing $140K – $150K annually. Awesome lake property, theater room, game room, boat dock, unique design, something for everyone in your group.
All About the Views – Grossing $125K. Great views overlooking the Village and Lake, rare 8 bedroom home, theater room, game room, and perfect get away for your larger groups.

Homes purchased for $400K – $500K:

It’s rare nowadays but if you can find deals like these your setting yourself up for a successful investment.

429 Crater Lake Road “3 Sisters Lodge” – Originally purchase for $450K. Owners did some work improving and furnishing for rents. This home is currently grossing $61K renting 175 nights.

721 E Mountain View Blvd “Time Well Spent” – Purchased for $400K. Big Bear City home with lots of space. We are currently grossing $52K annually renting around 120 nights.

Homes purchased for $300K – $400K:

Hard to find these deals but when they come up and owners make huge improvements this is what you get.

422 Crane “Summit Creek Pines” – Originally purchased for $340K. Owners put a ton of money into improvements. Fully remodeled. Added game room in garage….Currently grossing $43K 175 nights.

234 Oriole Drive “Dew Drop Inn” – Originally purchased for $410K. Owners put a lot of money into improvements. Fully remodeled. Currently grossing $48K annually renting just 121 nights. Owners stay in the home June – September so the home is only available to rent 8 months of the year.

41706 Tanager Drive “My Happy Place” – Purchased for $304K. Owners put $60K+ into the home inside and out. They converted to a 4 bedroom. We are currently grossing $48K – $50K annually renting about 170 nights.

Top Performing Condos:

Condos are not always the most popular as most Big Bear visitors are looking for the cabin or lodge but the nicer the condo the better it will perform. Here are some examples of our top producing condos.

Drop Inn to Summit – This is a town home on Thrush. This is our top producing home in the Summit Town Home complex on Thrush. We are currently grossing a little over $24K annually with this home. Owners installed a private spa and there is access to the pool/spa during Spring, Summer, and Fall. I believe the pool/spa really helps with occupancy during the slower rental months. I also think the 3 bathrooms and the double oven/micro in the kitchen are attractive to potential guests.

The Goggle Tan Condo – Very nicely remodeled 3 bed 2 bath condo sleeping 6. This is as close to ski in ski out as your going to get for Snow Summit. Grossing $25K – $28K annually.

Snow Summit Condo – Nice 3 bed 3 bath at Summit Blvd and Switzerland right across the street from Snow Summit. Grossing $28K – $30K annually.

We always suggest using a Big Bear Realtor for purchasing your Big Bear vacation home. The more experienced Big Bear realtors understand the vacation rental environment up here. Look for a realtor who will work hand in hand with a Vacation Rental Management Company like Destination Big Bear to evaluate comps, potential revenue, home design, sleeping arrangements, and help you find the most successful opportunity. We are ready to help every step of the way.

Thank you,


Evan Engle

President & General Manager
Destination Big Bear

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