NOTE: Tobyhanna Township approved a short-term rental ordinance in 2022. A revision to the ordinance was adopted on February, 20 2024. This changed the occupancy limit to 2 per bedroom + 2 and reduced fines for violations to be within state guidelines. The provision to cap the number of STR licenses to 10% was removed from the ordinance and will be determined by a separate vote, a resolution, not an ordinance.
The is now a proposed resolution in Tobyhanna Township that will cap the number of STR licenses at 10 percent of homes which will be voted on at the next township supervisors meeting, Monday March 18, 2024. As of January 2024 the number of licensed STRs in Tobyhanna Township surpassed 630 and there are at least 200 in processing and the 10% cap number would be 743.
The supervisors will be voting on March 18, 2024 to (based on these numbers) essentially PROHIBIT ANY NEW STR LICENSES in this township.
Since the current STR licenses are defined to not be transferable, it is my opinion this will create havoc in the real estate market as a significant portion of home value in Tobyhanna Township comes from the ability to use a home as a vacation rental property. Homeowners who rent will resist selling if their licenses don’t transfer. Buyers who want to rent will have no idea how long the waiting line is for licenses. If you are considering buying, or selling in Tobyhanna Township you might want to pause until this all gets worked out.
The resolution is scheduled for a vote on:
Monday March 18 at 6 PM
Tobyhanna Township Building
105 GOVERNMENT CENTER WAY
POCONO PINES PA 18350
If you are a stakeholder in this (property owner, resident or local business), I strongly suggest you contact the township supervisors before the meeting and present how this would affect you and your concerns over a possible cap. As witnessed by recent meetings, the supervisors come to these meetings with their mind made up. https://tobyhannatownshippa.gov/board-of-supervisors-2024/
This uncertainty affects Camelot Forest, Emerald Lakes, Greenwood Acres, Locust Lake Village and sections of Arrowhead Lake and Stillwater Estates, communities mentioned in this article.
Mention HOA and many people think of cumbersome regulations, restrictive committees and added expenses. Here in the Poconos, we have our share of these, but we also have many communities which were built as vacation/resort communities and the HOA serve to bring attractive amenities and a pleasant vacation experience for homeowners and guests. As a real estate agent to helps people find vacation rental investments in the Poconos, I believe the benefits of being in a vacation community outweigh those of being outside one (off the grid).
Rules and regulations in the vacation communities do shift over time. Like ocean tides, there seem to be periods of rising restrictions and fees in some places and there are times in which rules, regulations and fees will decrease. This is driven by HOA boards who see turnover in their boards, often driven by activism from either side (full-time residents vs. owners who rent). There is an old saying that people get involved in community politics for one of two reasons – self interest and revenge. We see this affecting STR rental policies and thus the analogy to ocean tides. If you are looking for an investment in real estate, the Poconos presents some nice long-term opportunities and our region has a wealth of opportunities.
A while back, a Pocono STR entrepreneur put forward a list of his 10 Best Pocono PA HOAs to Look at for Short Term Rental that I think is good reading. He captured the essence of what people should be looking for when they consider investing in vacation communities.
To update and put my buyer’s agent perspective on things, for January 2024, here is my list of Top 10 STR-Friendly Communities in the Poconos. It should be noted that this is the opinion of a real estate agent who is compensated in the sale of homes. This is my opinion and an unscientific tally of my clients’ reactions to homes, community amenities, HOA rules and township licensing. It is also biased toward Monroe and Carbon Counties where I primarily operate so it doesn’t include the very nice and desirable Lake Wallenpaupack area and the Northern Poconos. Through no scientific method, here is a list of my list of top places for Pocono Vacation Rental Investments:
A Pocono Country Place
Northridge at Camelback
Located between the popular Lake Harmony area and Pocono Raceway, but in a world of its own, Brier Crest Woods is a modest community with a nice mix of vacation homes and full-time residents. The community is very walkable, has a small lake with a beach and boat launch and seems a pleasant place to get away. The community sits in Tunkhannock Township which seems reasonable with its STR regulations. All renters and vehicles must be registered with the BCW Office. Fees vary on the length of stay and are modest. A survey was circulated in Spring 2023 asking homeowners if they were interested in exploring a cap on the number of rentals permitted by the HOA; the answer was NO.
Indian Mountain Lake is a gated community that spans two counties and three townships. The HOA allows Short-term Rentals, but each township has its own rules, so properties in Penn Forest Township and Tunkhannock can rent, but those in Chestnuthill Township cannot. About 1,800 of the 2,200 homes can be run as STR, several hundred currently have rental licenses. Each Short-term rental must be registered with the Civic Association office (HOA) and a reasonable administrative fee needs to be paid. Indian Mountain Lake has a few small, interconnected lakes and several pools and they recently began to allow golf-carts on their private roads.
There are over 1750 properties in the gated community of Penn Estates, less than 100 are registered as STR properties. The community has central water and sewer and allows swimming pools in backyards. It is close to both Camelback and Shawnee giving it good winter rental opportunities Guest and vehicle registration fees are modest and there are a couple of small lakes and a community pool for amenities. A small section of 31 homes are located in Pocono Township which does not allow STR in residential neighborhoods.
Emerald Lakes in a community with nice amenities including a beach area, indoor pool, community center with scheduled activities. Community is very close to the Kalahari Resort and not far from Camelback, so occupancy of 70% here is not unreasonable. The community has a lot of suburban-style homes, nice sized lots, garages, etc. Fees for owners who rent are a bit high, and guest fees for the indoor pool and amenities are also high, but it is one of only a few that has an indoor pool. Pools are allowed in backyards as well. See vacation rentals in Long Pond
A gated community with a rich tradition of vacation homes, Big Bass Lake has several lakes, beachfronts, and nice amenities. Their website states it is a resort community, and it seems this way. Big Bass Lake is located midway between Camelback and Montage Mountain in Scranton, each about a 40-minute drive so winter business is possible, but not that likely. This seems to be reflected in home prices and you seem to get more home for the dollar here. The community is active and does well with rentals in the summer. The Community Association (HOA) does require STR permits and guests are to be registered, the fees are modest when compared to other communities. See Vacation Rentals in Gouldsboro a.k.a Big Bass Lake
As one of the larger communities in the area, Towamensing Trails features a 190-acre lake, a community center with game room, an outdoor pool, beach area and “marina” for kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. There are approximately 3,000 homes in this community and about 25% are full-time residences. Vacation renters have some restrictions that property owners don’t, which can be frustrating for guests. There have been efforts to cap the number of rentals adding to some tensions in the community. Overall, Towamensing Trails and Penn Forest Township run at a low budget and fees and taxes here are lower than just about everywhere else.
Pocono Farms and Country Club is an amenity rich community with a lake, clubhouse, boat rentals, pools and more. Pocono Farms is one of the only communities in the region to have its own public golf course and a full-service restaurant. There is no annual fee for owners to rent, but each rental must be registered and pay a $150 fee which gives guests a pass for the amenities and the restaurant which is not open to the public. The Member Services Department of the association provides support for Short-Term Rentals in Pocono Farms and is very professional.
As one of the area’s most recognized vacation home communities, Arrowhead Lake has a rich tradition of vacation rentals. Golf cart friendly, this gated community feels like a resort with its nice amenities including multiple pools and beaches. There are roughly 2,500 homes and 800 undeveloped lots and there has been a lot of building and upgrading going on here. Roughly 20-25% of the homes in Arrowhead are occupied by full-time residents, the vast majority of are vacation homes and the number of rentals in the community is rising. Yes, the fees at Arrowhead are high and that has prompted some activism from owners who rent. Arrowhead is a bit far from winter resorts so occupancy above 50% is less common from those that don’t invest in individual property amenities.
With over 1,600 properties, this lake community describes itself as a vacation haven, with beaches on the three lakes, a clubhouse, and its own ski hill. Owners who want to rent pay $800/year for a rental license from the community association. Wristbands are purchased for each guest group and must be worn to access the community facilities. Golf carts and ATVs are allowed on community streets and the main entrance is on Route 940, not too far from Lake Harmony and winter resorts. Lately it seems there are contractor trucks all over this community, see examples of vacation home rentals in Locust Lake Village.
Lake Harmony Estates is a community located between Big Boulder Ski Resort and Lake Harmony, next to the Split Rock Resort. Lake Harmony Estates has a HOA that allows for STR and provides passes for community amenities which include walking trails and lakeside access points. Rental guests do not have to be registered, there is an annual permit ($500) for homeowners in Lake Harmony Estates who run STRs. Homes in Lake Harmony Estates are on the same sewer system that serves most of the Split Rock and homes that border Lake Harmony in Kidder Township where something like 70% of the homes are vacation homes or vacation rentals.
Some additional notes: This list above factors in many visits and home showings and informally notes things like look and feel. I am looking at this from a vacation home perspective, not short-term rentals for business or an alternative to travel hotels so communities with no amenities did not make my list. I also looked at the vacation home being the destination, with only a little influence on proximity to attractions. Read my post – what brings People to the Poconos http: for more insight on this. Walkability, the overall condition of homes in the community and the resort-like feel are important. The long-term outlook for this community to retain its character as a vacation community and not turn into a residential community also weighed in my thinking. Another factor has been new construction and rehab activity observed in the community and competition.
July 03, 2023
Some communities are more friendly to VRBO and Airbnb, others oppose the practice. Here is an summary drawn from various HOAs (Home Owner Associations) and township regulations. Last Updated: February, 2024 ARROWHEAD LAKE (Coolbaugh Township and Tobyhanna Township, PA) As one of the area’s most recognized vacation home communities, Arrowhead Lake has a rich traditionContinue reading "Short-term Rental Friendly Pocono Communities"
March 01, 2022
Zoning, Rules and Regulations regarding Short-term Rentals, VRBO and AirBnB are changing in the Poconos, here is a scorecard of municipalities and what they say about running a short-term rental from your vacation home or income property.