Minnesotans and Wisconsinites who are second-home owners could be missing out on a second income.

According to Christine Karpinski, author of "How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner" (Kinney Pollack Press, 2007, $26), Minnesota is a horribly underserved market when it comes to lake homes for rent. Despite more than 100,000 cabins or lake homes in Minnesota, it's difficult to find one offered to vacationers, said Karpinski.

Many owners of small or simple properties assume that people want to rent only "lifestyles of the rich and famous-type homes." "That's a big misconception. A lot of people are looking for something simple -- for the same reason that the homeowner bought the property," she said.

People who have never rented their second home assume that strangers will trash the place, but it just doesn't happen, at least not in Karpinski's experience. She owns a number of vacation properties. A lot of people worry about water marks on the coffee table or a broken glass, but owners need to look at the bigger picture -- like how much rent money the property will bring in each year. For many owners, an additional $20,000 is not unusual, Karpinski said.

The sluggish economy can actually work to the advantage of owners with second homes only a couple of hours away from a major metropolitan area such as the Twin Cities. In stressful times, people scale back, looking for a vacation spot that they can drive to. Second homes closer to the Twin Cities also have the advantage of winter rentals for skiing, ice-fishing and snowmobiling.

John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633