You’ve made the leap and decided to become a vacation rental homeowner. You’ve earned yourself a few visitors, but things are moving a little slow. You look around at similar properties in your neighborhood and that’s when you start to notice something strange. Why are other houses garnering nearly double the bookings you’re getting when your house is in better shape and offers better features? Something’s gotta give, right?
While you may have invested quite some time and money into building an attractive property, it’s not enough to take some swanky shots in Portrait mode, keep the property clean, and keep your rates the same. You might be thinking, reviews! Reviews are important, yes but you’ll only have so many of them if you’re not securing a lot of bookings to begin with.
So what’s missing? We’re here to help you figure that out. No more hair-pulling or stress and you definitely shouldn’t even think about getting out of the game altogether. Our experience tells us there are about six important steps every vacation rental homeowner should make to have an advantage on the competition and score more full calendars.
If you’re ready, take a deep breath and leave your jealousy behind. Push those other rental out of your head and dive into these proven marketing techniques that are easy to implement and sure to boost your home to the top of every vacationer’s list.
Let’s go make some money!
1. SHOW OFF * MORE* STELLAR PICS
If you know anything about renting vacation homes, then you probably already know or at least guessed that pictures are important. Not only will travelers not book a location they can’t see, they’re more likely to book a location that feels welcoming, calming and a fun place to spend their stay. Consider this your first and more important commandment: you sell through your photo. It’s all you have.
If you currently have low-quality photos, invest in a better camera or a professional photographer (even if it’s a friend). If you’re pictures are nice, but you only have three, that’s not gonna cut it either. Messy photos, dark, blurry shots and two photos of the front door but none of the bedroom won’t make anyone feel comfortable and you won’t seem like a qualified, trustworthy host.
There are many sites online that will help you take gorgeous photos on your own. In addition to nicely lit, focused shots, quantity is a huge factor. Studies show that listings with more than 20 pictures gain the most inquiries. So taking shots from multiple angles and sides in every room and hallway will be helpful, even if it seems slightly repetitive to you. Someone browsing should feel like they know what each part of the property looks like and can imagine walking through
the layout (it also doubles as a great way to cut down on small questions, like Is there a microwave in the kitchen?)
2. MAINTAIN FAST COMMUNICATION
Planning is important when you’re traveling, and sometimes your planning runs on a tight deadline, as you may have to find accommodations a few days before, or book something in advance before everything is full. This means timeliness is key to having a great experience. Would you want to wait 4 days for someone to tell you if the rental has parking? No one likes to hear silence for multiple days.
Put yourself in the traveler’s shoes and think about what your response will mean for them ass guests should as issue arise. Be available. Many owners respond in a matter of hours, but when a traveler is online ready to click a booking button at any moment, 3 hours might seem like forever. Stand out by responding as quickly as possible. You’ll earn high marks with the travelers, build trust and gain an advantage by creating a connection and answering questions long before they hear back from other rentals they’re interested in.
Always aim to respond in under 24 hours and try to be immediate whenever your schedule allows. You might want to have a special app or alert on your phone so you can check messages whenever you have a free moment. Responses aren’t limited to inquiries: follow up with welcoming, professional messages after the booking process to ensure your renters have a great experience from start to finish.
3. REQUEST REVIEWS
Reviews are something travelers trust because they’re accounts from real people just like them. Most vacationers are more likely to book if there are reviews, and reviews can help solidify a property that doesn’t have a lot of pictures or wasn’t ranked the highest.
Almost every listing sites will encourage your guests to leave reviews after their stay, but of course not everyone takes the time. If you’re having a hard time getting reviews racked up on your account, here’s some ideas:
- Send a friendly note requesting feedback within a few days of guests’ departure
- Send a handwritten thank you note or leave one in the property that includes a review request
- Make sure your requests are personal and stress how important reviews are to your success
- Make it easy and clear to leave a review by included links, web address, instructions, etc
Obviously, a good experience will leave guests raving about you. However, remember that critical reviews are a good opportunity too. Almost everyone runs into a bit of a hiccup at some point, small or large, and your response will show you care. A guests who realized the light.
bulbs we’re out or something was forgotten may complain about that, but they’ll also make note of how well you handled the situation.
Always be mindful of this during a guest’s stay and you will receive flying colors! Keep collecting those reviews and your property will look more and more attractive.
4. KEEP CALENDARS AND RATES UPDATED
There’s nothing more frustrating than finding your perfect rental and discovering the calendar is incorrect or rates are not up to date. It’s a huge disappointment, blow to the gut and turnoff. Very few travelers will come back if they feel the host is sloppy and doing the unforgivable–not maintaining the two most important parts of booking a vacation home: prices and dates.
To avoid potentially destroying someone’s planning session and starting off on an angry foot, make sure you are updating your calendar for applicable upcharges, discounts, and availability. Make sure that bookings are reflected on the calendar when travelers visit your property and that any seasonal changes in price are clearly explained and viewable.
You don’t want to be penalized in the search results because too many browsers got annoyed with your post. Some search engines even remove listings that haven’t been updated in 60 days. Check with your listing provider to see if changes are made automatically or if you will need to update it manually. It takes work but it’s essential that your listing is correct in real-time and doesn’t portray inaccurate information–inadvertent or not.
In the case of pricing, make sure you are in the hunt with comparable properties so you can receive the best chance of booking up fast. Stay competitive by taking into account the location and quality of your home, nearby pricing, holidays, events and more. Keep an eye on pricing fluctuations like peak and off seasons so travelers know you’re aware of what’s happening.
5. WRITE DETAILED, COLORFUL DESCRIPTIONS
One of the most impactful parts of your listing is the description. Well-written doesn’t even begin to express it. High-quality descriptions will present both the facts and feelings of your property. Meaning potential guests will learn what’s in the property, where it is, who can stay there and why it’s so special. This doesn’t mean throwing something together in your notes app. Edit and edit or even seek the assistance of a professional who can make your property sound like a 5-star resort!
Help them create an image in their head that, when paired with the photographs, will allow them imagine themselves in the space. It’s one thing to say “big rec room with TV and pool table.” That sounds fun enough. But a listing that boasts “expansive entertainment room accommodates up to ten family and friends for popcorn and movies on a 42” SMART TV with a leather sectional and a billiards table for hours of family fun” sounds like a rental that you wouldn’t want to pass up.
You might be afraid of writing a novel, but good property descriptions should be 300 words minimum, which is why it’s not easy to write them. Consult with a good copywriter, ask friends and family who know your property how they feel in the space and what are their favorite aspects. It’s a great way to get descriptions and stories that will make your writing easier and more lively.
6. ENABLE ONLINE BOOKINGS
The world lives online. Okay, perhaps that’s an overstatement but it’s a fact that much of the commerce and travel planning taking place today happens on the Internet, so if you’re not accepting online bookings, or your system is shabby, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Over 90% of travelers desire online booking options, it’s fast easy and direct.
A secure payment portal and easy booking system means you can reach more travelers easier, and knowing there is convenience and security will make a big difference as they choose a place to stay.
Even traditional hotels and resorts use them for their ease and popularity. If you’re still asking for checks and mail-in forms, enough is enough! You’re missing out a huge consumer base. Choose a trusted site to help you facilitate bookings and you’ll be on your way to filling that calendar.
It’s no easy feat to market a vacation rental, but the rewards are great and the time and effort will not be in vain. It’s often the little details that your competition will gloss over. Follow these tips on your property and you’ll have more confidence and more bookings than your competitors. And who doesn’t want a little more cash in their pocket?
So what are you waiting for? Make your vacation rental the most coveted spot in town.