Maybe you’ve been hosting short-term vacation rentals for a while now, and just want to become more competitive – or perhaps, this is your first time? I’m a big believer that locally-owned vacation rentals are better than hotels. I think vacation rental properties can be lucrative sources of income if they’re done properly. There’s also more potential for value (as a guest), as the accommodations and costs associated can be much better than a hotel. I spend my days interacting with vacation rental hosts from every walk of life, and I’m lucky. I’ve met some very cool people and gathered some useful data along the way. Everyone has their own unique spin with hosting. In this article, I outline some of the best tips I’ve gathered, from some seriously awe-inspiring hosts.
#1 Vetting your guests…tread carefully!
Every vacation rental property has a unique personality, its location and attributes all craft its outside appeal. Ask yourself – “Am I open-minded and flexible enough, to attract the widest audience possible?” vacation rental hosting is a business, one of the biggest distinctions between rental properties regards the emotion, values, and personality of the host themselves! We all love and appreciate guests that will treat our properties and our belongings with respect. Trying to determine how a guest will be, based on things like race/national origin/religion (creed)/color, gender (or gender expression), disability, marital status, age, sexual orientation, or military status is textbook discrimination. Don’t be overly sensitive, expect you’re going to host others that may be fundamentally different than you – accommodation is key.
#2 (The Obvious) – Make the appearance and environment welcoming
Clutter-free, clean, and bright are just a few adjectives describing a perfect vacation rental. Do you have a welcome package and pamphlet directory for your guests? You should. Add amenities like hair care products, your favorite snacks (maybe something local?), perhaps a nice bottle of red wine? It’s all tax-deductible, including any furniture or home improvement used directly for your vacation rental. When I’m staying at a hotel, I make sure to ask the concierge about local attractions and places to eat – You’re the concierge! Have a binder set aside with any information they could possibly need, including your contact, local emergency phone numbers, wifi network credentials, TV/entertainment center instructions, and any other off-site recommendations. Chances are, there’s a local-favorite hangout that could help make their stay unforgettable.
#3 Tick as many amenities as you can
Do you have a blow dryer? Get one. Iron + Ironing board? Check. The more amenities that you checkmark, will place you well ahead of your competition in online searches. Shop around on Amazon or Ikea and remember that it’s all potentially tax-deductible. Once you’ve acquired and organized everything, make an inventory checklist and document the item condition. It will drastically help your case if you ever need to claim a security deposit. You can never have enough on-site amenities.
#4 Spend a few nights at your rental, before going live
Packing only the bare necessities, spend a night or two at your vacation rental. The purpose of this is to benchmark the guest experience. You’re most likely going to notice a few things that you may have forgotten or that could use improvement. It’ll give you the final chance to craft a picture-perfect guest experience.
#5 Invest in an electronic smart lock
Bypass physical keys entirely, eliminating the need to send anything physical through the mail, and making it foolproof that a guest can’t lock themselves out. A good smart lock will enable you to program punch-in codes, making it easy to create and delete unique codes for guests. Some of the nicer ones will even sync into the wifi network, allowing you to change and manage codes remotely. Setup is easy, installation only takes a few minutes. Some will integrate with home security, depending on your equipment.
#6 Price it objectively
Like anything in business, generally, the owners who pour heart and soul into an operation, overvalue what it’s worth. Not fully understanding what the ‘best’ rates are, can wreck your potential. You can charge too little, and miss out on making more – or, charge too much, and not fill enough occupancy. Ideally, we want to be right in-between. You can compare your listing to comparable pads in your area, and come up with a rough average, or use a dynamic pricing tool like BeyondPricing, to help automate rate-pricing based on current market data. Trends change quickly, be sure to scope out the competition often. Users that price a vacation rental through third-party software (channel-mangers) should be especially aware of all the markups. Nightly rate + cleaning fee + taxes + security deposit + merchant card processing, etc… It all adds up quickly. Avoid tacking on extra fees, it’s a negative detriment when we’re trying to build value. If you need to cover a fee, bury it into something else. If it’s your first-time hosting, try pricing your unit from the bottom up. Price it slightly below average in the beginning. It’s a good idea to reward repeat guests and keep them up-to-date with specials you may have. Over time, they’ll begin to fill more and more of your yearly occupancy.
#7 Follow-up with guests on check-out day
Reviews are everything. Guarantee anything potentially unresolved doesn’t hit your listing by asking the question, “Did this reservation surpass your expectations?”. If the feedback is anything but stellar, you have a chance to make it right. It’s important to under-promise and over-deliver. If you’re transparent in what the place offers, and you set appropriate expectations, there’s no reason a little extra effort can’t reward you with 5 stars and some positive public feedback.