As a savvy manager of vacation rental properties, you know that driving revenue and growing the business is always the main goal.
You work tirelessly to manage your properties. You do all the things that the so-called “experts” tell you to do; list them on all of the appropriate reservation sites, make your renters happy, make your owners happy, but it just doesn’t seem to be paying off in the ways that you really want. After all, the payoff of working hard is ideally making more money, right?
We’ve figured out what you’re doing wrong as well as some of the biggest industry mistakes that are stopping your vacation rental business from reaching the next level, and we’re going to tell you how to fix them.
MISTAKE #1: UNDERESTIMATING THE POWER OF RESEARCH + MARKET TRENDS
We know you’re familiar with sites like Airbnb and HomeAway (if you aren’t then you’ve been living under a rock and need sunlight) and are well aware of just how many property listings there are out there. These sites have made it easy for anyone with a computer to become a property manager, but they also get your properties booked, don’t they? Let’s expand on how these sites can help us in the form of research resources.
The information you pull from these types of sites will be invaluable, so do not underestimate the importance of this research.
Information like: Who are your competitors? What are some overarching trends? What are the price ranges of comparable properties in your area? How should your seasonal rates be set up? Etc. Etc. Etc…
All of this information is important and easy to find out via all of the booking sites. Understanding your competitors and the locations of their properties will give you a perfect jumping off point if you find yourself wondering “what nightly rate should I charge?” “Should I renovate the kitchen?” “What’s the meaning of life?” Wait. maybe not that last one.
MISTAKE #2: HAVING A LOVE AFFAIR WITH JUST ONE BOOKING SITE
You may want to… but don’t do it. Sure, Airbnb might be where most of your reservations come from and it’s so much easier to work with only one reservation site. This method keeps you from accidental double bookings and other problems that might come from using multiple channels. But, believe me when I tell you that you’re missing out on the Benjamins.
While it’s probably the most time-consuming step on this list (sorry), getting all of your vacation properties listed on all of the booking sites out there, is absolutely crucial. We’re talking Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, VacationRentals.com, and Tripping (to name a few). Think of it as a marketing strategy, not just another listing.
There are a lot of different strategies when it comes to marketing your vacation rental(s), but channel marketing is still the most effective way to get more people viewing your properties. Once you’ve listed them, be sure to document all of the channels your properties are listed on and keep an updated list on the status of each property in order to best manage the postings and avoid double bookings. Or make it even easier by using a vacation property management software (that’s totally a shameless plug, but can you blame us?)
MISTAKE #3: YOUR HEADLINE IS SO BORING IT HAS VISITORS SCROLLING ON BY
When it comes to vacation rentals, there are “a lot of fish in the sea”. So making your properties stand out from the crowd begins with a tantalizing headline (come on, get your head out of the gutter). Catch every prospective renter’s eye by using keywords to promote the highlights of your rental. Travelers often search for rentals by choice luxury keyword after they’ve established the location, so be sure to highlight the most exciting qualities of your property. Always be descriptive, and don’t be afraid to work it, sorry, I mean… sell it!
Example:Boring Headline: “Historic Home.”
Enticing Headline: “Classic Historic Charleston Home Located on the Peninsula!”
MISTAKE #4: YOUR LISTINGS AREN’T VISUALLY EXCITING
Beware: an eye-catching headline will fall short unless it’s been paired with plenty of gorgeous, dynamic and appealing photographs! We exist in an information-overloaded, image-oriented world, and your business is done online, so don’t overlook the importance of this step.
It’s a pain in the neck, but take the time to stage your property as if you were preparing to welcome a guest. All of the pictures you use should showcase your property and help set potential guest’s expectations before they book.
Make sure to capture a variety of landscape photos formatted to a size of at least 1024px x 683px (ideally, 24 pictures total). Remember to add photos of the exterior of the property (and please for the love of all that is good do NOT leave the trash can sitting in the drive!) as well as any unique features like an ocean view or a hot tub.
And if you don’t have access to a quality camera, hire someone who does! This investment in your properties will pay off in a major way.
If you’re not confident in your photography skills and hiring a photographer isn’t in your budget, make sure to have good lighting for each image, your pictures will automatically be more inviting and appealing to potential renters. Take pictures during the day and let light in where you can. Pretty please with a cherry on top do not let them be dark. Or too yellow. Or too blue. You get the drift.
The fact of the matter is that the more professional-quality photographs posted, the more guests you will attract!
MISTAKE #5: NOT TELLING THE FULL STORY
While a beautiful photo of the Nashville skyline at night will certainly sway a potential guest, well-written, descriptive details about your property will set you apart from others.
As you write the descriptions for each of your properties, try to place yourself in the mindset of a guest. What do you look for when you go on vacation? What features would be important for you to know about? What amenities would get you excited to stay there? Personally, I want to be in the center of all the action with a luxurious ensuite bathroom.
You have the unique opportunity to convey exactly who you are and why booking with you will produce the ultimate vacation experience, so don’t be afraid to bring your listing to life with narrative accounts and sensory details.
Renovated and redecorated in 2015! This revamped compound is comprised of Three, 2BR apartments (A, B, & C). It is a two-story building with an outdoor staircase to B. There are porches on both levels, full kitchen and off-street parking!
This comfortable compound is made up of two, three bedroom apartments; both have two full bathrooms and a full kitchen and living room. Unit 226A is located on the first floor and includes three fireplaces, original hardwood floors throughout and a very spacious dining room that can accommodate up to six guests. The living room offers seating for seven guests and the couch provides additional sleeping space when converted into a sleeper sofa. The master bedroom has a comfortable king bed and has an attached, full-size bathroom with a unique claw foot bathtub. One bedroom comes with a queen bed, while the other includes two twin beds. Unit 226B, located on the second floor, is very similar in design to unit A. Guests will enter the home into the main living room, offering plenty of seating for up to six guests and the sleeper sofa provides additional sleeping space. Two additional bedrooms are located in the back of the house, each with a queen bed. The full kitchen comes with everything you may need for a night in and the dining room table can comfortably seat up to six guests. The best part about this compound property is that it’s dog-friendly!
MISTAKE #6: UNDERSELLING YOUR LOCATION
It’s an old cliche but it’s cliched because it’s true. Location, location, location. Location is always the first criteria guests search for while planning their next vacation. Everyone wants to stay in the “best” area for the best price. Whether it’s experiencing the most exciting nightlife, discovering where the locals hang out, or being on the water, it’s your job to figure out why your property’s location is unique and desirable. Make sure that you’ve described your property’s location in the most enticing way possible, and back it up by showing it on a map.
After you’ve described how great your specific property is, talk up the city’s best features (hot spots + must-sees) in your site postings.
Charleston, also known as the “Holy City”, has plenty to see and do. From trendy restaurants and great shopping to spending the day at the beach, there is something for everyone.
Imagine waking up to church bells chiming, a cool ocean breeze, and the sound of horses trotting on a cobblestone street. A remarkably dynamic destination, it’s no surprise that Charleston continues to be honored as the #1 city in the United States and the world! Our beautiful city has been recognized by Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure and Southern Living magazines as a top destination. Spend some time downtown to enjoy exceptional cuisine, high-end boutique shopping, beautiful sights and rich history, then, enjoy a nice stroll on one of our many gorgeous beaches, just minutes away! Return to the city at night to immerse yourself in our acclaimed creative culture and nightlife offering a mix of Southern charm and modern innovation.
Once a guest has booked with you, be sure to provide some local maps, guidebooks, and other means of recommendations such as an Insider’s Guide and restaurant menus for your guests. Including pamphlets on special features in the area will make it easier for tourists to find ways to fill their time and enjoy the city they are visiting, all with a little help from you of course.
MISTAKE #7: THE LATE BIRD DOESN’T GET THE WORM
As you know from doing all of your research above, it’s a competitive market. So, the faster you are at responding to potential guests the more likely you will be in getting that reservation.
A good rule of thumb is to always reply to questions within 24 hours of receiving them. It’s a digital age where customers expect immediate, if not instant gratification, so if a potential guest doesn’t get a response from you it’s likely they will book with someone who did. People are fickle that way.
Stay on top of your communications to avoid a possible reservation slipping through the cracks. It could be the difference between making a booking or not.
MISTAKE #8: A DIFFICULT CHECK-IN PROCESS
First impressions are a big deal. It’s science, people. And as a property manager, your guest’s first impression for their entire experience will come from the check-in process. While it’s something that can be easily overlooked, it’s really one of the most important pieces to ensuring that your guests have a wonderful time at your property. One way to make things super easy for guests (and you) is to have keyless entry locks. Email them their code and viola! done. No keys in the mailbox or under planters.
Once you’ve given your guests all of the information they need prior to arrival, the next step is making sure that their check-in is quick and easy. This portion of your guest’s stay will set the tone for their entire stay, so you need to be sure it’s as seamless as possible. (You want great reviews, right?)
Create a check-in process checklist for you and your team so that everyone is on the same page with what your guests will experience during check-in. This will ensure consistency and accountability to perform at your highest level for your guests.
MISTAKE #9: EVERYONE LOVES TO FEEL PAMPERED
It’s all about the little details when it comes to making your guests feel special. The extra every-day features are often the things that will distinguish your rental as a step up from the rest. Updating your properties with modern amenities like high-def TVs and wi-fi will be a huge draw for potential guests looking at your listings online.
However, it’s the little extras they won’t find until checking into your property that will really set you apart and make your guests feel cared for. Here are a few ideas that will make them feel like your only guest:
- ground coffee for the coffee maker
- protein bars with a little ‘You’re Great!’ love note
- streaming services
- city maps
These kinds of simple, yet luxurious touches can be the loving details that bring your guests back again. Or even better still, prompt them to write a raving five-star review about you and your property.
MISTAKE #10: IGNORING THE POWER OF POSITIVE REVIEWS
One of the biggest mistakes anyone in this industry can make is to think that reviews are not important. Maybe it’s the fear of bad reviews that’s stopping you from making the ask, or the belief that reviews are not worth your time to collect. Either way, by missing out on guest reviews, you are missing out on money. And you like money, right?
Did you know that 92% of consumers read online reviews in order to determine whether the business they’re interested in is good or not? There is also research that says that reviews, whether they’re positive or negative, can be beneficial for your business.
The point is, most people view online reviews to be as valuable as a personal recommendation, so having a way to collect and ask for guest reviews will make a big difference for your bookings.
Consider putting together an email that you can quickly copy and paste asking guests for a review. It’s pretty likely that your guests aren’t going to do it unless you ask or if they have a bad experience. And you’re better off finding out about the bad experience now rather than on Facebook.
Dear [Guest Name],
Thank you for choosing to stay at [Address/Name of Property]. I hope you enjoyed your stay and time in [Name of City]!
Our goal is always to provide the very best accommodations so that our guests are happy. It’s also our goal to continue improving. That’s why we value your feedback.
We would love to hear from you about how your stay was and what you thought of [Address/Name of Property]. Feel free to respond to this email so we can learn about any comments or concerns you have. We would also love to connect with you online. If you feel we’ve provided you with a great stay or would like to leave us feedback, please do so on [online platform i.e.: Yelp, Google Business, etc] [HYPER LINK TO YOUR ONLINE PLATFORM].
Thank you so much for taking the time to provide us feedback and review. This feedback is appreciated and very helpful to us.
MISTAKE #11: BEING AFRAID OF MARKETING
For most of us, marketing is a big, scary buzzword that gets tossed around a lot in the business world. It’s vague, and the word itself has so many facets that it can be overwhelming. I’m here to tell you that it’s all going to be alright. I’m also here to tell you that marketing is just another part of property management – you really can do it, and do it well, so stop worrying.
While implementing effective marketing strategies does take some work and a lot of trial and error, it doesn’t have to become another full-time job if you figure it out and do it efficiently. After you’ve set up your website with a great landing page and you’ve started to grow your email list, start to think about what the goals of your marketing efforts are. Why are you trying to drive traffic back to your website through social media or email and what do you want your guest to do?
Ultimately, your goal is to make more money through more bookings, so the first thing you need to do is evaluate your current situation. How can you get the most return for your time spent on marketing? Which platforms should you utilize and how do you want to communicate to the online world?
Then, come up with a plan of action and DO IT!
Test one strategy at a time and monitor the response you get. Once you find a strategy that works, double down and keep doing it. Figuring out the strategy that works for you can be hard and time-consuming but at the end of the day, it’s really just trying stuff. There is no magic formula that fits everyone and just because people say you have to be on Instagram (or whatever it may be) doesn’t mean that it will work for you. And that’s okay! You do you, boo.
MISTAKE #12: NOT HAVING YOUR OWN WEBSITE
“But Alexandra, why do I need a website when I’m getting bookings from (insert booking site here)?” Because people don’t think you have a real business unless you have a website.
Because people don’t think you have a real business unless you have a website.
And with platforms like Wix and Squarespace, you can easily create the website you want on the cheap. (Of course, you can also go the WordPress route, but unless you know how to design in WordPress, this would involve hiring a designer to make a custom site, which is certainly not the cost-effective DIY option).
Think of your website as your virtual storefront. Having a clean and easy to navigate website not only gives you immediate credibility in the eyes of potential guests, but it also gives you more chances to be found by them! Enter Search Engine Optimization.
In addition to inherently getting you more potential bookings, your website can also host your listings for you. That means no fees to those big name booking sites – just cash directly in our pocket.
On top of all these good reasons to have your own website, the last thing I’ll mention is Client Relationship Management (CRM) through list building. Your website will help you be found by potential guests and allow those guests to book directly through you, but what about the people who don’t book? By optimizing your website to capture each users’ email address, you will have a way to communicate with each person who has visited your site, whether they booked or not. And then market to them so that they book in the future. Don’t fall into the out of sight, out of mind problem with potential guests.
MISTAKE #13: TRYING TO BE THE JACK OF ALL TRADES, BUT THE MASTER OF NONE
There is no reason why you should have to manage everything all on your own. I mean, it’s 2017 – there’s a tool for just about everything, and property management is no exception. Yeah, there’s an app for that.
Make sure you are using a property management software that makes your life easier, doesn’t create more work and doesn’t break the bank!
Benefits of using a Property Management Software:
- Centralized administration (marketing, guest information, reservation details, etc)
- Minimized mistakes
- Templated marketing tools
Oh, and with Bookfull you can do all of that and more, for free.
Do you have any successful tips, tricks or steps that weren’t on our list? Leave us a comment and share with the community what works for you!