How to Get a Vacation Rental Business Started
Do you own or have recently purchased a property, and want to start a vacation rental business? Below are the steps and suggestions for getting your property on the market.
Advertise Your Property
Now that you have an amazing property, you have to share it with the world.
Partner with a Vacation Rental Marketplace
Partnering with a vacation rental marketplace allows your property to reach a wider audience. Posting on well-known travel sites helps build a trustworthy reputation as a rental property. Some popular listing channels include:
Write A Property Description
Now that you’ve chosen a site to list on, you need to write about your property. Your property description tells your property’s features and draws renters in.
Use descriptive words and tell a story. Don’t write: “Two bedroom house with large kitchen.” Instead, write, “Newly renovated chef’s kitchen. 8-foot island and large dining table. Two bedroom farmhouse with master bedroom and guest space.”
Never copy someone else’s description. Your property is your own and has its own characteristics. Take the time to write an original description.
Write as if you are sitting across from your best friend. Be specific and allow your voice to show through.
*Remember to proofread your work before you post it. Grammar and spelling are important.
Property Type and Size
Your property description always ties back to marketing to a specific renter. This is why it is important to include the details of your property and its size. A small, one-bedroom apartment in New York City is going to draw a different kind of renter than a lodge in the mountains of Montana.
So, when describing your property type, you should include:
- An eye-catching title
- Start with the property’s best features
- Choose two or three accurate adjectives
- Don’t mislead potential renters with incorrect information. Do not say your apartment is large if it is tiny. Instead, use accurate descriptors with positive connotations like “cozy” or “intimate.”
- Property overview
- Do you have a backyard?
- Is it good for entertaining? How?
- Describe the rental space
- Mention the neighborhood or what’s nearby
- Don’t let the surrounding area overshadow your property description. Otherwise, a renter may look at other properties nearby. Sell your rental property first, and then the larger neighborhood.
- Finish with your contact information. Provide a phone number or email address (or both) that renters can use.
Here’s an example of a finished, effective property description:
This immaculate, professionally-designed 2-story condo with a private deck and patio invites comfort, and exudes modern elegance. With 2 bedrooms, 2 and a half baths, generous living space and stylish finishes, you’ll enjoy a perfect setting for relaxing and entertaining.
– Valerie Haboush, Washington D.C. in Realtor Magazine
Amenities can be the deciding factors for vacation renters’ bookings. Do you have free Wi-Fi? Is your property pet-friendly? Is there a hot tub? If you have special policies in place or extra features, list them. These details will help book the ideal renter for your property.
Extra amenities can set your property apart from your nearby competition. Offering more amenities in your property can also justify charging higher rates.
How Many Bedrooms?
The most important description to include is the number of bedrooms. The number of people you can accommodate influences your bookings. The more specific you are, the easier you will find your target audience.
You should describe how many bedrooms are in the property. As well as the type of bed. Do you have bunk-beds? Singles or double beds? King or Queen? These details will decide the type of renters who book your property.
Photographs lead to bookings. Professional photographs prove that everything in your property description is true. The more pictures associated with your listing, the better.
Renters want to see all aspects of your property. This includes interior and exterior photos. It is important that you pay the extra money to hire a professional photographer. Professional photography positively influences a renter to book your property.
Unique Selling Features
Just like amenities, you should list other property details. Such as, if your vacation rental property has historical roots or unique architecture. Even better, you can include images of these items in your professional pictures.
As we mentioned before, you want to sell your property first, and location second. Yet when you mention location, describe nearby activities that relate to your ideal renter.
If your ideal renters are families, consider what kid-friendly activities are in the area. Provide a list of your favorite restaurants, shopping areas, museums, or bookstores. Attach a map to provide a larger understanding of your rental property’s area.
Calculate Your Rates
You should have nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Also, determine your number of “minimum stays.” You don’t want to have many one night bookings. Instead, make it a rule that bookings are a two-night minimum.
Rates may fluctuate with the seasons and if there is a special event in the area. As you are getting started, make sure you do your research. Compare your property to similar vacation rentals in the area. What are they charging? Do you have fewer features than they do?
Consider what a hotel would cost for your ideal renters. You want to be less money than a hotel, but still covering your own expenses.
Other tips for calculating your rates include:
- Do not charge fees. Raise your rates to cover any extra expenses (like the post-booking cleaning service).
- Offer discounts. If you are in a slow season, offer a discount if a large party books your property for a number of days.
Does Your Property Have What Renters Need?
Now that you finished your online listing, it is time to consider the physical property.
Part of being a vacation rental owners means furnishing your property for all of your guests’ needs. This includes providing large scale items such as lamps, curtains, bed frames, nightstands, etc. Or everyday items you never think about, like can-openers, tissues, hair dryers, and more.
To get started, you should create a list of items for your rental. Go through your entire day and list the items you would need. Your first few renters will tell you the items they need. Make sure someone brings guests the items they need without complaint.
After a few bookings, you will learn what guests want and will be able to predict what they need.
Respond to Vacation Rental Property Inquiries
You should respond to inquiries within 24 hours by phone. Why? Because your initiative will get you more bookings.
You can set up an automated response following an inquiry. This will be a prewritten message informing the person that you will get back to them shortly. This buys you some time before you respond in person.
This is helpful because it allows the renter to know they are valued. Yet you can still be productive without having to drop everything and make phone calls.
Keep Vacation Rental Calendars Up-To-Date
With more bookings means updating your calendar to prevent renter frustration and scheduling conflicts. Automated calendars update your calendar when there are new bookings. This prevents you from manually updating the system. So your vacation rental business functions smoothly.
Vacation Rental Owners Should Create a Rental Contract
Now you have inquiries and potential bookings to schedule. You should screen your guest to confirm that they meet your requirements. Have a phone call and ask them questions like:
- How many people are in your party?
- Do you expect to bring any pets?
- Will there be children in your party?
This information allows you to maintain any age or policy restrictions associated with your rental.
If these renters meet your requirements, create a contract. This should include your expectations, rules, pricing, and other information.
Once your guest has signed and returned the contract, you may accept their deposit. An upfront deposit ensures their commitment to the rental. A deposit should be 10% of the total rental.
The rest of the payment can be due as you wish. Two payments are standard. This can be 60 and 30 days before the agreed rental date.
Giving Your Renters their Keys
Once you have received payment, you can give your renter their set of keys. There are a variety of ways to handle vacation rental property keys. You can use:
- Lockbox: Hangs on the property’s door. You can give the renter the combination to retrieve the key.
- Keyless Entry: Sometimes used by condominium complexes. Codes can be changed after each guest.
- Mail Keys: Traditional, but there is room for error (keys could be lost in the mail).
- Key Pickup: You can leave the keys with your housekeeper or person for renters to pick up in person.
Your Vacation Rental Business is Ready to Go
Now you have all the tools in place to get your vacation rental property booked. Tell us what’s worked best for you. If you’ve been in the vacation rental business already, what tips do you have for new property owners? Leave your thoughts and comments below.
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