The energy and time it takes to run a vacation rental business is a lot for one person. You’ve got schedules, customers, maintenance, and all kinds of upkeep that make you feel like the business is running you, and not the other way around. It’s simple but it’s a lot of work. Bringing in a team, outsourcing work, and asking others for help is a necessary part of the investment process.
What are your long-term goals like? Do you plan to expand? The following topics are good starting points to help you get a clear vision on where you want your business to go. Hopefully this can point you in the right direction.
1. Make Yourself Easy to Find
You can do all the work of building, restoring, or revamping a new space for guests, but that only goes so far. Some amazing businesses run off of a steady customer base, but they limit themselves by not having an online presence. You should always have a website along with a solid marketing plan, and your website needs to be connected to a PMS (Property Management System) so the booking calendar can sync automatically with other channels.
A marketing plan can look different to everybody depending on how much influence you want to have. Some people have social media, monthly newsletters, events, or other aspects of their business that they’d like to share online. This requires a good marketing team.
If you would like to boost direct bookings from your own website, SEO goes a long way in organic web search results, and lowers your advertisement costs, which can add up. Paid advertisements are effective though, and there’re many different routes you can take with them. PPC (pay per click) advertisements are a common type. They are what you see on the top or bottom of the first search results page on Google. They get you seen quickly, but you shouldn’t rely on them unless you have a property with multiple units. This method required much more marketing knowledge, but it is a useful option .
Overtime, word-of-mouth becomes useful as well, which is why it’s so important to have a good foundation in place. Good reviews are free advertisement, and you can’t afford to miss out on them. But if you care about your guests, and you make it your mission to always provide something of value, then the reviews will come with time.
And word-of-mouth can easily take first place over SEO, because when people are off-line, that’s your one source of advertisement. You still need high ranking search results though to point people in the right direction. So make that a priority while you’re in the process of getting your rental business started.
2. Don’t Slack on the Design
When you start updating a home or apartment, it’s smart to find contractors to do several things at once. It may be tempting to have several individuals doing different things, but this can get costly and overwhelming. If you decide that you’d like an approach where you work with several people, just keep overall costs in mind. And at the very least have someone else licensed to do plumbing, electric, and HVAC. There’s rules and guidelines to abide by depending on your specific location. It’s better to be safe, rather than try to save money.
And if you notice small damages, chances are your guests are going to notice them too. That crack in the foundation, a rough patch in the caulking, or cracking paint don’t go unnoticed. It’s tempting to jump straight to the fun stuff like decor or interior design, but the exterior is just as important as the inside.
Once you’ve cleaned up the outer appearance, fixed any leaks, and solved electrical issues, go ahead and get inspections done. Some contractors will do this for you, but if necessary, hire out to get it done because this should be a nonnegotiable.
Moving onto the interior, what’s the first thing guests see? Is it the kitchen, bedroom, or entry hall? Whichever it is, focus on making sure the feature space is one of the most eye-catching. Large art pieces, conversational pieces, and possibly plants (if you can do the maintenance) are all great options for walls. Paint colors are important too, and you can have fun with this. Just keep in mind that some guests may not like too bright of a color. Neutrals are usually best, but designers can help you with ideas for accent walls, and special color palettes.
Paint and wall decor influence a large part of your home, but like we mentioned earlier, attention to small details is crucial. Are your mattresses comfortable? How about slats on the window blinds, do they need to be replaced? Curtains are a great idea, and are wonderful add-ons for windows.
Choose your beddings and pillows well. Find a professional linen provider. Don’t skimp on these things, because at the end of the day all your guest wants is a great night's sleep.
In the bathroom, make sure you arrange a nice shampoo and shower gel, and don't forget to place a hair dryer. Is there any place to hang the towels? Also, do you regularly check the hand soap needs a refill? All these small gestures go a long way.
Same thing goes for your kitchen. Aside from making sure there are various cooking and serving dishes present, add on complementary coffee or tea. If possible or feasible, stock the fridge with some bottled water, and a few other items. You may be spending extra but it’s all about making guests feel at home. If you need more guidance in that area, head over to our blog post on the subject after you’re done here.
3. Think of Your Guests' Use Scenario
Your house could be perfect for vacation rentals from top to bottom, and the decor alone can make for beautiful photos. Keep in mind though, practicality is crucial for the majority of guests. Here are a few ideas:
Contactless check-in methods such as smart lock apps
Television with streaming services (Netflix, HBO+, Disney+, etc.)
Digital guest guide which includes appliances' instructions, information about the surroundings, etc.
These make for great add-on on features, and also allow you to increase your rates.
Pools are always a fun option too, but remember the upkeep is costly, and there are numerous safety concerns to take into account as well. As a vacation rental owner, the sky's the limit on what you could do, but keep in mind who your ideal guest is. Are they world travelers, families, or remote workers doing workation? Keep this in mind so you can provide the most ideal and safe location for your guests.
4. Find the Right Location, Not Just the Right Property
It’s easy to get too occupied with the property, to the point where you forget to look outside of the neighborhood. Make a trip to the surrounding neighborhoods or areas to get a good feel for the environment. Know the neighborhood so you can guide your guests to enjoy the experience in the community as a local. On the other hand, having good connections in the area would also enable you to solve unforeseen issues more easily in case it happens.
When you set your pricing strategy, pay attention to the prices of nearby properties, and take all factors into account. In addition, Is there any kind of homeowners association, or organization in the city for vacation rentals managers or property management?
5. Try to Be Flexible with Your Rates
What would you ideally like the income side of your business to look like? Do you like the idea of fixed rates? If so that’s understandable, it’s less work with scheduling software. But it’s less profitable, because you are very likely to miss out on business opportunities. It’s best to charge higher rates when there’s a higher demand during the year. Dropping rates on less busy times of the year help maintain occupancy rates, and prevent gaps of empty bookings.
The same flexibility can be applied to minimum night stays as well. Some do one night stays, and others require three night minimums. Many guests turn away from vacation rentals with too high of a minimum night requirement. Around the holidays it’s easier to get away with higher night minimums. But make sure to bring it back down in your ‘off-season’, or the time of the year when you see less traffic.
You might wonder: but how do I know when I should charge higher and lower? There are plenty of market intelligence and dynamic pricing softwares available specialized in the short-term rentals industry, and you might be interested in taking a look.
6. What Does Your Refund Policy Look Like?
To protect yourself from losing last minute bookings, you need to have some sort of refund policy in place. Whether that is a full or partial refund, is up to you. To make it easy, you can implement a minimum days notice of cancellation before a guest is scheduled to stay. And based on whether they cancel before or after that set date, can determine whether they pay a fee.
There’re several ways to protect yourself in the instance of a cancellation. First, decide if you want to give guests a full refund, if they’ve passed the deadline set forth in the reservation agreement. Or, set an amount equal to the deposit, or 50% of the total billed amount for you to retain. This offsets any losses you may experience if for some reason nobody books your rental close to the previously reserved date.
7. Finding a Solution that Makes the Process Easy
Although there are many ways to go about investing in rental properties, there’s only so much time. You can have all the goals you want for your vacation rental business, but if you don’t have the right systems in place, it can be hard to gain momentum. Property management companies like Olala Homes can remove all of the unnecessary stress off your shoulders. We personally do everything, from Smart Lock systems, to interior design, to marketing and housekeeping.
Don’t let your fears get in the way, and contact us today. We can get you started as soon as you’re ready.