Home For Owners/Managers Earn More Money

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*This post was originally published on the TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals blog. This post has been repurposed for our FlipKey audience.

Need some bucket list inspiration? TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals is here to help.

If you’ve never considered renting out your property for extra income, then consider this: the amount of money you could make with one week’s worth of rental earnings could pay for your own bucket list vacation. Done jumping up and down? Now keep reading…

There is an iconic monologue in the movie Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams lectures a young Matt Damon about life. “I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel,” he says. “You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.”

There’s a reason the writers chose that experience to emphasize their point. Smelling the Sistine Chapel. Because some things in this world – be it certain destinations, historical sites, specific attractions or activities – are so amazing that words cannot do them justice. Browse any avid traveler’s bucket list and you’re sure to find a plethora of these experiences. I’m sure you have one or two on your own bucket list at this exact moment.

What if we said you could check off some of those travel bucket list experiences without spending a dime? It’s not rocket science. Renting out your space is a great way to earn extra income. In fact, depending on where you live (or where your rental home, apartment, condo, etc is located), you can make a substantial amount.

EARNING POTENTIAL, US BEACH DESTINATION:

$2,587 per week for a two-bed property*

EARNING POTENTIAL, US CITY DESTINATION:

$2,343 per week for a two-bed property*

EARNING POTENTIAL, US MOUNTAIN DESTINATION:

$2,256 per week for a two-bed property*

To get your wanderlust juices flowing, here are 10 bucket list trips you could take with your rental earnings.

1. SIGHTSEEING IN CINQUE TERRE, ITALY

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Italy is known for many things, one being the majestic coastal scenery and seaside towns that line the hillsides. None may be more picture-worthy than Cinque Terre. Ideal for sightseeing strolls (cars aren’t even allowed here), this gem in the Italian Riviera is sure to be on a bucket list or two. At just $1,489 for a weeklong stay in a two-bedroom rental in Cinque Terre, you’ll have nearly $1,000 extra bucks to spend on flights, attractions, dining and more.

Average weekly rate in Cinque Terre is based off 2016 data, June through August.

2. TREK THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU

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Many bucket list trips involve doing something as opposed to just going somewhere. Well Cusco, Peru has a solution for both. Rent a two-bedroom home or apartment for the ridiculously low price of $393 per week on average; you’ll be minutes to the base of the Inca Trail, which leads you to Machu Picchu.

Average weekly rate in Cusco is based off 2016 data, June through August.

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3. APRÈS SKI IN A SWISS ALPS CHALET

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Winter fanatics know there’s no better trip than an après-ski getaway somewhere fun and filled with snow. Enter the Swiss Alps. Imagine hitting the slopes right out the front door of your ski-in, ski-out chalet rental. After an exhausting day of shredding, you retreat to the comforts of home: a full kitchen, living room or even outdoor area. A little music, a bottle of bubbly…now we’re talking. All this can be yours for just $1,688 per week for a two-bedroom rental in the Swiss Alps(February is the best time to go). Your rental earnings could cover that, and some.

Average weekly rate in the Swiss Alps reflects what the average weeklong stay cost travelers in February 2016.

4. CELEB SPOTTING ON COPACABANA BEACH, RIO

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Copacabana Beach is one of Rio’s hottest (literally and figuratively speaking) hangout spots for celebrities and locals alike. Al fresco bars and restaurants line the sands while volleyballers, footballers, sunbathers, surfers and yachters bask in the glory of the Atlantic. But wait, with such star power isn’t it crazy expensive? Nope. A weeklong stay in a Rio two-bedroom will run you just $2,223 on average. Oh, and rumor has it there’s a certain big sporting event taking place there in August.

Average weekly rate in Rio de Janeiro is based off 2016 data, June through August.

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5. SNORKEL OR DIVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

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The coastal towns of Cairns and Port Douglas are prime gateways to Australia’s most beloved aquatic attraction. Words simply can’t describe what it’s like to gaze upon the colorful coral, surrounded by exotic fish species. We know, we know: it’s a long flight. However, find solace in the fact that you could have almost $1,000 leftover from your rental earnings to put towards airfare. A weeklong stay in a Cairns two-bedroom is just $1,361 on average, while Port Douglas two-bedrooms are $1,724 per week on average.

Average weekly rates in Cairns & Port Douglas are based off 2016 data, June through August.

6. A PALACE FOR AURORA BOREALIS

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They say Iceland is one of, if not the best place to catch the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. The incredible sky show is visible almost eight months of the year, and your options of where to see it are vast. Stay in the capital city of Reykjavik for just $1,443 on average for a two-bedroom rental in September 2016 (one of the best months to see it). You may even be able to look out the window of your affordable palace and catch a glimpse. Just have your camera ready.

Average weekly rate in Reykjavik is based off September 2016 data.

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7. TASTE YOUR WAY THROUGH CALIFORNIA’S WINE COUNTRY

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Pick your poison: Pinot Noir? Merlot? How about a full-bodied Cab or refreshing Chardonnay? Smile at the incredible scenery of California’s wine country as flavorful tannins dance across your every taste bud. Why else are you smiling? Because you booked a two-bedroom vacation rental just minutes from the vineyards of Sonoma County. At the low cost of $1,685 per week on average, you’ll have extra dow from your rental earnings to buy yourself a few bottles to-go.

Average weekly rate in Sonoma County is based off 2016 data, June through August.

8. EXPERIENCE OKTOBERFEST IN MUNICH, GERMANY

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Who doesn’t like a good pint? In Germany – especially during the famous Oktoberfest celebrations – they use that term loosely. Pint, gallon, massive boot…either way you’re getting a bucket list experience you won’t soon forget (though that may depend on how many boots you consume). Two-bedroom vacation rentals in Munich (the festival’s main hub) are just $1,827 per week on average during October 2016.

Average weekly rate in Munich is based off October 2016 data.

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9. EXPLORE THE MAGIC OF MARRAKECH, MOROCCO

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Marrakech was TripAdvisor’s 2015 winner for “Best Destination” as voted on by our traveler community. In 2016’s awards it took third place, so clearly there’s something to this magical city. Home to some of the most authentic markets and shops, Marrakech is mind-blowingly affordable. Stay in a two-bedroom rental for just $657 per week on average. Use the rest of your rental earnings for spending at those street markets.

Average weekly rate in Marrakech is based off 2016 data, June through August.

10. VISIT LONDON

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Need we say more? The Crown Jewels, Buckingham Palace, Camden Market, Royal Opera House, Abbey Road, Oxford Street…in London, history collides with art, fashion, food and good British ale. The best part? You can stay in a swanky London loft for just $2,371 per week on average (two-bedroom rental).

Average weekly rate in London is based off 2016 data, June through August.

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*Beach Destination reflects the median vacation rental rates for a weeklong stay in a 2BR property between March-December 2016, based off of five popular beach destinations: Ka’anapali ($3276), Laguna Beach ($2740), Miami Beach ($2587), Key West ($2335), Rehobeth Beach ($1553)

*City Destination reflects the median vacation rental rates for a weeklong stay in a 2BR property in 2016, based off of five major US cities: Louisville ($3,030), Philadelphia ($2427), Miami ($2343), Boston ($2189), Los Angeles ($1,651)

*Mountain Destination reflects the median vacation rental rates for a weeklong stay in a 2BR property between March-December 2016, based off of five popular mountain destinations: Vail ($3493), Park City ($2796), Jackson ($2256), Big Sky ($2018), Killington ($1838)

Outer-Banks

*This post was originally published on the TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals blog. This post has been repurposed for our FlipKey audience.

With more than 720,000 vacation homes available globally, TripAdvisor travelers are a bit spoiled when it comes to affordable accommodations. But believe it or not, there are still some destinations where the rental options are slim.

We’re revealing some of the best places in America to own a home if you’re looking to make extra money.

These 13 areas are amongst those where demand for vacation rentals most exceeds supply – meaning there’s a demand gap to fill and homeowners could benefit from it. Sunny Florida leads the charts with four of the top destinations. Not far behind are the up-and-coming Tennessee and hidden gem Alabama, with two destinations each. Eastern favorites dominate the ranking, with Galveston and Las Vegas representing for the rest of the country.

“If you happen to own property in the below cities, whether as your primary or secondary home, lucky you – homes here enjoy some of the highest traveler demand on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals,” says Laurel Greatrix, TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals spokesperson.

“This means when you’re not home, either short-term or long-term, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding paying guests,” continues Greatrix. “Average two-bedroom rental rates in these cities vary from around $800 to upwards of $2,000 per week, offering a substantial extra income source to homeowners.”

Check out our step-by-step guide to listing your property to see how easy it is.

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The full list is below.

BEST PLACES TO RENT OUT YOUR HOME

Average Weekly Rate

Destination1 BR2 BR3 BR4 BRTraveler Interest
Destin, FL$869.84$1,093.16$1,537.46$2,160.7370x
Myrtle Beach, SC$661.62$762.80$976.89$1,264.4245x
Gatlinburg, TN$1,083.07$1,240.87$1,742.31$2,470.3738x
Ocean City, MD$831.67$1,077.65$1,440.85$2,297.3837x
Las Vegas, NV$1,132.51$1,170.08$1,324.39$1,866.9530x
Gulf Shores, AL$687.28$843.94$1,261.41$2,115.9029x
Siesta Key, FL$1,077.21$1,319.79$1,805.21$2,856.2427x
Key Largo, FL$1,985.02$2,320.86$3,102.60$2,340.6416x
Orange Beach, AL$767.08$999.76$1,435.04$2,078.6114x
Galveston, TX$954.43$1,408.45$1,843.12$2,531.0013x
Marathon, FL$2,343.85$1,690.56$2,536.56$3,667.859x
Nashville, TN$1,099.81$1,668.06$1,850.81$3,357.569x
Helen, GA$792.28$1,024.85$1,200.32$1,946.654x

 

Rental rate reflects the average price of a one-week stay in a one-, two-, three-, or four-bedroom home, respectively, and therefore the income potential for homeowners of each. Traveler interest reflects number of booking inquiries to the property listings in that destination compared to the national US average.

HOMEOWNERS

List your home for free on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals and advertise your home on the world’s largest travel site. Your listing will be automatically translated to appear on 26 TripAdvisor sites around the world. And the best part – it’s free.

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INFOGRAPHIC

To share this infographic on your site, right click and Save Image As. Upload to your desired page. Please give attribution to TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals and link to this post.

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Nearly 65 percent of households own a pet, and many can’t imagine leaving their cat or dog behind when they travel out of town. Nonetheless, many vacation rentals do not allow pets out of concern for potential damages. Thanks to home automation, pet-proofing your vacation rental has never been simpler. If you take the right precautions, your pet-friendly rental property can give you an advantage in the rental market, provide your guests a friendlier experience, and bring in up to 30 percent more rent than properties that don’t allow pets.

Here are six ways you can pet-proof your vacation rental and make a great impression with pet-loving renters.

  1. Install Pet-monitoring Cameras

Traveling pets can be nervous, insecure, and more likely to display bad behavior in an unfamiliar place. It’s likely they will be left alone, if even for short periods of time, so making it possible for pet owners to monitor their pets remotely is a perk that can preserve your property and the sanity of your guests. Luckily, there are now plenty of awesome products that let your renters monitor their pet right from their smartphone. Outfit your rental with a Petzi Treat Cam or PetChatz, which use a camera, voice, and treat dispenser to soothe animals and prevent nervous chewing, scratching, and barking.

  1. Maintain an Efficient Temperature

As animals are susceptible to extreme temperature changes, it’s important to maintain a comfortable environment in the home. Installing a smart thermostat, like Nest or Lyric, can keep both your renters and their pets happy. Depending on the length of their stay, a smart thermostat will learn their temperature preferences and adjust to them. Offer renters access to the app and they can check on and adjust the temperature remotely. You can also use automation apps and systems to remotely control fans outdoors or indoors. While smart thermostats cost around $200, the energy savings will reduce your energy bill and save you money in the end.

  1. Add a Smart Dog Door

A dog door is essential for pets to get in and out of the property and avoid accidents when the owner isn’t around. But some renters may only want their dog, not their cat, to access the backyard, or may want their pet to access the backyard only during certain times of day. Simplify the solution with a smart dog door: only pets wearing the connected smart key can unlock the door. You’ll keep stray animals from coming inside and indoor pets from going outside. Smart dog doors cost between $80 and $150 and are generally simple to install.

  1. Connect Motion Sensors with Alarms

Just because your rental property is pet-friendly doesn’t mean you can’t decorate your home with delicate art or fragile accent pieces. If you want to avoid cats or dogs from jumping on top of shelves, getting into cabinets with hazardous cleaning materials, or accessing other potentially harmful areas, use contact sensors. When pets approach, the sensor will trigger an alarm to keep the pet away. This will protect your valuables and keep your guests’ pets out of harm’s way. While smart Wi-Fi motion sensors cost nearly twice as much as traditional motion sensors — $40 versus $20 — they are simpler to automate.

  1. Automate Toilet Seats

Most people don’t think about the potential dangers of an upright toilet seat unless they own a pet. Kittens could drown by accidentally jumping into the toilet, while dogs and cats could get sick after drinking from it. Luckily, there’s a simple solution: an automated toilet seat. This smart device ensures the toilet seat is always down when not in use, preventing any accidents. There are a few different types of smart toilet seats, including ones that are triggered by a toilet flush or by sensing motion. Smart toilet seats can cost anywhere from $70 to $300, depending on the features you want, but they are an impressive bathroom addition for humans and pets.

  1. Provide Robotic Vacuums

While the last thing vacationers want to do is vacuum, a robotic vacuum is a great smart device to offer renters who like to keep the living area fur-free and the floors clear of dirt or other messes dragged in by paws. By running a robotic vacuum as needed, your renters don’t have to worry about dirty floors, splattered cat litter, or potential accidents. Even better, renters can run the vacuum when they’re away from the house and schedule it to turn off when they return. Robotic vacuums range from $150 to several hundred dollars, but double as a renter perk and a convenient cleaning supply.

Once you’ve pet-proofed your rental property with home automation and smart devices, you are ready to impress future renters with pets and offer them a comfortable experience they’re sure to remember — and recommend to fellow travelers with pets. Remember to mention these pet-friendly upgrades in your rental listing to promote your property in a unique way and attract more renters.

Clair Jones is a community safety and home security advocate with SafeWise.com, a site dedicated to helping everyday homeowners compare security systems to find the most affordable, functional, and convenient solution for their home and family. To read more of Clair’s writing and learn about how you can protect your home from intruders, natural disasters, and everyday household safety concerns, visit the SafeWise Blog

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Guest blog by: Bonnie Dewkett

You want to provide your guests with a perfect vacation experience. But by renting your property to those you don’t know, you are also exposing yourself to risk. A security deposit is a vital component of protecting your short-term rental property. The trick is finding the balance between enough money to cover potential damages and an amount small enough to put renters at ease.

Know the Basics

Since your rental agreement may only be a week or even just a night, it’s critical that you include everything necessary to protect your investment. It’s a good idea to consult a lawyer when drafting your agreement and be sure to include a clear description of the property and key contents, conduct that is prohibited, and how the property should be left at the end of the agreement.

The first step in determining a security deposit amount is to understand the law in your city and state. Some states limit the amount you can require for a security deposit as a multiple of the rent. Other states have no limit at all.

Here are some things to consider when deciding exactly how much to charge for a security deposit.

  • Price of Rent — Consider your weekly or daily rate when determining the right security deposit amount for your rental. Standard practice calls for 10 percent of the rental rate or $250 flat, but every property is different.
  • Value of Property — A rental property with expensive fixtures, countertops and appliances will require a higher security deposit. If something is damaged or broken, it will be costly to repair. Receipts from installation and remodel projects can help you substantiate a heftier security deposit. 
  • Furnishings — The amount of your security deposit should take into consideration how your rental property is furnished. Furniture will often show wear and tear more quickly than other parts of the home and therefore need to be replaced more frequently. If you have a high-end rental with luxury grade furniture, take that into account when setting your deposit. Keep the receipts from furniture purchases to help establish a reasonable security deposit and proof of value should something need to be replaced.
  • Rental Instructions — Be sure to set clear expectations on how your guests should leave the rental upon departure. Leaving detailed instructions will help them understand your expectations and perform the tasks thoroughly. Print out instructions for areas such as the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms, and put them in page protectors. Store them where they can easily be seen.

Another option is to print out all of the instructions for your rental property and then store them in a binder. Note the location of the binder in your rental agreement. Making cleaning supplies available will ensure that guests have no excuse for not leaving it to your specifications. Additionally, it protects you from anyone using cleaning chemicals that are not appropriate for your space.

  • Documentation — In order to set your guests at ease, be transparent in your security deposit policies. Be clear about what you’re charging and why. Provide examples of property damage or excessive cleaning that may result in deductions from the security deposit. Show that their security deposit will be kept safe in a specific account and won’t be touched until the rental agreement ends, however long or short that might be. When renters feel that they have a complete understanding of the circumstances in which their security deposit may be used, they will feel comfortable writing a check.
  • Market Standard — Local real estate agents, lawyers, and other landlords can help you determine the appropriate amount to collect as a security deposit. To keep the marketability of your property in line with others, it is important to understand what is normal and customary in your area.

Do research and see what other short-term rentals are charging as a security deposit so that you are protecting your assets and still maintaining an attractive property for renters. You should also listen to your customers. Ask for feedback and read your online reviews to understand if you can make small changes to put future renters at ease.

  • Other fees — Are you also charging any other fees for cleaning or pets? These should be considered as well, since you don’t want to scare off renters with too many costs above and beyond your standard rates. 

When dealing with security deposits, remember to be fair to your renters, recognizing that normal wear and tear is to be expected. Don’t forget to refund the security deposit to anyone who leaves the property in good condition—most states define when you need to refund the deposit, which may be as few as 14 days. Treat your guests as you’d want to be treated, and they’re likely to choose your property for their next vacation and encourage their friends to do the same.

 

About the Author

Bonnie Joy Dewkett is a professional organizer and writer for Quill.com. She shares cleaning & organizing tips for homes and businesses alike as The Joyful Organizer.

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Guest blog by: Clair Jones

The vacation rental market is booming, but it can be hard to make your property stand out — especially if there are similar homes for rent nearby. If you’re looking for ways to appeal to modern renters, home automation features that improve the comfort, style, and convenience of your vacation home are sure to give you a leg above the competition. While home automation requires an initial investment, being able to market your property as a “smart home” attracts more renters and allows you to charge more per day.

Here are several affordable home automation boosts that can instantly increase the appeal of your vacation rental in todays’ competitive market.

Home Automation to Boost Comfort and Convenience

Vacation home renters, above all else, are looking to have an enjoyable, worry-free, and comfortable stay in your home. While inspiring décor, quality linens, and a well-maintained, clean home are key, these amenities are likely available at any vacation rental. To set your property apart, consider adding a smart lighting system and thermostat that allow your guests to remain comfortable at the touch of a button no matter where they are in the home.

Smart lighting systems allow your guests to control the lighting in the entire home using a remote, or even their smart phone. Most systems allow for the adjustment of light intensity, direction, pattern, and color, while some advanced systems even allow guests to sync lighting with their favorite music or movie. Integrated lighting systems can also help you make a great first impression by welcoming guests to your home with outdoor or indoor lights that are already illuminated should they arrive after dark.

Another marketable perk of an automated rental is that guests can easily regulate the temperature of the home to their liking; depending on the length of their stay, a smart thermostat will learn their preferences and automatically adjust to them. You can also easily schedule the smart thermostat to ensure your property is warm or cool upon your guests’ arrival, depending on the weather. Most Smart thermostats cost around $200 and are easy to install yourself. As an added bonus, smart thermostats and lighting systems can cut down on energy usage, resulting in a lower gas and electricity bill.

Home Automation to Suite Your Location and Target Customer

To garner the most return on your home automation investment, you must thoughtfully consider which smart home features will appeal to your guests based on the location of your rental and the type of guest you ideally want to attract.

For a big-city property, for example, your goal may be to attract luxury renters who are travelling for business, pleasure, or a special event. Luxury renters enjoy upscale amenities like motorized shades and curtains, smart kitchen appliances, remote-controlled fireplaces, and automated shower preferences for easy adjustment of water pressure and temperature. City renters might also appreciate a high-quality automated sound system, like the Amazon Echo, or a white noise machine to help drown out the hustle and bustle of the city and set the mood.

If your property is outside of town – a cabin, island bungalo, or destination rental, for instance — and offers fewer options for nearby activities, a home theater experience can encourage guests to rent out the property longer or recommend it to friends. When tailoring your home automation investments to your property, also consider the typical weather, humidity level, and temperature of your vacation home. Installing heated flooring in your cabin in the mountains, or a misting system on the patio of your tropical villa is a cherry-on-top bonus that is sure to attract more renters.

Home Automation to Boost Your Property’s Safety and Security

Adding a home security system can increase your property’s security when it is vacant, and also helps guests feel more secure during their stay. Most home security systems easily integrate with an existing home automation hub, taking the guesswork out of setting up home security for guests and making it easy to arm and disarm the system.

Whether you just want to simplify the check-in process by incorporating smart locks that allow guests to gain access to the home without exchanging keys, or want to prevent property crime and theft by allowing guests to engage an alarm system when they are not in the home, there are a wide variety of affordable security solutions available. Along with checking on the status of your system, you can set up alerts that notify you in the event of a fire, carbon monoxide leak, or other serious issues.

By adding smart technology to your vacation property, you can stay ahead of the competition in the vacation rental market, charge a higher rate, and provide an exceptional experience for your guests that will encourage them to return for another stay in the future and recommend the property to friends. Get started with these simple and inexpensive upgrades and increase your home‘s appeal for the 2016 rental season.

 

Clair Jones is a community safety and home security advocate with SafeWise.com, a site dedicated to helping everyday homeowners compare security systems to find the most affordable, functional, and convenient solution for their home and family. To read more of Clair’s writing and learn about how you can protect your home from intruders, natural disasters, and everyday household safety concerns, visit the SafeWise Blog

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Great photos? Check. Enticing description? Check. “Wow” reviews? Check. Competitive rates? Check.

And yet you still face “The Case of the Disappearing Guest.”

That is: you have a promising early exchange with a potential guest, the ball seems to be steadily rolling toward a booking, and then they simply vanish—never to be heard from again, no matter how many follow-ups you send.

With all these checkmarks working to your advantage, what the heck happened?

In my 20+ years as a vacation rental guest, I’ve been through the inquiry process many times…from the other side of the potential transaction. Allow me to be your case study.

In the below article I’m going to share with you a few of my most memorable booking experiences, and why they’ve stuck with me. (These are real-life examples, but I’ll leave out names to respect the privacy of the owners.)

In The Bookings Race, the Hare Usually Wins

We vacationed in Sandbridge, VA in the summer of 2013. We didn’t want to stay in Virginia Beach (too busy) and OBX was booked. I luckily struck on Sandbridge, a quiet community nestled between Virginia Beach and OBX. Perfect!

I searched, sent out multiple inquiries, and then sat back for the waiting game. Except this time was different. Before I’d even sent out my final inquiry I received a response from a local property manager. It wasn’t the most detailed and personal of responses, but it had one major asset: it was rapid!

Guess what? We booked her place.

When it comes to vacation rentals, ignore the “slow and steady” argument, as well as any advice that tells you to avoid the immediate response for fear of “coming on too strong.” In the race to convert a guest inquiry, the speed of response is probably the biggest factor in locking down a booking. And the easiest, too.

How fast should you respond? As fast as possible, really.

After all, the modern vacation rental guest is generally always “on,” and always ready to book. Especially the millennial generation, who were raised on instant access and fast communication. If you can manage to respond in less than 2-3 hours, then you’re right up there with the best of them (within reason, of course – you do have to sleep!).

Your Guests Have iPhones – Call Them!

It’s the age of the millennial guest, I know. But many of us gadget-crazed guests do sometimes use the phone for its traditional use!

Case in point – I was headed to Sanibel, FL last year with my family. I sent out some inquiries and received a call from an owner who wanted to know if I had any questions about the property.

Wow!

I confess; I was a little taken aback. I didn’t expect a call. But after 10 seconds of adjusting and composing, I settled in for a great chat, and 5 minutes later I’d booked a stay at his 2-bedroom condo. Afterward, I received responses via email from a few other owners. But they’d already lost out to our old-fashioned friend…the humble telephone!

Equally impressive was the phone call I received from the same owner on our first morning at the condo, just to see how things were going. This is an owner who clearly cares about the entire guest experience. Cynics may suggest the owner was somehow intrusive or snooping, but I felt only positive vibes!

(As a related aside… although I’ve never received a video response to an inquiry, I have seen many examples used by owners over at Matt Landau’s Inner Circle. Highly personal and certainly trust-fostering…a great mode of replying!)

You’re Way Cooler Than Any Guide Book

My family is taking a trip this summer to Daufuskie Island, SC. This wasn’t our original plan; I’d been looking at Hilton Head Island, but an intrepid owner sold me on Daufuskie.

If you know Daufuskie, you’ll know there are no grocery stores, and you can’t drive to the island – it’s boat transfer only. Presented with a few logistical challenges, we started to wonder if Hilton Head might be the less-stressful choice. Right on cue, the owner in Daufuskie alleviated our fears with her expertise. From boat transfer choices, to online grocery shopping options—she covered it all.

Had it not been for this owner on Daufuskie, we would almost certainly have favored the easier route of Hilton Head. And on top of that, she didn’t just give functional information; she also gave us a list of local hangouts, and even a couple of local cooks who will bring prepared food right to our rental.

No bookstore guidebook can match this kind of personal knowledge. They almost always lack suggestions for the “Mom & Pop” places that us modern guests like to frequent. After all, we’re looking for that one-off local experience to remind us where we are in the world. It stems from the same value base that led us to stay in a vacation rental in the first place!

All of this is even more relevant when you consider the person tasked with finding and reserving the vacation rental. He or she has the added pressure of the group to find the perfect stay for everyone. So lend that harried person a hand, and differentiate yourself in the process!

Personalize Your Communications

As I said, those of us looking at vacation rentals over more traditional lodging are often searching for a more personal way to travel. Yes, price is important, but it’s very often a unique experience that guests are after. You can only stay in so many essentially identical places before you crave something a little different.

Use this personal angle to your advantage in all your guest communications. For example, if your potential guest mentions or marks that they have 2 kids, elaborate on your property’s kid-friendly features in your response. Something like:

“Dear John,

We’re delighted to confirm that our villa is available for your chosen dates at the price of x.

I notice that you have two kids traveling with you. We’ve spent many happy vacations here with our own children, and we’ve got lots of amenities to keep them entertained! From the large rear garden and heated pool, to the cart of beach gear that we provide to all our guests, to the games room complete with pool table and foosball….”

Etc.

I’ve seen so many inquiry responses that simply tell me the property is available. When I find a personal touch—something that shows the owner has thought about me, personally—I will pay attention, and more often than not, close the whole thing with a booking.

No more “Case of the Disappearing Guest”!

Andy Photo Scaled AltAndy McNulty is Co-Founder of Guest Hook, the web’s first vacation rental copywriting agency, and Touch Stay, a digital welcome book to help you create great guest experiences through modern technology. Having grown up on vacation rentals, he is passionate about the industry and believes its greatest asset is the personal, 1-to-1 approaches of owners and property managers.

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Fine, I’ll level with you – I’m not a millionaire. I’ll give you a minute to collect yourself from that surprise.

All set? Since I’m not a millionaire, and money is most definitely an object, I make vacation purchasing decisions based on affordability and locale. I’d venture a guess that most travelers are like me, trying to find a happy medium between an incredible place to visit without breaking the bank or even robbing it.

We looked at the past 18 months of rental rates and the average weekly cost for a 2-bedroom vacation home for all our destinations in the USA, and we’ve singled out the most affordable location in each state (min. 5 listings). Here’s the list of winners and the top three reasons each is worth a visit.

Alabama: Fort Morgan ($1300 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Fort Morgan Historic Site, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, Deep sea fishing charters

Alaska: Talkeetna ($798 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Talkeetna Ranger Station, Talkeetna Historical Society Museum, Byers Lake

Arizona: Lake Havasu City ($237 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Navigate Lake Havasu, the view from London Bridge, Casino ferry ride

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Arkansas: Hot Springs Village ($809 per week)

Three reasons to visit: 26,000 acres of the Ouachita Mountains, nine championship golf courses, monthly Rock Porch music sessions

California: Desert Hot Springs ($360 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, a nude spa, Coachella concert

Colorado: Norwood ($690 per week)

Three reasons to visit: the vistas from Lone Cone Peak, proximity to Telluride, ATV/Snowmobile action

Connecticut: West Cornwall ($750 per week)

Three reasons to visit: the covered bridges, Mohawk Mountain, Foreign Mission School

Delaware: Ocean View ($358 per week)

Three reasons to visit: 1 mile from Bethany Beach, 1 mile from the Indian River Bay, proximity to Atlantic Ocean

Florida: Hutchinson Island ($290 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Elliot Museum, House of Refuge, sea turtle nesting

Georgia: Blairsville ($642 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Misty Mountain Model Railroad, exploring Vogel State Park, hiking on Bald Mountain

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Hawaii: Hilo ($624 per week)

Three reasons to visit: watch water cascade in the Boiling Pots, Banyan Drive celebri-trees, Rainbow Falls 80-foot drop

Idaho: Boise ($511 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Go to a Boise State football game, tour the Old Idaho Penitentiary, walk the Boise River Greenbelt

Illinois: Carbondale ($1280 per week)

Three reasons to visit: exploring 280,000 acres in Shawnee National Forest, Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, over 17,000 ponds and rivers

Indiana: Michigan City ($2082 per week)

Three reasons to visit: try your luck at the Blue Chip casino, check out the Michigan City Lighthouse, get a buzz on at Shady Creek Winery

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Iowa: Des Moines ($1225 per week)

Three reasons to visit: paddle board on Gray’s Lake, tour the gorgeous Capitol Building, ride the ferris wheel at the Iowa State Fairgrounds

Kansas: Woodston ($1127 per week)

Three reasons to visit: gawk at the world’s largest ball of twine, tour the Garden of Eden, go for a hike

Kentucky: Rogers ($2500 per week)

Three reasons to visit: a taste of the wild west at Whisman’s Hitching Post, climbing at the Muir Valley Nature Preserve, take a Wilderness First Aid Course

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Louisiana: New Orleans ($1348 per week)

Three reasons to visit: ride the streetcars, drink your way down Bourbon Street, dine at the fancy restaurants in the French Quarter

Maine: Stonington ($816 per week)

Three reasons to visit: hike through the 100-acre Crockett Cove Woods Preserve, experience Acadia National Park, visit the numerous art galleries in the area

Maryland: Oakland ($1337 per week)

Three reasons to visit: explore Swallows Falls State Park or Deep Creek Lake State Park, travel through time at the Garrett County Museum of Transportation, hit the links at Lodgestone Golf Club

Massachusetts: West Harwich ($560 per week)

Three reasons to visit: During the summer, take in a Harwich Mariners baseball game, attend a concert at Brooks Park in Harwich Center, and join in the fun of the Harwich Port Musical Strolls

Michigan: Bellaire ($600 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Kayak or boat the Chain-O-Lakes, hike the trails at Grass River Natural Area, Fat Tire Biking or Snowshoeing at Glacial Hills Pathway

Minnesota: Minneapolis ($683 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Catch a Twins game at brand new Target Field, tour the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, stroll around the Lake of the Isles

Mississippi: Biloxi ($733 per week)

Three reasons to visit: take a shrimping tour and cook up your own southern cuisine, gamble at one of the visited casinos, attend an event like the Bluff Creek Bluegrass Festival (spring) or the classic car show (fall)

Missouri: Branson ($1002 per week)

Three reasons to visit: buy something at the Touch of Brass Art Gallery, have a fun night at the Baldknobbers Entertainment Complex, take a tour of the area on the Branson Scenic Railway

Montana: Red Lodge ($1202 per week)

Three reasons to visit: watch 70 species of animals and birds at the Beartooth Nature Center, see the gun collection and interactive cole mine exhibit at the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum, view original art from over 200 Western and contemporary artists at Carbon County Arts and Depot Gallery

Nebraska: Omaha ($1472 per week)

Three reasons to visit: shop ’til you drop at the Old Market, have a fun day at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, stroll through the Lauritzen Garden, 100 acres of botanical beauty

Nevada: Las Vegas ($1106 per week)

Three reasons to visit: see any of the award-winning shows (like David Copperfield or Britney Spears), walk around the gorgeous hotels like The Bellagio or the Wynn (though save costs by actually staying in a vacation rental), get off the strip and see Red Rock Canyon or the Hoover Dam

New Hampshire: Weirs Beach ($1012 per week)

Three reasons to visit: cruise on the M/S Mount Washington, hit and be hit on the Half Moon Bumper Cars, fly up and away on the AeroBalloon for an amazing view of the area

New Jersey: Asbury Park ($1033 per week)

Three reasons to visit: be a wizard at the Silverball Pinball Museum, stroll along the Asbury Park Boardwalk, catch a show at the Paramount Theater

New Mexico: Angel Fire ($721 per week)

Three reasons to visit: hit the slopes at the Angel Fire Resort, pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, try your hand at Disc Golf

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New York: Niagara Falls ($474 per week)

Three reasons to visit: Take a boat ride on the iconic Maid of the Mist, gamble at the Seneca Niagara Casino, shop til you drop at the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, USA

North Carolina: Beech Mountain ($462 per week)

Three reasons to visit: try out some new jumps at Beech Mountain slopes, play sports at the Buckeye Recreation Center, mountain bike around Emerald Outback

North Dakota: Bismarck ($1083 per week)

Three reasons to visit: tour the North Dakota Heritage Center, see the tigers at the Dakota Zoo, look inside the State Capitol building

Ohio: Cleveland Heights ($980 per week)

Three reasons to visit: see a classic movie at the Cedar Lee Theater, enjoy the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, watch a play or concert at Cain Park

Oklahoma: Broken Bow ($1310 per week)

Three reasons to visit: swim in Broken Bow lake, hunt at the “deer capital of the world”, and hike at Hochatown State Park

Oregon: Florence ($749 per week)

Three reasons to visit: see the views at Heceta Head Lighthouse, do something crazy at Sand Master Park, hike at Honeyman Memorial State Park 

Pennsylvania: Blakeslee ($325 per week)

Three reasons to visit: get behind the wheel at the Stock Car Racing Experience, snow shoe at Split Rock Resort, splash around at the Camelbeach Mountain Waterpark

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Rhode Island: Narragansett ($1000 per week)

Three reasons to visit: hit Narragansett Beach, take the ferry to Block Island, tour the Point Judith Lighthouse

South Carolina: Murrells Inlet ($231 per week)

Three reasons to visit: have a picnic in Brookgreen Gardens, lay out at Huntington Beach State Park, take the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk

South Dakota: Hill City ($1326 per week)

Three reasons to visit: pan for your fortune at Wade’s Gold Mill, see a Native American dance Brule concert, see the dinos at the Black Hills Institute Museum

Tennessee: Townsend ($854 per week)

Three reasons to visit: shop and eat on Depot Street, explore the massive Great Smoky Mountains National Park, go tubing down the Little River

Texas: Granbury ($840 per week)

Three reasons to visit: walk around Granbury Town Square, take in a show at the Opera House, get locked up at the Hood County Jail

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Utah: Salt Lake City ($449 per week)

Three reasons to visit: for the best views hike the Bonneville Shoreline trail, listen to the Tabernacle Choir, visit the beautifully cultivated Red Butte Gardens

Vermont: Ludlow ($983 per week)

Three reasons to visit: ski down Okemo Mountain, experience the endless family entertainment at Jackson Gore, swim in Buttermilk Falls

Virginia: Mineral ($700 per week)

Three reasons to visit: boat on Lake Anna, take a day trip to Richmond, ride on horseback through the countryside

Washington: Port Townsend ($810 per week)

Three reasons to visit: visit the funky Kelly Art Deco Light Museum, shop at the local farmer’s market, spend the day at Ford Warden State Park

West Virginia: Davis ($682 per week)

Three reasons to visit: be awed by the waterfalls in Blackwater Falls State Park, head underground at Seneca Caverns, take a scenic railroad trip

Wisconsin: Fish Creek ($1075 per week)

Three reasons to visit: bike through Peninsula State Park, see the outdoor art at Edgewood Galleries, have a few drinks at Orchard Country Winery

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Wyoming: Cody ($1089 per week)

Three reasons to visit: learn about Wild West legends at Buffalo Bill Center of the West, for a unique look at firearms visit either the Cody Firearms Museum or the Dug Up Gun Museum, for beautiful views look for the Buffalo Bill Dam or Teton National Forest

For more top lists, check out our list of Top Rated Vacation Rental Destinations in all 50 states.

Invest in your vacation rental business.

The ultimate goal in listing your vacation rental is to increase its potential for profitability. You place your offer up on a site like FlipKey, get in front of thousands of interested travelers, and start making money by renting it out – right? Not entirely. In order for your listing to work, you have to run your rental like a savvy small business owner would run a successful storefront. Your home and the customer service that accompanies it must provide the things your renters want and need in order for you to reach the highest level of profitability through renting. If you’re still a bit new to the small business mindset, have no fear! Check out these 6 tips to run your vacation rental like a real-life entrepreneur.

  1. Evaluate and Understand Potential Risks

Outlining and covering your potential risks as a vacation home owner is the first step in successfully managing your rental. Small business owners take time to understand possible causes for profit loss, and find practical solutions to cover each. List your concerns first then pair each with a measure of prevention. Whether these prevention measures include contract modifications, additional security, or specialty insurance, take time to research your options and find those with the highest potential for reducing risks.

  1. Invest in Security

Speaking of security, ensuring the safety of your customers will be critical. This holds true in every industry, however, it is especially important for consumers within the hospitality industry. Many home owners fail to see the importance of a home security system. You may hold this personal preference when it comes to your home, but you shouldn’t treat your rental like your home. It’s your business. Investing in a business security system will help you provide the reassurance your guests need to enjoy a comfortable and safe stay. It will also help you protect your profits from break-ins and potentially dishonest guests.

  1. Think of the Consumers’ Needs Before They Do

Successful business owners are constantly thinking of ways they can further improve their product/service to better meet their consumers’ unique needs. Think like your consumer to get a better idea of what they will want and need during their stay at your rental. Think of the things you appreciate having during an out of town stay, and make these available to guests of your rental. Also understand your area and provide information and materials that stand to benefit visitors. Examples of this could include providing bottled water for vacation rentals located in warm climates like Las Vegas or Phoenix, or offering hot chocolate for winter travelers in Park City or Denver. The FlipKey vacation inspiration page could serve as a useful tool here to get ideas from travel guides and “best of…” galleries.

  1. Consider a Third-Party Cleaning Service

A clean environment is essential to the success of any business. As a business owner in the hospitality industry, it is your responsibility to provide a clean home. Unfortunately, you may not have the time to clean your home well enough to meet the hospitality industry’s standards after every guest. This is where a third party cleaning service can help! Online housekeeping guides like Housekeeping.com can help you find quality housekeeping services that won’t blow your rental profits. Find a service that works for you, then schedule regular cleaning appointments in between stays to ensure each guest is welcomed with a spotless vacation home.

  1. Listen to Consumer Reviews

An important part of continuously meeting your consumers’ needs is to actually listen to their reviews following a stay. Smart entrepreneurs pay attention to both positive and negative reviews and do their best to understand reviewers’ comments from the consumer’s perspective. FlipKey provides a section for consumer reviews to help you with this part of your rental management. If you’d like additional feedback from renters who didn’t leave a review, try sending a quick follow up after their stay to say thank you for choosing your listing and ask if there were any additional amenities/resources they would have found useful during their stay.

  1. Keep up on Market Trends

An integral part of managing your rental like a successful small business is staying competitive. Small business owners are constantly watching market trends and making improvements to keep up in competitive markets. Look at successful listings in your area to see what they’re offering. Check out their reviews to see what travelers are saying about their stays. Are you currently doing these things? What could you do to generate the same raving reviews? Additionally, you should keep up on what’s trending in the promotion of successful listings. How can you get your listing out in front of more interested users and by way of which avenues? FlipKey recently published an article with some great tips for using social media to promote your listing.

 

Cosette Jarrett is a contributing writer for several lifestyle and tech blogs. Her current work includes roles as the go-to tech girl at HighSpeedInternet.com and regular contributor to the Lifehack and Business 2 Community blogs. She enjoys creating pieces to help both businesses and consumers find increased simplicity and efficiency at work and on the go.

So you have a new inquiry on your home; congratulations! If you’re ready to take the reservation, your next step is to confirm the booking by collecting a payment. This means you’ll send a quote by email, asking your traveler to pay by credit card or PayPal on FlipKey.

Here’s how to do it all, using our secure payment system:

1. Take a look at the inquiry in your Inbox. You’ll see your guest’s travel dates and a summary of the money you’ll be collecting. Just below that, you can read the message from your guest.

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2. Click Edit or view quote details to review your pricing breakdown in full. Here, you can make adjustments like adding a discount, or billing your guest for just the booking deposit up front.

Booking tip: if you decide to collect a booking deposit ahead of the final payment, remember that the deposit is non-refundable if the traveler cancels.

3. Include a reply. Your message template appears already in the message box, automatically personalized with your guest’s name. You can uncheck the box next to Use your message template if you’d like to write a different message to this guest.

Booking tip: You can edit what your saved message templates say by going to Booking settings > Messages to guests.

4. Finish up by clicking Send quote. We’ll notify your guest immediately that they can reserve their trip by making a payment. You’ll also receive email updates from us on their progress.

Booking tip: You don’t need to reply to an inquiry to request a payment. Go to Bookings > Create a quote to send your own quote from scratch.

Once your guest has paid, you’ll have a confirmed reservation on the books. We release your money 24 hours after the check-in date, and you can expect to receive it in 3 to 5 business days, depending on your bank.

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To help new home owners accurately market their rentals, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your property listings:

Create a Catchy Headline

The title of your property is what initially draws vacationers to click on your property listing instead of the competitors. Steer away from generic titles such as “beautiful cabin” or “Resort unit C”. Try to focus on creating a title that focuses on a unique aspect of the property, like a newly renovated kitchen or the spectacular views from the balcony. Examples of eye catching titles are “watch the sunrise from the newly renovated balcony” or “walk your dog on the beach” which emphasize activities that are special to your property.

Showcase unique aspects of your home

Similar to your title, you want to focus on highlighting niche aspects of the listing. If the property specializes in pet friendly accommodation, or if you have a lake with kayaks, let the public know.

Select the Right Location for the Listing

If your property is a few miles away from a major city, you may want to place your listing in the larger area. These tourist heavy areas draw in significant traffic, and if your rental is close enough, you may want to consider changing it to gain visibility. However, if your property is not close to a major hub, it is best to not deceive travelers by misleading their location as this can cause reservation conflict. Make sure your travelers understand where your property is located.

Take Flattering photos

The better the quality of the photos that are displayed on the profile, the more appealing the property is to travelers. Make sure pictures of the property are clear, and have good lighting. Try to get a high resolution camera and take flattering pictures of the interior of your property, as well as the exterior. Emphasize bright colors and unique features of the property. These pictures are super important and will make or break traveler’s interest in the property, as they directly show the quality of the listing.

Take Pride in Your Listing

Make advertising your property a priority. Travelers can tell if an owner has not taken much time to create their listing which is a turn off, so make sure pricing is correct, the calendars are updated, and inquiries are responded to in a timely manner. You don’t lose out on bookings this way since it is easily preventable. The faster inquiries are responded to, the more likely a traveler will book your property.

Good Customer Relations

The way an owner or manager interacts with potential vacationers is huge. A traveler’s experience depends not just on the quality of the property, but on his or her experience with the home owner as well. Be professional and outgoing when communicating with the traveler. Make sure the traveler is accommodated for and feels welcomed when he or she arrives. Travelers will not want to stay at a property with an unprofessional owner, no matter how nice the actual property is. If you build a relationship with a traveler, they may want to book with you again, and get their friends to book with you as well!

List your property on multiple platforms

The internet has made spreading news about your newly acquired vacation home faster than ever. This being said, there are plenty of vacation rental advertising platforms out there that can advertise your property to the world. Having your property listed on not just one, but many, of these websites can improve the visibility of your listing. The TripAdvisor family alone consists of FlipKey, HolidayLettings, Niumba, and TripAdvisor itself.