Home For Owners/Managers Earn More Money

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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.

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In the vacation rental industry, repeat customers can be a strong proponent for your listing. Happy and repeat customers typically provide stellar reviews, book in advance, and can provide traveler insight and tips on how to improve your property that owners may not consider. So how can you attract repeat customers? We’ve compiled some tips to help keep your calendar booked.

Before the stay

Once a guest books, it’s important to follow up as soon as possible to address any questions they may have about the property location and surrounding area. Set their mind at ease by providing up to date contact information, should any issues or other questions arise prior to their stay. While your guest may already have planned activities for their vacation, providing insider tips
and suggestions of things to do shows your guests that you care about making their experience enjoyable and fun.

During the stay

Create a brochure for your house that includes FAQ’s, house rules, restaurant/activities suggestions, and your contact information. Guests will appreciate having this information at their disposal should they need any assistance.

After the stay

Upon check out, send a thank you note to your guests. Thank you’s add a personal touch that highlight your attention to detail. Remain accessible to answer any post-trip questions your guests may have. For example, if a refundable deposit was included in the reservation, let guests know the timeframe during which they can expect their deposit back. Follow up with guests a
few months later to remind them of their wonderful vacation. Providing a special discount for repeat customers gives guests an additional incentive to rebook.

Ultimately, remaining accessible, attentive, and personal helps attract quality and repeat customers. Happy bookings!

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You’ve decided to list your home on FlipKey—great! We want to make sure you get the most out of all of our site features, so we’ve provided tips on how to create a quality listing that drives bookings.

Showcase Your Home

You can capture travelers’ attention with a compelling headline. Avoid using vague adjectives and leave out listing criteria like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Instead, opt for descriptive terms unique to your home’s features.

Write your  property description so that travelers can scan it easily. Try breaking up your summary into chunks while painting a picture of what it’s like to stay in your home. Plus, here’s a tip: You can aid your listing’s performance in search engines if you use an original description that doesn’t appear on other listing sites.

Take the Perfect Shot

We see it again and again: photos play a big role in capturing traveler interest. It’s your first impression, so choose photos that are appealing and well-lit. A dark, pixelated image of a cluttered room will be overlooked in favor of ones in which a traveler can actually imagine themselves. For instance, if you’re photographing your dining room, set the table as though you’re hosting a dinner party for friends.

Set Competitive Rates

When setting your rental rates, check out what similar properties in your area are charging to make sure that your prices are competitive. Keep your pricing structure simple and easy to understand by providing nightly and weekly rates, categorized by season.

Here’s another tip: The default rate that you choose here fills the gaps between whatever you set for seasonal rates, so travelers will always get an accurate price when looking at your listing.

Establish Clear Policies

From damage protection to refunds, your policies help set travelers’ expectations prior to booking.  When you edit your listing, you can set explicit policies that ensure your protection, and define what you and your guests are responsible for throughout the booking.

Update Your Calendar

Finally, the most important piece of your listing is your rental calendar. It’s simple: an up-to-date calendar leads to more qualified inquiries and booking requests. You can manually add your booked dates, or sync it with an existing calendar by importing the data from websites like Google or other listing sites.

Want to learn more? Check out these blog posts:

Make Your Vacation Rental Headline More Clickable in Just 10 Seconds
Why High-Quality Photos Matter for your VR Listing
Tips and tricks for how to set ideal vacation rental listing rates

For general information, check out our Help Center.

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Congratulations! You’ve decided to take the leap and list your vacation rental on FlipKey and TripAdvisor. Now how can you market it? There are several different types of travelers out there, so here are a few tips to help you target the key demographics.

A Family Vacation

Parents want to make sure that their children will be staying in a happy, fun and safe environment. If there are local amusement parks, attractions and restaurants for the whole family, be sure to mention them in your property description. It can also be very difficult to transport all the comforts of home, so why not help to fill a family’s checklist? Do you have family friendly amenities that you don’t mind sharing? A high chair, crib, backyard games and pool toys? Don’t be shy to include them in your property description and amenities. Even that big screen TV and Blu-ray player might come in handy on a rainy day.

The Romantic Getaway

Do you have a quiet and secluded property? Your vacation rental may be the perfect spot for a romantic getaway. When couples plan this type of escape, they want to know that the atmosphere is just right. Your stone fireplace, four poster bed or hot tub may be the key features that separate your property from the rest. Be sure to highlight them by taking advantage of our unlimited photographs on FlipKey and TripAdvisor. You might also want to mention a few dinner spots that are perfect for a night on the town.

Business Trips

A business traveler is looking to stay connected and have a seamless experience getting in and out of town. First, they are looking for a solid WiFi connection. Be sure that WiFi has been added to your list of amenities as it has become a key selling point for all types of travelers. Close proximity to the airport or public transportation is also a strong selling feature. As business travelers don’t always have the option to extend their stay, it may be helpful to cater to these travelers with a nightly rate. Business trips may not fit your minimum stay requirements, but these reservations can help to fill the gap between your weekend and long-term travelers.

Elderly and Special Needs Travelers

Finding a property that caters to travelers with special needs can often be a challenge. If your property is handicap accessible, it can be a major selling point for your listing. Make sure to note that your property is wheelchair and elderly accessible. Prospective travelers have the ability to search for these types of properties using one of FlipKey and TripAdvisor’s many search filters. Also, if your property is not currently listed as pet friendly, you might want to consider making a special exception in the case of a service animal.

You may have already noticed that your listing is a very popular spot among a certain demographic. Why not cater to your market and make it the best?

Casa Panorama - $357/night (Salvador, Brazil)

You know the old adage, “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” Here are a few reasons why that statement rings especially true for the vacation rental business, and some tips to make sure you’re maximizing your listing’s booking potential through your photos.

  1. Photos sell your  listing

A great description of your property can provide a sense of your home and its unique features, but the first thing that will catch a traveler’s eye are your photos.  Your photos provide the most vivid understanding of your property, the layout, and the general area where your property is located. If your photos are eye-catching, well-placed, and high-resolution, chances are your guests are already “picturing” themselves there.

  1. Photos build trust

This may be a traveler’s first time booking a vacation rental rather than a hotel for their vacation. While vacation rentals have huge perks in contrast to hotels (extra space, cost effectiveness, and a true local experience, to name a few) many travelers may be wary prior to booking if your photos don’t provide an accurate sense of your listing and its location. Build trust (and bookings!) by providing a thorough view of your property. Include exterior shots of the property and location, in addition to interior shots.

  1. Photos provide a sense of your service

You already know you go the extra mile for your guests-why not have your photos speak to that service? In addition to general photos of both the interior and exterior of your home, don’t forget to include the details that make your house special and worth the trip. Chances are you already include some standout touch for your guests. Do you leave a complimentary bottle of wine for your guests upon arrival, additional toiletries and towels, or a brochure with “must see” attractions in the area? Travelers love seeing these details, as they speak to your care and concern for their stay. Give guests a glimpse of what they can expect during their vacation with photos that show you go above and beyond. It’s the special touches and extra effort that make your property and you stand out.

TIPS

Now you know photos are important for guests and their willingness to book. Here’s a few tips on how and when to update your photos.

  1. Update Seasonal Photos

The seasons change, and so should your photos! As beautiful as your cottage may look after the first snowfall, chances are guests don’t want to be reminded of the winter if they’re looking to book your property for a spring or summer get away. Keep your photos up to date and relevant.

  1. Think about Placement

Think of your photos as a virtual “walk through” for your potential guest. The placement and positioning of your photos matter just as much as the content and quality of the photos. Position your photos in a logical manner that gives guests an understanding of the layout of your house.

  1. Quality Matters

High resolution, high quality photos are incredibly important. Make sure your photos aren’t blurry, cut-off, or overly large or small. Light is an important component for producing quality photos. Make sure that you’re utilizing either natural or artificial light when taking photos.

  1. Quantity Matters

On average, listings with 20+ photos receive more inquiries and bookings than listings with fewer photos. Uploading a few extra photos may be the difference between a vacant week and a booked listing for the season.

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Reports show that the safety of your neighborhood directly correlates to the value of your home. A study published in Journal of Housing Research found that falling rates in violent crime in New York City over a ten year period raised property values by about 8 percent. Another study in American Economic Review found living within 0.1 miles of a sex offender could drop the value of your home 4 percent on average. None of this is groundbreaking—who would want to live next to a sex offender? However, using this information to your advantage can bring you personal and financial gains.

Choosing a Safe Neighborhood

Agents say the first rule in real estate is location, location, location. But, a realtor won’t comment on the safety of the location in which you’re looking to buy a home or rental property. They can’t. Doing so violates the Fair Housing Act and could cause them to lose their license. You must determine the safety of your potential neighborhood on your own. Fortunately, you can do this fairly easily with a little research.

Check Crime Statistics

Check out crimereports.com. It will show you a map of any area and mark the locations of crimes reported by local police departments. It will also show you where any registered sex offenders live in the area. You can click on the marker icons for more details. Also, see if your potential neighborhood ranks among the state’s safest cities on SafeWise.com. SafeWise bases its rankings on an aggregate of FBI crime data, along with other factors.

Get to Know the Neighborhood

When you tour a house you’re looking to buy, take a walk around the neighborhood as well. You can learn a lot just by looking for signs of activity in the area. Are there parks nearby? Are there businesses near the parks? Do residents keep their property in order? Is the street clearly visible from the houses’ windows? Are people outside in the evening? Affirmative answers to these questions signify an engaged community and a safe neighborhood.

Your real estate agent can’t legally help you determine the safety of an area, but with some research and legwork before you buy, you’ll find a safe neighborhood and give yourself a good start on your home investment. If you’ve already purchased a home, you can still take steps to improve your home’s value by improving the safety of your neighborhood.

Improving Safety in Your Current Neighborhood

Homeowners can help improve their home’s value by engaging in their communities to create safer neighborhoods. According to the National Institute of Justice, community engagement strategies, like Operation Ceasefire in Boston, have reduced gun assaults by as much as 25 percent.

Engage in the Community

Community engagement can involve a lot of different activities, but the main idea is to have a lot of eyes on the street. The most obvious form is a Neighborhood Watch program, but you can also engage your community in other ways. Organize a neighborhood barbeque at the local park. Invite everyone to a block party.  Encourage your neighbors to get to know each other. Increasing safe activities on your neighborhood streets will decrease unsafe activity.

Engage in Local Government

Getting involved with local government can also help improve your neighborhood’s safety. Your influence may help get the funding to upgrade the infrastructure in your neighborhood or give your street the vote it needs to get the new coffee shop. By voicing your opinions to local government, you can inspire action and give value to your community. That value manifests in your home.

By engaging with the people and businesses in your area, you can turn your neighborhood into a community. The sense of camaraderie developed inside the community will help keep the streets safer—protecting your family or tenants, and your property value.

Invest Your Time to Protect Your Money

You are responsible for choosing a good home in which to invest. Your real estate agent is bound by the law. But, whether you are in the market for a home or rental property, or if you are already an established homeowner, you can take steps to improve on your investment by pursuing a safer neighborhood. Taking the steps to protect your investment will also protect the home’s residents and create a better community—giving you double the peace of mind and a higher net worth.

This advice comes from Elli Bishop at SafeWise, a company that’s on a mission to help keep your home and community safe.  SafeWise collects hundreds of reviews from home security customers and uses those results to help you discover the ideal security system for your home and family.