In the good old days, renting your vacation home took a lot of time and effort. Especially if that vacation home was in another country.
Classified ads in newspapers, one-man rental agents, billboards hanging from the balcony—folks tried every way possible to advertise the fact they had a home for rent.
These days, it’s beyond easy. With platforms like HomeAway, FlipKey, and Airbnb, owners can get guests for their beach house in Fiji or their city pad in Paris without ever leaving home.
Well…it should be that easy. But with new technologies come new challenges. Some folks simply won’t make the cut. But master the art of a good rental listing and you can bump up your rental returns significantly.
These three tips will make your rental listing stand out—and on track for a handsome profit…
Tip #1. Use Great Photos
I really can’t emphasize this enough. If you can’t take good photos, get a professional in. It’s worth the money according to Airbnb. They reckon that hosts with professional photos earn 40% more in rental income and generate 24% more bookings.
Nobody will rent your home if all they can see is a handful of photos with bad lighting and bad angles. A friend is a Superhost on Airbnb with a constant stream of paying guests. The first thing you see on his listing is some amazing photos that instantly give you a feel for your vacation. Everything is brightly lit, spotlessly clean, and gleaming. The dining table is set for a fancy dinner. The bathroom is sparkling, with marble accents and a spa-like ambience. He has dozens of photos that show the home from top to bottom, inside and out.
A neighbor of his—whose home is kitted out just as nicely—isn’t a Superhost. He’s getting the odd guest, he told my friend, but nothing more. The reason? My friend says his listing features four photos, taken at dusk, on his phone. They look anything but enticing.
When I go to book a short-term let myself, the first thing I check is the photos. Four dingy pictures like that for me would signal a fast exit from that listing!
Tip #2. Put Your Writer’s Hat On
There’s an art to crafting a description of why a guest should rent your home, without writing 50 pages or getting lost in tiny details. You may need some help on this front, too, from a friend or family member who’s good at this type of thing.
The first thing I look at in a rental listing is the photos. Then, I read the blurb…
The easy way to know what you should cover in your description is to put yourself in your guest’s shoes. Think of them as ground zero—they know nothing about your neighborhood or its upsides, your home, where to eat, what to do…
A good listing will briefly and succinctly start with the attributes of the home…my spacious, light-filled home has two large master suites, a gourmet kitchen and a huge terrace that’s a great spot for your morning coffee or evening cocktails. Then it leads into the surrounding locale: my home is steps from the beach/a clubhouse/shopping/restaurants/museums. Whatever you mention, you should ideally have photos of it in the listing and refer to those photos (it’s a five-minute walk to Old Town, which you can see in photo three above). Then you can talk about the wider area and why folks come to visit. It might be for museums and galleries…theme parks or water parks…casinos or shopping…hiking or skiing. Whatever it is, tie your home into it (the best ski resort is a three-minute drive away…you can walk to the Prado).
Tip #3. Get First-Class Reviews
The third thing I always check when renting short term is the reviews. If they’re all glowing…and guests clearly loved their experience…I’m in.
If I find a slew of complaints, I’m immediately out. Especially if they’re all saying the same thing (WiFi didn’t work the whole trip and owner didn’t respond to requests to fix it, the place was dirty, the rental manager left us waiting for two hours past the agreed check-in time…you get the idea).
If the listing has no reviews, then I’m on shaky ground. It might be a fantastic home in an amazing location…then again, it might be a dud. I prefer not to take the risk. If there’s another home close by that’s decently kitted out and has some good reviews, I’ll go with that.
On some listing sites, there’s a carrot for guests to leave a review: you’ll review them too. Many guests will want to build up their own profile, so future hosts know they’re respectful, clean, non-partying guests…and they’ll only get your review for their profile if they give you one.
Sometimes it pays to sweeten the deal—by offering guests a discount on their next stay, for example, if they leave you a review.
Personally, I’m far more inclined to leave a review when I’ve interacted with the owner or rental manager and the experience was good. If I’ve collected a key from a lockbox and had zero contact other than a couple of emails, it feels more anonymous (like renting a room in a large hotel) and I’m less inclined to leave a review.
Finally, a word of advice. Some listings sites let you respond to reviews. But, think carefully about what you post. Don’t react immediately to a bad review. Think about it and ask friends and fellow hosts the best way to handle it. I’ve seen posts where the host came across as bullying, dismissive, even rude, to legitimate complaints. That’s not the way to attract more guests!
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