You have a beautiful vacation rental – but you’re not getting the booking rates you expect.
It might be time for a small upgrade.
Vacation rental owners are often a little hesitant to invest money into upgrading their second homes. They’re not confident the improvements will change their booking rates, and they don’t want to spend money unnecessarily.
While these are fair concerns, our Success Team has found over and over again that owners who invest in small upgrades to their properties see a marked increase in both their booking rates and their positive reviews.
When your property is constantly booked and flooded with 5-star reviews, you have every reason to raise your rates.
That means your investment doesn’t just provide an immediate return in more frequent bookings – it actually improves the rate your property can command for bookings in the future.
Starting to see the virtue in a quick upgrade to your home? Here are a few of the home improvements we’ve found get the best return on your investment.
Craft a Kitchen They Can’t Wait to Cook In
Your kitchen’s attractiveness can make or break a booking.
Travelers choose vacation rentals over hotels because they want to use the kitchen to make their own meals. When they imagine how it will feel to live in your home for a vacation stay, they will invariably imagine themselves in your kitchen.
We’ve even known travelers to specifically book vacation rentals because the kitchen was so attractive. If the traveler doesn’t have a kitchen island or granite countertops at home, she welcomes the chance to experience those features on her vacation.
That’s not to say your kitchen needs to be gourmet-quality. But it’s definitely worth casting a critical eye over your kitchen to identify its least-attractive feature and consider upgrading it.
Have ancient cabinets with chipped doors? Perhaps it’s time to invest in new ones. Linoleum looking the worse for wear? You might consider upgrading to a more durable (and attractive) tile or wood flooring. Is the kitchen poorly lit? Investing in some under-cabinet lighting might be just the ticket.
Overhauling a kitchen entirely isn’t often your best route. After all, a full renovation can take a long time, and you want your property to be available for rent. But if you can make a marked improvement in a weekend or two, you’ll more than recoup your investment in happy guests.
The kitchen below is a prime example of how you can “renovate” without renovating. Those are the same cabinets and countertops, but the owner has invested in a lick of paint all around, installed better lighting, and upgraded the floor. Which do you think would be more likely to land a booking?
When your travelers rave about your kitchen in their reviews, you’ll soon be able to command higher nightly rates for your property. Other travelers will want to cook in your beautiful kitchen, too – especially now that they hear such great things from those who have tried it!
Show Your Guests the Light (or the Dark)
Many of our owners are surprised to discover how strongly travelers feel about window treatments, but if you consider it from their perspective, it makes a lot of sense.
Imagine if you couldn’t get a good night’s sleep because the thin curtains in the bedroom didn’t sufficiently block out the light coming in from the streetlamp outside.
Or if you felt exposed at dinnertime because the large windows had no coverings, and you had the uncomfortable feeling of being “watched” at dinnertime as passers-by glance in from the dark street.
Or if you couldn’t watch a movie in the afternoon because the Venetian blinds couldn’t block the light sufficiently to keep the glare off the TV screen.
You see how quickly these problems add up to a less-than-stellar vacation rental experience.
To improve your nightly rate, you need your guests to leave you rave reviews of your amazing property, and that means any potential negative experience needs to disappear. Upgrading your window treatments can be just the thing.
Offer a Relaxing Hour Before Bed
Your guests may be wooed to book by the kitchen, but the feature that will have the biggest impact on your reviews is the bedrooms. If your guests don’t feel cozy and happy when they tuck into bed at night, they’re less likely to leave a great review.
One of our current owners, Steve, has a gorgeous property in Breckenridge, Colorado. He already had quite nice bedrooms, but he invested in beautiful linens, furniture upgrades, and side lamps for the beds that provide excellent lighting for late-night reading.
He also upgraded a twin bedroom to include bunk beds ideal for visiting children, freeing up space in the room to provide a bureau, lamp for the kids to read by, and a chair for Mom or Dad.
What a difference! There was nothing off-putting about Steve’s original linens or bedroom furniture, but the upgrades noticeably make each room feel more homelike. While previously the furniture was adequate to a traveler’s needs, it now looks as if the room was more deliberately designed, as if in a full-time residence.
When a traveler is browsing listings, they’re more likely to be able to imagine themselves in a bedroom that looks homelike. They can easily see how it will feel to slip into the beautiful bed, switch on the bedside lamp, and settle down to sleep, just as they would in their own bedroom.
There’s a further bonus to comfortable, well-furnished bedrooms: great traveler reviews. When travelers feel at home in your vacation rental, they’re more likely to give you a fantastic review – which ultimately gives you the leverage to raise your nightly rates.
Give Your Guests a Blissful Night’s Sleep
A great night’s sleep is not to be underestimated. Travelers who can’t sleep well in your home are more likely to think of their overall experience as negative, even if the vacation rental was everything they asked for.
We’ve already taken care of their lighting and their surroundings, but there’s one critical factor left: the mattress.
We highly recommend upgrading your mattresses, particularly if you’ve had negative responses to bed quality in the past.
Buying a new mattress doesn’t need to be extraordinarily expensive. Delightfully comfortable beds can be bought for under $500 at Costco and Sam’s Club, and you can improve the comfort factor even further with a high-end mattress pad, which provides a “pillow top” effect.
When it comes to beds, bigger is almost always better. King beds are prized above queens, and queens above fulls. One of our owners recently upgraded every bed in his house thusly, and was able to boost his nightly rates immediately because of the perceived increase in comfort.
There are two exceptions to the bigger-is-better rule.
Rooms designed for children can remain twins without issue, and can even be preferable, since kids get beds to themselves instead of doubling up and kicking their siblings all night.
That said, don’t make the mistake of thinking children don’t need quality mattresses. One parent complained that a foam-based mattress caused her child to overheat every night, waking him up and making him cranky for the entire stay. That kind of experience will definitely have a negative impact on your reviews!
Children don’t usually need pillow-top mattresses, but a comfortable, breathable twin will help children sleep soundly in a strange home, helping them (and their parents) have a much more enjoyable vacation.
If your bedroom will look cramped if you upgrade from a full-size to a queen, it’s usually best to keep the size as it is and simply invest in a quality mattress.
This is because the positive response to a bigger mattress is effectively negated by a room that seems crowded and uncomfortable to move around. You want your travelers to look at your photos and think it looks comfortable and welcoming.
A bed so large that it only leaves a half-foot space to shimmy into it doesn’t look comfortable. Stick with the largest quality mattress you can comfortably fit in the bedroom, and your travelers will respond well.
Don’t Neglect Your Bathroom!
Bathrooms are often the last rooms in the house to get an upgrade. A shower’s a shower, after all – as long as the hot water works and the plumbing functions, many feel it’s good enough.
They’re not entirely wrong. Very few guests feel the bathroom is a ‘make or break’ feature.
But they use the bathroom every day to take a shower, and several times a day for other purposes. They have every opportunity to minutely examine the bathroom for flaws, and any they find will affect their overall experience of your rental.
If a traveler gets frustrated every morning because the less-than-stellar water pressure makes it difficult to rinse her hair, she’s not going to feel like she had a relaxing stay – even if everything else was great.
Similarly, if the lighting is poor, the towels are thin and small, and the toilet seat has a crack in it, that’s a little inconvenience every day.
Is it bad enough to warrant a negative review? No. But it’s often enough to dampen their enthusiasm sufficiently that when you ask for a positive review, they decide they didn’t have a nice enough experience to leave one.
That’s not what we want! So how can you upgrade your bathroom without renovating it entirely?
Most importantly: invest some money into making sure your water pressure and plumbing are up to date. Nothing will get you a negative review faster than a backed-up toilet or terrible water pressure, and just as positive reviews help you improve your rates, negative reviews can force you to lower them to get bookings.
Now that we’ve avoided the worst-case scenario, how do we get those positive reviews to roll in? Here’s a quick bathroom upgrade that doesn’t require a full renovation:
- Repair any small cracks or chips in the fixtures.
- If the floor is looking weathered, consider replacing it.
- Walls looking drab or dark? A fresh coat of light-colored paint will do wonders.
- Install brighter, more attractive lighting so your guests like what they see in the mirror.
- Make sure your towels are absorbent and large enough to wrap easily around the body. (We’ve got great vacation rental towel advice here.)
Ensure your guest’s stay goes smoothly in every particular, and they’ll be rushing to thank you in five-star reviews for the effortless vacation you gave them.
Want a bathroom upgrade that allows you to charge a higher nightly rate? Consider making your bathroom ADA handicap-accessible, like Evolve owner Donna. That feature isn’t common among vacation rentals, and those who need handicap-accessible vacation rentals are more than happy to pay a little extra to be accommodated.
What Will It Cost?
Any given one of these upgrades might cost between $200-$1000, depending on your home and what level of investment you’re considering.
You needn’t do them all at once, either. Budgeting a little bit of money every time you make a booking is a great investment in your future as a vacation rental owner, because every upgrade provides a significant return on investment.
Some upgrades, like larger and better mattresses, can provide an immediate return. You can start charging a little more per night because people are willing to pay more for that extra feature.
Other upgrades provide a more subtle, but still tangible, return. Kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom upgrades all make it more likely for travelers to book your property, and these upgrades ensure your travelers avoid even a mildly negative experience with your vacation rental.
You’ll always be glad to get more bookings, but bookings where the traveler has a great experience pay twice: once in rental income, and once in amazing reviews that convince other travelers to book.
Great reviews give you freedom to raise your rates, because new travelers can see that those who came before them thought your vacation rental was well worth a little extra money.
More bookings, better reviews, and ultimately higher nightly rates. What do you think? Aren’t those upgrades worth the cost of investment?
Evolve’s Success Team is always on hand to help our owners decide how to get the most out of vacation rental ownership, and they’re only one of the many teams you could have ensuring you make an amazing profit in the coming year. Call us at 877.818.0414 (dial 2 at the voice menu) or click here to learn all about the perks of being an Evolve homeowner.