As the vacation rental industry grows, it’s time to face facts: some things have changed for good. Here’s a list of important changes we think owners will need to adopt in the years ahead to ensure their vacation rental’s success.
1. Not Offering Basic Amenities is Not an Option
While most owners have caught on to the fact that guests want the basic amenities they’re accustomed to receiving in hotel rooms, many are still holding fast to the days when providing linens – or any other convenience – was considered optional. That was fine when most guests knew the time-honored tradition, but there’s an enormous influx of newcomers staying in vacation rentals, and they’re often baffled and annoyed when basics aren’t provided.
That annoyance shows up in their reviews, regardless of the quality of the property or the accuracy of the listing, so owners need to start considering what they would want to find in any rental as a guest. Provide linens. Provide more than one roll of toilet paper. If you can, provide individual bottles of shampoo and soap! These items cost little to provide, and failing to offer them will definitely cost you bookings in the future as potential guest read previous bad reviews.
Providing basic amenities isn’t optional any more – it’s required.
2. Listing Sites Want Quality, Not Quantity
When HomeAway/VRBO made a major change to the way their site was structured, many owners were angry enough with the changes to quit the site. But listing sites are okay with losing those owners who aren’t interested in providing the kind of listing quality that travelers want to see. They’re hoping to attract more and more new travelers to try vacation rentals for the first time, which means quality is very important right now.
Airbnb understood this from the outset, which is one of the reasons it took off so spectacularly. Airbnb provided its owners with free photography to ensure attractive listings – which gave visitors a favorable impression of Airbnb. Every listing site wants that same reputation for quality, so owners will need to work a little harder to provide that quality listing if they want their rental to be competitive on these major sites.
What makes for quality? We made you a handy guide on how to double your bookings with a stellar listing.
3. Travelers Expect You to Be On Call
Related to the above point, owners are being asked to be more communicative than ever before. This is partially because the Millennial generation is starting to book vacations for themselves and their young families, and they’ve grown up with a standard of customer service that includes instant access to assistance at all times.
What does that mean for owners? In addition to providing a quick response when guests inquire about a booking, owners will also need to be increasingly available throughout the guest’s stay – or designate someone who can. If you can answer within a few minutes when a guest texts “Is there laundry soap available?” you’ll get great reviews – but if a guest has to wait a day for a response, you might be looking at 2 stars.
You don’t have to be the one on call – but you should make sure someone is ready and willing to be in touch.
4. Your Insurance Probably Doesn’t Cover Your Vacation Rental
We’ve covered this topic in depth before, but the short version is this: most homeowners and landlords policies do not cover your property when it’s being operated as a short-term rental. Which means you may be leaving yourself wide open in terms of liability.
There’s a simple fix to this one: double-check your insurance policy with your insurance agent, and be sure to check the laws in your area to ensure your rental is operating legally. Your insurance policy should specifically cover you for short-term (rather than long-term) rental, and you should make sure all of your legal paperwork and licenses (if necessary) are up to date so that you don’t run into a dispute about whether your business is operating within the bounds of the law.
5. Cities Are Catching On to the Benefits of Vacation Rental
Many owners are concerned that more restrictive laws surrounding short-term rental will interfere with their income. You’re right to be concerned, but we’ve got good news: now that cities are actually studying the effects of short-term rental on their local economy, local regulations are beginning to shift in favor of allowing these types of rentals.
If you’re concerned about your city’s attitude toward vacation rental, one of the best things you can do is get involved with your local government and help provide the data that will encourage reasonable vacation rental regulations. If you have one, you can also join your local Short-Term Rental Alliance, which can give you a good place to start getting organized.
“Wait and see” isn’t your best strategy. Get involved to help ensure your local regs allow you to keep renting!
6. Refunds Can Save You Money
Naturally, you don’t need to offer a refund to every single person who has a mild complaint, but we’ve seen owners refuse to refund even in cases where the guest wasn’t able to access the property – or contact the owner – for two days! Here’s why this no-refunds policy isn’t a great approach to issue resolution.
The guest with a legitimate complaint has a story to tell. Other potential guests will see their negative review and think “Wow, I don’t want to get into that same situation,” and choose not to book with you. A refund, however, takes a lot of the sting out of a bad experience. Even if the guest leaves a bad review, the fact that you provided a refund will assure other guests that if you make a mistake (which happens to the best of us), you’ll do your best to make it right.
Enhance your reputation as a business owner and avoid missed bookings by providing a refunds willingly when a guest has a bad experience at your rental.
7. Upfront Fees are Better Than Sneaky Add-Ons
As you create your vacation rental pricing strategy for 2017, consider nixing some of your fees. Add-on fees are almost never worth the ill will you’ll incur from travelers who made their purchase on the assumption that the price quoted was the real price. If a traveler books a property at a quoted $1,400, telling them there will be two “extra person” fees that bring their total to $1,600 is always a recipe for a negative review, if not an outright cancellation.
It’s our experience that guests don’t mind pet fees, pool heating fees, or the standard cleaning fees, as long as they know about them before they make a booking, but charging them for amenities already available in the property (such as AC units or amenities for children) invariably creates conflict and bad relationships with guests. We recommend pricing to cover your costs for all guests, and leaving the add-ons off.
No one likes unexpected fees. Avoid surprises, and keep your fees reasonable and upfront.
What other common strategies are no longer viable for vacation rentals? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
Wonder where we get our data? Our amazing Success and Customer Experience teams pay close attention to which strategies work best to ensure owners make a profit and get great reviews. Click here to learn more about everything Evolve does to make vacation rental easy and profitable for our owners.