Are You Scaring Off Your Vacation Rental’s Potential Guests?

Lauren KayeLeave a Comment

You want your vacation rental to be successful, so you gave it a deep clean, took a handful of pictures for your listing, wrote up a description of your property, updated your calendar, and published it on some bookings sites. But then – crickets. You haven’t received any booking requests.

What if we told you that you might inadvertently be scaring off travelers?

In general, travelers are reluctant to book accommodations provided by strangers – even if those strangers are posting their accommodations on reputable sites and have been verified by trusted intermediaries. Travelers are even less likely to stay in an accommodation if it sets off any red flags.

We’ve worked with homeowners across North America to generate bookings for thousands of properties, and we’ve identified 10 things that scare off travelers:

1. Your Listing Is Unprofessional

Unprofessional listings make guests immediately wary of booking a property.

A listing with spelling errors, weird spacing, and incomplete information often comes across as a possible scam. Scam artists are usually trying to whip something together as quickly as possible, which makes them prone to errors and haphazard formatting.

Of course, busy owners are also rushed for time – but guests can’t readily tell the difference between legitimate owners, who make errors because they’re trying to get back to their full-time jobs, and scam artists who make errors because they’re trying to get all the scams done by midnight.

Make it easy for them by being one of the error-free listings that gives a professional vibe.

  • Don’t write in all caps. IT MAKES GUESTS FEEL LIKE YOU’RE YELLING AT THEM – and it’s often a hallmark of a scam.
  • Proofread. Run your listing through spell check and consider using a free spelling and grammar checker like Grammarly to correct spacing issues and typos.
  • Double check all location names. Scam artists don’t know the area like you do, and they’re more likely to make errors in the names of streets, nearby towns, and local attractions. Make extra sure you spell them like a local would – correctly.

Want to take your listing description above and beyond error-free? Take a read through How to Write a Standout Description for Your Vacation Rental for some helpful tips.

2. You’re Using Bad Photos

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, imagine how many unkind things a bad photo says about your vacation rental.

Don’t let dark pictures, messy rooms, out of focus images, or strange angles make the decision for them. Photos of dim rooms with shadowy furniture don’t exactly suggest relaxing vacation. They suggest there might be something lurking in those shadows – and when was the last time you picked your vacation destination based on how eerie it looked?

Risky propositions don’t sit well with travelers, and they will avoid dark, shadowy accommodations for something that feels safer. Give them bright, well-lit, clean and welcoming photos that lay their fears to rest.

3. Your Rates Are Eerily Low

You already know you shouldn’t be pricing your rental too high. Guests won’t book a home if there are similar properties in the area with comparable amenities at a lower price.

But on the other end of the spectrum, there’s nothing scarier to travelers than unusually low rates. If you price your home far below what others in your area are charging, guests will start to wonder: Why is it priced so low? Is something wrong with it? What’s the catch?

And they might not book your property because they worry about what they’re going to encounter when they arrive.

How do you hit the sweet spot between too high and too low, so guests feel confident booking your home? Read our blog post on How to Price Your Vacation Rental to Maximize Your Income.

4. Your Property Looks Like A Haunted House

Guests find it unsettling if they pull up to your vacation rental and see that the weeds are overgrown, the pathway is dark, the paint is chipping, and the address isn’t clearly marked. They might think they’re arriving at a haunted house – rather than your cozy home near the beach.

A house in disrepair that will scare off vacation rental guests.
Don’t let this be your visitors’ first impression.

If you aren’t around to perform upkeep on the property, you’ll need to hire a handyman who can stop by and make sure your outdoor space is in order for guests, the yard is cleaned up, the lawn is freshly cut, the hot tub and pool are clean, the walkway is free of debris, and the yard lights are working.

A reliable maintenance team can also alert you to any bigger projects that require your attention, like if the paint is chipping and could use a fresh coat, or the sidewalk is cracked and needs repairs. It’ll keep your house in tip-top shape so it always gives guests a warm and welcoming first impression.

5. Your Interior Looks Unlived-In

Cobwebs on patio furniture. A layer of dust on the surfaces. Broken tiles and wires hanging from the ceiling.

Just like the exterior of your home shouldn’t look like a haunted house, the inside shouldn’t look like it’s been long abandoned. That is, unless you’re marketing your property as a haunted house, in which case – you’re doing just fine.

But assuming that you are marketing your house as a normal vacation rental where guests can enjoy themselves, make sure your house is ready for guests. That means it’s fully cleaned, stocked, and doesn’t have any unfinished maintenance projects.

Don’t turn guests’ stay into something out of a scary movie. Use this post as a checklist to make sure your place is guest-ready.

6. You Have Too Many Booking Restrictions

Want guests to run for the hills? Add a bunch of restrictions to your property listing:

  • Only 2 loads of laundry per stay
  • 1 towel per guest
  • Never leave the porch light on for longer than 4 hours
  • The heating/AC can only be used for 30 mins every 3 hours
  • Never park in the driveway, not even to unload
  • Don’t let the neighbors see you coming and going

Travelers get scared off when they see too much red tape. They don’t want to spend their vacation worrying about whether they’re breaking one of your unusually strict house rules. A laundry list of restrictions makes them fearful you’ll be harrying them their whole vacation.

Make it easy for your guests to feel like their visit will be stress-free by keeping your house rules simple, reasonable, and necessary. Not bothering the neighbors with noise is no problem. Making sure the neighbors never see your guests because they don’t like that you’re running a vacation rental – that’s pretty unnerving.

7. Your Surprise Fees Sneak Up On Guests

Nothing sets alarm bells off for a guest like a surprise fee tacked on to their total immediately after they’ve made their reservation. Common surprise fees include:

  • Extra guest fees
  • Linen fees
  • Grill use fees
  • Hot tub use fees
  • Paddleboard rental fee
  • Window AC unit fee

If you advertise that your property has an amenity, guests will naturally assume that the amenity is included in the price of the property. If there are 3 bedrooms in your property and you’re charging people to bring more than 2 guests, you’ll make them immediately wary that you’ll start to charge them for other things they thought were included.

People hate feeling like they’re being nickled and dimed – don’t you?

Cleaning fees and pet fees are standard for all vacation rentals, and there are a few location-specific common fees that every rental in the area charges (such as pool heating fees).

Fees above and beyond the norm make guests afraid they’ll get a lengthy check-out bill at the end of their stay for simply using the house they rented – and that’s a possibility terrifying enough to send them scurrying to your competition instead.

8. You Don’t Have Any Reviews

If you don’t have any reviews, prospective guests will wonder why no wants to stay at your property. Is it in a bad neighborhood? Is it a scam?

They want to see that other people have stayed in the rental and can verify that the property is safe, comfortable, and clean.

The trouble, of course, is that it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. You can’t get bookings without reviews, and you can’t get reviews without bookings. What’s an owner to do?

Get a review or two right out of the gate by letting your friends and family know you are opening a vacation rental and would be happy to provide them or their friends with a steeply discounted rate. You’ll know you’re getting great guests, your guests will know they’re getting a legitimate rental – at a great price!

Ask your thoroughly vetted guests to leave you a review at the end of their stay, and you’re off to the races.

Don’t have friends or family who could help? Check out this blog post to get your first reviews. You’ll soon have guests feeling assured your rental is a lovely retreat, and not a scary unknown.

9. Your Guests Feel Like They’re Being Watched…

Your guest is having an amazing vacation with their family – but they keep getting unnerved by the photos of YOUR family scattered around the property.

It’s a little unsettling to see someone else’s grandmother beaming up at you from a photo on the bedside table of the property you’ve rented. It can make guests feel like they’re intruders who aren’t supposed to be in the property in the first place.

Stash your personal possessions and family photos in a locked closet or bureau drawer when you’re not visiting the property, and break them out again when you come to enjoy your vacation rental yourself.

You’ll make your guests feel much more comfortable – and as a bonus, there’s less risk of grandma’s photo frame getting accidentally knocked off the table by an unaware guest.

10. You’re Giving Too Much Information, Too Soon

Giving too much information is just as much of a slip up as giving too little information.

Guests get intimidated if your listing not only gives an overview of the property, but also includes:

  • Directions for how to fire up the grill
  • Instructions for how to work the LED lights in the new hot tub
  • How to get the garage door to open

It’s information overload.

They’ll be very grateful for instructions in the proper time and place, but giving all the instructions all at once makes it seems like there’s an awful lot to figure out at this property. Wouldn’t they like to stay somewhere that’s less of a headache?

Keep your listing and house rules free of detailed instructions, and instead include them in handy locations near the items where they’re needed. Your guests will feel at ease when they look at your listing – obviously that TV must be easy as pie to use, since there was no need for a warning about it – and they’ll be glad to have instructions when they’re ready to sit down to watch a late-night movie.

Keep your Wifi password in your check in instructions, though – they’ll want that right away!

Is your house securing bookings or scaring off travelers?

What’s the opposite of scaring off guests?

It’s making them feel safe.

The tips above should give you a good idea of what to avoid, but if you’re ever wondering if it’s worth it to go the extra mile, ask yourself this simple question: would this set off my alarm bells if I were a guest, or would it make me feel safer?

Answer that question, and you’ll never scare off a guest again.

Have other ideas about what terrifies travelers? Let us know in the comments section below!

Want to stop worrying about whether you’re marketing your property effectively? Evolve handles all of your marketing for you, including free professional photos and listing on all the major vacation rental sites – and helps you earn more income than ever before. Click here to learn more.