For most beach rental owners in the United States, summer stands for more than just sand and sunshine – summer is the peak of vacation rental success. It’s the season that books a year in advance and generates the most income.
Come autumn, travelers trade surfing for snowboards, sandcastles for snowmen, and sunshine for snowfall. September is the beginning of ski season, and the end of beach-booking busy season.
Many owners resign themselves to little or no income during low season.
But there’s plenty you can do to ensure a successful winter for your beach rental. You can even set yourself up for a better income, more bookings, and a great listing site ranking when the high season rolls around again!
Here’s how to set your beach rental up for an amazing winter season.
1. Know Your Target Market – and Appeal to It
Knowing your target market is one of the biggest keys to vacation rental success for beach rentals, especially in the off-season. You need to tailor your listing to fit the needs and desires for the guests who would be most interested in your property in the winter.
Summer may have brought families seeking quality bonding time before school starts up again. Winter, on the other hand, may bring groups of surfers looking to catch the bigger waves that cold weather brings, or snowbirds eager to soak up some sun.
Although these travelers share the same desire to stay in a beach rental, their reasons for wanting to do so tend to be very different.
Whether they choose your rental for their retreat will have little to do with your rental itself. It will have everything to do with the way you’ve marketed it.
Which leads us to the first step in repositioning your rental for winter:
You already know how you market your property in the summer. Winter, however, may take a little research.
- What events happen near your property in the winter? What types of people do they attract?
- What age groups of snowbirds migrate in the colder months? What do they look for in a rental?
- What winter months are most popular? Which ones are least?
- What are your competing properties doing in the winter to appeal to renters?
Once you have these questions answered, you should have a clear picture of what types of people are most likely to visit your two-bedroom beachfront condo, or your five-bedroom beachside house.
Now you’re going to make sure they know your rental is the perfect fit for them – by updating your listing.
When you determine what’s most important to your travelers, put it in the headline. Mention the winter whale watching, or the world-famous volleyball tournament.
It could be an event, it could be the yearlong sun, or it could just be your proximity to a beach known for amazing winter surfing. Whatever your best selling point is – make it known.
Once you’ve emphasized the biggest selling point of your rental in the headline, go into greater specifics in your description. Talk about that music festival that happens every weekend, or the pier nearby. Discuss the advantage of coming in the winter, and how the temperature never drops below 75.
The snowbirds will want to know that they can live a relaxed and quieter lifestyle, while the weekenders may want to know which bars and restaurants are within walking distance.
The changes you make and the descriptions you write need to be specific to the target market you have decided will bring you the most success.
2. Change Your Booking Rules
Successfully remarketing your rental goes beyond just changing the listing language. Your target market doesn’t just affect your description and headline, but also the way you work your calendar.
Depending on your demographic, you may be looking at different minimum and maximum booking lengths.
Let’s take the surfers versus snowbirds example:
The surfers are most likely to want to come for a quick weekend getaway to soak up the waves before heading back inland. The snowbirds want to stay through the winter, so they’re more likely to be looking to rent for a whole month.
If your target market is more likely to book a weekend rental, don’t hesitate to let them. While you may be used to week-long minimums, allowing shorter visits will keep a stream of income by filling up parts of your calendar that would otherwise be empty.
Meanwhile, your competitors, who are sticking stubbornly to their previous booking rules, aren’t going to show up in the search results at all for those weekend searches. Surfers won’t even know their properties exist – while yours is going to show up as a very appealing option for their long weekend catching waves.
Conversely, if your target market is looking for a winter hideaway, you might want to be open to the option of month-long rentals or extended stays. Many people go to the coast to escape the snow and are looking for a rental to call their seasonal “home.”
While it may be difficult to agree to giving up some of your weekends at your property, making the decision to provide the option for month-long or extended stays can ensure yours is one of the few properties that makes bookings during low season.
3. Invest in attractive updates
For beach rentals, winter is a great time to get amenities installed. You’re likely to be able to find a good period of time when no one is occupying the property, and there’s no ice and snow to prevent you from making an outdoor upgrade.
And it’s well worth taking that time – because certain amenities can make or break a guest’s decision to book your rental in the off season. The following amenities might not be what guests are looking for the in the summer, but they’re very likely to make your wintertime guests choose your rental over your competition’s more summer-focused property.
Hot tubs can be the determining factor in how much you can charge for your rental, and whether travelers will book it. One of our Hawaii homeowners, for example, made $14,000 after investing in a $4,000 hot tub, while a South Carolina condo saw their business triple.
Regardless of the additional income you can make from a hot tub investment, having a hot tub will attract more renters in the off-season. Hot tubs aren’t as appealing in the hot summer months, but when it cools off in the winter, a hot tub might be just the thing to convince potential guests your rental is the best choice for them.
Outdoor fireplaces or fire pits are a great way for guests to enjoy the outdoors when the sun has set on their day at the beach. They are also an attractive amenity for those looking to escape the cold to stay somewhere nice and warm.
Whatever the demographic, every guest would love to stay somewhere they can kick back in front of a crackling fire on a cool night making s’mores. That possibility can be the difference between choosing your property over the near-identical one down the street!
Update Your Outside Space
Whether or not you decide to add a winter-friendly amenity, look over your outside space in the winter to see if your outdoor oasis needs any updating. Outdoor furniture is on sale in the winter, which makes this an excellent time to upgrade if need be!
4. Adjust Your Rates
If you’ve always had a “high season” and a “low season” rate, this might be the time to look seriously at whether your rates are competitive in the wintertime. There’s good news, though: dropping your rates in the low season can actually help you earn more income in your high season!
In the summer, your property might be one of the only vacation rentals of its type in the area. Travelers aren’t going to hesitate to book even if your price is a little higher than they want to pay – they don’t want to miss out on getting a vacation rental at all!
In the winter, there are fewer guests looking for vacation rentals, and therefore the chance they’ll pick your rental is significantly lower. Which means you need to appeal to the guests not only by offering all the amenities and availability they need: you’ll need to be a great bargain.
You don’t need to drop your rates to the rock bottom, but you should take a hard look at your competition and make sure your property is offering rates that are either right on the average or a smidge below.
Think of it this way: would you rather keep your rates high and get no bookings in your lowest season? Or would you rather get three bookings in that low season with slightly lower rates?
Before you answer, remember you’re not just earning income with those bookings. You’re earning much-needed proof of your rental’s popularity, and keeping your conversion rate high.
Don’t forget that your bookings don’t simply generate you income! They also help you maintain a higher conversion rate than your competition.
Your conversion rate is simply the number of people who booked your property vs. the number of people who looked at it. In the winter, all beach property conversion rates drop pretty significantly – but there are always a few outliers who manage to book consistently throughout the low season.
The listing sites will know your rental was more popular than average even in the low season, and they’ll give you priority placement for those higher-priced summer bookings.
You’ll kick off the summer season with a high position in the listing sites, a ton of recent reviews, and – most importantly – the ability to command a higher rate now that the demand for beach properties is at its peak again.
Follow these tips, and you’ll see that it’s always a mistake to ignore the low season. You’ll not only earn more income than in any previous year by getting a few more bookings in winter – you’ll set your rental up for even greater success in the summertime.
It can be hard to keep your rental on top in an increasingly competitive market. Listing site demands, dynamic pricing, and the increasingly-difficult demands of guests can be exhausting to keep up with – but you don’t have to do it alone. Evolve makes it easy for owners to stay competitive without the enormous time investment. Click here to learn how.