You recently finished creating a listing for your vacation rental on a booking site like VRBO, HomeAway, Airbnb, or TripAdvisor. You thoughtfully answered all of the questions about your property, put together an enticing description, and included nice photos of your home.
You’ve been checking your phone and email often, eagerly awaiting inquiries. But a couple days of silence turned into one week, and then two – and you still haven’t received a booking for your newly listed property.
Sound familiar? For a lot of you, it might.
It’s not uncommon to experience a lull after a new property goes live. Unfortunately, those first 45 or so days are often a make-or-break time for the listing. But don’t panic! An initial slow period is something you can easily avoid – or fix – with the right strategy.
Here are some of the most common mistakes we see vacation homeowners make when they first create their listings, and how we address those issues to get them back on the path to success.
Mistake #1: Your calendar is blocked off
Calendar availability (or lack thereof) is probably the biggest roadblock to hitting the ground running on listing sites. If your calendar is blocked off for the better part of the next two months, your chance of getting near-term booking requests decreases significantly.
Maybe you have standing reservations that you made offline or through a property manager, or you just promised your vacation rental to a close family or friend. If that’s the case, you should honor those commitments. Don’t cancel on them just to clear your calendar. It’s bad for your reputation as a host.
On the other hand, if your calendar is blocked off for your own stay, make those days available. It’s a small concession to get off to a good start with your listing. If guests book them once you’ve opened them up, great! You’ve made some money and nailed down your first few reservations. If those nights remain empty, then you can stay there as planned.
Try your best to come to the table with a clean slate, so people who find your property on those listing sites can actually book dates instead of running into a wall of unavailability. If you can’t rent out your property for the first couple of months, you may want to hold off on listing it online until it’s available.
Mistake #2: Your prices are set too high
If you’re not getting bookings right away, your prices might be to blame.
If your nightly rate is too high, you may be missing out on bookings because travelers are snagging better deals at other properties that are comparable to yours. While it is less common, having nightly rates that are way below the average for your area might scare people off because they wonder if something is wrong with your property.
The quickest solution is temporarily dropping/raising your rates to see if you can get a few bookings under your belt. Once you get a couple guests through your door, score some positive reviews and get your conversion rate up, your calendar will start to fill up organically. Then, you’ll be able to re-adjust your prices accordingly.
Mistake #3: Your minimum stay requirement is too strict
Strict minimum stay rules, like Saturday to Saturday bookings only, make it difficult to get those crucial first bookings. This is particularly the case if you’re launching your listing during the offseason.
Even if you’ve previously had no problem booking those 7-day reservations during high season, it’s a good idea to loosen up the minimum stay requirements on a younger listing. After you make some initial bookings and get reviews on the books, you can always reinstate your former rules.
Mistake #4: Your featured photo isn’t eye-catching
The first photo in your listing serves as the featured image in search results, and it needs to make your home look amazing. If it doesn’t, travelers aren’t going to click through to read your property description – let alone book it.
Maybe you chose an image of the outside of the home, but the curb appeal isn’t great. Or, perhaps you selected a picture of a nearby attraction rather than a photo of the property itself.
The first image needs to stop travelers in their tracks and make them want to stay in your home.
If you’re not sure what to go with, choose an image that shows off the best features of your home. Is there an amenity that’s in high-demand for your area? For a home in Florida, a picture of a clean pool works great. For a mountain chalet in New Hampshire, a cozy stone fireplace might be best.
Ideally, you can identify at least one stand-out feature that would make travelers choose your property over your neighbor’s. Use that feature in the main image of your listing to draw the travelers’ attention.
Mistake #5: Your listing description isn’t great
You threw together a description for your home so you could get it online, but did you think through your word choice? Did you make sure to include key amenities, an inviting tone, and use keywords that will draw travelers’ attention?
See if there’s a way to spice up your property description and draw some more attention to your home. Perhaps there is an amenity that you should be highlighting to draw more attention to your rental. Do you have amazing views, proximity to a popular attraction, a large number of bedrooms?
We’ve seen that updating the property description can have a huge impact on booking results – sometimes doubling or tripling your numbers.
You may be thinking ‘this seems like a lot of work’. And you’d be right.
Having a successful vacation rental listing is becoming harder all the time as new competition hits the market and travelers have higher expectations about vacation rentals.
Here’s the good news: the fact that you’re reading this already puts one step ahead of the competition. You know what pitfalls to avoid, so you can make adjustments and get on the path to profitability.
At Evolve, our Performance Management Team keeps close tabs on our new vacation rental listings so we can proactively make changes to ensure those properties get off to a strong start. We have brought over 6,400 new listings online across multiple platforms, and know that paying close attention to a new property’s first 45 days is the best way to ensure long-term success.
For more tips about what to do once you get first few bookings, check out these posts:
- How to Ensure a Seamless Vacation Rental Check-In
- Vacation Rental Veterans Share Their Hosting Secrets
- How to get 5-Star Reviews from Your Vacation Rental Guests
If you’re interested in a vacation rental management service that makes it easy for you to succeed on listing sites without taking a huge bite out of your profits, give us a call at 877.881.7584. You can also click here to learn about everything Evolve offers for a low 10% booking fee.
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