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From One to Many: How to Grow a Vacation Rental Hosting Business
So far, your vacation rental business is doing great. You have lots of customers, rave reviews, and a little cash is flowing in. What more can you possibly ask for?
Maybe your business can be bigger and better. Maybe you want to attract more guests. Or maybe you feel that your business could be so much more but it’s not quite “there” yet.
No matter your answer, let this handy guide help you out.
1. Maintain and improve the quality of your rental.
If you spot any opportunities for improvement, attend to them ASAP. If you’re already well-known for your excellent service, keep up the good work.
Not sure what to change or maintain? Take a look at the online reviews about your rental. What do people like about your place? What don’t they like about it? What improvements do they suggest and how can you put those improvements into place?
Keep in mind that word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool. If a guest likes your place, there’s a good chance they’ll recommend it to people they know. If they don’t like it, they’ll still talk — but not in the way you want them to.
2. Set up your own website.
It’s tempting to stick to conventional listing sites like Airbnb and HomeAway. After all, posting on them costs next to nothing. But if you really want to “wow” guests, it’s better to have your own website because:
- You have more control over how you present yourself. A self-hosted website makes it easier to set yourself apart from the competition. For example, you can have your site visitors view a photo slideshow of your rental or play background music that will entice them to book with you.
- You project a more professional image. Websites cost money, after all. If you have a website, it suggests that you’re pulling in decent rental fees and people are willing to pay to use your property.
- You’re more visible online. Assuming you optimize your website for search engines, guests who Google “vacation rental in [your location]” are more likely to find you than if your listing is buried under hundreds of others.
Of course, your website shouldn’t be set up haphazardly. If your tech skills aren’t up to snuff, you can always ask for help from a web developer or designer. Make sure to hire the best of them to get your money’s worth!
3. Be active on social media.
Aside from having a website, you should also have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other popular social networks. These are the sites where your guests spend a huge chunk of their day, so don’t be afraid to make use of them.
Tweet about rental-related content on Twitter. Upload the most gorgeous photos of your rental or favorite nearby hangouts via Instagram. Let your guests “check in” at your place via Facebook. If your social media pages add value to your guests, your guests will add value to you in return.
Keep in mind, however, that you don’t have to be present on every social media network. Pick ones you enjoy using personally and stick with those. You’ll be more likely to stay consistent in the long run.
4. Make booking as easy as possible for your guests.
Guests may dig everything about your rental, but if it’s a hassle to book with you online, they’ll get turned off and go somewhere else. If your guests are booking on your own self-maintained website, make your system simple to use by following these steps:
- Keep the required info fields to a minimum. The less fields guests have to fill up, and the less time they have to spend booking, the better.
- Include informational text to help them through the booking process. Guests should always be clear on how to get from Point A to Point B. For example, once they fill out your booking form, where and how do they pay you? What should they print out to prove they’re the ones who booked your place? What pointers about your rental should they keep in mind?
- Don’t forget to include a “thank you” page at the end. Guests will appreciate the gesture.
- Pre-test the booking system. This way, you can have any bugs fixed before the system goes live.
5. Draw up a rental agreement.
Airbnb and similar sites basically take care of a lot of this for you. But when it comes to fully managing your own vacation rentals, oral agreements aren’t enough. Guests may have certain assumptions about using your property or have their own interpretation of the rules and regulations you set out.
To stay on the same page as your guests, have them sign a rental agreement. With it, you can easily settle potential disputes that may arise. It’s best to hire a lawyer to help you draw up the agreement, though you can also download vacation rental agreement templates here.
6. Consider setting up rentals in other places.
You don’t have to limit yourself to a single city, or even a single state. If your rental properties are spread out all over the country rather than in just one area, there’s a better chance of attracting guests you’ve never even considered before.
Of course, there’s a risk to this strategy. What if you can’t properly manage that rental in Florida because you’re all the way in California? Then hire extra helping hands who can be trusted, have the skills to manage a rental, and have the same business values as you do. Or consider vacation rental software that will ease your efforts and increase the efficiency significantly. Don’t forget to check in with your hired help regularly!
7. Keep an eye out for opportunities.
In any business, staying on top of “what’s hot” is a key to success. As soon as you spot a rental opportunity, grab it — or, at the very least, don’t take your eyes off of it.
Read your favorite paper’s real estate or property section regularly. Watch out for places where people need businesses like yours. Find out what makes a particular property attractive to visitors and play that up in your listing and website copy. Keep an eye out for what your competitors are doing so you know where you stand and how to get ahead of the curve.
Being in the vacation rental business is hard work. There are so many balls you need to juggle and you can’t always keep all those balls in the air. Still, if you can build a good momentum and ride it through the seasons of calm and storms alike, “growing pains” won’t be much of a problem for your vacation rental business.
Need help with your vacation rental upkeep? Learn more about turnover appointments with us.