10 Common Mistakes New Vacation Rental Owners Make
There is a lot to consider when getting started in the vacation rental business. Regulations, fees, taxes, calendars, marketing, customer service, co-hosts, cleaning fees, welcome baskets — the list goes on. Despite the age-old adage “success is the result of hard work and failure,” we recommend skipping the failure part. Start the hosting journey off right and learn from these 10 common mistakes new vacation rental owners make, in advance.
1. Not Listing on Multiple Channels
Many new vacation rental owners elect to advertise their listing on just one platform — which makes complete sense. There’s a steep learning curve in the short-term rental industry, and learning to navigate one booking site can be daunting enough. However, we strongly recommend hosts publish their listing(s) across multiple online travel agencies (OTAs). For hosts with fewer than a handful of properties, there’s free property management software on the market that will help publish listings across multiple channels and sync calendars to prevent double bookings.
2. Not Requesting Reviews
Vacation rentals live and die by reviews — plain and simple. Reviews provide the most honest source of information for guests looking to make a booking. For this reason, it’s essential to encourage guests to leave positive reviews. Once guests have completed their stay, hosts can send a quick message, write a review of their own, or follow up with an email a few days later.
3. Lack of Dynamic Pricing
Pricing a vacation rental is one of the most important things to consider when starting out, and it’s easy for new hosts to get carried away with unrealistic goals. Hosts that set prices too high and don’t allow them to fluctuate throughout the year risk missing potential guests and getting pushed to the bottom of search rankings.
Instead, hosts should implement dynamic pricing. Services like Beyond Pricing and Evolve help hosts make smart pricing decisions that take into account midweek lulls, big events, and peak seasonality.
4. Not Building a Website
An accommodation’s website may get significantly less traffic and visibility than its page on Airbnb or HomeAway, but that doesn’t mean hosts should decide not to create one. Having a well-designed and well-written website creates authority around a vacation rental brand. It also has the added bonus of potentially reeling in direct bookings — which allows hosts to bypass OTA fees. If hosts have extra time on their hands, developing SEO and content marketing strategies in conjunction with the website is a great way to increase exposure.
5. Overlooking the Importance of Good Copywriting
Besides good photos, property descriptions are the most crucial aspect in convincing travelers to book. As outlined in 8 Vacation Rental Copywriting Tips, there are some simple steps hosts can take to optimize their copy. Being clear and concise, keeping spacing in mind (no huge paragraphs, no all-caps headers), writing a caption for every photo, and brainstorming a snappy title all make a property significantly more appealing.
It’s also important to build out host profiles. Many travelers opt for vacation rentals because they offer a more personalized experience than hotels. With that in mind, hosts should make sure their profiles include a welcoming, friendly, well-written introduction.
6. Skimping on Amenities and Supplies
The vacation rental landscape has seen a shift in what’s traditionally deemed “luxury” over the last few years. Amenities that were once considered high-end are now very much expected norms in short-term rentals. Top-of-the-line coffee machines, quality kitchen equipment, a decent entertainment system, brand-name toiletries — investing in these amenities helps hosts keep up with the new market standard.
7. Responding Slowly
Another trend over the last several years is the emphasis booking platforms place on hosts’ response time. Responding to guest inquiries within 24 hours used to be considered a best practice — now it’s within the hour. Failing to respond promptly to potential guests is one of the quickest ways to lose a booking. More importantly, failing to respond to an inquiry of a guest currently in the apartment could get hosts into serious trouble from the guests.
8. Being Underinsured
For hosts new to the industry, vacation rental insurance is a bit of a gray area. Airbnb offers a Host Guarantee worth $1 million USD, while other online travel agencies offer similar plans that provide sufficient coverage. However, we recommend reading through Vacation Rental Insurance: Best Providers, Tips, and Insights, as Airbnb has repeatedly stated that its Host Guarantee is not a formal insurance policy. New hosts should consider an additional vacation rental insurance policy to protect art and collectibles, cash and securities, jewelry, damage caused by pets, and a number of other things not covered by pre-existing policies.
9. Neglecting to be a Local Tour Guide
Once hosts receive their first booking, they officially become a local tour guide. Many vacation rental hosts forget that the accommodation industry is very much a part of the travel industry. Neglecting to be a local tour guide — or to at least provide a few tips and hints on how to explore the surrounding neighborhood — is a mistake. If the listing is completely dialed with amenities, keyless entry, and comfortable furniture, hosts are just one PDF filled with recommendations away from turning a good experience into a great one.
10. Not Hiring a Professional Photographer
Let’s be honest: when two comparable vacation rentals are listed side by side, the one with the nicer photos usually wins. Property management companies are now making professional photography, drone photography, floor plans, and other visual aids standard industry practice. New hosts should consider investing in a solid photography service to stay ahead of the competition. A one-time fee to a professional who is conscious of space and has the right equipment goes a long way in terms of bookings.