28 Tips & Tidbits of Advice for Hosts of Short Term Vacation Rentals

Being a host of a short-term vacation rental can be very exciting and can lead to experiences that enrich your life; while at the same time, possibly enriching your bank account. Those who put in the hard work upfront to gather a collection of positive reviews, repeat clients, and word-of-mouth buzz will inevitably set themselves up for long-term success. Each one of those 5-star reviews will have an enormous influence when potential renters are considering their options.

But if you think it comes easily… think again! The listings that are consistently booked throughout the year with great reviews have hosts behind the scenes to make sure the entire rental process goes smoothly for the renter and the host.

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Here are 28 different tips and tidbits of advice that our experts have gathered over the years. These best practices will will help you to increase occupancy and revenue and to set your listing apart from the competition.

  1. Adjust Pricing Well in Advance

    Your market is unique and it’s up to you to set pricing at a rate that is appropriate for your location based on demand. Far too often, hosts fail to increase prices for peak times and miss out on significant potential revenue. Look at concert calendars, sports schedules, city websites, festival guides, and hotel websites to help determine when you need to increase your prices.

  2. Allow Prospective Guests to Visualize the Experience

    When shopping online, potential renters are scanning through hundreds of listings, instantly making decisions about which properties to include on their short list. It is important that you connect with these prospects in a way that other listings don’t. Use very descriptive language and make sure your listing really shows what it’s like to stay in your space.

  3. Maintain Great Communication

    Between reservation and check-in it is critical to maintain great communication with your future tenant. Many sites track the amount of time it takes for you to respond to questions and your rating is affected by your response time. Even if it’s a “dumb question” make sure to respond quickly with a polite and informative reply. A week before check-in make sure to send an email or call and provide an overview of the logistics of how to check-in and making sure they know how to get settled.

  4. Cleaned So Nice We Say It Twice

    Guests will overlook small/outdated/mismatched etc. so long as your space is clean. And we mean SUPER CLEAN. Even if a guest thinks the space is small, or the decor is not their style, or remodeling is needed, they will likely be able to overcome those concerns so long as your space is really clean. If it’s just cleaned “pretty well”, many guests will consider reducing your rating from 5 stars to 4 stars.

  5. Be Upfront and Honest

    Don’t be afraid to instruct your guests how to use the space properly and what the consequences will be of improper uses. Lay out guidelines about noise policies, parties, quiet hours, parking restrictions, trash days, etc. Your guests will appreciate that you are preserving the property asset and informing them of the important rules and restrictions that are in place.

  6. Find Unique Ways to Engage Guests

    There’s a reason your guests didn’t stay in the hotel down the road. They wanted a more unique experience. They wanted something they could tell their friends about. The best hosts find unique ways to engage guests and really feel that this particular rental experience was unique and memorable. Consider having take-home souvenirs, unique amenities for use during the stay, or finding ways to connect your guests to the spirit and history of your local area.

  7. You’re the Concierge

    Guests will take your recommendations seriously. Make sure to take the time to learn about your area and create a short list of truly great things to do. Don’t overwhelm your guests with too many options, they can always go online if they want a more comprehensive search. But offer up a few restaurants and a few experiences that are really memorable.

  8. Make a Uniquely Personalized Guide Book

    While you may not be there with your guest in person, your guide book is a way for you to connect with your guests during their stay. Studies have shown that the vast majority of renters will read a guide book if you have one. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to steer your renters in the right direction. If your renters want pizza one night, make sure they wind up at the place where they are more likely to have great pizza and a great time, which may not necessarily the closest pizza spot around the corner.

  9. Consider the Little Things

    Even the most experienced hosts will admit that it can be hard to avoid getting wrapped in the big things and overlooking the little things. More often than not, it are the little details that can be the most memorable for your guest. Having a quiche made in the fridge and ready to pop in the oven. Leaving an inexpensive bottle of champagne for your guests to enjoy. Trader Joe’s and Costco both have quality bottles of champagne for $6-$8. Little things can have a profound impact on the experience.

  10. Everyone Loves Charm

    Functional is good, but functional and charming is so much better. It’s not good enough for your space to be in a great location or convenient to local attractions. In order to be the best you must provide your resident with a charming experience that touches on their desire to be delighted. Just functional for their purposes can be equated with “good enough”; it’s only when you provide charm that you start to truly demonstrate hosting excellence.

  11. Let Your Guest Live like A Local

    It’s very likely you have a list of great features about the part of the world where you live. As a local, you know about the “best of the best” in your area. That knowledge is very valuable to your guest, who likely will be somewhat unfamiliar with what it’s like to be a local resident. Use your local connections and your insider knowledge to guide your guests towards unique and notable experiences.

  12. Keep Clutter To A Minimum

    As is the case when listing a property for sale, a good general rule is that you don’t want too much stuff in the rental space. It is going to feel crowded and possibly too personalized to the owner’s taste. Instead, consider keeping a closet (that is locked to guests) to store extra items that you don’t want/need to provide access to.

  13. But Feature Interesting Art or Accent Pieces

    Clutter is one thing, but certainly take everything out. You want to have 3-5 feature art/accent pieces that are coordinated in theme/color. They don’t necessarily need to have significant value, but make sure they are unique and will stand out in the visitor’s mind. Having very little clutter and then featuring a handful of pieces will allow you to draw your guest’s attention to those specific items.

  14. Leave Helpful Notes

    It might sound a bit like you’re being strange if you leave notes around the home, but actually guests really appreciate it and it helps them to properly operate the more complicated items in your home. The last thing you want is to have a renter damage something in your property and put you in the position of charging them back and risking a negative review or eating the cost of repair/replacement. Certainly consider leaving a small, laminated note or card with instructions near items such washer/dryer, coffee machines, pools, grills, fireplaces, amenities, etc.

  15. Maintain Simplicity

    As a general rule, simplicity is the best way to go. Don’t over-complicate things for your guest or yourself. Don’t offer amenities that are going to be too cumbersome/expensive to maintain. Keep your turn process as simple as possible and keep the process of check in and check out as simple as possible for your guests. Frustration sets in when things are complicated and you are in an unfamiliar place.

  16. Always Focus on Quality

    It’s generally worth investing in higher quality basics like bedding, towels, blankets, etc. Keep in mind these items are going to have much more use and need to be able to stand up to repeated washes and increased usage. That being said, make sure you inform your guests in the guest book of the charges that will be incurred if any of these items are damaged and need to be replaced. Higher-end items means higher charges than they may expect, but as long as you clearly communicate it to your renter they will appreciate having quality sheets, pillows, towels, etc.

  17. Extra Bathroom Supplies

    This is one area where you can follow the lead of the hotels. Most have the card in the bathroom reminding guests that they will be provided with free bathroom amenities if they have forgotten their own. In this same light, offering your guests upgraded shampoo/conditioner, hair dryers, irons/ironing boards, etc. has almost come to be expected in nicer vacation rentals. Having a supply of things like individually wrapped razors, toothbrushes, combs, etc. (which can be bulk ordered on Amazon at a fairly inexpensive price) can really vault you into elite host status in the eyes of your guests, who are likely tired after a long day of travel and have likely forgotten at least one item. Don’t we all?

  18. Extra Kitchen Supplies

    Apply the same logic for the bathroom supplies to the kitchen supplies. It’s not enough to just offer dishes and a few pots and pans. Things like salt, pepper, coffee, olive oil, etc. are really appreciated. We’ve all been in the position where we had to purchase the large bottle of olive oil while on vacation only to use 10% of it and leave the rest behind. Any guest who chooses to cook will likely be very thankful.

  19. Invest in Good Lighting

    Quality lighting can be somewhat expensive but it really helps to set the mood of your space. Having things like dimmers and different zones will allow your guest to customize the lighting to their tastes. Having smart lighting options with higher-end bulbs can make any regular old room really POP.

  20. Flower Power

    One bunch of fresh flowers are generally available for about $4-$5 and make a great impression that is fairly universally appreciated. It shows your space has been attended to and often gives off a pleasant scent that brings the outdoors inside. Especially if you have weekend renters coming Friday-Monday, the flowers will stay fresh and perky for the duration of their stay.

  21. Install A Key-less Lock

    If you haven’t already, you’ll find this is a HUGE time saver for you and much more convenient for your guest, while also providing an added layer of security and protection for both of you. The lock code can be changed between each renter and can be texted/emailed the week before check-in. So much more simple compared with coordinating the key hand-off or keeping a lock box out front. You always run the risk of someone losing or even copying your key if someone is in possession of a physical key to your rental.

  22. Stage Your Space

    The way you choose to lay out the furniture and amenities is more important than it seems. Pay attention to who your primary renters are and customize different areas to appeal to different interests. If you’re near the beach or the pool have towels and outdoor games in plain sight. Allow each room to have its own feel and something that makes it unique.

  23. Personalize & Give Character

    Keeping with the “reducing clutter” theme, certainly don’t overdo the personalizing. But do remind your visitors that they aren’t in a generic rental home. They’re in a real person’s home and that makes it more appealing. Have some clues and hints into the life of the people who own the property. Guests love learning about the history of the area and the space they are visiting.

  24. Encourage Guests to Sign-In

    We admit that don’t always bother to sign in when staying at a short term vacation rental, but it’s certainly in the host’s best interest to encourage it. A guest book becomes a historical document after several years of frequent renters. It tells a story and provides a fascinating context for the very place where your guests are staying. Your guest book will help to remind you of all the many different groups for whom you’ve provided a quality place to stay.

  25. Have a Back-up Plan

    Inevitably something isn’t going to go as smoothly as planned. You never know when there could be a plumbing leak. Or the AC goes out. Or your tenant may need medical attention. Have a back-up plan documented for yourself to help deal with any situation that may come up. Perhaps it’s a trusted neighbor who can be contact. A trusted plumber or HVAC repair technician. Start to make connections with other hosts in your area in case you need to refer a guest at the last minute or vice versa.

  26. Ask for the Review

    Assuming your visitor had a great stay, encourage them to leave a detailed review. The more detailed they can be with what they liked about the experience, the better chance that review will make it towards the top and the better chance it will specifically answer a question that another potential renter may have. All 5 star reviews are obviously amazing, but a detailed 5 star review is the absolute best.

  27. Follow-Up with Past Guests

    Don’t be afraid to ask your guests at check out if they mind if you stay in touch through email or phone. Add them to your email marketing list. Set a reminder to call every 6 months. You never know when they may be planning a return trip to your area or may know of someone else who is. As long as you provided an excellent experience they won’t mind that you’re asking for referrals at all.

  28. Take Advantage of Free Marketing Opportunities

    As you go about your day-in and day-out routine, pay attention for opportunities to promote your rental in unique, inexpensive ways. At your school, church, or work there may be ways to develop word-of-mouth advertising just by getting the word out that you provide great rentals at a fair price. Chances are that most people know someone coming into town for vacation or business who plans to rent a place to stay. Obviosly most will wind up in a hotel room, which is completely fine. But many of those people would rather have stayed in a more unique place compared with just another Marriott or Sheraton or Hilton. It’s up to you to get the word out that you may have just what they are looking for and most likely for less than those big name brand hotels.

There’s no blueprint for what makes a great vacation rental property but following as many of these tips as possible will position you for success.

 

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